Fighting through their current injury plague, the Colorado Avalanche pulled off a 5-2 road win against the Chicago Blackhawks. The team built off of the offensive success they saw in their last game, with key depth players chipping in. Five separate players scored, with six total players tallying a point. Let’s take a look at how the Avalanche built their success in this game and how they can continue to do so going forward:
It’s no secret that the Avalanche have been struggling defensively lately. However, that seems to have changed for the better over the last two games. Due to an injury to defenseman Erik Johnson, the pairings had to be shuffled again, and that change may have sparked the recent improvement.
While there were still a few iffy turnovers, the Avs’ defensemen had much better puck control in this game. They tightened up the passing and were able to chip in offensively as well. Star rookie Cale Makar netted a powerplay goal at the end of the first. He remains in the lead of NHL rookie scoring, impressive for a defenseman. Ryan Graves, playing in his 50th NHL game, tallied the second goal of the contest:
Graves has been an impact player in the last two games he’s played. He laid one of the heaviest hits we’ve seen this season against the Oilers and had himself a fight against the Blackhawks. Full disclosure: He’s been one of my favorite players since the Avalanche called him up last season and I’m happy to see him doing well for the team this year. I hope he can continue to play a physical game and get involved with plays, as he has the potential to be a part of the team’s long-term success.
Scoring Fast and Scoring Often
Graves scored less than three minutes later and Makar scored 12:20 into the first. That gave the team a two-goal advantage going into the second, which is always a nice place to be. The Avalanche followed that up by scoring two more unanswered goals. Valeri Nichushkin tallied his second goal of the season in the second. Compher quickly followed up with another, scoring the final goal of the night.
MacKinnon continues to lead the team in scoring, with a four-point night. He’s an essential piece of the Avalanche, now more than ever, as the team struggles with injuries to its offensive core. He’s the model for how the team needs to play: Fast, smart, and incredibly dangerous with the puck. With 17 points in his last eight games, the team can only hope he remains healthy as his linemates heal up.
Backup goalie Pavel Fancouz was in goal tonight for the first game of the back-to-back against the Blackhawks, and he performed admirably. He stopped 34 of 36 shots and gave the team the confidence they needed. It was Francouz’s first start in net after his injury during the Jets game earlier in November.
Francouz has performed admirably thus far this season, with a record of 6-2-0 in his eight starts. While there were questions about him as a solid backup for the Avalanche coming into this season, he remains a steady presence in net.
Philipp Grubauer is anticipated to get the start against the Blackhawks tomorrow evening, though the lineup hasn’t been announced yet. Mikko Rantanen is also projected to join the play. He hasn’t played since a lower-body injury took him out at the end of October and it’s going to be crucial to have him back on the team.
The Avalanche have a few days off following their recent whirlwind of games and then they’re headed on a three-game road trip that takes them up to Canada for a rematch against the Leafs and ends with a game against the Bruins.
Above all, the Avalanche need to continue playing their game and riding out the injury wave. Seeing as they’re performing this well with the patchwork lineup they have currently, I’m sure the NHL is terrified to see them at full strength.
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