And, it begins.
If you came here expecting to witness me bitch about the fucking lockout, or praise Mr Smug Face for finally ending the stupid thing or maybe bleat about how sadface I am about not having Ryan O'Reilly in the lineup...well, prepare to be disappointed. The 2013 Colorado Avalanche season kicks off tonight and I'm going to focus on the team that's here now - the one that's going to kick the snot out of the Minnesota Wild tonight.
I think we're all up to speed on the roster changes. P.A. Parenteau (#15), John Mitchell (#7) and Patrick Bordeleau (#58) are all expected to make their Colorado Avalanche debuts tonight. Defenseman Greg Zanon (#4) is one of 8 defensemen on the roster, so I don't know at this writing whether he and his uh-MAZE-ing beard will be on the ice tonight, but I have a sneaky feeling that he will. We already know that Chuck Kobasew is out - he is sick and did not travel with the team to Minnesota.
The Wild, of course, added Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in the offseason to modest contracts of little significance. They also added Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell and it looks like Finnish phenom Mikael Granlund has made the opening night roster, as well as defenseman Mathew Dumba, drafted 7th overall this summer. We might as well become familiar with the team, because we play the Wild approximately 1,300 times this year. Or so. The Wild have never lost a home opener. Then again, the Avalanche have never had an opener on the 19th. Just sayin'.
The Avalanche are 7-5-4 all-time (all-time = Colorado only) on opening night and 2-2-1 when opening on the road, although this is the first time they've opened on the road since 2005. The Avs have started two seasons on a Saturday night and lost both of those games: 4-3 to Ottawa in 1998 and last year to the Red Wings 3-0. Colorado has never faced the Wild on opening night; in fact, they've only had opening night opponent from their division - Edmonton in 2005. Yes, bitches, I've been spending my lockout going a little spreadsheet happy...what have you been doing?
Back in 2003, these two teams faced each other in the first round of the playoffs. The Wild, in their 3rd year of existence, surprised the Avalanche in game one. The Avs came back to win game two and then in game 3, Patrick Roy and the team shut out the Wild 3-0. At the time, it was the 5th shutout by the Avalanche in 18 career meetings against the Wild. It was the 89th and final shutout of Roy's career, and his 2nd to last win. The Avalanche won the next game 3-1 and then some stuff happened that I'm sure I don't remember. At any rate, I point that out because the Avalanche went 62 games and 9 years before recording another shutout against Minnesota, which Semyon Varlamov recorded last March in a 4-0 win. Now that that string has ended, let's see some more.
Strangely enough, the Avalanche have played exactly 82 games to date against the Mild, playoffs included. The Avs' record is a pedestrian 41-32-9 - not bad, but those 91 points would put them outside of the playoffs. That's also fairly heavily skewed by the fact that the Wild weren't very good for their first couple of years (playoff flukes notwithstanding). In the last 5 years, the Avalanche have a regular season record of 11-17-4 against Minnesota and have been outscored 77-83.
Not surprisingly, Milan Hejduk has put up good career numbers against Minnesota with 21 goals and 27 assists in 64 career games. Paul Stastny has 25 points in 37 games against Minnesota and Steve Downie has 5 points in 6 games against them. Semyon Varlamov is 4-0 against the Wild all-time with just 4 goals allowed and the one shutout mentioned above.
On the other side of the coin, Minnesota native Erik Johnson hates to play the Wild. As a St Louis Blues, he scored an assist against Minnesota in 2007 as a rookie. Since then, he is definitely not feeling Minnesota; he has gone 13 straight games against them without a point. And I hope at least some of you just made a Keaneau "woah" in your head. None of the Avalanche blueliners have scored a PP goal against the Wild in their career, which I am typing here to try to reverse the jinx. Two players have never faced the Wild - Bordeleau (obviously) and Tyson Barrie.
In fact, here are the career numbers for all of the Avs (yes, Russian Radar included) against Minnesota, courtesy of hockey-reference.com and a really dorky spreadsheet.
Of course, the great thing about any sport is that none of these numbers mean anything. None of us have any idea how the Avalanche - or the Wild - are going to look like on the ice tonight. Everyone is playing with a clean slate, and we will be watching these guys play an NHL for the first time in...well, I don't feel strongly enough to do the math there, but it's been quite a while.
Who am I watching tonight? Bordeleau, of course, as his story is a great one and I am a total size queen. Johnson, because I think his play is going to be a huge key to our success. And Parenteau, because I don't recall ever watching an Islanders game in my life.
Come on, Avalanche, let's get some fuck on tonight.