The Colorado Avalanche flew off for a Swedish adventure after the big Duchene trade and while they didn’t earn as many points as they wanted, there was plenty of good to go with the bad in the past week.
1. The Colorado Avalanche showed they could still play a competitive game without Matt Duchene. Is this important? Definitely. Consider the following:
a. Duchene won 62.6% of his face-offs last year and has consistently been among the Avalanche’s top point earners. There was a reason to be concerned his departure would push what some consider to be a borderline competitive team over the edge into an abyss. That didn’t happen this weekend.
b. Instead, a scrappy Colorado team took the Ottawa Senators to overtime in the first game and lost by a single goal in the second. Does that matter? Yes, because the Ottawa Senators are not the Arizona Coyotes. They are a team on a mission to win the Stanley Cup – this year. Ottawa currently ranks third among all teams in average goals scored per game. Last year, Ottawa missed the Stanley Cup Finals after a game 7 double overtime loss to the eventual Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins. The Senators know how to win.
c. The second youngest team in hockey played their first game without their former star and number two center (Duchene) and replaced him with a rookie in only his 15th & 16th NHL games (Alexander Kerfoot), brought in a rookie with a broken thumb (J.T. Compher) to center the third line (while Carl Soderberg returned to Denver for the birth of his child), and played another center who just returned from three weeks on IR (Colin Wilson). And this team played competitively against a cup contender who just added another all-star.
Did they want three more points? Yes. But the Avalanche lost both games 4-3, earning a point for making it to an overtime. Considering all the personnel changes, that’s not bad. They showed resiliency, and demonstrated they could be competitive without the player considered their star. This isn’t just good, it’s surprising. In the – wow! Looks like I got the good candy this year!- kind of way.
2. Alexander Kerfoot showed up big in Sweden. For a guy who had an allergic reaction 48 hours before the first matchup, he came away from the Global Series with four points in the two games (2 goals, 2 assists), leads Colorado in goals (with 7 goals), and is tied for third in points (13 points). Among all NHL rookies, Kerfoot is tied for second place in goals, and for third place in points. Not a bad outing. Maybe he needs a Swedish gift basket to keep his point totals soaring.
3. Don’t look now but newly acquired 19 year-old defenseman Samuel Girard already earned some respect in his two games overseas. Girard logged the third most defensive ice time on the team (behind Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie), six minutes more than the next closest player, Mark Barberio. Girard also played on the power play in both tilts, with nearly as much time on the man advantage as Tyson Barrie. He earned a point on an assist in his first game and finished the two games with a +1. Girard could be making a case to move to the first line pairing sooner rather than later. Maybe GM Joe Sakic traded for his 1st line D-man after all.
After Girard’s first game with the team, Captain Gabriel Landeskog commented on the newcomer’s play.
“To be honest with you, I thought he was the best player on the ice,” Landeskog said.
Pretty high praise for a 19-year-old rookie.
4. Colorado has notched 21 more goals this year after 16 games than they did last year at this point. Last season, the Avalanche had been shut out four times by now, while this year’s team only failed to score in a game once – against the Vegas Golden Knights. Colorado currently averages 3.3 goals per game, placing them eighth among NHL teams. It’s a lot more fun watching games knowing the team can score, and likely will, at any minute. And with an 8-7-1 record, one point away from a playoff spot, there’s a lot to enjoy.
5. Blake Comeau deserves a drink or two on the house after he notched a short-handed goal to start the scoring in the second contest against Ottawa. Comeau also got an assist in the first game, earning two points on the road after earning two goals the previous week. He has quietly enjoyed a resurgence this year, already earning eight points in 16 games. He finished last season with only 20 points for the year. Whatever he is doing, keep at it. And maybe, buy him a drink the next time you see him, since he’s one of the few players old enough to drink. Or an energy bar. Whatever it takes.
6. In case you missed it, defenseman Erik Johnson actually earned two assists on the trip, putting him in a fifth-place tie with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and Alexander Kerfoot. Maybe he’ll catch some of their goal-scoring luck next.
7. Sven Andrighetto seemed to thrive in the second contest as he earned a goal and an assist, ending up the third star of the night. He also earned two points the previous week, putting him in fourth place on the team in points for the season. Some may call it lucky, but when a player consistently pushes to be in the right place, good things happen. Hopefully, some of his teammates are taking notes.
8. Hats off to Carl Soderberg for electing to stay with his wife as they awaited the birth of their child instead of heading to his native Sweden. It’s great to see an NHL athlete investing in having a quality life outside of hockey. Kudos, stick taps, and all the baby blessings you could hope for to the Soderberg family!
