With one eye on what amounted to a Finland 6-1 blowout over Switzerland in the World Junior Championship semifinals, I kept flipping back and forth between our team’s latest disaster and the poor Swiss. At least those kids will play Russia for the bronze later today before the gold medal game tonight between Finland and Team USA. I’m sure the Swiss led by leading goalscorer Philipp Kurashev (Blackhawks) will give it everything.
I just am not as certain what we’ll get the rest of the way from the Rangers, who ran into a Avalanche in a uncompetitive 6-1 loss in the rocky mountains. Prior to the game, Kevin Hayes got sick with coach David Quinn indicating the altitude and cold temperatures might have had something to do with it. At that point, my reaction was, “Oh well.” I knew what was coming.
Colorado didn’t wait until the second period like the Penguins did. They scored twice on a Cody McLeod boarding major penalty. He got defenseman Samuel Girard in the back of the numbers as the Avalanche blueliner turned to play the puck. The end result made it look much worse.
The Rangers penalty kill wasn’t able to bail McLeod out. After killing off the first two minutes, they gave up power play goals to Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon scored his 25th from Tyson Barrie and Gabriel Landeskog when he used a Ranger as a screen for a great wrist shot past Alexandar Georgiev. Poor Georgiev deserved a better fate than the six goals he allowed on a ridiculous 47 shots. Eighteen of which were down a man due to a unbelievable amount of undisciplined penalties. The Avalanche lived in the power play going 3-for-10.
It’s kinda pathetic when you can’t stay out of the penalty box. The Rangers never gave themselves a chance. Especially against the world class skill the Avalanche present. Normally, our players do a better job in front of Georgiev. Not on Friday night. He made 41 saves and played well despite a barrage of shots. It was a huge discrepancy the first two periods. Colorado held a 16-3 edge in shots in the first with goals from MacKinnon and Rantanen having them up by two. It could’ve been much worse. So many bad penalties were taken. That included Pavel Buchnevich, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider.
Astonishingly, Colorado’s only goal in the second came at even strength when Landeskog had a Erik Johnson one-timer deflect off him past a helpless Georgiev for a 3-0 lead. Even though they were a little better getting seven shots on Philipp Grubauer, they were outshot 17-7 for a two period total of 33-10. The worst aspect is every time I turned it on, Colorado scored. Talk about bad timing.
Quinn spoke about how his team didn’t quit. That is sadly true. They wound up with more shots (15) in the third than the first two periods. Ryan Strome also scored their only goal when he converted his fifth unassisted on a clean breakaway. However, Colorado was leading 5-0 by that point. Alex Kerfoot redirected a J.T. Compher shot to make it 4-zip. Then following a foolish cross-checking minor Kreider took on MacKinnon, Rantanen tipped home the Avs’ third PPG for his 19th from Barrie and MacKinnon.
The only goal I didn’t see was the all too predictable first
and probably only goal from former Ranger Ryan Graves. Graves never even got into a game last year before the organization dealt him to Colorado for nobody Chris Bigras. Who? Exactly.
Nice assist by Zuccarello below. He stinks at five-on-five. It’s sad to watch him. They’ll be lucky if they get a third round pick at this point. He’s clearly not into it and some of his play at even strength shows.
Graves certainly had plenty of reasons to celebrate and smile. He’s now played in five more games than he ever played in New York. Good for him.
It was a night of milestones for the home team with Graves getting his first NHL point (goal) and Barrie (3 assists) passing John-Michael Liles for the most points (278) by an Avalanche defenseman.
For the Rangers, the game wasn’t fun. Filip Chytil replaced Hayes at center on the second line. Due to all the penalties, he only played 12:23 with four shots, and went 5-for-9 on draws. The only part I liked was seeing Vladislav Namestnikov mix it up with Rantanen in front of the benches. I wish more of our guys played with his passion every shift.
No three stars. There’s no point. At least first round pick Vitali Kravtsov has looked good in the WJC. He had eight shots in Russia’s 2-1 loss to USA. A nail biter of a semifinal between classic rivals. We’ll see if the Americans can deliver a fifth gold medal Saturday night starting at 8 EST/5 local time in Vancouver. Tune in on NHL Network.