3 Takeaways From the Avalanche Loss to the Penguins

In a frustrating loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are vying for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Colorado Avalanche showed flashes of a comeback, just to allow another goal and lose 5-2. But there are some bright spots and some lessons as they look to finish atop the Central Division again. Here are three takeaways from the Avalanche’s loss to the Penguins.

Avalanche Defense is Still Solid, Despite Injuries and Shakeups

Three of the top six defensemen – Erik Johnson, Josh Manson, and Cale Makar – are out of the lineup, but the defense still offered a solid showing in this game. Only Samuel Girard and Brad Hunt ended the night with a negative plus/minus (minus-3 and minus-1, respectively), which is impressive considering the team allowed five goals. Devon Toews contributed a goal and took over the offensive load, usually carried by Makar, adding four blocks and three shots in nearly 30 minutes of ice time.

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This means that the depth moves, from bringing Jack Johnson back to signing veteran blueliner Brad Hunt at the beginning of the season, are paying off.

Alexandar Georgiev is a Goalie That Can Be Relied On

Sure, the Avalanche (and Alexander Georgiev, in particular) allowed five goals in a game that would have helped them clinch the Central Division title, but the Russian netminder faced 35 even-strength shots and 44 shots total on the night. He allowed four (the last one was an empty-netter), two of which came on the power play. But that doesn’t mean he had a bad night.

Alexandar Georgiev Colorado Avalanche
Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Jeff Carter goal was a tough puck to stop, as it came from a redirect on a Brian Dumoulin shot from the point. He’s also taken on most of the goaltending duties while Pavel Francouz has been injured, meaning a certain level of exhaustion has certainly set in at this point. He’s coming off of a 5-0 shutout over the Chicago Blackhawks, and it was reasonable to expect that he would face a barrage from a team that’s vying for a ticket to the postseason. The win saw the Penguins end a four-game skid and reclaim the second wild-card spot in the East, which means they played with extra intensity.

While Francouz has been out since Feb. 12, the Avs have struggled to find a solid backup in his absence, which means that Georgiev is carrying the pressure and the weight. His stats (a .909 save percentage in the loss) speak for themselves. He is the most solid netminder the club has seen in a while and is certainly a reliable option heading into the postseason.

The Avs Play a Good, Physical Game

Toews and Girard led the night physically with four hits apiece, but the physicality was pretty evenly spread out. The club had 20 hits on the night, topping the Penguins’ 12. As the postseason looms, physicality and grit become important pieces of the puzzle, and the Avalanche – even without Manson – showed that they can throw bodies around. Kurtis MacDermid is a big body who can use his size to create opportunities, but he only registered one hit on the night, shifting the workload to players like Denis Malgin and Logan O’Connor, among others.

Logan O'Connor Colorado Avalanche
Logan O’Connor, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Physicality wins games, and if the Avalanche can continue to out-hit their opponents while the roster is banged up, they can manage a more physical game when the team is healthy and players like Manson and captain Gabriel Landeskog return to the lineup.

Colorado in Good Position

While the 5-2 loss may seem like a shock initially, it’s not too concerning in the grand scheme of things. The Avalanche have proven their depth moves have worked out, and they have a ton of talent on the roster. The team is on solid footing in the Central and could still end in first place, toppling the Dallas Stars. The roster is expected to be healthier for the playoffs, and one game against a non-Conference team shouldn’t sound alarm bells.