Game Number 1: Avalanche vs. Wild
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD HOCKEY IS BACK!!! Brb I just peed myself again out of pure excite.
DISCLAIMER: I should have used the "excitement" in the above sentence but all these younger millennials keep telling me that the new, cool thing to do is to use excite or amaze instead of excitement or amazement. I have no idea why, but I need to be progressive to keep up. Modernization bitches!!!!!
Annnnnd back from peeing. Hold on, not yet. I drank a ton since I got home. So.Much.Excitment. Shit, I mean excite. Fuck you all. And on to hockey.
On to period one, wait what? There’s a pregame ceremony? Okay, better recap that.
The game announcer addressed the crowd and explained how proud they should be on the Wild. (alright then). All the Wild player skated out after their names were called and lined up on the blue line. The zamboni doors opened and out came 10 kids holding what looks like a rug. Weird. No wait, it’s not a rug. It’s a banner. Neat!
The kids skated out and the Wild players grabbed the banner. They skated to the blue line and attached clips to the banner. Omnious music played that became more intense and dramatic. A stark Christmas green and Santa Claus red banner rose from the Wild players’ hands up to the ceiling. An amazing, glorious, shiver inducing sight to behold. What a great ceremony. As the banner rose, the white lettering began to emerge in three lines:
"2013-2014 Minnesota Wild"
"Western Conference Quarterfinal Final, round one, Victors over the Colorado Avalanche in 7 games"
"The greatest achievement in franchise history"
Weird ceremony. True Statement. Recap time.
Hi Iginla!!!! You look sooo good in that Avs sweater.
TANGENT: I FUCKING LOVE IGINLA. Always have.
Okay period 1. Well the Wild had the 1st two shots so the Avs were clearly already regressing (EDITORS NOTE: I cried a little bit when I read this during editing), but they’ll deal with that, I think; at least at some point. The Wild had a flurry in front the net with the Koivu line getting the puck in front of Varly, but Varly was there and O’Reilly had a nice play to clear the zone.
TANGENT 2: Everberg is big. FYI. I have nothing else.
And the there was penalty on Ryan Carter. So the Avalanche went to the power play. Let’s see what Roy has done in the preseason shall we???
PP1: Nothing. EJ, Holden, Duchene, Iginla and O’Reilly started the PP and had a nice cycle but couldn’t get anything threatening toward the net. The 2nd unit finally got in the zone (after a few tries), but a giveaway by Briere was easily cleared and the PP over.
Following the PP, the Wild had a good rush after the puck bounced on/hit a skate for Barrie entering the zone and the Wild had nice chance after the penalty was killed but Varly was up to the task.
TANGUAY WITH A SHOT! He was trying to pass! Holy fuck Iginla looks good. (RETROACTIVE DRINKING TYPING COMMENT DISCLAIMER #1)
After the puck spent a few seconds (seems like minutes) in the Avs zone, Landeskog manhandled the Wild player but the puck came to Suter. MacKinnon tried to wait and lift the stick (a nice job not taking a penalty) but Suter got off a great shot regardless. Fortunately, Varly was there and O’Reilly was able to completely abuse Suter on the rebound, force him to the blue line, strip him, and force the puck into the Wild zone.
McGinn and Biere had a good shift and Scandella was called for an obvious penalty on poor little Biere. The Avs the went to the power play againt. Yay!!!
PP2: Or not. The Avs had tough time getting into the zone. They looked a little jumpy and in fact, a lot jumpy. They had some movement, still jumpy though, but after a Johnson shot went far wide, the Wild could have had a 2 on 1 but Duchene was able to get back and save a breakaway.
After a good shift by the Wild and Parise ripped it off the post, the Avs took a penalty to slow the Wild’s cycle.
PK1: The Wild had a good first 45 second with some very good movement. The Avs PK was clearly working on keeping the box as tight as possible. The Wild had a bunch of shots but all from long range and Varly had no screens to deal with. After the minute mark, the Avs PK got more aggressive (against the 2nd PP unit) and kept the puck in the neutral zone; well timed and well played by the Avs. PK over.
The Avs still looked jumpy (hi theme for the game!!!!) and nervous which I am sure everyone was freaking out over, but really it was okay. Everyone had nerves. The Avs needed to settled down and finally the Avs began to skate and MacKinnon shrugged off a Wild climbing on his back, somehow, and got it o O’Reilly and the Avs got a good shot.
