5 Takeaways: Avs shutout Sabres behind strong performances from Grubauer, MacKinnon

Dec 5, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) passes the puck during a power play in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a tough loss, the Colorado Avalanche looked to respond Saturday afternoon against the visiting Buffalo Sabres. The Avalanche did exactly that, shutting out the Sabres, 3-0.

With team captain Gabriel Landeskog out with an upper-body injury, Colorado needed its other top players to step up.

Nathan MacKinnon was that guy as he led the Avalanche with three points, including an extremely difficult goal to get the party started. MacKinnon intercepted a pass in the neutral zone–got knocked down, but maintained possession–before stepping around the defender and roofing a wrist shot for Colorado’s first goal of the game.

Colorado’s strong defensive play allowed the club to take a 1-0 lead into the final frame. In the third, Mikko Rantanen provided an insurance goal and the Avs added an empty-net goal as well in Philip Grubauer’s second shutout win on the season.

What did we learn from this game?

1. No Landeskog? No problem. Okay, maybe a little problem but Colorado needed other players to step up in the absence of the veteran leader. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen led that charge with four points between the duo.

Other players stepped up as well, like Carl Soderberg and Matt Calvert, who both ate minutes on the penalty kill in Landeskog’s absence. Tyson Jost and Derick Brassard also played a valuable role in forcing the issue on the forecheck as well.

2. Grubauer continued to look solid in net. While it seemed like he was only challenged once, on a breakaway, every shot he faced was handled perfectly. Grubauer didn’t give up any large rebounds, saw the puck through screens and also played the puck well when needed. He is showing that he just needed a little time to get used to his new surroundings and might give Varlamov a run for starting goalie down the stretch.

3. Colorado’s defense played much better than the Dallas game. The Avalanche blueline only allowed seven shots on goal through the first two frames and finished the game only allowing 18 shots total on net. Colorado also finished with 11 blocked shots, keeping the Sabres attackers at bay.

4. Tyson Barrie wears the “A” in Landeskog’s absence and proves why he is a leader for this team. Coach Bednar said, “The reason I gave him the letter is because he’s been engaged lately.” Barrie continued to look strong finishing the game with an assist, four shots on goal, and two blocked shots in 21:39 of ice time.

5. The playoffs aren’t out of sight yet. Somehow, this team is finding ways to hang on to the thought that they will be making the playoffs. Still, only 2 points out of the final wild-card spot, Colorado needs some help from Central Division rival, Chicago Blackhawks, who face off against the Dallas Stars Saturday evening. The Avalanche are 3 points behind the Stars, before the Central division matchup.

Colorado returns to action Monday night at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM MST from the Pepsi Center.