Avalanche beat the reigning Stanley Cup Champs


The game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning played in Tampa on Saturday night October 23 wasn’t pretty by any means. Coach Jared Bednar mixed the lines up again before the game and that had little positive impact during the game. The one change was that Martin Kaut was sent back to the Colorado Eagles and Jason Megna was recalled.

Here’s the rundown of the game.

1st Period

Mark Rycroft after the first period said the Avalanche need to “Keep it simple and throw everything on the net” “No fancy passing like Forsberg and Sakic.” This was what was happening though, the fancy passing again that was getting the Avalanche nowhere. Sure Gabriel Landeskog put one goal in the back of the net, with a bit of a fluke shot that went five-hole on the Lightening’s netminder.

The only really good thing about the Avalanche’s performance during the period, in comparison to the last couple of games, was that the Penalty Kill had improved somewhat. I’m not going to say it was great, and after the past few games, it needed to improve measurably to even be considered okay. Well, it was nearly there.

Fans hate to see one of their favorite players in a different team’s jersey. Tonight Avalanche fans had to watch one of their very favorites in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare wearing a Tampa jersey. He was creating problems with blocking the Avalanche. How dare he! And later in the game, it was noticeable that the Avalanche players were not going at him when he had the puck. Must be strange for them, as much as it is for fans.

Darcy Kuemper was solid in net during the period making some strong saves and keeping the Lightening from scoring.

End of the 1st  the stats were SOG Avs 7 TBL 12  FO% Avs 48.1%  TBL 51.9%
In the period break, Marc Moser from Altitude TV interviewed Gabriel Landeskog and he said “We had a good period.” Watching it as a fan, I wouldn’t have described it that way.

Stand Out Players

Logan O’Connor again was one of the standout players in the period. He is strong and determined on the puck. He doesn’t let up and again showed the way during the period with some strong offensive play.

Samuel Girard was the other noticeable player who was strong on defense. He was getting hit and bashed, and kept going, no matter what, to fight for the puck and get it out of the zone.

Score at the end of the period – Avs 1 TBL 0

2nd Period

What can you say about Bowen Byram and his ability to stand up to guys that are not only taller but also heavier than him? He did just that with a number of the big-name veteran Tampa Bay players. The message from Byram is “Don’t mess with me.” It was so great to see and the Altitude TV commentators even commented on it and how it would dissuade other players from having a go at him. He is truly showing he is not a defenseman that can be messed with.

The top line did what they are supposed to do. Put together an end-to-end play and scored. Nathan MacKinnon to Mikko Rantanen. It was the first play of the last four games where the top line looked like they were playing as they should.

Again, in the second period, Darcy Kuemper had another solid period. It was as if he had a point to prove. He is the Avalanche’s number one goalie and in this game, he was out to prove it.

Score at the end of the 2nd period Avs 2 TBL 1

Stats for the period SOG Avs 16 TBL 24 FO% 50/50

Noticeably when the Avalanche begin to win more Face Offs they win back control of the game, naturally. And it is something they have struggled with at times.

By the end of this period, the Avalanche had had five Power Play opportunities and not capitalized on any of them. Another issue that is a carry-over from last season. It is something that needs to be fixed for the Avalanche to be a serious contender moving forward.

Coach Jared Bednar switched lines up during this period, not an uncommon thing. Tyson Jost, Logan O’Connor, and Darren Helm were back together again for part of the period.
J T Compher was no standout in this game. At times he looked back to being slow and not keeping up with the play in my opinion.

3rd Period

As an Avalanche fan, you will know full well what I mean when I say “predictable mistakes.” Yes, apparently it takes time for young players such as Sampo Ranta and Mikhail Maltsev to get their feet in the NHL. Maltsev has had some experience playing in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils so it should not be as big of an issue for him, yet with these two young players on the ice, the Lightning scored in what was a very predictable mistake. You could see that a goal was imminent. Not a fun place to be in.

