It’s here. It’s finally here. The start of a new season for the Colorado Avalanche. It’s been exactly 179 days since the Avs last stepped on the ice for a game that mattered.
Many new faces will don an Avalanche sweater for the first time tonight. In fact, only about half of the team remains from the opening night roster last year. This is a much different team. A young team but the youth movement has finally arrived to the jubilation of the fans.
This year will be different. Bednar has had time to bring in coaches, staff, and players that fit his coaching style. He’s had time to prepare his game plan. And most importantly, he’s had time to assess the state of the team and reconcile what went wrong last year. But the past is the past, we’re 0-0.
The season starts with a trip out east where they visit the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers ended last year with a 48-28-6 record which put them into the first wildcard position in the east. They were eventually knocked out in the 2nd round by the unforeseen Ottawa Senators.
Both teams face many of the same questions to start the year. How will the defense look? With so many new arrivals, will the forwards find chemistry early on? Will the coaches finish the year with their respective clubs?
When the goals matter and the wins count.
The Avalanche forwards will look much like we saw at the end of the preseason - minus 1. Yesterday, the Avalanche waived Joe Colborne and only sent 22 players to New York leaving the door open for a late call-up or something unexpected. We should see the forward lines as follows:
If the Avalanche struggle early on finding scoring chances it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Duchene line as the first to get shaken up. That line has looked good in camp and preseason but the regular season is a whole different animal and finding chemistry with a player that wasn’t expecting, nor wanting, to be on the team might prove difficult. Jost on the 4th line is a head scratcher but look for him on one of the powerplay units. He’s a natural goal scorer.
This morning it was reported that Nikita Zadorov will be a healthy scratch tonight. Odd move by Coach Bednar who already was frustrated with Big Z for showing up late to camp saying he was “behind the 8-ball”.
The defensive pairings for the Avalanche for tonight's game are:
Healthy Scratch - Zadorov
I hope Varlamov goes the extra mile stretching that groin tonight.
In one of the larger offseason moves, the Rangers traded Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for Anthony DeAngelo and a 7th round pick which turned into Patrick Virta. That means that Mika Zibanejad will take over duties as the Rangers #1 center. Filip Chytil, their 2nd round pick, will center Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. A tall task for a 2nd rounder who’s only 18 years old.
For the most part, the Ranger forwards have stayed in tact after being one of the leaders in goals scored last year with 256. David Desharnais comes over for some depth after splitting time last year between the Canadiens and Oilers. This will be a tough group to stop.
The top pairing for the Rangers could be one of the best in the league. Kevin Shattenkirk was one of the big splashes over the offseason for the Rangers. He’ll look to provide some offensive prowess while McDonagh figures to shut anything down that comes close to Lundqvist. The rest of the defencemen for the Rangers is where leaks appear. Marc Staal looks like he’s at the tail end of his career and many blueshirt fans have called for him to be traded or sat. Brendan Smith was re-signed over the offseason after being traded from the Red Wings last year. He won’t amass very many points over the season but he’s a smart and efficient skater. Playing with Brady Skjei delivers the same 1-2 punch as the McDonagh/Shattenkirk pairing but with a much lower floor.
And of course, we’ll see “The King” in net. He’s not the same player as he was 5 or 6 years ago and has regressed in his SV% and GAA over the last 3 years but even at age 35, he’s still one of the better goalies in the league. When King Henrick is on his game, it’s nearly impossible to get a puck past him. Get one in on him early and the wheels can fall off from there.
How to Watch/Listen
As with 97% of the games this year, Altitude Sports will be televising the game. Puck is set to drop at 5 pm.
You can also listen to the game with our friend Marc Moser on Altitude Sports Radio 950AM
Go Avs Go!