Yup, so I hit up my first Avalanche game of the season, and had a lot of fun. Despite trying to describe who the new players were to my grandma, I got a pretty good feel for the game and how our boys were doing out there. [Ed's note: the Avs won 3-0 with O'Reilly scoring a pair and Stoa notching the other and J.S. Giguere turning away 16 for the shuotout).
But, before we start puffing ourselves up too much, I want you guys to know that the squad that Dallas fielded (iced?) was plain bad. They were no where near a match for 75% NHL starters, including our string of awesome centers. For perspective, Galiardi would have been the best guy on their team tonight, and he was like fifth best on the Avs. Yes, we had some good play out there, but I never worried whenever a Star would bring the puck into our zone; nor would I be even slightly concerned on a PK. The opposition was just that bad.
Since it was essentially an NHL team vs an AHL team, I feel like a lot of my observations were tainted; our guys looked great by comparison, but will wither alongside Chicago or San Jose. I'll still break some things down for you guys, and we can all argue about who'll be called up first or whatever.
- First of all, some observations on the arena. The new glass is really unobtrusive. It is also really flexible. I didn't expect to be able to see that much of a difference, but it is noticeable. It 'waves' when someone hits it. I don't know much about how the board structure is different, whether it gives more or not, but I felt relief when I saw the glass itself. Also... for those of you who like to bitch about the jumbotron... well, I understand it at least. Sorta. The thing really is going out. I can see the individual screens are becoming discolored, and some aren't very bright. Still not a huge deal, but it is starting to die. Also, you know how they put in those nifty new screens into the upper corners to replace the old displays of shots, faceoffs, etc? Yeah, as far as I can tell they only show advertisements. They never did anything useful, and are pretty small for how far away the viewers are.
- That first penalty with Stastny... He's playing differently than I was expecting. I feel like he really did bulk up, and is trying to use his new-and-improved size to muscle his way around. Not sure if its going to work out for him, just because his developed skills have been elsewhere. This penalty was a result of that: getting into the play and getting dirty without paying attention.
- The Holos delay-of-game penalty was just a bone-headed play. He wasn't even under pressure, and cleared the top of the glass by ten feet. Well, maybe six, but still. He did have some pretty good play besides that, tho, and while I doubt he will make the team right away, he still has valuable skills.
- Holos was paired with Hunwick for most of the game, and they did pretty well. Against an AHL team. Yeah.
- Oh, that Stoa goal? I want to be sure you guys don't think that it was intentional or anything. I don't think he even knew that Quincey had shot the puck until it bounced off his hip and into the goal. Neither did Bachman, for that matter, since he just stood there and sorta looked down at the puck in the net. I know that the whole point of a guy in front of the net is to screen the goaltender and get a ricochet, but lets just say that Stoa wasn't really doing anything but thumb wrestling with the defender.
- M-M-M-Matt Duchene is electric out there. Dude reminds me of the Great Swede himself with the way he can dictate the entire pace of the game by the way he moves with the puck. I am super excited to see what he can bring to the Avs this year, cause I think its going to be big.
- Peter Mueller, altho he had some good plays and led (lead? brain working not) the team in shot still looks like's getting his legs back under him. We will have to keep an eye on his progress, but he does seem to be getting better each day. I hope that he plays every game until the opener to get some of his conditioning up to snuff.
- EJ is a boss out there; he stands on the blueline and directs traffic like its all his ice. I also saw some really pretty pinches by him, some great puck handling, and some of my favorite Bourquian blue-line walking whilst lining up shots. Really high hopes for him, as well.
- Johnson's partner tonight was Quincey. Now, in an effort not to jinx things, I am going to be careful with how I say this. The hit he laid out on the Dallas player (that I am sure Mose went nuts over) was extremely reminiscent of the "Stamkos, meet your bench" hit a couple years ago. Between that, his point shots, and the way he played D tonight? Oh yeah, remember, AHL team... Damn. But still. I liked what I saw. A lot.
- Lets talk about Kevin Porter for a minute. He was out to hit people, and did at a pretty high level. I will say that, despite the fact that he wants to make an impression and stay, his interference call in the 1st was pretty warranted. The guy was, not quite helpless, but he was definitely not expecting to get clobbered 2-3 seconds after he dropped the puck behind him. Be careful with that, Porter, you may turn into a scorching douche. Oh yea, speaking of that..
- The Sheldon Souray elbowing penalty was a headhunting move. It happened right in front of me - well, down the boards a bit, but still - close enough to see Souray deliberately pick up his elbow and aim it for Stoa's dome. And stand there looking down at him with what I was pretty sure was a smile. Now, I don't really know much about Souray's history, and I don't think he does that type of thing often, but that was one of them. I wonder what Stoa did to piss him off.
- It could have been when Stoa got his roughing penalty. Grossman's roughing penalty against Duchene was kinda dumb; Dutchie popped right back up after being checked into the boards pretty hard, but it wasn't a boarding or anything. Stoa... and I love Stoa for this... only hesitated a fraction of a second before he went over to confront Grossman, and tried to defend Duchene. He didn't have a good showing at all and Grossman threw him down with little trouble, but still, the fact that he did it made me like him. Oh, and he looked ok after getting that elbow to the face, and I was glad about that.
- Hm, anything else? Landeskog looks good out there. He skated most of the time with O'Reilly and Winnik, but the lines shuffled around at a whim constantly. The only more-or-less constants were Landy/Radar, Stats/Linds, and Dutchie/Mules. The other guys sorta rotated. Anyway, the Kog may be starting out on the third line, but unless there is a really good reason to keep him there, he is going to earn his way up. I have been worried that he won't be as good as we need him to be, but seeing him out there has helped ease my worries. If he stays on the third, its going to be one of the most potent around.
- Duh, O'Reilly! Even tho the guy had a great game tonight, we have to remember that what little talent was out there was working against our top two lines, leaving the third wide open to do whatever. He is still the man, and he and Landy work well together, but I don't think we should expect that out of him very often. Unless our competition is built with weak bottom lines.
- Jiggy looked good out there. He wasn't tested that much by these guys, but he worked really hard in the PKs to keep us in it. Yes, the Can played Will Smith after his saves.
- Speaking of the PK, it was pretty damn good. Even with McClement out there. The guys sort of rotated, so there wasn't one set PK unit, but they all did pretty well.
- Some random notes: Lindstrom is good, but he's going to have to keep getting better to keep from getting replaced by Landy in the next few months. Bordy, altho he did well in that fight, doesn't do much else very well. He does it better than Koci, but not well enough that I really want him out there when we have other options. Also, those people suggesting that we play Malone, and untested rookie, over McLeod, a tough veteran in a contract year, are crazy. Malone, while promising, is still a rookie, and definitely plays like one. Barrie and Elliott play like rookies too, but much more accomplished and nearly-NHL-ready rookies. Elliott looked good tonight, but didn't knock my socks off. His D was ok paired with O'Brien, and he pinches well and skates excellently, but he has to work on that D. He probably could do it in the NHL instead of the AHL.
Yup, I'll go ahead and call it done there. Ask questions and I will try to answer them.