Welcome to Saturday and the fourth game of the Avs' early season Northeast roadtrip! (as is tradition). The opponents tonight are the Montreal Canadiens and the swarm of bilingual reporters huddled around Patrick Roy. As such, there's a very strong chance we'll all know how to pronounce the French word for "regression" by the end of the night. Yay for learning!
With that said, we may as well address the other elephant in the room: goaltending. This is the first full game for the Avs after Goaliegeddon. In case you missed it, both Varlamov and Berra are a bit banged up and being held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons. With any luck, they'll be better by next week, but in the meantime, both of Lake Erie's 22-year-old goalies are up with the big club.
Calvin Pickard's NHL debut on Thursday probably could have gone better. He made a fair number of saves, including a pretty spectacular one, but the two softies he allowed certainly didn't help. The other available goalie is Sami Aittokallio. He's had two stints up with the Avs, but has yet to play a full game. No matter who gets the start (and Pickard is more likely to get the nod), saying that the Avs are inexperienced in net right now is a bit of an understatement.
This could prove to be a problem considering the recent struggles of the rest of the team. The offense hasn't clicked yet, and only Florida has scored fewer goals per game than the Avs. Couple that with intense chemistry issues, rapidly rotating lines, an unusually high number of neutral zone turnovers, poor puck support, bad defense, stupid penalties, a sputtering power play, and an absolute collapse of both offensive and defensive systems late in the third, and this could get very ugly very quickly for the Avs.
On the plus side, the Avs PK has been doing very well lately, and John Mitchell's return allows the lines to return to a more normal setup. The team has also made large strides in both their possession game and offense since the start of the year. The great thing about starting at rock bottom is that the only way to go is up. Tonight, the Avs will be looking to dig themselves out of their slump and finish the roadtrip with a respectable 5 of 8 pts instead of a measly 3.
Montreal is at the other end of the spectrum. They're currently sitting at 4-1-0 and 2nd in the Eastern conference. During their last game on Thursday, they beat the struggling Bruins 6-4, an outstanding rebound after the 7-1 knockout Tampa gave them three days prior. Luckily for the Avs, only two teams have given up more goals than Montreal's 18, and no, the club from Colorado at 17 is not one of them. (#Winning!) The Habs' power play is also doing almost as badly as ours. Carey Price will start.
Not gunna lie - this could be a rough one for the Avs, but Montreal is beatable if we show up and string together a full 60 minute game without excessive brainfarting. Given how the season has gone so far, that's asking a lot, but I am still hopeful that the team will pull it together. We're do for a breakout soon, right? Right?
Keys to the Game
Game Notes are available here.
Calvin Pickard the starter at Montreal #Avalanche— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) October 18, 2014