Avalanche dropped by Panthers, what now?


How do you write a game wrap up when all night you sat frustrated and unsure why the Colorado Avalanche, a team that looked destined for the Stanley Cup last season, now look so lost?

The Avalanche had a really bad game in their first road game for this season against the Washington Capitals two nights ago. It is the game any fan wants to forget and not talk about.

Thursday night, the Avalanche came out looking much better at the start of the game, although something still was not clicking, as they dropped a 4–1 outcome to the Florida Panthers. The passing in the first period was off, with opportunities being missed because the pass did not go where it was supposed to.

Tweaking the D pairings

Colorado Head Coach Jared Bednar had made changes to the way the defensive pairings were prior to game start. He moved Samuel Girard back with Erik Johnson, a combination that fans watching know works. And it did tonight, and more from the perspective of Girard being very noticeable on the ice. It was frightening to see him go down hard against the boards and go straight off to the locker room. But, everything was okay and Girard returned to the game.

Moving Bowen Byram to the top pairing with Cale Makar worked. With the three top-line players of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen back together, the top line seemed to be firing. They did not have as much of an impact as to bring home the win for the team, but being the first time the entire team had been together so far this season, it was clear to see the combination still has the chemistry it had last season. And, with the Byram and Makar defensive pairing, that five on the ice worked.

The third pairing of Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray worked and yet fell short of what Jack Johnson had been doing in some of the earlier games. Perhaps when Devon Toews returns a pairing of Jack Johnson and Toews, which may bring some dynamic chemistry to cause trouble for the opposition on the ice. Only time will tell.

The line combinations

The one change in the line combinations that stood out tonight was the shift of having Tyson Jost center the fourth line. Between Darren Helm and Logan O’Connor, Jost added the speed to match the other two. The chemistry seemed strong with this combination and they were effective on the ice.

O’Connor had another outstanding night. At one stage, he was down blocking a shot like the best of any defensemen, then grabbed the puck on a breakaway, and with Jost’s support, gave the Avalanche a strong chance. O’Connor is quickly becoming an indispensable player for the Avalanche, which, after last season, is great to see.

This was the first time this season that the Avalanche’s top line was back together. Rantanen is the only player to have played all four games so far this season. Despite it being the trio’s first outing together this season, you could see that they can still be dangerous; it just did not work out that way in this game.

The Panthers worked out how to cut off the shots of MacKinnon and Rantanen and the Avalanche did not change up their game to counteract that. So, while the top line clicked and played well together, they were not as dangerous as they could be in delivering the spark the team needed for a win.

Landeskog was penalized for boarding again, and while this was not as serious as what happened in the first game, it is something that will need to be watched. It does seem out of character for Landeskog, yet this type of behavior is now becoming common from him, not necessarily a positive from the Captain.

Jonas Johansson performed in net

It was a little surprising to see that Jonas Johansson got the start in net, although considering Darcy Kuemper has had two straight losses, it was probably not unexpected. With Pavel Francouz out on long-term injured reserve, Johansson is now Colorado’s back-up goalie.

Johansson looked strong in net, and while the score line did not show that, he made some great saves and performed well overall. It will be interesting to see who gets the start against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

What is not working for the Avalanche?

Watching from the sidelines, it is hard to pinpoint what is not working for the Avalanche. Altitude TV Commentators Marc Moser and Peter McNabb commented that the Avalanche were just “off” again on Thursday.

That certainly describes the situation. While on paper you would expect the line combinations to work and the shifted up defensive pairings to be strong, at times, both these were evident and yet there was also something missing.

Is it that the team as still missing both Toews and Valeri Nichushkin? Maybe. I can see that with Nichushkin back and the second line of Nichushkin, Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri working together again, it may make a difference.

And, if Toews came back into the lineup, which defenseman would sit? Possibly Murray. But, will only two different players make the ultimate big difference between a win and a loss for this Avalanche team? I do not think so.

There is some magic ingredient currently missing, and only the team itself will know what that is. The Avalanche play the reigning Stanley Cup champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Let’s hope something shifts and the Avalanche find the missing ingredient to play as the Stanley Cup contenders they want to be. Otherwise, it will be their third loss in three games.

Yet, in the post-game presser, Landeskog said, “I mean, we’ve got 78 games left. That’s a lot of hockey; start with one. And, obviously playing another tough opponent here in a couple of days. There’s no secret formula, right? We’ve got to work and that’s what we are doing and what we are trying to do.”

Landeskog thinks there is no secret formula. That could just be the problem.

About Karen Cherrett

Karen began watching the Avalanche in 2011 and has been an avid fan since. She's ridden the not so great years since then and had her first experience of Playoffs Hockey at Pepsi Center in 2019. It was everything other Avs fans said it would be. She loves writing about her team #GoAvsGo


Center Ice Forums Avalanche dropped by Panthers, what now?

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    Karen Cherrett

    How do you write a game wrap up when all night you sat frustrated and unsure why the Colorado Avalanche, a team that looked destined for the Stanley C
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