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Colorado Avalanche Weekly Grades: Canadian Vacation Edition

by Staff

We’re back with the Colorado Avalanche weekly report card! This week Colorado headed north into Canada to take on the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, and for the most part, dominated play in both games on the way to two wins. But were they any good?

THE GAMES

Tuesday @ Calgary: 6-2 W
Wednesday @ Vancouver: 4-3 OTW

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Mikko Rantanen: 3 Goals, 3 Assists

This week’s Mikko was the real thing, the dominant physical force with elite puck skill and vision carving up defenses like some Frankensteinian combination of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce all in one body. Nothing can stop the Moose when he brings his entire array of talents to the same game at once. He kicked off the comeback in Vancouver with a vintage hard-nosed net drive paired with an incredibly skilled redirect:

And that came just a day after he and Val rediscovered their chemistry on the powerplay:

But honestly, the goal highlights don’t do Mikko’s week justice – he was a force in all three zones and the subtle little passes he made at both blue lines to spring breakouts and zone entries were a beauty to watch. He’s ratcheting up his level of play for the playoffs and if he can stay this dialed in things are about to get loco. A+

STAR WATCH

Nathan MacKinnon: 2 Goals, 2 Assists

The engine of this team kept chugging along at an MVP pace, posting a goal and an assist in each game. Somehow, two points per game feels like a slow week for Nate – that’s completely unfair to him but it does feel true, doesn’t it? Both his goals were straight-up snipes though:

And a third shot from that same spot doinked in off Big Val’s face for the OT winner. If he keeps shooting like that, he’ll keep racking the goals up. He’s gonna hit 50 for the first time in his career this season, and he’s making it look easy. A

Cale Makar: 3 Assists

The defensive zone continues to be a bit of a struggle for Cale and Devon Toews this year, which they need to sort out, but lately, and especially this week Cale is offsetting mistakes on one end with points at the other. He’s been dangerous even as he still seems to be fighting the puck and the hockey gods most nights.

That’s an assist that should have been a goal, and you love to see Makar “activating and shooting.” There was a stretch earlier this year where it looked like he wasn’t healthy enough to do that, but he seems to be fully back from whatever that ailment was. B+

Valeri Nichushkin: 2 Goals, 2 Assists

Bow down folks, our demigod (Nate, Cale, and Mikko are full gods) has returned to save us all with net-front power play goals in all three games since his return to the lineup. And yeah, two of those are overtime game-winners, with one coming off his face in Vancouver:

A visor goal was a new one, but the rest of Val’s game was vintage Nuke – dominant defensive and possession metrics plus offensive zone bursts of power and skill that resulted in points. He’s awesome. A+

MINDING THE NET

Justus Annunen:

Started out a little shaky, giving up two goals on Calgary’s first three shots. One was a fantastic deflection you can’t really ask him to stop, and one was a bit of a letdown as he could have had it. But after that, he blanked the Flames and got the W when goal support poured in throughout the second period. A

Alexandar Georgiev:

Started a little shaky too, giving up two goals on Vancouver’s first two shots. One was a fantastic deflection you can’t really ask him to stop, and one was a bit of a letdown as he could have had it. He then let in a real softy in the second period, leaving the Avs down 3-0.

The second half of the game was perfect – he wasn’t asked to do that much but came up big when called upon. He just can’t be setting the team back early in games like that. C+

ROLE PLAYER HONOR ROLL

Casey Middlestadt: 1 Goal, 1 Assist

Just a point in each game as Middlestadt is clearly still looking to find chemistry with his new teammates – he looked downright lost subbing in for Jonathan Drouin on the powerplay against the Canucks. But in that same game, he turned a second line with Brandon Duhaime and Yakov Trenin on the wings into a dominant force that destroyed its matchup with superstar Elias Petterson.

That is insane! Just look at the high-danger chances column at the end there, HDCF% — against the Canucks two best players in Petterson and Quinn Hughes, Middlestadt generated almost all of the dangerous chances and completely stifled Petterson in six minutes head-to-head.