And then the fucks came. The Wild scored first which was the start of it all. Suter sent a long pass through the neutral zone to a Wild forward on a broken 2 on 2 where Stuart was slightly out of position at the red line. Varly saved the shot and Johnson took his opposing player, but McGinn was beat to the slot by Pomminville who put the puck home. 1-0 Wild.
Duchene’s line followed up with a great shift. He looked amazing on this shift and I think he just needs time with Iginla to fully gel.
TANGENT 3: My offseason training has worked because my tolerance is high right now.
As will obviously annoy MHH readers and all Avs fans, the Avs opened up the skating in the period with about a minute left. Of course then the Avs started looking good. It started with MacKinnon and his line and continued with Duchene’s line. The Avs needed time to get their legs but in that period they did not have them.
Summary: Not a good period if this was January, but for the first period in the first game in an opposing arena. It was okay. The Avs simply looked jittery and the Wild looked raring to go. The Avs let up 17 shots but there were only a handful worrisome ones. Another time where shots quantity did not relate to quality, but I will not get into that here or now. However, the Avs did not have many chances and that needs to increase. I expected a better second. The Avs could not get their legs moving and sadly that is their game.
Systems Update: Same Roy system on defense. Man-to-man and it was somewhat exposed by the Wild bringing a second guy down low, something I will review on Saturday. If the Avs can strip the puck carrier, they will have the advantage on the rush. However, one big change (and my brother texted me about it too) is that Avs center or wing was coming back hard – in fact, very hard. This is what the Avs need to do. However, the one time McGinn how to outrace Pomminville, he was beat – still a good sign. As an aside, those two bad power plays hurt. I agree with Milbury that there was an aggressive Wild PK and that is true but the Avs just need to work on their timing and movement.
O’Reilly’s line started it off and got a good zone entry and some good possession. Look what skating can do; it is remarkable. Johnson went into beast mode in the corner on Carter and more fucks. Johnson looked good buuuuuut then it stopped going well.
1) MacKinnon is hurt. Clearly. Whether he pretends or not.
2) The Wild scored again.
After what I thought was a fairly good shift, the Wild responded with an even better shift. Tanguay got beat on a nice deke-move, which caused a shift in the defensive coverage. Eventually Parise found the puck on a mini 2 on 1 down low and fed Spurgeon in the slot. 2-0 Wild.
And it got worse; after matching minors from a scrum in front of the net, it was 4 on 4. MacKinnon was beat on the faceoff in the neutral zone, Parise stole the puck, took a shot, beat Hejda to the rebound in front of Varly, took another shot, Varly stopped that, but on the 3rd shot he was able to move it around Varly. 3-0 Wild.
Duchene responded by deciding to get mad and start skating. Eventually after a good shift, Duchene drew a penalty. This was a big momentum shaping power play for the Avs being down 3-0.
PP3: The Avs first unit had some good movement but still look flustered by the Wild’s PK, which was remarkably and successfully aggressive. The Avs could not get anything effective set up and sadly the PP ended.
And then it got bad. Like, very bad. There was a bad miscommunication (this takes time with new guys, FYI) between Guenin and Briere and the puck came towards Varly. Varly wasn’t sure what to do and tried to push it away when he shouldn’t have had to but it went off Nino and rolled up the back of Varly and into the net. 4-0 Wild.
Terrible bounce but I would like to talk more about…
Fuck, I am so glad I took this recap because the Wild scored again. After a fairly good play by the 4th line (especially Everberg), the Coyle line took control in the Avs’ zone. Eventually the Wild managed to feed Suter with a bomb from the near slot that Varly had little chance of stopping. It was a tough situation for Varly and I did not expect him to play the 3rd. 5-0 Wild.
The Wild then got a power play off a fairly week cross-check by Johnson but only a fraction of it ran off before the period was over.
Systems Update: Bad. All of it was bad. The Avs look terrible and they shouldn’t, it’s unfortunate. The Wild were having their way with the Avs system. I do believe the Wild were playing their system and the Avs were completely botching theirs. They look lost and completely out of place. All the Avs can really do is focus on the next period and work on the little things. But, 38 shots so far for the Wild? That’s not regression, that’s called playing like dogshit. I am sure people when they watch the game will wonder if the Avs will give up 50 shots a game and lose 5-0 every game. The answer is no.
TANGENT 4: I think the season may be over already.
TANGENT 5: I don’t think the Avs will every win again and honestly all the regression people are so right. The Avs suck. Worse than Calgary. Total lottery team. Give them McDavid. Give them Eichel. Give the Stars the Cup.
