Avalanche beat Blues for much-needed win


What a difference a game makes. The Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 4–3 in regulation on Thursday night. Right from the start of the game, the energy from the Avalanche was different. That in itself was interesting given that the line combinations practiced Wednesday needed to be shifted up again due to an injury to Mikko Rantanen sustained at Thursday’s morning skate.

Some Avs fans were confident that the team could bounce back from the string of recent losses, while others did not think a win was possible at all.

What changed in this game? The whole team effort went back to being one where the players finished their checking, they were communicating, passing was more on point and there were three or more players together working to take the puck off the opposition.

That overall combined team chemistry appeared to be back. Given the situation in the past few games where it has been hard to name more than one or two players that contributed all game, Thursday was a different story.

Sure, some people who watched the game would comment that a number of the players did not do much. Nathan MacKinnon would be one of those named players. He still seemed off his play for most of the night, and yet, he contributed in key situations, not scoring the goals himself, but supporting the play that led to the goal.

Thursday’s contributors

Logan O’Connor

Head Coach Jared Bednar has a lot of confidence in Logan O’Connor, and for the right reasons. O’Connor has been a standout player for most of the games the Avalanche have played so far this season. O’Connor started the season on the fourth line and last game was moved to the third line. During the week, Bednar moved O’Connor up to the second line, and he commented that it was because he likes his play, something Bednar has been commenting on for a number of weeks.

O’Connor played his usual gritty game, stopping pucks, annoying both forwards and defenseman from the Blues alike and being a strong contributor with a number of close shots on goal that unfortunately did not go in the net. Opposition players are starting to try and rough O’Connor up because of his speed and tenacity on the puck. They are recognizing he is a force to be reckoned with.

Ryan Murray

Ryan Murray came to Colorado in the offseason from the New Jersey Devils. Not only is he a smart defenseman, but he also plays special teams, something the Avs needed to shore up after losing both Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert in the offseason.

Murray was present in the past six games, just not in the same way as in this game. It seemed that Murray found his feet with the Avalanche’s system in this game. He was visible and created strong opportunities leading to two assists on the goals from J.T. Compher and Nazem Kadri.

Marc Moser from Altitude TV commented that he thought it was Murray’s best game yet in an Avalanche jersey.

The D core (Murray, Bowen Byram, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Kurtis MacDermid and Cale Makar)

Of this list of six players, Kurtis MacDermid was the only player that did not make a consistent contribution all night. Erik Johnson struggled a little at times, but the others played very strong games for all three periods. Murray had his best game of the season so far. Jack Johnson made key plays and was shooting pucks at the net, when he could, on a number of occasions. Bowen Byram showed again during this game that he is not to be messed with, standing up to a much bigger player, as he has done in the previous few games. He is showing opposing teams that he is a defensive player who is going to hold strong on his position and do what he has to do to protect his team.

Jacob MacDonald

MacDonald has been benched for the last two games, so Thursday was a chance to see him on the ice. The big difference was that instead of him playing in his usual position on defense, he was on the wing, playing on the fourth line. Whether it was simply the fact that he got to play with the Avalanche again, after playing games last season, or the fact that he was moved into a different position, MacDonald played with strength, determination and fire that has not been seen from him before. He was a big contributor in a number of different situations. It was great to see and will now be interesting to see what Bednar chooses to do in the next game, which is back home in Denver on Saturday.

Overall thoughts on the game

Something changed with the team on Thursday. They came out with a fire that had not been present in the last five games. The overall TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) effort was evident for most of the game.

The young players contributed. Overall, the team gelled more against the Blues than they have so far this season. It was evident that the Avalanche had talked about putting pucks on net, as they ended up with many more shots on goal than the Blues at the end of the game with a lopsided 42–18 margin. Quite a difference.

For most of the game, the Avs dominated the face-off win percentage. That only shifted in the very latter part of the game. It is always evident when the Avalanche are playing well that it starts with them winning a larger amount of the face-offs.

The Avs had five power play opportunities and scored on one. While there was an improvement in their special teams effort, it could still do with some work.

Darcy Kuemper was again strong in net. A couple of the Blues goals were from crazy bounces, and another from a defensive breakdown by the Avalanche, something he cannot be blamed for. Overall, he contributed to the win.

People might call me out for not mentioning Compher as a standout player. Again, he made a few strong players and notched up two goals, which makes for raving fans. For this writer, there were still too many instances where he made bad plays or did not do what he was supposed to, and those outweigh the one or two brilliant things for me.

After this game, the Avalanche are now 3–4–0, not the start you would expect from the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners.

The Avalanche face the Minnesota Wild at home on Saturday. Let’s see if the team can remember Thursday’s contributions and bring it again on Saturday night.

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    Karen Cherrett

    What a difference a game makes. The Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 4–3 in regulation on Thursday night. Right from the start of the game,
    [To continue reading full article, click here: Avalanche beat Blues for much-needed win]

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