Oh, and he assisted on the goal that sparked the comeback, the night after putting a bow on a dominant win over Calgary with his first goal as an Av:

He was brought in to drive offense, and so far so very very good. A

DUNCE CAP IN MY DOGHOUSE DUNGEON

Josh Manson:

Ok, let me first say he played very well. Manson against the Canucks looked like a man amongst boys, leading all Avalanche skaters – not just the defense – in every major underlying statistic. He also scored the game-tying goal in Calgary:

He rocked and does not belong in the dungeon for his actual play. But he also made what should have been a costly mistake on a reckless hit:

That tweet is correct on all counts – if Miller tried to sell it, Manson would be suspended right now and he would deserve it.

You can read into his intent all you want – I think it’s pretty clear Manson was not targeting the head and didn’t throw his full force into the hit – but he did catch the head and drive a player into the boards like that when you clearly see his back through your entire approach is unacceptable.

Manson’s fantastic play this week only makes this hit more frustrating in my eyes, as he’s not just some plug who the Avs could replace if he got the suspension he deserved – he’s a fantastic player and a huge part of this defense corps, so he has to make better choices and stay in the lineup.

This play gets an F from me, but overall Manson’s week is worth at least a B+

THE REST

Andrew Cogliano: Picked up an assist on the Manson goal, and with injuries higher in the lineup has been tasked with playing fourth-line center. He’s done an OK job in a role he’s not really suited for. C+

Ross Colton: Fantastic effort on the game-tying goal in Vancouver:

He’s looking confident and comfortable as the third-line center, a role he’s better suited for than matchups higher up the lineup. B+

Jonathan Drouin: Was great before picking up a lower-body injury against the Flames that forced him to miss the Canucks game. It should be short-term, he might even play tomorrow in Edmonton. B

Brandon Duhaime: Impressed me skating on the second line with Middlestadt and Drouin/Trenin. His little touch pass assist to spring Middlestadt’s goal was a skill play I did not know he had. Looks like maybe Minnesota’s system was stifling his offense not the other way around, though it has only been three games so we’ll see. A

Sam Girard: Dominant metrics against the Canucks after a decent game in Calgary. B+

Jack Johnson: Solid JJ week, nothing stood out to the good or the bad. C+

Caleb Jones: Played five rough minutes at forward against Vancouver. N/A

Joel Kiviranta: Looked really good skating with Colton and Miles Wood. His elusive zone entry set up the Colton goal. B+

Fredrik Olofsson: He’s back! And not seizing the moment, unfortunately. Freddy’s metrics stunk and Caleb Jones got more ice time than him – and Jones is not a real forward. D

Devon Toews: I touched on it in the Makar section – the D zone work was not good enough, but three assists definitely offset that. B

Yakov Trenin: Immediately made the penalty way better and his impact at 5-on-5 has been fantastic – either on Colton or Middlestadt’s wing, he was effective in all three zones and was a huge part of everything I touched on in the Middlestadt section.

Love the mindset, love the fit. A

Sean Walker: The points aren’t flowing but the play is working – he’s holding up defensively while looking dangerous in transition, and the PK looks better with him aggressively challenging passers. B

Miles Wood: I liked his effort in both games and the Vancouver metrics stand up – possession was skewed sharply in Colorado’s favor with Wood on the ice. B+

TEAM GRADE

That was a comeback for the ages, a dominant effort against a very good Canucks team that was trying hard to keep the Avs down and simply could not. Nate called it the best win of the year, and I have to agree with him – it truly showcased why we should have faith in this team’s Cup chances. The top-end talent is so good, the whole roster is resilient and responsible, and after the trade deadline, they’re deep enough at forward to control play with all four lines when (if?) healthy.

That third period in particular is outright domination, and you can chalk some of it up to score effects if you really want to nitpick but the eye test was clear – Vancouver was not trying to turtle, Colorado simply forced them into their shell and just kept firing pucks at it ‘til it broke. The overtime wasn’t even slightly competitive since Colorado was on the powerplay and made short work of it.

That all came after another dominant effort in Calgary, where the Avs shrugged off an unlucky start and dominated the Flames for two periods before coasting to a win in the third period.

How can this week be anything other than an S grade? Well, Georgiev – he has to find a way to be locked in at the start of games because while the comeback wins keep piling up, clawing back from early deficits is not a recipe for playoff success. A+

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