Acquired just one day prior, the newest Avalanche forward Matt Nieto helped the Avs beat the New York Islanders in what would be the first home win for Colorado since November 15.
“Felt really good. I hadn’t played in a long time, but I thought my timing was there,” Nieto said following the victory.
It didn’t take long for Nieto to make an impact as he had a noticeable energy and speed about his game that made him hard to ignore from the get-go and was able to generate four shots on goal in the first period. His game total for shots on goal was also four, so perhaps the pinnacle of his game came early on, but he presence was certainly felt throughout the night.
“As the game went on, obviously, I got tired a bit, but that was expected,” Nieto continued. “I knew I would make a couple of mistakes there, I’m still learning systems and what not here.”
Having been a part of different systems and structure less than 48 hours earlier, it’s no easy task jumping immediately into new ones as Nieto was forced to do in Friday night’s matchup with the Islanders. The 24-year-old from Long Beach, California was beyond pleased with the help he had in adapting.
“The coaches, the guys were so supportive and made it easy for me, my linemates were talking to me a lot out there. It was a pretty smooth transition out there.”
A high-tempo, high-effort style is where Nieto prides himself and we certainly saw the epitome of his game on display throughout the night. He insists that it was the Matt Nieto we should come to expect each night.
“Yeah, you know, that’s what I expect and when I’m on top of my game, that’s what I’m providing is energy and I thought I did a good job of it tonight.”
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar was impressed with his newest player saying, “I thought he was great. First period I thought he was exceptional.”
Coach Bednar even had the confidence in Nieto to play him in some crucial moments.
“We gave him the cliff-notes version of the structure, there’s a lot of similarities I think between the way we play and San Jose, especially on the penalty kill. He was really good there.”
While the confidence from his new coach is a plus, Matt Nieto doesn’t feel like he has accomplished much and is hungry for more.
“It’s definitely a nice feeling, but this is just one game, I know that I have to string a bunch of good games together. It’s obviously nice to get that win before the break here and we will recharge the batteries and get back to work.”
Before Friday night’s game Nieto was asked about his feelings towards playing on a line with future Hall of Fame member Jarome Iginla. Following the victory, he had a bit more of insight on playing with Iginla and lacked no enthusiasm in sharing.
“He’s a great guy, very easy going, very positive. We had a lot of fun out there joking around and what not. Guys like that, there’s a reason why they’ve been in the league for so long and it was just an honor to be out there with him.”
As much as it seemingly pained Nieto to leave the San Jose Sharks, where he spent the last four season and the entirety of his young NHL career, a change of scenery may help bring his game to the level expected of him more consistently. His first game in an Avalanche sweater shows promise for the futures of both Nieto and the Avalanche as he seems to fit in with exactly what Colorado is looking to achieve stylistically.
While both Matt Nieto and the Colorado Avalanche have spent most of this still semi-young season sliding in the wrong direction, perhaps the two finding each other through rough circumstances will lead to a bright future and revival for each.