The Colorado Avalanche earned their first pre-season victory in a 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild. When it comes to preseason hockey, you’d be hard pressed to find a better game than this. There was physicality, flashy goals, competitive play, everything there is to love about hockey all in one game at the end of September.
As for the Avalanche, it was a great game. The team played a solid game (aside from the defensive shortcomings that led to goals against), clinched a win and shone some of their most promising prospects.
Six minutes into the game, Colorado started the scoring with a MacKinnon-style float from Nazem Kadri’s point – in his first game since his suspension. The shot seemed to have been pointed in front by Gabriel Landeskog but the captain seemed to have just provided the screen that allowed the goal to enter. Samuel Girard and Kadri also had a good cycle which saw Kadri secure the top shot opportunity. insert.
Just under five minutes after Kadri’s goal, Ryan Hartman quickly hit back on the power play with a receiving shot from the hash marks that passed through Kuemper. Kuemper appeared to put his glove hand / arm on the puck, but he found a way to get in. The goal was a little elusive, but it’s hard to fault a point blank shot like this. Nine times out of ten, Kuemper should save that shot.
Colorado took very little time to respond to Hartman’s goal with another goal from returning player Erik Johnson. Johnson scored his goal after another great passing game, this time between Kadri and Landeskog, and threw a small extended snapshot past Cam Talbot’s glove. Johnson had a very solid game overall. He blocked shorthanded shots, played well as the second unit’s quarterback on the power play, and played a two-way game that reminded him of his prime.
Again, the Wild took very little time to respond to Colorado’s goal (a common theme in this game) with another power-play goal. After a battle along the boards, a puck squeaked towards Kevin Fiala on point, who quickly snatched a shot past the blocking side of Darcy Kuemper, who had very little time to react to the quick release. Martin Kaut was the closest man to Fiala and you would have liked to see him come between Fiala and the net, but the game developed so quickly that Kaut had little time to react.
Halfway through the second, the game really improved in physics and Chippines after Marcus Foligno ran into Kuemper, with very little effort to avoid hitting him, after beating wide MacDermid, who slightly pushed Foligno towards Kuemper. Immediately after the collision, Dennis Gilbert dropped the gloves with Brandon Duhaime. Although the fight went in a good spirit, the entire fight lasted for about ten seconds and neither player landed a decent shot, but it was the thought that counted.
The game was scoreless halfway through the second, until a chaotic game in net for Colorado after a strange bounce off the side of the Avalanche net. Kurtis MacDermid made a wild pass to the curved end of the net which bounced through a few bodies and came out ahead. Minnesota had some quality shots on Kuemper who made some nice saves, but sadly neither Jacob MacDonald nor MacDermid could erase the rebound, so Adam Beckman buried the Wild’s fourth or fifth shot in about ten seconds. It would be Kuemper’s last shot of the match, as Jared Bednar would put Justus Annunen on for the last half of the match. The Wild would also trade goaltenders at this point, putting former Avalanche goaltender Andrew Hammond in place of Cam Talbot.
The fast play continued shortly after the Wild’s third goal. After passing just inside the Wild’s blue line, Dmitry Kulikov landed a late high blow (similar to Kadri’s playoff blow, but not as harsh) and after getting up and standing. Planted in net, Kadri received another late hit and a cross check, both from Ryan Hartman. Kadri objected to that and returned the countercheck to Hartman, which was the only thing requested on the game. Landeskog also didn’t appreciate his teammate getting shot in his first preseason and attempted to fight Hartman, but the refs intervened before the two could trade blows.
During the ensuing kill, Sampo Ranta did what Avalanche fans who followed him during his time in Minnesota know he does best. Drive the net. Ranta flew down the wing, cut in the middle and instead of stretching to the other side and placing the puck around the goalkeeper, Ranta went against the tide and stuffed it. through Hammond to help tie the game.
In the change that immediately followed Ranta’s goal, the Wild retaliated with prolonged pressure on Colorado and Annunen faced their first real challenge of the game. The Wild had a flurry of five shots in just under a minute that came from all angles on the ice, but Annunen followed them well and made some nice saves to help keep the game even.
