Hello, I love you,
Won't you tell me your name?
Hello, I love you,
Let me jump in your game.
- The Doors
Show of hands: who saw that one coming?
I know I didn't. I admit, I don't think the Avalanche are going to be that good this year. If they play many more games like that, however, I may have to start changing my tune. The Avalanche rolled over Dany Heatley and the San Jose Sharks 5-2. To be fair, the Sharks looked awful for most of the game...but who the fuck cares? The Avs won and looked damn good in the process.
With all the new faces and changed jersey numbers, it was kind of hard to recognize the team on the ice at times. Truth be told, this team looked completely different. This was not the mucking, cycling, simple-minded, snore-inducing team that we saw under Joel Quenneville and Tony Granato. These guys were flying out there. The defensemen were firing long passes to break out the forwards. The forwards were circling in front of the net instead of grinding things to a hault behind it. The emphasis clearly seemed to be on skating over hitting and it was a lot of fun to watch. It occured to me that we were finally seeing Tony Granato's promised "uptempo" game. This is the place where we make derisive comments about Tony G but let's be not be too harsh. Granato was working with guys like Ben Guite and Tyler Arnason, not TJ Galiardi and Matt Duchene. There was a noticeable uptick in skill level on the ice last night compared to last year.
After the touching Joe Sakic ceremony (my favorite was the final walk through the dressing room), the Pepsi Center was rocking at the start of the game. In a move loaded with symbolism, Matt Duchene took the opening faceoff (one of the few draws the team actually won). This was the first time for many of us to see Duchene on the ice and it was something else. He looked a little nervous early (on the bench before the game, he looked downright petrified) but shook it off as the game went along. There was one penalty kill he was on (sorry, didn't note when that occured) when he put on a forechecking clinic, keeping the puck deep in San Jose for a good 20 or 30 seconds and then finished up the shift with a hit in the corner. That seemed to be the turning point for him, and he looked much looser on the ice after that. He had a couple of breakaways (including one beauty of a steal). He didn't manage to put the puck in the net, but those goals are going to come. He was blazing fast and loaded with talent. Sorry, Brampton, he ain't coming back. I'm not as convinced that Ryan O'Reilly is here to stay; I don't know think that he had a bad game (he and Duchene each had their first NHL assist) and I saw him working hard defensively...I just wasn't wow'd like I was about Duchene and the guy in the next paragraph.
Holy freaking cow. How on earth did the Detroit Red Wings let Kyle Quincey slip away on waivers? He was just a joy to watch in all areas of the game, whether it was making plays defensively, firing crisp passes up to his forwards or manning one of the points of the powerplay. It was only one game, but he really improved the defense. He and Scott Hannan played a terrific game. If he keeps playing like that, he's going to make a lot of people forget about that Ryan Smyth guy.
Finally, I've got to say that Craig Anderson looked pretty good in net. He turned away 38 of the 40 shots he faced including 19 (!) in the final period as the Avalanche took the foot off the gas (I guess you can't change everything in one game). Anderson looked, um, a bit unconventional out there as he seemed like he was dropping to the ice a lot. He seemed to be all reactions and instincts, a sharp contrast to the controlled, positional game of Peter Budaj.
It's only one game...but, hey, at least we know we won't go 0-82! The Avalanche won handily and unexpectedly last night but there is more to it than that. The Avalanche were ENTERTAINING last night and that's something we haven't been able to say for quite some time.
- Wolski - Stastny - Hejduk
- McLeod - Duchene - Svatos
- Tucker - Galiardi - Stewart
- Koci - O'Reilly - Hendricks
- Quincey - Hannan
- Foote - Liles
- Clark - Cumiskey
- According to Versus, Wolski has scored a goal on opening night in each of the last 4 seasons. They also had Salei and Hensick in the starting lineup and said that Mike Hough was the last Avalanche captain, so take that stat with a grain of salt.
- 12 Avalanche players had a point in the game.
- Kyle Quincey led all players with 27:02 of ice time.
- The Avs were a dreadful 29% in the faceoff circle.
The Avalanche host the Vancouver Canucks Saturday afternoon at the Pepsi Center (1pm MT / 3pm ET). That's the last home game until October 23rd, as the Avs are headed out on a 7-game road trip.
What I liked best about this win for Colorado was its quick-strick capability at even strength. - Adrian Dater, All Things Avs
"I'm just trying to focus on going to the net," Wolski said. "You see so many goals come on little pokes, little chips right in the crease. I'm really trying to focus on making sure I have a presence in front." - John Kreiser, NHL.com
Seeing Kyle Quincey play makes me feel much better about the Ryan Smyth trade. Dude was a beast! Ice-time is indicating #1 d-man status and he deserved it. - Shane Giroux, Avs Talk
If the Avs can play like this every game (I am not expecting 5 goals each game) then they are going to be in every game. Even in the games they lose, if the other team walks into the locker room thinking, "That game was much harder than it should have been," the Avs will be in good shape. - InYouFace, MHH
O'Reilly didn't stand out as much to me. I thought he was pretty good on the PK, but even then he was out shined by his partner T.J. Galiardi. One game is a small sample size, and we'll have to see how he does the next 2-8 games to see if he warrants staying in the NHL this season. - Magnum, Disgruntled Avalanche Blogger
At 18 years, 236 days, O'Reilly is the second youngest player to see action in franchise history. The youngest was Owen Nolan, who beat O'Reilly by two days - AP
Someone must have convinced Joe Thornton this was a playoff game because he was invisible. - Sean Payton, Anyone But Detroit
Heatley had a lousy Sharks debut with a minus three and he was the guy who didn’t backcheck, allowing the fourth goal. He was just standing there, gliding back toward the net - hell, Cheechoo would have atleast fallen down trying to get there. Heater also did a Selanne impression by missing a wide open net in the third period. - Doug, Sharks Hockey Analysis
However, San Jose's debut produced more questions than answers, shining a spotlight on the team's weaknesses in goal and along the blueline. To make matters worse, the first line was outplayed on nearly every shift, the power play couldn't manage to score on a two minute 5-on-3 in the third period, and the slow-footed defense was flustered by the speed of the young Avalanche forwards. - Ryan Garner, Shark Sandwich
It's obvious that the blueline needs some work. - Mr Plan, Fear the Fin.
Our D didn't show up. Don't know where they were but their less skilful, more inefficient clones showed up instead. "You idiots! These are not them! You've captured their stunt doubles!" So true. - Gray, Couch Tarts
"The performance was disappointing, very disappointing," McLellan said, singling out some of his top-end talent in particular. "We have some world-class athletes on our team and they didn’t play like that." - David Pollack, Working the Corners