Game 59. Avs-Oilers. In Must Win Game, Avs Get Rare Northwest Win

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Avs vs. Edmonton Oilers, Game Thoughts

Tonight was the first game of the season that was a ‘must win’ for the Avs. Lose tonight, and their playoff hopes are done. But the Avs were led by Mark Olver, who had a goal and assist after being just called up for his first game.
The Avs started out looking slow. It looked like a typical Avs game, where the other team was faster, stronger, and wanted it more, but the Oilers could not beat Semyon Varlamov. He has really stepped up these last 3 games and shown that he should be the starter. I’ve been calling for Varlamov to be starting all year, so it’s nice to see him play well.

Another trend for the Avs in the past month has been scoring goals late in the period, and tonight was no different. Once again Erik Johnson comes up with a blast from the point that beat Devan Dubnyk stick side. His third goal in as many games is a career high. But right now his whole game seems to be at a career high. This whole year everyone has been saying that Shattenkirk has been this great player in St. Louis and Johnson has not lived up to expectations, but Johnson has 4G, 18A while Shattenkirk has 7G, 17A. Very similar numbers, and Johnson has been a shutdown guy this second half of the season.

The first goal was set up by great hustle from O’Reilly to intercept Dubnyk’s pass behind the net, and get the puck out front. Then Olver made a smart play and didn’t force a tough shot on the empty net, but circled and passed back to Johnson for the one timer. Great effort by the whole line.

The Avs came out and had a very strong second period. They got off to a good start when Olver received a cross ice pass from O’Reilly and one timed it past Dubnyk’s glove. Not to be overlooked here is Erik Johnson tying up the Oiler’s defenseman down low so the pass could get across. It may sound like I’m giving too much credit to EJ lately, but he really has been that good.

The last time the Avs had a two goal lead during any point of the second period, was over a month ago. It was January 12 against Nashville, and they ended up losing that game in OT. Having a 2 goal is pretty rare for Avs fans.

The Avs added another goal before the period was halfway over, when Landeskog shot one over Devan Dubnyk’s shoulder on the powerplay. It was a nice pass from Stastny behind the net, who his Landeskog right on the stick, and he was able to one-time it over the shoulder.

The game got a bit more interesting when Ryan Jones (who has the worst hair in hockey) scored off a rebound that he just slipped under Varlamov’s left pad. It was a pretty soft goal, but given how Semyon stopped 26-27, I think it’s ok.

The third period, in one word was: meh. Nothing really happened. The Avs won the game by icing the puck every other time they got it on their stick. Not too much to report.

The win today was huge, because tomorrow is going to be awful. The Avs sit at 62 points, tomorrow The Kings (65 points) play the Flames (63 points) and the Coyotes (65 points) play the Stars (61 points). Both of those games are no win situations for the Avs. If the Kings and Coyotes win, the Avs will be 5 points out of a playoff spot, if the Flames and Stars win, the Avs will be in 11th place in the west, and have to jump over more teams to make the playoffs. If Dallas and LA wins, the Avs are in 11th and 3 points back, and if the Coyotes and the Flames win, the Avs are still 3 points back, and will have played the same number of games. If the Avs would have lost tonight, and put themselves 5 points back, with the potential of 7, that is simply too many points, and too many teams to overcome in the last two months.

The Avs next game is Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets in Manitoba. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. Mountain time.

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