The Avalanche began their longest road trip of the season on Monday, holding off the Washington Capitals 6-3 at the Capital One Arena. Colorado came out to a blistering start, scoring three goals on its first three shots and adding one more before the first period was over. Washington tried to remedy their slow start by pushing back in the second, getting within two goals of tying the game.
However, the Avalanche proved too much to handle. In the final frame, the teams would alternate goals before star center Nathan MacKinnon added an empty-net goal to seal the victory.
Even though it might not have been a pretty game, getting their first road win on this six game trip was huge. The win kept the Avs as the last remaining unbeaten team in the NHL.
Here are my takeaways from Monday night’s victory.
Colorado still needs to work out some early season kinks. Yes, they won 6-3, so this might seem a little nit-picky. Just as we would expect from any team five games into the season, the Avalanche have made some mistakes that, if they were made later in the season, could have cost them. One of those mistakes is not being able to get the puck out of their zone. They made the mistake in every game at home, but none of the teams capitalized on their mistakes. Washington made Colorado pay for it on Monday, when superstar Alexander Ovechkin blocked a breakout pass from Avs winger Mikko Rantanen trying to exit his zone. The interception caught defenseman Ryan Graves severely out of position and allowed Caputals forward Lars Eller to walk in and score on goalie Philipp Grubauer easily. Another one of those costly mistakes that some of the time coincides with not being able to break the puck out of your zone is giveaways. The Avalanche gave the puck away eight times against the Capitals, which is the third most through their first five games.
The Colorado Avalanche have a very potent offense. It’s been said time and time again; this team needed secondary scoring, and Joe Sakic went out and got it. In the past, the Avalanche would get their secondary scoring from their blueliners, which was how they got their first two goals tonight. But then came the true definition of secondary scoring, when center Nazem Kadri scored his second of the season to give Colorado the 3-0 advantage. The secondary scoring, coupled with the sheer power and skill of the top line, was then exemplified when Rantanen buried a power-play goal. In Monday’s game versus the Capitals, out of the total 17 points scored, the top line of the Avalanche were responsible for 7 points, and the secondary scoring accounted for the rest. It was a well-balanced effort that will make Colorado very deadly as the season progresses.
Grubauer played very well again, and the defense continues to bend and not break. Grubauer didn’t see much action early, which is never easy for a goaltender to then face 16 shots in the second. Despite giving up two goals in the second period, he made big saves when he could, keeping his team in the drivers seat for most of the game. Grubauer stopped 29 of 32 shots. The defense was the same way, bending but not breaking. Colorado had seven takeaways in the game as well as 16 blocked shots.
Brett Heimlich and the rest of the coaching staff are playing defense as well. Well, kind of. This is now the second game this season where Colorado’s video coach has made a very smart call in a huge situation. Against the Bruins, Heimlich and the Avs coaching staff were a shocking 2-for-2 on coach’s challenges. Yet again tonight, the coaching staff stepped up, challenging an offsides call that would have put Washington within a goal with over a minute left. It was determined the goal was offsides, returning the score to 5-3, and allowing Colorado to finalize the score with an empty netter from MacKinnon.
Colorado returns to action on Wednesday night as they continue the road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is set for 5 p.m. MT from PPG Paints Arena and can be seen nationally on NBCSN.