The Colorado Avalanche finally took to the ice against other teams as the preseason schedule started last week. Between tinkering with line combinations and systems development, coaches and management also analyzed players and their future with the organization. So while the games don’t count toward Colorado’s season record, the player movement will dramatically impact how the season unfolds.
1. Defenseman Nikita Zadorov finally suited up for the Avalanche and played in two preseason games. In his two appearances, Zadorov led the team in ice time with 21:57 minutes for the Saturday matchup against the Wild and logged an additional 21:25 minutes on ice in Monday’s game against Dallas. Zadorov apparently did a quality job preparing for the season on his own time as he proved he could handle the minutes without losing a step. Kudos!
2. Perhaps the best news, last night's game showcased Zadorov and Erik Johnson together playing first line minutes. EJ led the team in ice time at 23:14 minutes with a +3 while Zadorov finished third in ice time (behind Anton Lindholm in his first preseason game) with a +2. Zadorov drew only one two-minute penalty in his second appearance, apparently for being big. It’s not too early to start considering gift baskets for the officiating crew again this year.
3. Colorado has gone 3-2-0 so far in the preseason, winning two of three at home and splitting the two road games. They also spent a good portion of their first few games throwing out different players for the team to evaluate their skill level in game situations and rotating lineups. So while the win-loss column looks good, it’s even more important for the staff to get a good idea of their pool of talent.
4. Forward Nathan MacKinnon currently is in an eighth-place tie among NHL players for preseason points, having notched four goals and an assist over three games on eight shots. While preseason statistics are not to be taken too seriously, seeing MacKinnon actually score on his shots is a refreshing change from last year and could indicate good things to come. Everyone cross your fingers.
5. Forward Alex Kerfoot looks to be a valuable acquisition for the Avalanche and will likely be in the starting lineup. He’s scored two goals and two assists in his three appearances. Along with linemates Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov, they offer a powerful one-two punch following the MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Sven Andrighetto/Tyson Jost line. Could Colorado ice two relatively even strength lines? Has the earth turned on its axis? What kind of crazy talk is that? We can all hope.
6. Mikko Rantanen and Nail Yakupov are tied for third on the team for points. Rantanen notched two goals and an assist in three games and Yakupov tallied three assists in two games. Both players seem to be finding a new rhythm, owning their roles, and kicking it up a notch. Fasten your seatbelts as these two could be the sleeper scorers for the team. Again, it’s too early to tell anything, but it sure is promising.
1. The Avalanche have only played one televised preseason game. Their last matchup this Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights will be their second televised game. Since Colorado has stated they are going younger and faster, wouldn’t it make sense to televise their preseason matchups so fans can get a glimpse of the future before some of them end up in San Antonio? It might even help develop interest for next year’s preseason games. So, like, maybe more people would attend the home games. Crazy suggestion – how about trying to generate interest in the long-term vision of the franchise? Right, right, Colorado doesn’t need that, apparently.
2. Among yesterday’s cuts was forward Rocco Grimaldi. While his 5’6” stature raises some concerns, he was fifth on the team in scoring with a game-winning goal and an assist as well as taking 10 shots. If the team is looking at performance and not status, one has to question why Grimaldi when he earned more points than J.T. Compher, Matt Duchene, Matt Nieto, Blake Comeau and Carl Soderberg. For right now, with more roster moves pending, it’s more of a “hmmm” than a “bad”, depending on the lineup on opening night, it could easily look bad.
1. The NHL scheduling office apparently did not like the Colorado gift baskets, as the team just finished three back to back games, the first tilt on the road, the next day at home, and finishing up the third day on the road again. If the NHL wants to pace the season to limit injuries, scheduling three games in a row for the preseason does not seem optimal. Perhaps Avs fans need to sweeten the pot, maybe add some Palisade peaches to the next basket.
2. Injuries are having a lingering impact on the Avalanche lineup. Tyson Jost just returned to play the last two games as did Tyson Barrie. A.J. Greer has only played in one game, as has defenseman Anton Lindholm and forward Colin Wilson. Defenseman Sergei Boikov made one preseason appearance where he suffered a dislocated shoulder and Joe Colborne has yet to make a preseason game appearance due to injury. One hopes they’re getting the injury bug out of the way early so the team has a healthy regular season.
The Avalanche have trimmed their roster down to 29 players, reassigning or releasing 16 players in the last two days. Currently, the team has 11 defensemen so they will likely to cut another 3-4 from that list while the forwards will likely lose another two players. The goaltending position seems set with Semyon Varlamov firmly in control of the starting spot with Jonathan Bernier bringing a solid professional presence to the backup role. Keep an eye out on those bionic hips of Varlamov as he seems to be getting better with each game.
WHAT TO WATCH
1. The Avalanche will play their final preseason game Thursday night at 8 p.m. mountain time facing off against the Vegas Golden Knights.
2. Colorado will continue to cut down their roster to reach the 23 player limit for the start of the season. They have some interesting decisions to make regarding their plethora of defensemen – what a great challenge to have – and a couple key choices with their forwards.