(BSN Denver’s Jesse Montano obtained quotes and other material for the following story from the game in Sweden)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – The opportunity was there for the Colorado Avalanche’s best players to prove this was their team now, that the trade of Matt Duchene was the best thing for them as a team. The opportunity was right there against Duchene’s new team, too, the Ottawa Senators.

Instead, the Avs’ best players pretty much all laid an egg in the first two games of the post-Duchene era, most especially in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Senators at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm. While Duchene did not officially get any points in the two-game NHL Global Series, he was on the ice for the game-winning goal by Mike Hoffman with 6:37 to play, just 10 seconds after a horrific turnover and resulting tripping penalty by Avs defenseman Mark Barberio.

Skating the puck out of the Avs’ zone with plenty of time and space, Barberio got stripped of the puck and was forced to take the tripping minor. The Avs had killed three straight previous penalties, barely, but a fourth time was asking just too much. Duchene set up a play down low to Mark Stone, whose crossing pass to the right circle was initially broken up by the stick of Avs D-man Chris Bigras. But Bigras, who was off his skates and not in a good forehand position to play the puck, backhanded the puck right on to Hoffman’s stick for an easy tap-in against Jonathan Bernier.

All weekend, penalties hurt the Avs, who were outshot a combined 72-37 in the two games.

“It definitely cost us,” said Alexander Kerfoot, who was, by far, the Avs’ best forward in the two games. “It’s hard to create anything when you’re down a man. It ruins the flow of the game.”

Kerfoot helped set up Sven Andrighetto’s goal that gave the Avs a 3-2 lead at 10:36 of the second period, a lead they took into the third. Ottawa coach Guy Boucher, who was the better coach in this series by far as well, pulled Mike Condon for Craig Anderson after Andrighetto’s goal and the Senators seemed to relax and play their game the rest of the way.

Not so with the Avs in front of Bernier, who while he made some good stops as part of his 36-save performance, gave up a brutal, bouncing goal to Hoffman at the start of the second period, wiping out a 1-0 lead built by Blake Comeau’s first-period short-handed goal.

Bernier also allowed a long, short-side shot by veteran Johnny Oduya to beat him early in the third, wiping out another one-goal lead the Avs had – a theme for the weekend.

The Avs’ top line, of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen did nothing all day, combining for zero points and four shots on net. Other no-show forwards on the weekend included J.T. Compher, Gabriel Bourque, Matt Nieto, Rocco Grimaldi and Colin Wilson.

“There were some plays, especially in the second period, where we passed up on some shots,” said Bednar, who, in fairness, had to go with kind of a patchwork lineup with injuries and absences to some key guys, such as Carl Soderberg and Tyson Jost.

The fact that the Avs never seemed to play with a lot of grit or passion, save for a few moments here and there, was the most disappointing takeaway on the weekend. Whenever Ottawa seemed to need a big play, their top guys made them happen. When the Avs needed some clutch offense, especially late in the game Saturday? Players such as Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen just weren’t there.

On the positive side? Samuel Girard already looks like a future star. The 19-year-old D-man created time and space for himself pretty much anytime he wanted with the puck.

“He was outstanding,” Bednar said.

Now, the Avs will make the long journey back home, with the next game not until Thursday against Washington. It’ll seem like a longer flight now, after what has to be classified as a wasted opportunity of a weekend.

Adrian Dater

Adrian Dater is a staff writer with BSNDenver. He started his journalism career way, way back in 1988 as a proofreader with the Concord Monitor as a kid out of college (Keene State College), and has wended its way since with a 25-year stop at The Denver Post, 20 of which were spent as the beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche, from its inception in 1995. Adrian has also worked as a primary hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, The Hockey News, Versus.com and Bleacher Report. He is the author of seven sports books, including the best-selling “Blood Feud: Colorado Avalanche v. Detroit Red Wings, The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era” and “100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”, which was published in October, 2016.