Darcy Kuemper made a huge save to keep the Avalanche in the game during the third period. He definitely showed that he is a goalie to be reckoned with. It was good to see him with his confidence back and it helped that the D core were more engaged and playing support during the game. Although there were lapses in that occurring for a big part of the night they were where they were supposed to be.

And yes, defensive breakdowns again led to goals by Tampa Bay.

Nathan MacKinnon went top shelf to put the Avalanche ahead in this period. It was a typical MacKinnon play that hasn’t worked so far up until this point. The TV Commentators were saying that with ten days off the ice during COVID protocol it was going to take time for MacKinnon to get his legs back too. It looked like it had happened for periods of the game, although he is still far from consistent.

The game was tied at the end of the third period, so it went to OT. Samuel Girard was clearly sent into the boards in what left him not okay and requiring medical assistance and yet Stamkos was not called at all for the play. No penalty. And so it is highly unlikely that NHL player safety will take a look at the incident. The hard part to watch is the fact that the hit was nasty and Girard copped a shove from Stamkos after the play. Gabriel Landeskog was suspended for two games for less.

At the end of OT the game was still tied and went to a shootout. The Avalanche don’t have a good record in shoot outs so having this happen seemed to have many Avalanche fans on the edge of their seats according to the Twitter comments.

Darcy Kuemper was outstanding saving goals shot by the Lightning players on two different occasions giving the Avalanche the chance to win the game. It was finally Cale Makar in his first penalty shootout, that brought home the win for the Avalanche.

Final score Avs 4  TBL 3
Final game stats – SOG Avs 27 TBL 32  FO% Avs 42.7% TBL 52.3%

Overall observations

Is the top line doing their job?
During the game watching the Avalanche’s top line in Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog, the thought crossed my mind that this is their job; to play and win hockey games. Considering the lack of performance from them to date, and the amount of money they are being paid, any other normal people in their job would be on a performance contract and possibly a warning.

It is interesting that doesn’t happen in hockey. Maybe one or more of the top line needs to be benched to make them wake up and realize they have a job to do. It is fine to talk about bringing home the Stanley Cup, but actual commitment and consistent top-quality play is the only thing that is going to make that happen.

And yes you can make the excuse that these players have been out, Landeskog for two games and MacKinnon for a number of days. Is that really an excuse for the caliber of players they are? Not sure about that.

What’s the standard, it seems to have dropped?

It is understandable when you lose players from a team in an offseason that it will take time to assimilate incoming players into not only the team’s way of playing but also the culture of the team. How many games is it acceptable to keep making this excuse? The standard and drive to play seem to have dropped for the Avalanche. Some of the new players seem to have taken to the team quickly. The young players that have come from the farm team, the Colorado Eagles, already know the way the Avalanche play.

Something is lacking in terms of the standards being set for acceptable play on the ice. You can only look lost and disconnected for so long. Time is up for this team.

T.E.A.M. Where’s the support?

Again in this game, there were times when players were not supported by their teammates. Clearly, there is still a disconnect about who is doing what and the role they play every time they come off the bench and hit the ice. That needs to shift, and quickly. Players not playing as part of a Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM), will not win games and not make it to the Playoffs. If that is where the Avalanche want to be at the end of the season, fine. Don’t then talk about being a Stanley Cup contender, because right now they are far from that.

When is boarding not boarding?

It is not okay when NHL officials are inconsistent with the calls they are making with regard to boarding. Players are injured and just like some of the bad concussion injuries that players suffer that are not penalized, boarding is having that same impact. In this game, it was clear the Sam Girard was slammed against the boards in a way that caused him injury. How serious that injury is, in terms of him entering and coming out of concussion protocol, only time will tell.

When a player is not even penalized for boarding when it is clear the player that was sent into the boards is injured says there is something wrong with the way this particular rule is being administered. Any serious injury to a play, especially as it relates to head contact with the boards should be penalized and reviewed by Player Safety, no matter which team it is that is involved.

The Avalanche scraped in with a win against the Lightning. That means for this road trip they come away with one win and two losses. Traveling back to Colorado for one home game before hitting the road again, the Avalanche play their arch-rivals in the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. Let’s see if there is any improvement in the team for that game.

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