In case you didn't hear, hockey is back, and the Avs brought in their "next era" with a roller-coaster win on Saturday night. Despite falling behind early to the Stars, the Avs rebounded with five straight goals including newcomer Joe Colbourne's first career hat trick. Though the Stars returned the punch, the Avs were able to do something they rarely did last season en route to the win: hold on to a third period lead.
While it was just one regular season game under new head coach Jared Bednar, the Avs looked to be much more well-rounded and well established in the possession game. For once the team picked Varlamov up after a subpar game with six goals from three different lines and a defenseman. With a much more balanced lineup, the Avalanche laid out a system more set around puck possession and speed than it has been in several years. The Avalanche owned the neutral zone and pressured the puck with a persistent forecheck, all the while leading to another thing the Avs rarely did under Patrick Roy's Regime: outshooting the opponent.
But Avs fans must remain calm. After all, it was just one game, and while the Dallas Stars are a very good opponent, what lies ahead on the first road trip of the year is a gauntlet of champions; tonight: the Stanley Cup champions, Tuesday: the President's Trophy champions, Thursday: the 2015 Eastern Conference champions, Saturday: the Atlantic Division champions. The first major challenge to Bednar's regime kicks off tonight as the Avs take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins are starting off where they left off last season so far, finishing off the Capitals and the Ducks 3-2 in their first two home games. They have done so, however, without the help of the young goaltender that took them to the cup in June, and their captain and reigning Conn Symthe trophy winner, Sidney Crosby. Crosby is sitting out after a concussion suffered in a practice before the season began. Unlike the 2011-2012 season that saw Crosby miss 60 games due to his concussion symptoms, Crosby is already looking poised for a comeback as he is already skating and preparing to play like the man who took home the MVP honors at the World Cup this September. Don't expect that return to come tonight, however. Even without Crosby though, the Pens are still one of the best teams in hockey and poised to defend the championship they claimed this past summer. The Avs will have their hands full.
G. Bourque- Colbourne-R. Bourque
- With back-to-back games, Pickard will get the start in net against the Pens while Varlamov will take on his old team on Tuesday.
- The Avs six goals on Saturday was the first time they scored six goals in 2016. The total matched their highest single game total from last season. A task they accomplished only four times and all in the first three months.
- Joe Colbourne's hat trick may have been the first of his career, but it was not the first to take place on an Avalanche opening night. Paul Stastny accomplished the feat against the very same Dallas Stars in a 4-3 victory back on October 3rd, 2007.
Game time: 5pm MT
TV: ALT, SN1