Colorado Avalanche: Looking at the Defensive Pairings vs Vegas

DENVER, CO - APRIL 04: Duncan Siemens
DENVER, CO - APRIL 04: Duncan Siemens /

The Colorado Avalanche are getting closer to solidifying their blueline, even if the team lost their first preseason contest.

The Colorado Avalanche hosted their first preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights. They lost, 4-1.

Vegas was putting out more veterans. Coach Gerard Gallant stated he wanted his veterans to start getting ready for opening night. Meanwhile, the Avalanche made it clear it was all prospects, all the time.

Well, it wasn’t all prospects — there were five veterans on the ice who were very clearly NHL players among prospects:

Johnson, MacKinnon and Rantanen were wearing the A for alternate. (I won’t go into how Erik Johnson has to be named an alternate captain… yet.)

Anyway, the Colorado Avalanche defensive corps is still somewhat of a question mark. The only players who are sure to make the opening night roster, and have regular spots, are Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov and Mark Barberio. That leaves at least three openings.

Tonight, besides Johnson, the defensemen included Mason Geertsen, Duncan Siemens, Jared Cowen, Nicolas Meloche and Conor Timmins.

While the defensive pairings varied a little — especially since the officials have decided to call slashing every other play and penalize players for faceoff infractions, thus creating more power plays. However, the most consistent pairings were the following:

Erik Johnson-Duncan Siemens

Conor Timmins-Mason Geertsen

Nicolas Meloche-Jared Cowen

I’m pulling for Siemens, and I was happy to see him paired with Johnson. A couple years ago the two showed some chemistry in the preseason. Well, that wasn’t really in evidence tonight. Siemens fell twice during his first shift.

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That alone is hardly damning. However, it was pretty clear he was nervous for the first period at least. That can be somewhat understandable until you remember this is far from his first rodeo. He’s been pro for five years and participated in a lot of NHL preseason games. Probably the nervousness stems from his belief that this is his last chance to make the NHL.

In any case, he couldn’t really keep up with Erik Johnson. EJ can fly, and he sees the ice so well — he was the catalyst for the Avalanche’s only goal. Pray God Zadorov partners him in the regular season. He needs a good partner.

Conor Timmins is green. He just turned 19 — yesterday, incidentally. That shows in his play. I’ve been worried about his skating, but he seemed to be keeping up.

What’s more, he seemed to impress Erik Johnson. According to BSN Avalanche, Johnson called him “the best D out there.” Clearly EJ is trying to give the kid some confidence.

Mason Geertsen is a big boy. I don’t think he’s making the opening night roster, but he looked a little more polished than Timmins, as should be expected. He also got into a little scrap:

Apparently he’s got a wicked right hook, because Paul Thompson was out after just one hit.

I liked the Meloche-Cowen pairing. They actually seemed to have good chemistry. However, about the time I observed that, Jared Bednar stopped putting them on the ice together.

Cowen is clearly gunning for a roster spot. I think he paired well with Meloche because he was the veteran leading. He also played a physical, gritty game.

The game itself was actually pretty chippy:

A couple other observations not related to the defense. Goalie Spencer Martin struggled. It’s not just that he allowed three goals in the first period, he just seemed to not be dialed into the game as much as you’d expect. Thank goodness the Colorado Avalanche went out and acquired Jonathan Bernier in free agency.

Someone who was dialed into the game? Alexander Kerfoot. He had a very strong showing. His foot speed is great, and he already has a nose for the game. I don’t know if he makes opening night, but he’s making a case for being first call-up if nothing else.

Next: Standout Players at Burgundy and White

The Colorado Avalanche host the Dallas Stars on Thursday, September 21, before a crazy weekend that includes three games in three days. Game time for Thursday’s game is 7:00 pm.