Anyone just looking at the score would be forgiven for thinking they’d missed a dull game, but that wasn’t the case. The Colorado Avalanche came out on top, beating the New York Islanders 1-0 in a shootout.
It was another big two points for the Avalanche, who now have three wins in four games in what was billed as an important five-game homestand. Another victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night would give them eight points and firmly back on track, despite mounting injuries.
Here are our three takeaways from the Avalanche win.
Alexandar Georgiev Wins the Netminder Battle
When the Avalanche acquired Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers in the summer, he came with a question mark. He’d never been a starting netminder in the league, but the Stanley Cup champions were happy to take a risk and give him an opportunity.
Given the Avs’ deep roster, Georgiev doesn’t need to be outstanding in most games, but short on bodies at the moment, the club needs him, and he delivered in this one. He won the netminder battle against Ilya Sorokin, who was fantastic for the Islanders and ultimately, needed a shutout to earn the win.
Through 60 minutes of regulation, five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, and three penalty shots, Georgiev stopped everything the Islanders put on net. They had 26 shots on goal, not a huge amount, but when he was needed, he was there and shut the door. The Avs need strong netminding right now, and he delivered.
Scoring Struggles Continue Without MacKinnon
Despite beating the Islanders and winning three of the four at home, the Avalanche are still struggling to score goals. Yes, they are missing players from the team that lifted the Stanley Cup in June, key ones at that, but their current scoring rate isn’t good enough.
Losing Nathan MacKinnon is a big factor in this, and replacing him is an impossible task for anyone on the roster. But if the team cannot step up in his absence, it will put too much pressure on the goalies and the defense.
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MacKinnon was hurt on Dec. 5 against the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Avalanche have played seven games since then, with four wins and nine points, so the return isn’t bad. But, in terms of goals, they’ve scored just 12, averaging less than two per game. This includes two games where they didn’t register a goal, a home 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins, and last night, which was 0-0 before the shootout.
Six of the seven games were at home, travel has been minimal, and the opposition hasn’t been overpowering. Yes, it’s about survival right now, without MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog, but it would still be nice to see more goals. The roster was built to play an exciting, attacking brand of hockey – it is what makes them one of the best in the league – and we need to see more of it in the future.
Evan Rodrigues Delivering Above Expectations
When the Avalanche signed Evan Rodrigues in the summer, his role wasn’t clear, with the potential to slot him onto the second line or to add scoring depth to the third line. After a slow start, he began to play very well but was then forced out due to injury.
In his return on Dec. 15 against the Buffalo Sabres, he bagged a goal and followed that up with an assist against the Nashville Predators in his second game back. This was his third, and he was very impressive all night, rounding off a strong performance with the only goal in the shootout, which proved to be the winner.
Rodrigues hasn’t had a fixed position, but thanks to injuries and line juggling, he’s been moved around, but that hasn’t hampered his game at all. He looks like he could really turn into a valuable piece in 2023, one that can slot in anywhere and move up and down the lineup when needed, similar to how the Avalanche utilized Brandon Saad during the 2020-21 season.
What’s Next for the Avalanche?
The Avalanche round out their five-game homestand on Wednesday night when the Montreal Canadiens are the visitors to Ball Arena. This is followed by a road game against the Predators on Friday night, the final time we see the team before a short Christmas break.