It’s easy to look at the final score from Thursday night’s game and say the Avalanche didn’t play well. And sure, a loss is a loss, so it doesn’t really matter how they played; the final was still 4-2 Red Wings and the Avs have their first loss of the season.
But there certainly are things to take away from this and not all of them are negative.
Let’s get right into it with what we learned from the Avalanche’s 4-2 loss to Detroit on Thursday night.
Cody McLeod Is In Some Trouble
We’ll have more on this in a separate article, but there’s no doubt that McLeod is going to have an in-person meeting with Brendan Shanahan for his hit on Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
It didn’t look like the intent was there as McLeod isn’t a normally dirty player, but Kronwall had his back to McLeod the whole time and even though Kronwall changed directions, McLeod should have known better and pulled up.
I couldn’t find any suspension history on McLeod so I’m not sure if that’s in play here, but he’ll probably get in the neighborhood of 3-5 games for his hit.
The Avalanche Responded Well To Adversity
For maybe the first time this season, the Avalanche faced adversity in a game and had to fight back.
Following the McLeod hit on Kronwall, the Avs looked a little shell-shocked and it only worsened when Johan Franzen scored on the 5-on-3 that followed (it was a 5-on-4 by the time the puck was in the back of the net).
Datsyuk would add a second marker with five minutes left in the first period and the Avs were reeling heading into the second period. For the first time all season, an opponent punched the Avalanche in the mouth first.
The response was about as good as you could hope for. They scored a pair of power play goals in the second period (Erik Johnson and Gabe Landeskog) to send the game into the third all knotted up at 2-2.
Unfortunately, Franzen and Datsyuk would both connect again in the third, ending the rally and handing the Avalanche their first loss of the season. Still, the response from the Avalanche was encouraging and the team fought back in the second.
The Penalty Kill Was An Issue
Look, I’m not hating on the penalty kill. It’s been dynamite all season and it’s impossible to think/expect that they’d continue at the rate they’d been going so far. Not only that, but the Wings are a good, experienced team that makes teams pay when they get the advantage.
But the fact of the matter is that the special teams determined the outcome of this game. When Franzen’s second power play marker of the night in the third found the back of the net, it was tough to come back from. Not only because it was a third period goal, but the Avalanche have found so much success killing penalties this year that it had to be deflating for the young Avs.
All that said, the Avs still had a solid kill for the night. They almost stole a shorthanded goal on that second Franzen marker before finally giving in. They need to pocket this lesson and come back strong the next time they’re on the kill and remember that for the first six games of the year, they were the best penalty kill in the game.
Varlamov Looked Human
You can only be Superman for so long, right?
Varly faced one of the lowest shot totals of the season so far (28), but surrendered four goals on the night; his first 2+ goal game this season.
The first Franzen goal was a bang bang play where a big, skilled guy like Franzen does his thing and there’s not much any goalie can do about it. The second Franzen goal was just a nice bit of passing by the Wings, got the puck across quickly and Varly wasn’t quick enough to get from side to side to make the stop. It’s hard to pin those side to side plays on the goaltender.
Both Datsyuk goals were rebound efforts. Varly made the initial stop in both instances only to have Datsyuk quickly bury the rebound into an open net. Rebound control is a big part of a goalies game and though he’s been near flawless this season, Varly has shown issues with rebounds. The only difference is that he’s somehow found a way to get in front of said rebounds.
Still, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about at this point. The Wings are a good team and the Avalanche were bound to lose. If he gets the nod Saturday, look for Varly to rebound against a offensively inept Buffalo Sabres.
Next up: 10/19 @ Buffalo