Heading into tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers, there was definitely no shortage of story lines. There was the first two overall picks in last summer's NHL Entry Draft. There was also the return of Captain Canada Ryan Smyth to the Pepsi Center and the Curse of the Ex-Avalanche Players he might be (did) bringing with him. And of course there was the Avs seemingly lack of any form of offense in front of the home crowd.
Just about all of those story lines played out and were a major part of the game tonight.
I saw just about everything I expected to see from the Oilers tonight. They are a young, very fast team who may not get a ton of shots on net, but will absolutely make the most of the opportunities they are given. That speed was evident when Cam Barker blew past the Avs' penalty killers and walked into the house completely untouched and sent a perfect backhand past Semyon Varlamov. What good is a big tough blue line if they are going to just let people walk in untouched? None.
I also saw a lot of troubling things in the Avs' game as well. For those that follow me, or the site, on Twitter you know what I'm talking about. For those that don't, what are you waiting for?
Two of the biggest issues I saw tonight was the Avs' defensemen/point men on the power play, fail to make smart/quick decisions with the puck. This lead to a lot of shots and passes into the shin pads of the Oiler defenders. Also, when they do get the shots through, they are missing the net. The Oliers' point men did this and it directly led to a terrific tip by Andy Sutton to get the Oilers out to a 2-0 lead.
I spent a good amount of time looking for a shot report from this game, specifically how many shots were attempted, not necessarily on net, but that were sent towards the net. I am fairly certain this stat is kept, if someone out there knows where, I would definitely like to see the numbers. I'd be willing to bet the Avs attempted nearly 70 shots but only had the 41 officially on net. This time will not win if it continues to have that many shots blocked or miss the net.
This game however was not all bad. The Avs power play continues to score crucial goals and currently sits atop the NHL with a 30.1% rate of effectiveness.
Also, Gabriel Landeskog is maturing right before our very eyes. There were several instances tonight where I caught myself jotting his name down in my notes for one thing or another. Tonight I specifically noted his toughness. Not only did he take a high elbow from Andy Sutton from which he popped right back up from, he was constantly in the grill of Devan Dubnyk looking for any pucks that may come loose. He may have gotten a little too close a couple times as he took a goalie interference call for the second game in a row. Some of the other forwards on the Avs should start taking some notes on how to do whatever it takes to score and not just look for pretty plays.
Semyon Varlamov. What more can I say about the young Russian net minder? He is the reason that the Avalanche have had a chance to win every game that he has started. Tonight was no exception. While the Oilers only managed 19 shots on net, the 17 saves he made were far from routine. He had no chance on either of the two goals he gave up tonight.
MHH Avalanche 3 Stars of the Night
- 1 Seymon Varlamov (16 Saves; While his saves were limited, if not for Varly's efforts, score would've been out of hand)
- 2 Gabriel Landeskog (6 Shots; Easily the best Avs play besides Varly. Was constantly driving net and a general thorn in the Oilers side all night.)
- 3 Matt Duchene (1A; He seems to be finding his game, though he still has a way to go to get out of Sacco's Dreaded Doghouse)
- 1 Hejduk-Stastny-Jones
- 2 Kobasew-Duchene-Lindstrom
- 3 Landeskog-O'Reilly-Winnik
- 4 McLeod-McClement-Porter
- 1 Johnson-Quincey
- 2 Hejda-Wilson
- 3 O'Brien-O'Byrne
- 1 I think Erik Johnson had his best game of the season. Picked great spots to join the rush, created a couple great scoring chances by doing so.
- 2 Defense needs to make smarter decisions with the puck at the point, including getting shots on net and not missing it.
- 3 Semyon Varlamov is definitely looking every bit like a number 1 goalie in the NHL.
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Los Angeles Kings come into the Pepsi Center on Sunday night.