The 2016-17 NHL season is upon us—finally. After three days of watching other teams play hockey games, the Colorado Avalanche will finally get their turn tonight against formidable division rival, the Dallas Stars.
As you may have heard by now, the Avs have experienced some changes since we last saw them play sanctioned games last season. Patrick Roy has stepped aside and Jared Bednar, coach of 2015-16’s AHL champion, has taken over with the goal of delivering more functional breakout and defensive systems to an already talented young team.
We’re seeing some younger players placed in more prominent roles to start the season too. Nikita Zadorov will man the left side of Colorado’s top defensive pairing along with veteran Erik Johnson. Fellow Russian Mikhail Grigorenko, instead of starting the year as a bench reserve, will start the on the second line with Carl Soderberg and Matt Duchene. Both had absolutely fantastic training camps and it will be interesting to see how their contributions affect the team.
The Stars will be playing their second game of the season after defeating the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Thursday. Dallas received scoring contributions from four different players and not one of them was named Jamie Been or Tyler Seguin. Goalie Antti Niemi saw a positively Avalanchian 34 shot attempts in the first period alone (to Dallas’ nine), before the Stars remembered who they were and got back on track in the remaining periods.
Like the Ducks, the Stars will take on an Avalanche squad very much in transition. Will it be another 6-3 romp like the second game of last season? Or will it be more like the 3-1 victory on January 23rd where Semyon Varlamov had to make 42 saves? Either way, Avalanche fans are impatiently waiting for the season to start and hoping the team can continue their string of success against Dallas.
*Mikko Rantanen was sent down to San Antonio this week for what is likely to amount to a conditioning stint. He injured his ankle in the Rookie Showcase and did not return to full-contact practice until the very end of camp.