Is Any Game In October A Must-Win?

At the start of last season, I had a tendency to take divisional games really seriously.  As in, I called some of them "must-win" games.  Bear in mind that these games were in October and November.  While it's definitely better to beat a divisional opponent rather than lose to one, any game that early in the season is not so critical that a loss can't be made up later on. 

I realized how silly I was and jokingly used "Mile High Hockey: A Must-Win Blog" as the site's slogan from then on.  No game in October or November is truly a must-win game.  Right?

Maybe that's not true.  If you read Terry Frei's piece in the Denver Post this morning, you might think the third game of the season, in the second full week of October, was the most important game of the season---at least for one guy on the Colorado Avalanche:

Absolutely, there can be a crisis of confidence after only two games.

Man, they should make the "Oh Shit" handles harder to find in the Post headquarters.  You'd think it was April and the Avs were struggling to land a playoff spot or something, not the third game of the season in October.

So far, Budaj gets a "D" in his latest opportunity to lock down the Avalanche's No. 1 goaltending job. Colorado has decisively outshot Boston and Edmonton and lost both games, and an 0-3 start is looming if the Avalanche fall again tonight at Calgary.

Let me tell you, I'd hate to be a goaltender playing for the Colorado Avalanche in the shadow of Patrick Roy.  Even though you can painstakingly analyze almost every goal scored by both Boston and Edmonton and pinpoint where exactly the defense failed or how the puck was redirected in an impossible-to-stop angle, it doesn't matter.  The puck went in the net, the goalie sucks, let's all throw him under a bus or a train or an aircraft carrier.

I admit I always preferred Peter Budaj over Jose Theodore, and I also admit that I was harder on the latter than on the former.  Not that there wasn't plenty of reason to be, but I definitely have given Budaj more slack over the past couple of seasons.  And I also admit that Budaj hasn't "gotten it done" yet this season and his initial numbers (however inadequate to reflect his full performance) have been sub-par. 

But this season is different than the last two.  This time, there is no competent backup waiting to take over if the starter fails.  Andrew Raycroft is not going to rescue the Avalanche if Budaj continues to struggle at times.  Budaj is the guy.  That might make some fans cringe, but lining up to hang the man after two games isn't going to help the team in any way, and neither is begging to sign an overpaid old relic like Khabibulin. 

Instead of teetering on the precipice after every tough loss (remember, both games were lost by just one goal), everybody could just relax, watch the games, and trust that the team and the goalie will get their acts together and start winning games.  We all know that they're capable of it, and it will happen.  0-2-0 is not time to panic.  0-10-0?  That's panic time.  Let's just hang loose for now, and try not to commit suicide over a couple of tough losses in October.

ADDENDUM: Paul Kukla says calm the f' down you babies.  Listen to Kukla.

Hat tip to Jibbles for the link.

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