TANGENT 6: If the Avs don’t win their opener 6-1 the season is lost. Roy sucks. Burn Roy. Throw Sakic in a snowblower.
Reto Berra came in for Varly, which was expected. This was a great test for him to get some real game time. Varly had a tough game, with 33 saves in two periods, but it is one bloody game.
The Wild started on the power play, which was killed, and it was back to 5 on 5.
Avs looked even more lost, their system broke down further and Berra had to make a tough low pad save. Duchene’s line (NOW WITH MORE O’REILLY!!!) had some good movement but the Wild were able to smother any forward neautral zone progress. This is the same thing that happened in the playoffs, where the Wild’s neutral zone trap smothered any speed. Eventually, the Avs broke it down, but not tonight.
And wow, Jonas Brodin got around the Avs defender with fewer than 13 minutes left and had a short distance breakaway on Berra but he shot the door nicely on him – nice save by Berra but also good job pinching by Brodin.
Landeskog sent a huge message on a massive hit on Carter but the refs called a penalty on it – for boarding. Zucker came over to fight Landy but little happened. Zucker also got a penalty so they were matching which I did not expect at all.
The play was back in forth for about 5 minutes but honestly, the Wild looked dominant. They had complete control of the neutral zone in their third-period-lead soft trap. It completely slowed down the Avs and neutralized all zone entry. The Avs drew a penalty late in the period in the hopes to get their first goal and prevent a shutout for Kuemper.
PP4: Well it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good. It looked like practice and there was basically no movement even when they did get in. Roy will need to work on the off-puck movement in practice.
2 minutes left in the period that needed to just fucking end. And it was over.
Summary: no better.
Systems Update: Looked like practice.
Let me just move on to the actually summary.
Summary: Simply put, this game sucked. The Avs looked awful, the Wild looked great, and Roy will need to light a fire under the proverbial asses. Broadly speaking, everything was bad. Just everything. The Avs need to forget the game, take the loss, and move on.
Systems Summary: It’s hard to summarize pure dogshit without just saying it smells like dogshit, but the Avs sucked tonight. The Wild played well, granted, but not this dominantly. The only big thing I noticed, among the small errors, was zone entry.
I know the stats people will argue " the NHL Network story on zone entry is not accurate or believable until I see the raw data behind it!! RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE." Well, ignoring the fact that @hockeyanalytics is a reputable, privately owned company, zone entry was good for the Avs last year and in this game it was awful. The Wild prevent all speed through the neutral zone for the Avs and the team was not ready to combat it. We saw this last year as well but the Avs were able to adjust then. This game, and being this early in the season, they weren’t. I expect that to change because without the patented Roy-style zone entry, the Avs offensive system is almost useless.
Admittedly some players looked slow (Tanguay, Stuart, McGinn, Johnson, MacKinnon); the night just sucked. No one looked ready.
Third Whore: Reto Berra. I know he came in as relief but he made some very good saves. That is important for the team when he starts and for his confidence.
Second Whore: Duchene and O’Reilly. Man they were trying. Tonight was an off-night for the team, but they were trying.
First Whore: Varly. Poor guy. He actually played well but he was hammered all night.
Whores Thoughts: I usually don’t do this, but I am sure MHH will go apeshit tonight over the loss so I want to give some thoughts.
1) This was game 1 of 82. No big deal. It is one game.
2) In my opinion, that team went out there expecting to score 6 goals. When they were smothered they did not know how to respond. That is hubris after last year. They need to re-learn how to work hard and fight and I am sure Roy will adjust that.
3) I do not like to criticize the Avs front office but I do think the Avs used preseason as too much of a prospect test pool instead of preparing the team for the season. I think they overlooked, at least in some way, that the additions Iginla, Briere, and Stuart will take time to adjust to the system and they need preseason to do so. That will remedy itself but I would bet they adjust the preseason next September.
4) I do think Iginla will do great this year, he looked amazing at time tonight. I have a work friend who has no NHL allegiances but he is an avid fantasy hockey fan. He knows stats inside and out. He mentioned that for the past 6 years, he has drafted Iginla and every year Iginla starts off slow and then goes crazy. Something to think about.
5) Please, do me a favor and do yourself a favor, do not bring the doomsday talk tomorrow. This is not the end of the Avs. MacKinnon is not slumping. The Avs are not regressing. Talk to me at game 20; do that at game 20.
Anyway, Avs lose 5-0 in the Wild’s 3rd greatest achievement in franchise history; expect a banner soon.
Next game: Rematch time in Denver on Saturday for the home opener and a real banner ceremony of the Central Division Champions.