It hasn’t been the best start for the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup title defense. The Seattle Kraken handed the team their third loss in the last four games, dumping the reigning champs 3-2 on Friday.
Jaden Schwartz and Jared McCann each had a goal and an assist, and Karson Kuhlman’s goal with roughly eight minutes to play proved to be the game-winner as the Kraken snapped a three-game losing streak. The Kraken dominated Colorado, outshooting them 38-20. The Avalanche didn’t hit double digits in shots in any period, and their 20 total shots was their lowest total of the campaign so far.
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s loss:
Byram Breaks Out
The first couple of seasons for Bowen Byram were a bit daunting. It wasn’t that he played poorly, it’s just that concussion concerns made it so he couldn’t play. He played in just 49 games through his first two seasons, but was stellar during Colorado’s playoff run last season. That has translated into a great start to 2022-23 for the young defenseman. Byram notched a goal and an assist on Friday, including the first short-handed goal of his career.
Colorado fell behind 2-0 thanks to a pair of Kraken goals just 22 seconds apart early in the second period. However, Byram’s short-handed tally midway through the third evened things up at 2-2. But Colorado couldn’t muster the go-ahead goal, and Kuhlman’s go-ahead tally came roughly five minutes after Byram’s score. The goal was Byram’s second of the season, and he now has four points through the first five games of the campaign. He tallied five goals and 12 assists last season, but those came in just 30 games.
Rodrigues Responds After Slow Start
Evan Rodrigues was a viewed as a sneaky signing for the Avalanche right before the season started. The solid two-way forward was coming off a career year in 2021-22, scoring 19 goals on the way to 43 points. It was more than twice as many goals as he had scored in any of his previous six seasons. But Rodrigues struggled in his first four games of this season, going without a point and sitting at a team-worst minus-3 in plus/minus.
That slide ended on Friday, as Rodrigues netted his first goal of the season. With Colorado trailing 2-0 early in the second period, Rodrigues hammered home a gorgeous feed from Valeri Nichushkin to cut the lead in half. Rodrigues was brought in for scoring depth, coming from the Pittsburgh Penguins on a one-year deal worth $2 million. He was brought in for scoring depth, and Colorado is hoping that the slow start was held to just those first four games.
Toews Misses Game, Hunt Gets Avalanche Debut
The Avalanche were without defenseman Devon Toews, who was injured in Wednesday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets. He usually pairs up with Cale Makar on the top defensive pairing, but Byram was elevated next to Makar in Toews’ absence. Kurtis MacDermid replaced him on the defensive corps. Toews was off to a good start, notching three assists through the first four games. He also leads the team with 12 blocked shots.
Taking the spot for Toews in the lineup was Dryden Hunt. It was his debut for the Avalanche, one day after he was claimed off of waivers from the New York Rangers. Hunt played in three games for the Rangers this season, notching one goal. Hunt was added for depth following the news that Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog would be sidelined for 12 weeks following knee surgery.
The Avalanche are back in action on Saturday, traveling to take on the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights on the road. Toews’ status for Saturday’s game was up in the air, but Colorado coach Jared Bednar said before Friday’s game that the defenseman might be available to play.
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Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.