RECAP: Avalanche split pair of games with Sharks

  

Game one: March 1

The game was a downhill slide then trip then face-plant into the dirt for the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avs had a decent start, nothing spectacular, in the first period. The San Jose Sharks had some good energy. It was very fast-paced, even with the four penalties in that period.

Samuel Girard scored the first goal of the game just after a power play expired, so it counted as an even-strength tally, and the Avalanche went into the second period up 1–0.

Early in the second, Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog scored on the actual power play, which was quite impressive even with the Sharks’ dismal defense and goaltending. Any time the top line of Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen were out on the ice, the Sharks managed to hem them into their own zone. When the top line was out, it was very hard for them to get offense. 

Then in the third, the Sharks came out swinging and the Avalanche looked listless. The momentum shifted to the Sharks and stayed there after their go-ahead goal was an unfortunate bounce off Nazem Kadri’s stick. Then, the Sharks scored three more times unanswered, leading to their 6–2 victory over the Avalanche.

Offense was going to be a key facet going into this game. The Avs were out three defensemen in Erik Johnson, who is out long term with an upper-body injury, Cale Makar, who is out day-to-day and Bowen Byram, who was revealed injured just a couple hours before the game started. 

This left Colorado with a d-core of Girard, Ryan Graves, Jacob MacDonald, Dan Renouf, Conor Timmins and Devon Toews. MacDonald, Renouf and Timmins largely play in the AHL and had a cumulative 28 NHL games between them.

Plus, the Sharks’ defense was pretty abysmal, at least in comparison. Martin Jones had a goals against average of 3.70, and in San Jose’s previous game against the Blues, they let in seven goals. But, they also scored six in that same game, so their offense was not to be discounted. 

This game, there were bursts of offensive energy from the Avalanche, but it largely seemed like they were not ready to play. All the players the fans wanted to step up unfortunately did not. Girard, while he scored, had a bad turnover that almost cost a goal, MacKinnon and Rantanen were largely quiet and the depth of Andre Burakovsky and J.T. Compher just puck-watched on the game-tying goal. It was frustrating to watch. 

Afterwards, the players interviewed said that they had a poor effort. Toews pointed out that they did not play well in front of Philipp Grubauer, who was not pulled. Landeskog agreed in a separate interview and said the team left Grubauer out to dry.

So, what was Colorado’s response?

Game two: March 3

The Avalanche knew they needed to come back big in this game. The offense was not really there in the Monday night game, and the defense was left to flounder. 

And while this game was an excellent victory for the Avs, it is a bit bittersweet due to the ensuing injury.

The first period was scoreless, which was surprising considering the Sharks’ penchant for scoring six goals recently and the Avs’ desire to make an impactful response. The energy was a bit all over the place, opportunities generating in sudden bursts for both the Avalanche and the Sharks, but the goalies stood strong. 

Scoring opened up in the second when Rantanen scored on a beautiful one-timer that would end up being the game-winning goal (spoilers) in the last six minutes of the period. 

The Avs got some good opportunities at the start of the third, and Girard capitalized to make it 2–0 with a beautiful slap shot. 

Then the bittersweet injury happened.

Sharks rookie Joachim Blichfeld put a high hit on MacKinnon, sending the Avalanche star to the ice where he did not get up until he was helped to the locker room. A scrum ensued in front of the Sharks’ bench, led by young fourth-liners Tyson Jost and Logan O’Connor. 

Referees assessed the hit to be a shot to the head and received a match misconduct and got ejected from the game. The Avalanche went on a five-minute major power play, and Landeskog scored less than 15 seconds into it. The score became 3–0, and MacKinnon did not return for the rest of the game. 

“Not going to comment on that hit. … We’ll let the trainers take care of that,” Landeskog said after the game. “Happy to cash in on the power play.”

Colorado continued to get chances, but it turned into a 4-on-4 for almost a minute when Brandon Saad slid into the Sharks’ goalie. The Avs only scored once on their major, but managed to kill off the Sharks’ power play. 

Rantanen scored his second of the night on a wraparound, the fourth and final goal of the game. Shortly after, Joonas Donskoi took a penalty and the Avalanche killed it off as well. The Sharks seemed to lose their steam, a reversal of the game on Monday.

The Avalanche won the game 4–0, getting two out of four points in San Jose. They outshot the Sharks 38–26 in that game, showing both a stronger offensive and defensive effort. 

While this game was a shutout victory, it was marred by the MacKinnon injury. There is no official update on MacKinnon yet, but there is still some good news to gleam from this game. Grubauer got his third shutout of the season after letting in six goals the previous game. 

Takeaways

The Avs are showing that even if they have a rough game, they know how to respond. The team improved to 12–7–1 on the season, tying the Minnesota Wild. The power play, at least for Landeskog, is figuring it out, and the penalty kill is staying strong. 

Byram and Makar are still out, not to mention the longer term players Johnson and Pavel Francouz.  It is not revealed yet if they are going to be available for the upcoming games against the Anaheim Ducks. It is also up to the Department of Player Safety to see if Blichfield gets any supplemental discipline.

The Colorado Avalanche are not going to win every game, but answering games after losses is important. The Avs have shown that they can respond with a solid effort and win. I am looking forward to what happens next in Ball Arena!

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    Owyn Cooper
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    Game one: March 1 The game was a downhill slide then trip then face-plant into the dirt for the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs had a decent start, nothin
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