  • Av-a-dabba-doo

    I plan to listen to the new podcast as soon as I can, but for now will just say that I didn’t
    like the Avs play today. Yes, I like Girard and some of our younger
    talent. But for whatever reasons, our overall play-quality is just not
    that good. I’m sure it is several things, but as I said recently in another BSN comment, with as many ‘unforced errors’ as we commit, at some point you
    have to begin to look at the coach. These games in Sweden were a real
    disappointment for me. What really bothers
    me is that at the very beginning of the season
    we were playing an impressively smooth and effective brand of hockey. We
    all got hopeful. Since then, instead of building on those attributes and
    getting even better with experience, we have clearly regressed. Frustrating, obviously.

  • Av-a-dabba-doo

    I plan to listen to the new BSN podcast as soon as I can, but for now will just say that I didn’t like the Avs today. Yes, I like Girard and some of our younger talent. But for whatever reasons, our overall play-quality is just not that good — in either end of the rink. I’m sure it is several things, but as I said in a BSN comment recently, with as many ‘unforced errors’ as we commit, at some point you have to begin to look at the coach. I am not calling for his head, but these games in Sweden were a real disappointment for me. I feel they went to Stockholm and rep’d Colorado pretty abysmally. What bothers me most of all is that at the very beginning of the seasonwe were playing an impressively smooth and effective brand of hockey. We all got hopeful. Since then, instead of building on those attributes and getting even better with experience, we have clearly regressed. Frustrating, obviously.

    • bob_w

      Before we throw Bednar under the bus I think there are couple of things to keep in mind, 1st this is a very young Avs team and I expect to see games where they play brilliantly and games like Saturday’s where they make bonheaded mistakes. 2nd remember that the Senators is a very diffiicult trapping opponent who came very close to ousting the Penguins from the playoffs last Spring. I too was very frustrated with Saturday’s loss after taking the lead into the 3rd period but the neutral zone turnover is the signature play in Ottawa’s neutral zone trapping scheme.

      • Av-a-dabba-doo

        Appreciate those comments, Bob. I’m sure you saw that I said I wasn’t calling for Bednar’s head. So even though I feel it is fair to question certain things (personnel choices, handling of Zadorov, whether he’s connecting meaningfully with his team, etc.), I don’t want to overreact to a bad weekend. Let’s hope for most positive things going forward. Keep up the good posts!

        • bob_w

          Yeah. My comments were directed at the BSN guys more than at you. And this was before I listened to the podcast.

          I also wonder how much the weird (to this point) schedule has to do with the Avs inconsistancy. Playing 2 or 3 games and then having 4 or 5 days off seems to really disrupt any rhythm or consistency that a team, especially a young team might have. At any rate the schedule will normalize starting this Thursday so maybe by the middle to end of December we will know about that.

  • BIngishi

    Maybe I am way out of line here but I feel missing Nemeth right now is hurting the team. His advanced stats have not been great the last games, could be due to a lingering injury, but I feel the amount of missed assignments he had was very low. This I believe is why his +/- is so good and I think he worked as a solid foil for Barrie and kind of anchored the second pairing. Ive noticed Zadorov is constantly missing assignments and doesn’t seem to have the drive the of the other Dmen. As for Bigras I think he is playing well but just needs to slow his game down and learn a bit of patience. He had a great break up on the last Ottawa goal but panicked and made a poor turnover. We need two solid shutdown Dmen on the top 2 pairings and not having that seems to effect the avalanche game. As good as Girard is I don’t think he’s a proper partner for Barrie. I think with his skill he could move up to be quite effective on the top pairing with Johnson.
    I’m curious what other people think but I’m starting to believe Zadorov might either be traded or sent down to the AHL as his level of compete does not seem to be the same as the younger defencemen or the rest of the team for that matter. .

    • Zadorov needs to clear waivers to be sent down so that’s not an option, and trading him while he’s struggling and getting scratched is also not a good option. It’s wayyyy too soon to give up on Z.

      I agree though the team is missing Nemeth, but I think they’re missing Lindholm more.

