The Colorado Avalanche swept the defending two-time Stanley Cup champions. Erik Johnson’s suspension will continue to give other defenseman a chance to prove themselves.
Erik Johnson has been suspended two games for his hit on Vladislav Namestnikov. Whether or not he deserves the two game suspension is now irrelevant and the only thing Jared Bednar and his crew can do now is decide how he will make the defensive pairings.
Johnson is a huge piece of this defensive core, eating up 25:00 minutes a night with ease. His use in all situations will be extremely difficult to replace. It will be especially hard with Johnson being suspended against two probable playoff teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.
The way I’m choosing to view this is it presents an opportunity for the other Avalanche defenseman to step up and show Bednar they can be relied on if need be. The suspension to Johnson coupled with the return of Alexander Kerfoot to the line up means Bednar will ice 12 forwards and 6 defenseman (he had been icing 11 forwards and 7 defenseman for the last couple weeks or so).
The defensive pairings without Johnson against Pittsburgh looked like this:
I don’t necessarily want to get into the pairings themselves, as I assume they will be altered throughout the game. I just want to quickly focus on each player and what I want from them these next two games
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Nikita Zadorov: Big Z, I need you to be “Erik Johnson lite”. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, it’s simple. Play the same game EJ plays. Of course EJ is the better player and I don’t need Zadorov to be exactly like EJ, but I want him involved everywhere. He has the size like EJ and can skate pretty well, so I expect him to take a bigger role in all scenario. He should eat up a lot of EJ’s minutes, pending some of his goofy giveaways….
Mark Barberio: 5 on 5, I don’t want to see Barberio. With Barberio I’ve when it’s 5 on 5 and I notice Barberio, it’s because he did something not good. He may see some power play time, but mostly I expect him to get more penalty kill time. He needs to be strong on the PK.
Patrik Nemeth: Nemeth I don’t think should have to change much. He may get a little more ice time just by default but that doesn’t worry me. He should be in as many defensive and PK situations as possible.
Tyson Barrie: Tyson is the guy I will be watching the most. We all know what Barrie can do offensively, but we also know he has a problem turning the puck over. I want to see Barrie be extra responsible with the puck, no silly turnovers. Honestly, even if his offensive game suffers a bit, I don’t mind. He needs to have a strong two games without EJ.
Anton Lindholm: Lindholm should see a small bump in ice time, but I don’t expect it to negatively effect his game. Much like Nemeth, he’ll continue to be asked to play a lot on the PK. Prove that you belong up here for the long term bud!
Samuel Girard: Bednar, TURN HIM LOOSE!! I know he’s young and has a lot to learn about the defensive side of the game, but Girard is so fun to watch when he has the puck. Whatever slack Barrie leaves on the offensive side, I want to see Girard pick it up. He’s going to make mistakes, but this is a great opportunity for him to learn.
Erik Johnson being out for two games is of course not ideal, but there is a great opportunity for the rest of the defenseman to raise their value in Bednar’s eyes. Make it happen!