Last night's game doesn't sit any better after sleeping it off. A 4-1 lead in the 3rd period should spell victory ten-out-of-ten times. Fortunately, it's just game one of an 82-game season and there is plenty of room to improve. Some new additions appeared to be solid upgrades, the power-play worked not once but twice, and the team dominated stretches of the game with an aggressive forecheck.
Below we take a look individual Avalanche performances. Red bad, blue good. Big means lots of ice time, small means less.
(Graph courtesy of War-on-Ice.com)
- Blake Comeau - The veteran free agent from Pittsburgh showed why Colorado was so eager to sign him as soon as he hit the market. He skates hard, takes open shots, kills penalties, and is a real weapon on the forecheck. Ideally, he isn't playing in the Top-6, but he will be an adequate stop-gap while the Avs develop talent on the wing.
- John Mitchell - The 4th line was very strong last night, even during the 3rd period when everything was falling apart and Mitchell was big reason for it. It's amazing how much more bearable a Cody McLeod is when paired with a player with this much skill at center. This is the role we all thought he'd be playing when he signed from the New York Rangers and he'll be a real asset there.
- Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson's new defensive partner looked as good as advertised. Solid positioning, crisp passing, patient breakout decisions. Three assists, four blocked shots, second in ice time. A guy could get used to that sort of production. Now, if we can just figure out how to get this pairing on the ice against the other team's best lines.
- Guenin-Barrie Pairing - We know this isn't just one game, because we saw it last year too. Tyson Barrie is Colorado's best offensive defenseman, producing points at a rate that warrants considerable ice time. Unfortunately, he's also being asked to drag around a boat anchor who can't seem to do anything but hit people against the boards. Want proof? Negative 21 Corsi differential. How do we make Patrick Roy see what everybody in the room is clearing observing? A Clockwork Orange-style intervention?
- Patrick Roy - Speaking of whom, the coach has to take some blame here. Not only does he inexplicably match the aforementioned Guenin-Barrie pairing against Minnesota's top line for nearly the entire 3rd period, but he also sits Mikko Rantanen and Borna Rendulic the final frame, leaving the rest of the team gassed and helpless to defend the surging Wild. If you're going to construct your roster with inexperienced players, you have to ride the ups-and-downs; otherwise, you need to dress players who can play two-and-a-half periods. You also might consider using your time-out in the midst of giving up four 3rd period goals. Just sayin'.
- Semyon Varlamov - No one is saying his job was easy last night (for the reasons outlined above), but the team needed a couple more big saves tonight and didn't get them. It's unfair to expect Varly to stand on his head every night, but the success of this team is predicated on him covering for poor (and developing) defensemen -- especially with a 4-1 3rd period lead.