      • BIngishi

        I am not sure how I feel about Lindholm. He always felt like a second or third pairing for me but he is not defensively responsible enough to anchor Barrie. Its a tough one even though he seemed to pair very well with EJ. Watching Barrie with Nemeth on his pairing he had more jump in his step and was less hesitant with the puck. I feel with a weaker defensive partner, or less confident in the case of Z, his hesitation costs him. As for Big Z clearing waivers I don’t know many teams that would pick up a 2.15M Cap hit D man off waivers but I guess it is possible. Either way Z is a liability on the ice and I thought that was abhorrently apparent in the Friday game. Of course its a young defensive team and this is expected but for a guy who showed a fair amount of maturity last year he seems to have regressed.

        • I think Z needs to grow up a bit because he seems to only play well when he’s feeling confident as a result of playing well. This is great when it’s happening, but it also means he seems to have a really tough time playing even half-decent when he’s not confident.

          As for Lindholm, I think he was just a really stead presence in the back end. Had he been playing instead of Barberio in that game I have to wonder if we would have lost. Same goes for Nemeth.

          • BIngishi

            Very fair statement. Barberio was a rental last year to fill a void I don’t feel is as glaring anymore. However until last night there was not a lot of justification to scratch him. If he is not going to be a top line pairing (which he shouldn’t be) there are better players to put into the second and third pairing that will be more influential on the Av’s future.
            Lindholm I need a bigger sample size to make a call but god I hope you’re right.

          • I still think Barberio is a valuable player as a bottom 4/healthy scratch guy you can bring in if a rookie needs to be a sent down or scratched. He simply doesn’t belong playing on the top pair at this point in his career. And he certainly deserves to be scratched in favor of Big Z after that last game.

            As for Lindholm, I fully expect him to struggle from time to time, but the style of his game seems to leave a lot less room for mistakes than some other guys. I don’t think we’ll ever see him try to stickhandle through a guy at his own blue line, for example.

          • BIngishi

            Fair I do hope they give z a chance to prove himself but he needs to want it more. He hasn’t acted like he’s fighting for a spot when he should be. His level of compete comes with your point of maturity. When he gets more mature I hope to see the less defensive coverage breakdowns since he would be skating harder.

          • Charlie Anderson

            I think we definitely missed Nemeth bad in those Ottawa games. And they should definitely try Girard with EJ. He and Barrie don’t make a good pair though, they did better than I expected. I would always play any of the young guys and leave Barbs as scratch (esp. after his disaster in Sweden).

  • Barberio was absolutely awful in this game, and most of the rest of the team outside Barrie, Gerard and Kerfoot were basically shut down by the Sens.

    I don’t really blame the team that much though. The Sens are a really good team built for the playoffs. They should be better than the Avs at this point. I think what really hurt the Avs was missing Nemeth, Lindholm and Soderberg. All three guys were playing very solid, consistent hockey for the team. Without them, the team becomes much more one-dimensional and inexperienced.

    • Charlie Anderson

      Well said. Also thought Nemeth was sorely missed.

  • OCMS

    It’s definitely way too early to give up on Zads. Hopefully Varly, as a vet, can take him under his wing a bit and help him to mature. So many guys with tons of natural talent struggle when the game gets harder and can take a while for them to learn that hard work needs to accompany the talent. I am not sure what the right answer is exactly, but the healthy scratches didn’t seem to have the desired impact. Maybe the approach needs to be to play him no matter what and deal with the consequences, both good and bad. It’s not like this team is gunning for a playoff run. Let the guy play and learn.

    We need to have a similar attitude with Bednar. This organization has a long history of staying away from well established coaches with a track record of success at the NHL level. In fact it’s quite the opposite so we are just going to have to sit here at watch Bednar learn on the job. If they fire him, it’s not as if they are going to go out and hire a veteran coach to replace him. It will just be a different guy with little to no NHL experience or – shutter – bring Granato back for a third time around the block.

    • Charlie Anderson

      Definitely need to be playing Z no matter what right now. And Greer instead of Rocco or Bourque for the same reason of allowing the guy to develop so we can see what we have. Also AJ might appear to be playing the dumb agitator role but I am yet to see him fold up when things get tougher.