photo courtesy of Tim Sharp/AP
Deep. Real deep.
That's the only way to describe the Avalanche so far this pre-season. They're deeper than they've been in years, and their crop of prospects is one of the best in the entire NHL.
Last year, the Buffalo Sabres ran three scoring lines instead of two because they had so much offensive talent. This year, Coach Joel Quenneville will have the same "problem," judging by the output of several rookies so far.
Last night in Dallas, the Avalanche, playing without any big veterans like Super Joe, Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk or even Mr. Six-Points-In-Two-Games Paul Stastny, totally destroyed the Dallas Stars much like they did the Los Angeles Kings the night before.
Eric Healey scored first for the Avs, then again in the second period, with both goals assisted by TJ Hensick. Going into the third period, the game was tied at 2-2.
Early in the third, Sergei Zubov scored on the power play to give the Stars a brief lead, but less than two minutes later the Colorado flood gates opened wide. Jordan Leopold scored on a feed from Healey (who was named First Star of the game) to tie it at 3-3. Hensiiick tallied a goal of his own with the man advantage five minutes later, and two more were later added by Kyle Cumiskey and Cody McLeod.
Healey. Hensick. McLeod. Cumiskey. These are all new names to the Avalanche roster, but the team is playing as if it was 2000-2001 all over again. When the Avalanche can beat a good team like Dallas so easily with more or less just their rookies on the ice, it's a really good sign of great things to come.
Goaltending duties were split between Peter Budaj (9 shots, 8 saves) and Michael Wall (14 shots, 12 saves) and both seemed comfortable in net with decent performances.
The other theme of the game last night was the brutality. Apparently Ian Laperriere has made it his goal this season to fight EVERYBODY. He was assessed 22 penalty minutes and a game misconduct for two big fights and a crosscheck to the face of Jussi Jokinen in the third period (see top photo). Also in the mix was Mark Rycroft, who fought Krys Barch in the first, Cody McLeod, who fought Brad Winchester in the second, and Scott Parker, who took on Krys Barch as well. Todd Fedoruk fought
somebody Lappy in the third period, but Fedoruk was the only person penalized (and tossed from the game). According to the Rocky Mountain News (via Draft Dodger), Fedoruk felt pressured to "do something" and wanted to go after non-fighter Kurt Sauer but Lappy wouldn't have it. That's why Ian Laperriere is one of the best hockey players in the NHL. He transcends point totals and finesse skating. When you have a player like him, you keep him close.
If the Avalanche has ever seemed "soft" in the past, those days are long gone.
So Coach Q has quite a tough decision on his hands. He's got a ton of young talent that deserves a shot at the big league, but he's got skilled veterans who have long-ago earned a spot on the roster. There's too much talent and not enough room.
What a terrible problem to have.