Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME #28
Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Opponent SBNation Site: Mile High Hockey
The Avs are..well..not great. They’ve looked much better recently but their numbers on the season as a whole are near the bottom of the league. Generating offense has been the main problem and they really struggle to create quality shots. Their defense has been respectable but not quite enough to overcome their offensive weaknesses.
The Lightning have looked outstanding in their last ten games. They’re near the top of the league in expected goal share over that time and have been much less reliant on their shooting and save percentage to drive results. If the Bolts continue to play that way against Colorado, they should be in good shape.
Five Questions with Tom Hunter of Mile High Hockey
1. Dominic Toninato was a momentary breath of fresh air in the Avs lineup. What went into his promotion, and then demotion? What impact did he have on the lineup?
Toninato had a pretty solid training camp with the Avs. He brought a simple, defensively focused game that the other rookies didn’t. Unfortunately for him, it was a numbers game and he was sent to San Antonio. He wasn’t lighting the AHL on fire - 6 points in 13 games - but he was killing penalties and playing a strong two-way game.
When he was recalled, the Avs were looking for someone that could be a lot more defensively responsible than the other option. Rocco Grimaldi had been playing with the team and he was atrocious defensively, in fact, he has the worst CA/60 in the entire NHL.
Toninato provided the lineup with a more stable defensive presence on the fourth line - something that was needed even more when Colin Wilson and Gabriel Landeskog were out of the lineup. Now with both Landeskog and Wilson back in the lineup, there simply isn’t room for Toninato. I would suspect, however, that when the Avalanche start selling guys off closer to the deadline, Toninato will be one of the young players that gets another look.
2. Would you consider the Nail Yakupov experiment a success so far? And what has made it a success or failure?
This is a tough one for me because I love Yak and want him to succeed in the NHL. Unfortunately, he’s having a hard time finding any sort of consistency with the Avs. He will go through a few shifts where he looks like a dynamic offensive talent but then he’ll disappear for three games. I guess it’s been a success in that the team already has seven goals from a guy that cost them nothing to bring in.
I would bet the team is hoping he can go through another one of his hot stretches in January so they can find a way to flip him for a pick near the deadline.
3. What is your best description of Jared Bednar's system, and what's your assessment of it?
Does ‘scattered’ count as a system?
From game to game, the system seems to be all over the place. I blame that mostly on how young the team is. For the first month of the season, the Avalanche were playing a run and gun style where they were willing to give up scoring chances in order to open up the play for themselves.
Since the Matt Duchene trade, that has changed. Bednar seems to have simplified the system in an attempt to limit the offense at both ends of the ice. That said, when Nathan MacKinnon is on the ice, the system turns into “Give Mack the pick and let him go to work”.
4. Which Avs prospects are you most looking forward to seeing in the NHL?
Vladislav Kamenev is a young player that came over from Nashville in the Duchene trade and I am very excited for him. He got one period into his NHL debut before breaking his arm. Now we have to wait again.
Aside from him, it has to be Connor Timmins. I spent last year raving about how good a draft pick he would be at the end of the first round. He fell to the Avalanche at #32 and has continued to be one of the best defensemen in junior hockey. He’s been the leader on a Soo Greyhounds team that has dominated the OHL and there’s a very good chance we could see him in the NHL as early as next season.
5. How in love with Samuel Girard are you and what does he mean to the future of the Avs?
Sam Girard is good. Like really good. At 19-years old, he is already playing on the Avs top pairing and he has been their second best defenseman after Erik Johnson.
Girard is a fantastic skater, but more importantly, he is smart. The game slows down when the puck is on his stick and you almost never see him make the ‘wrong’ play. The IQ leads to creativity, you’ll see Girard make plays with the puck that you don’t see from other players.
He’s still very young and pretty raw but you can tell that the sky is the limit for him in the NHL. He, along with Timmins and Cale Makar make up the foundation of a future blueline that Avs fans can get very excited about.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Lines are subject to change at the whim of Jon Cooper, so bless whatever this turns into:
Vlad Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Tyler Johnson
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Cory Conacher
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr
Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman
Slater Koekkoek - Dan Girardi