This past week started with the Colorado Avalanche concluding a series against arguably their most important opponent of the season and ended with a commanding two-game sweep in the desert. What’s next for the Avs? An easier schedule. This means a chance for them to show off more consistency in some of their areas that have needed brushing up on.
Avalanche Conclude Golden Knights Series the Way It Started, Only Failing to Avenge This Time
Monday, Feb. 22, marked the conclusion of the Avs’ competitive four-game series against a top-seeded Golden Knights team. Coming off a pair of thrilling 3-2 victories, the Avs saw some of the same bad luck and inability to capitalize that they had seen earlier in the series. This came back to bite them again in a 3-0 loss. Overall, it seemed the Avs had kept up well with the Golden Knights, outshooting them 34-28. But a few defensive blunders and blowing away golden opportunities just will not cut it against a top-notch goaltender like Marc-Andre Fleury. The Avs managed to split the series, however, which is not easy to do against an opponent like that.
The Avs were yet to lose back-to-back games going into Wednesday’s contest against a weaker opponent in the Minnesota Wild. Only, the Avs suffered an unexpected 6-2 blowout on home ice. Again the Avs had some unlucky close opportunities, where they failed to find the back of the net. But this time, the Avs seemed a little off on the defensive front, as this was arguably their worst defensive performance so far this season.
The six goals were the most the Avs have given up all season. Who saw the Wild exploiting the Avs’ defense that much? What went wrong for the Avs? Well, when a team gifts the Wild with six giveaways and starts a tired netminder in Philipp Grubauer for the sixth straight game, scoring from the opposition is bound to happen eventually. Silver linings? The Avs did finally capitalize on a power play opportunity, ending their 20 straight power play opportunity scoring slump.
Offensive Wind Blows in Front of a Lively Desert Crowd
The Avs faced off in a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday. Unlike the previous face-off in the bubble, the Avs had to face the Arizona Coyotes in front of their fans, as the Coyotes have partially re-opened their arena to the public. While the Avs have lacked fans because of empty crowds so far this season, their games in the desert did not lack scoring depth.
The Avs got the scoring depth they have been craving this season, thanks to Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky on the second line in Friday night’s marginal 3-2 victor and six different Avs players that scored on Saturday night’s 6-2 offensive flurry. Grubauer finally got a much-needed day off in goal, giving the team a chance to audition backup goaltender Hunter Miska. Miska had played with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles just this past Wednesday. He made 16 saves against his former team on Friday in a victory that saw a late last-minute scare by the Coyotes.
“Obviously, it was a little nerve-wracking,” said Miska according to NHL.com. “But I thought the team was playing super well in front of me.”
Speaking of depth, the kind of performance the Avs got from Miska is the kind a team hopes for from their backup. Not only did the Avs give Grubauer a day off, but thanks to the Avs’ strong presence in the offensive zone on Saturday, Grubauer faced a quiet 25 shots. They gave Grubauer more of a cushion to work with, which is important, as even the top goaltenders can only carry a team so far in dependability.
An exciting week of hockey that saw the Avs come off their toughest series of the season so far was mixed with both disappointment and hope. While their offense was slow to score early in the week despite close opportunities, the last two games saw promise in the areas that the team needs to address. With an easier schedule ahead this week, they have an opportunity to address these areas on a more consistent basis. This will be important if they want to steal a place atop the division.
Schedule for Next Week
March 1 at San Jose Sharks (8:30 PM MT)
March 3 at San Jose Sharks (8:30 PM MT)
March 5 vs Anaheim Ducks (7:00 PM MT)
March 6 vs Anaheim Ducks (6:00 PM MT)
Top Performers of the Week
Mikko Rantanen – 1 goal, 4 assists
Nazem Kadri – 2 goals, 2 assists
Andre Burakosky – 1 goal, 2 assists
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.