Unfortunately, shortly after the Minnesota push, they finally passed Annunen thanks to a strange deflection on a shot from the half-wall. It was obvious that Annunen couldn’t really see the hit because he had never even fallen into the butterfly. Annunen had an Avalanche defenseman and Mason Shaw (goalscorer) in front of him, both of which prevented him from following the puck and allowed the Wild to quickly regain their lead.
Much like the second period, the third started off with a lot of back and forth until the Avalanche equalized the game a minute and a half after half-time. That goal came courtesy of Colorado’s rookie line (Olausson, Newhook and Ranta) who did a great forward failure and a great round. The line had almost a minute of extended zone time where Ranta circled the zone, spinning the puck with apparently all four players on the ice, the line would get a net shot and repeat, until Olausson get the puck in the high slot and snatch a blow in the top corner of Hammond’s glove. It would be Olausson’s second goal in as many preseason games.
After another long period of hockey back-and-forth, Colorado finally managed to break the deadlock in what turned out to be the winning goal. Very similar to Johnson’s goal in the first JT Compher and Alex Newhook made his way into the zone and pushed the defender back so Girard had a wide open lane to the net from the circle. However, Girard had been engaged in the slapshot the entire game and he wasn’t going to stop now, so doing his best to feel like Alexander Ovechkin, he snatched a slapshot from the other side of the net beyond Hammond’s gloved hand.
Just a minute into the goal, Minnesota pulled Hammond out to get a six-to-five advantage over the Avalanche. About thirty seconds after firing, Hammond the Wild won a battle along the sideboards from the bench and immediately unleashed a shot, which was knocked down by a wide-open Ryan Hartman. Although no Avalanche player reacted on goal because Hartman knocked the puck about five feet above the net, which referee Jordan Samuels-Thomas immediately dismissed.
The ensuing head-to-head against the Avalanche decided they no longer wanted to leave it to chance as Kadri clearly won the face-off from Erik Johnson who snatched the puck on the ice from his own blue line for his second goal of the game.
Take away food :
It was hard to find anyone in the Avalanche who played really badly tonight. There were some guys you’d like to see more of, but I think no one played too badly to not be in a strong position.
The best players tonight were young people and veterans (but especially young people).
Ranta, Newhook and Olausson’s line looked great for the vast majority of the game. Olausson looked engaged all over the ice and even had some good backchecks where he took the guy on the weak side and knocked out a weird man from Minnesota and flashed his nasty shot once again. Newhook was a chess animal before, finishing checks on anyone who got the puck like a first Matt Calvert, and he almost scored a goal in the second, but encountered the pipe when he tried to beat Talbot short side. Ranta was the best of them though. There were several times tonight where he calmly skated the puck around the entire attacking zone and brought it down low to create a scoring opportunity. His goal was also a big sign of increased physical maturity, showing he has the ability to inflict his will on players the size of the NHL. Ranta will force the hand of the Colorado coaching staff when it comes to final cup day.
Erik Johnson and Sam Girard reunited were a couple that no one would ever want to approach. They both played physically, moved the puck well, and most importantly, didn’t get injured. It was a great game for both of you to watch. Johnson gave us some insight into why he was the St. Louis Blues’ first overall pick so many years ago and why he can still be a big part of that defense. Girard has given us a glimpse of what he can be if he plays with a consistent partner, something he hasn’t had during the latter half of the 2021 season, and he’s one of the best two-way defenders of the game.
Both keepers also performed well, although neither were exceptional. Darcy Kuemper and Justus Annunen both did what you expected of your goalkeepers in their first preseason game of the season, make the saves you expect, don’t get injured and be a bit elusive.
As for other proven NHL players, there isn’t much to say about them. They did what you expect NHL players against other NHL players, be better and produce.
It was a welcome comeback at Ball Arena and the first, of what should be a lot, the Colorado Avalanche’s victory in building this season.