After a 7-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks last week, many expected the Colorado Avalanche to steamroll the Canucks again on Wednesday night. That didn’t happen, but they still won the game to take two points from their first game on this road trip.
This was a fifth loss in a row for the Canucks, who have questions surrounding them both on and off the ice right now. While they showed little promise during the second period, much better than their 7-1 loss in Colorado last week, the simple fact is that when the Avs played well, the Canucks didn’t have an answer.
Here are the three takeaways from Wednesday night’s success in Vancouver.
Nazem Kadri Continues to Shine
We have seen Kadri get off to a great start this season, and since the injury to Nathan MacKinnon, he’s been even better. The comfort blanket of having J.T. Compher in position to move up to the top six has also been lost, putting even more pressure on Kadri to deliver, and he has not backed down at all.
Right now, he leads the Avs with 17 points from 13 games, and in the three games he’s played since MacKinnon’s absence, he’s scored seven points. Down the middle, Colorado looks very thin at the moment, to the extent that they played Mikko Rantanen at center in this game.
Not only are we seeing Kadri shine because of scoring, but his commitment and work rate also seems to have taken a step forward too. At the end of the game, Kadri was hustling the puck, working hard and clearing the zone with a dive on the ice. These are all small elements to his game that we have not seen for a while. He’s playing great hockey right now, at a time when the Avs really need him.
Strong Start, Strong Finish, Lost in the Middle
This game really felt like the team lost their way in the middle part and may have found trouble if they had been playing a better team. The first half of the first period was excellent, limiting Vancouver to just one shot on goal in the first eight minutes and really putting their opponents up against the wall in an arena where the crowd was already restless and against them.
At the end of the game, the Avs spent the final 17 minutes protecting their lead, and in the last 20 minutes, Vancouver had just seven shots on goal. Colorado protected Darcy Kuemper well in the closing stages of the game, limiting chances to a minimum.
However, in the middle, it wasn’t so pretty. This was headlined by three poor penalties, one when the Avs were breaking by recent waiver claim Nicolas Aube-Kubel, one in the offensive zone by Tyson Jost and one to end a 5-on-3 powerplay chance by Nazem Kadri.
Across the final 12 minutes of the first period and the whole of the second period, Vancouver had 26 shots on goal, and the Avs relied on Kuemper to play well during this period. A better team would have capitalized more on this than Vancouver did, and while the Avs took the two points, it is still a cause for concern moving forward.
Power Play Success Without Nathan MacKinnon
Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, MacKinnon and Rantanen have all missed time already this season, so there has been an excuse for the poor powerplay we have seen from the Avs so far. However, they certainly hit the mark on Wednesday, scoring three goals on the powerplay, the only goal to not come with the extra man was the empty-net goal at the end.
Minus MacKinnon, the main man on the top unit, it would have been easy for struggles to continue, especially on the first unit, but the reverse happened and the Avs were excellent. A wrister from Rantanen, a dirty goal from Kadri and a bullet from Makar saw the Avs his three from five chances with the man advantage, something that will no doubt delight Jared Bednar.
This team has the quality to have an excellent powerplay. Even though MacKinnon is missing, alongside Compher, who has also seen powerplay time this season, things certainly clicked on Wednesday.
Next up, the Avs continue this road trip with a first visit to Seattle on Friday night. This could be a game where they see former netminder Philipp Grubauer, though he struggled again on Wednesday and may not get the nod against his former team.
Craig Jones is a freelance NHL writer from the UK, covering the Colorado Avalanche. Watching the NHL from afar, Craig has followed the Avs for more than two decades, and wrote about them for almost one. To get the UK perspective of the NHL and everything Colorado, follow Craig on Twitter @craigjones29.