1. In the second matchup against Ottawa, the Avalanche took three penalties in the third period, eventually costing them the lead as the Senators capitalized on the final man advantage. Defenseman Mark Barberio appeared to have a rough game in general as he went to the box three times. In a close game, that’s just bad. If it had been one of the new kids, it might be more tolerable, but Barberio has over 200 NHL games under his belt. One expects more from a veteran. Perhaps the Swedish nightlife caught up with him.
2. Coach Bednar really needs to settle on some defensive pairings.
3. The Avalanche made one player change from the first game to the second – Nikita Zadorov skated in the first matchup, played well on the penalty kill, and made only one obvious mistake. He was scratched for the following game. In the subsequent matchup, the Avalanche gave Ottawa six power-play opportunities instead of only two the previous night. Zadorov not being in the lineup may not have been the reason Colorado committed so many penalties, but the other defensemen accounted for five of the six infractions. When Zadorov’s in a game, opponents try to work around him, which might be worth considering.
1. The Avalanche suffered on face-offs without Duchene, winning only 37% of them in the first game and 41% in the second. It will probably take the team awhile to adjust to their new roles. But, at least they are trending upward? Yeah, it’s still kind of ugly.
2. Let’s all hope the poor shot rate from Sweden doesn’t carry over into the rest of the Avalanche season. 37 shots combined over two games is anemic and ugly. Maybe Colorado players need more sunshine during hockey season, they ate too many Swedish meatballs or the ice didn’t like them. Either way, the team needs to rediscover their shooting prowess that led to their success earlier in the season.
3. Is anyone else over Movember yet? Please, for the love of 20/20 vision, find another way to develop cancer awareness for men. A month of ugly facial hair on guys who can’t grow attractive bears or mustaches is torture for all involved. Let’s raise the white flag on this and surrender. It’s ugly. Make it stop. Maybe go for something completely different, like drinking beer to raise awareness, or wearing blue. Let’s stay away from creating eyesores.
4. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s recent play raises some concerns, especially after his impressive 60 shot night with a .950 save rate helping Colorado defeat the Carolina Hurricanes. Hopefully the Avalanche didn’t break him. In his last two games, he earned a sub .900 save average. While he played good enough to help the team to an overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Varlamov allowed four goals on 37 shots for a .892 save percentage. Against Ottawa, he saved 28 of 32 shots for a .875 save rate. Of course, playing in two overtime games doesn’t help either. While it’s not time to panic, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
Colorado’s erratic schedule to start the season makes one wonder how the organization managed to anger the NHL hockey gods, with the odd combination of 4 off days mixed with back to back games. As a team, it has to be challenging to get into any kind of rhythm. Yet, the schedulers may have inadvertently done the Avalanche a favor. The injury bug took some bites out of Colorado’s up and coming players, especially after the St. Louis Blues game.
Tyson Jost has yet to play after suffering a lower-body injury, J.T. Compher (still wearing a cast on his broken thumb) and Colin Wilson returned just in time for Sweden, Patrik Nemeth has been on again/off again trying to overcome injuries, and Anton Lindholm missed the entire Global Series in his native Sweden after suffering a broken jaw. Assuming Jost can play in the next matchup, he’ll have had nearly a month off and only missed eight games, Compher & Wilson only missed six games in three weeks and Lindholm will have missed two matchups in nearly two weeks. Keep those gift baskets heading to NHL headquarters, it may be working in Colorado’s favor, regardless of the schedulers’ intentions.
SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE NEWS
Don’t look now but the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate is having some success, and a couple of their prospects are worth noting.
1. The Rampage’s 9-3-1 record puts them in second place in both their division and conference.
2. Goaltender – and Avalanche prospect – Spencer Martin was named the AHL player of the week, owns a 6-1 record, and boasts a .934 save percentage.
3. Newly acquired prospect Vladislav Kamenev, acquired from the Nashville Predators in the Duchene trade, has earned four assists in three games and will likely be joining the Avalanche this week.
It’s a new year in San Antonio and that’s one more reason Avalanche fans should be encouraged.
WHAT TO WATCH
1. Colorado returns home to host the Washington Capitals Thursday night, November 16, at 7 pm MST.
2. The Avalanche then take their show on the road – again – for back to back games – again –facing off at 6 pm MST Saturday against the Nashville Predators and at 4 pm MST Sunday against the dreaded Detroit Red Wings.
3. Keep an eye on player movement as Kamenev will likely join the team, Girard may end up on some different defensive pairings, and hopefully, coach Bednar will start to settle on some line combinations.
In the meantime, what should the Avalanche players endeavor to do? The same thing they do every night, Pinky, try to take over the (hockey) world!