Will the Colorado Avalanche be able to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of last week’s two disheartening losses and become something better, stronger, faster?
1. The Avalanche finally embraced the youth movement on Sunday when they called up wing Andrew Agozzino and young defenseman Nikita Zadorov from the San Antonio Rampage. Agozzino is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season so the staff has a chance to assess his future with the team. As for Zadorov, perhaps his youthful arrogance could bring a much-needed edge to the Avalanche. The question remains, though, why didn’t they bring him up when Eric Gelinas was first injured?
2. Erik Johnson lobbed nine shots on goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. In fact, the Avalanche defenseman made 15 of the team’s 34 shots on goal, and that’s without Tyson Barrie tallying a single one. Wait, isn’t that good, bad, AND ugly?
3. Mikhail Grigorenko has shown ongoing growth. Last year, he had six points in 25 games with a minus 10 when playing for the Buffalo Sabers. This year, the 21 year old has amassed 24 points and earned a plus one in his 67 games for the Avalanche. Apparently, Coach Roy and GM Joe Sakic knew what they were doing when they acquired him.
4. While slim, Colorado still has a shot at the playoffs. They have seven games to go and one in hand on the Minnesota Wild whom they trail by five points. It’s a long shot as they face the toughest end of season schedule in the NHL. Despite the ups and downs, the Avalanche have the opportunity to dig deep and come out swinging for the remainder of the season. Playoff hockey has as much to do with how the team handles adversity as anything else.
5. Mikko Rantanen, who was returned to the San Antonio Rampage after the Wild game to slide his entry level contract another year, showed grit in Saturday’s game. He and Jack Skille managed to push the play onto the offensive zone even when the other lines struggled and both managed to finish the game without giving up a point. In fact, his line had five of the team’s 29 shots. Not bad for a guy playing fourth line center on a team fighting for a playoff berth in only his ninth NHL game.
6. Mark Rycroft, one of the Colorado Avalanche analysts on Altitude, sported an awesome Easter outfit replete with an Easter egg tie on Saturday's coverage. There’s the highlight from the Minnesota Wild game.
7. The Colorado Avalanche penalty kill continues to shine, having allowed only one goal in the past 10 games.
8. Rookie defenseman Chris Bigras continued to impress as he came out of last week with a net zero on his plus minus as well as three shots on goal. The only other player to come out of both contests without a minus score on his plus/minus was center John Mitchell.
1. In case anyone was wondering how bad things needed to get before the Avalanche would call up Nikita Zadorov, the team answered that question Sunday. Looks like the answer is - after losing the critical head-to-head Minnesota Wild matchup and falling five points behind them with seven games to go.
Anyone else remember when Bigras and Zadorov played five games for the Avalanche in January? In case it’s been forgotten, the team allowed only five goals during their brief tenure, won four of five of those games, and beat the St. Louis Blues in a shoot out.
2. The Avalanche played a good three periods of hockey this week. Unfortunately, it was the first period and a half of two separate games. The team came out flying in the first period of the Philadelphia Flyers game and Erik Johnson kicked it up a notch. Colorado brought tears to the eyes of their faithful fans as they reached playoff level hockey. Hope sprung unbidden.
The amazing team which had skated lights out and never missed a pass, disintegrated. For whatever reason, the Avalanche couldn’t sustain the level of play, and the devastating fall from the end of the first period to the end of the third period broke fans hearts. Twice. There’s just not enough Bactine for that kind of wound.
3. Does anyone else remember when Colorado’s power play was clicking? They went 0-6 on the power play this past week and 1-12 in the past two weeks.
1. Re-hashing and analyzing the two gut-wrenching losses as everyone jumps on the bandwagon to dissect and psychoanalyze the Avalanche’s performance goes beyond ugly to disturbing. Where was the media coverage two weeks ago? Two months ago?
Isn’t there something inherently wrong with a sports cycle more interested in scrutinizing the team as they fall out of playoff contention than doing the daily work of covering them for the months they were battling for the postseason? Please, for the love of great Landy’s beard, if the sports personalities can’t be bothered to cover more than the last couple of games, refrain from offering that “expert” analysis now. Weren’t these the same characters that couldn’t be bothered to cover the Avalanche on the Canada swing less than two week ago when both MacKinnon and Duchene were injured?
2. Ummm, hate to rub it in, but Tyson Barrie made a lot of comments about stepping up for the big games this past week. He has a well-earned reputation as an offensive defenseman having already accumulated 13 goals and 34 assists this season. So maybe his agent can explain why he had only one shot on goal this past week when negotiating his new contract. If Barrie wants big money, he needs to step up in the big games. One shot on goal in arguably the two biggest games of the season – ‘nuff said.
3. Falling out of the eighth Wild Card spot was bad. Losing it to the Minnesota Wild made it worse. There’s just not enough lipstick to dress up that pig.
4. How in heck did Ryan O’Reilly get nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy? The award is supposed to recognize perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. This IS the guy who drove his pickup into a Tim Horton’s last summer, walked away from the scene of the accident and still faces impaired driving charges, right? Apparently character doesn’t matter for this award.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
1. Going into the third period against the Wild down by two goals, why didn’t Coach Roy try mixing up the line combinations, maybe put Rantanen up at wing, to generate some scoring?
2. Both Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson had positive plus/minus for the season last year, at a five and a two, respectively. So far this year, Barrie is at a -16 and Johnson has a -13. Conversely, Nick Holden, who had a -11 last season, now stands at a zero. How did that happen?
3. Does anyone else feel like following the Avalanche has become that relationship you know is bad for you, but you just can’t bring yourself to break off because the person has so much potential?
WHAT TO WATCH
1. The Avalanche have used all four of their alloted post trade deadline call ups. Any other call ups will have to be on an emergency basis, meaning if they don’t have 12 forwards, six defenseman, and a goaltender for a game.
2. If the Wild lose a couple games, and the Avalanche go on a winning streak, they have an outside chance of making the playoffs.
3. With the addition of Zadorov, the defensive line combinations have changed. Current reports look like Zadorov will be paired with veteran Francois Beauchemin while Bigras will now be skating with Erik Johnson. Could this be foreshadowing next season’s defensive alignment?