In the two-week hiatus since the last Colorado Avalanche weekly, a lot has happened. By a lot, I mean an Avalanche of series splits. In the end, the Colorado Avalanche came out of the week sitting at third place in the West Division, a good but not guaranteed playoff position.
Avs Get Bit By Team Teal But Recover
It was little mistakes that got to the Avs against what looked like a modest San Jose Sharks opponent on Monday, March 1. After an early 2-0 lead, the defense evaporated, allowing six unanswered goals in a blowout 6-2 loss. The Avs’ second line started to see some action here, but they were never able to recover from their mistakes early, as they also suffered some rough breaks.
“We turned the puck over, got fancy and kind of got away from our game,” said head coach Jared Bendar on the Avs performance according to NHL.com. The team had more chances the following game, and this time the Sharks did not bite back. The Avs dominated the the men in teal on all cylinders in a Wednesday night 4-0 shutout. Philipp Grubauer denied early looks by the Sharks, while the Avs offense failed to capitalize on chances in the first. They got the Sharks making more mistakes, though, as team teal suffered 15 giveaways.
The Avs finally got one to the back of the net thanks to a one-timer by Mikko Rantanen, who continues to become more and more of a factor on the Avs’ top line. It was crucial that the Avs at least get a series split against the Sharks. But the satisfying win could also be viewed as a concerning loss after star centerman Nathan MacKinnon took a nasty check to the head by Joachim Blichfeld of the Sharks. MacKinnon would be a late scratch in the following contest against the Anaheim Ducks.
Avs Go Duck Hunting Lacking Depth
In a series where the Avs looked to keep the Ducks grounded back in the division, the team needed one or two depth guys to eke out a victory. And they got it. Valeri Nichushkin had a big night, scoring two goals, including the overtime winner, where he powered his way through the crease.
Only the Avs would have to get right back at it the next day, against the same opponent, a game in which they got off to a rocky start. The Avs did not score until Logan O’Connor cut the Ducks lead to 2-1 at 12:06 in the second, which was followed by a pair by Rantanen. The Avs held a 4-2 lead in the third. However, the Ducks scored two unanswered, followed by a Ryan Getzlaf overtime game-winner. Considering the many substitutes that the Avs had to utilize, they put up an acceptable enough performance to make Bednar proud, particularly in their rebound late in the game, as they at least picked up a point.
Avs Come Away With 1 Win Against Desert Dogs
Again, the Arizona Coyotes were thought to be an easier opponent for the Avs. But like in the series against the Ducks and Sharks, the team was without key pieces several key pieces. These key pieces included MacKinnon, star defenseman Cale Makar, who has been out since Feb. 27, veteran Erik Johnson, who has been out since Jan. 30, and rookies Bowen Byram and Connor Timmins. The Avs are still without some of these players.
Once again, it was tough for them out of the gate, as they fell behind early 2-0, but they managed to erase that deficit. Unfortunately, this time around, Grubauer failed to stop 3 of 14 shots on goal from the Coyotes. The good news? MacKinnon was set to return for the following matchup on Wednesday, which he did. In doing so, he exploited the net, putting up 10 shots on goal, the most since Nov. 27, 2019, according to The Hockey Writers‘ Avery McGrail.
Still, the Avs got some solid production from their top two lines, which can definitely speak to the return of MacKinnon. Despite a solid 44-save performance by Coyote netminder Antti Raanta and the team going 0-5 on power-play opportunities, they managed to win it in overtime. This happened thanks to a last-minute overtime score by captain Gabriel Landeskog, but the team knew they had to do a better job finding the net in order to make a statement win in the two games against a Los Angeles Kings. This Kings team was knocking right at the door in the West.
Kings Get Kinged By Avs in Series Sweep
Splitting series seemed to be the trend for the Avs these past two weeks. Well, the team made clear that they were not ready to settle for a series split, especially when hanging on to a playoff spot. Not to mention they had to face a team right at their heels in the West. In the first game, both goals were scored from the top line again in the Avs 2-0 victory. Despite another stellar goaltending performance from the opposition, Rantanen remained confident in the team’s ability to start scoring more. “We got some really good looks. I think we’re fighting it a little bit now scoring-wise,” said Rantanen after Saturday’s game according to NHL.com. “With this team and this talent, we know it’s going to come soon.”
On Sunday, the Avs looked to close out their homestand with a scoring statement. They came out scoring in front of the opposition, as it was the second line who did their part on Sunday. This started on a nifty trick move in the first by Nazem Kadri against defenseman Tobias Bjornfot. This was followed by an Andre Burokovsky goal in the second, which would end up being the game-winner. Grubauer made several clutch saves to give the Avs their third straight win by the score of 4-1 and a series sweep.
The Avs are lighting it up the shot chart like a pinball machine. A league-leading plus-237 shot differential means without question that the Avs are gaining the offensive zone well. Unfortunately, they are shooting at just 7.83%, ranked 28th in the league. These past two weeks were a prime example of this, as the Avs shooting was not reflected in putting points on the board. Overall, the team seems to be finding their way around despite lacking key pieces at various times. They need to find ways to limit giving up shocking victories to inferior opponents.
Looking forward, there are 30 games left on the regular-season schedule. If the Avs are to get more comfortable in the division and start securing a playoff spot, the team will need to translate this stellar offensive outburst into points while continuing to break out defensively.
Schedule for Next Week
March 16 vs Anaheim Ducks (7:00 P.M. MT)
March 18 vs Minnesota Wild (7:00 P.M. MT)
March 20 vs Minnesota Wild (12:00 P.M. MT)
Ben Rossi covers the Colorado Avalanche for THW. He can also be found writing and co-hosting the Exit Velo Podcast for the website BackSportsPage. For BackSportsPage he covers hockey, the Oakland Athletics, Major League Baseball news, and other sports stories that stretch beyond the playing field. Graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Denver where he covered the Denver Pioneers college hockey program as an undergraduate staff writer for the DU Clarion.