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The top line gets it done, Colorado beats Detroit 2-0 in scrappy affair

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Tyler Bertuzzi’s sucker-punch on Matt Calvert mars a terrific defensive game and Semyon Varlamov shutout

Colorado Avalanche v Philadelphia Flyers
Semyon Varlamov recorded his first shutout of the season in Sunday night’s victory.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche started their four-game road trip in successful fashion on Sunday night, winning 2-0 over the Detroit Red Wings to extend their current point-streak to 11 games.

Semyon Varlamov recorded 24 saves to secure his first shutout of the season, while MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog, one of the best lines in league history, each recorded two points.

There was a time when Detroit and Colorado were the premier rivalry in the National Hockey League. Sakic, Yzerman, Forsberg, Lidstrom, Roy, Fedorov. Yeah, those guys. When this happened, MacKinnon was three years old, Rantanen was two, and Sam Girard was only one year old.

The Game

But many years removed from the peak days of the Red Wings-Avs rivalry, Sunday’s game felt like such a game to the highest degree. The physicality started out early, with this check from Nikita Zadorov on Andreas Athanasiou.

The Red Wings were credited for 26 hits in the game, six more than the Avalanche’s 20, and in the third period the fiery nature of the game bordered on dirty, especially from the home team. After clean hits from Ian Cole and Patrick Nemeth, the two players were jumped and asked to fight by Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. Something, something, “The Code,” whatever. Old-time hockey.

After the two fights, there were several other scrums, but nothing more noteworthy than the gross play that took place toward the end of the third period.

Matt Calvert made a scrappy™ play in the defensive zone, diving on the ice to clear the zone. He follows up the puck along the left side-board in front of the Red Wings bench. Someone on the Red Wings bench grabbed Calvert’s stick while he was on the ice. Calvert was tugged into the Detroit bench and Dylan Larkin mugged him and put him in a headlock. It was then that Tyler Bertuzzi, living up to his family name, sucker-punched Calvert and left his face scraped up.

In my opinion, Bertuzzi should be suspended for this. Punching someone from the bench is unacceptable. Maybe Larkin should be suspended too. It was gross and has no place in hockey.

As for the contest on the ice, there wasn’t much offense, but the Avalanche took advantage when they had a chance.

Early in the second period, persistant speed by Colin Wilson induced a holding penalty from Detroit defenseman Jonathon Ericsson. That was when the Avalanche power play — which is currently running at 31.4% efficiency, the top-ranked unit in the NHL this season, and, at this moment, the highest power play percentage by any team in the history of the league — made the Red Wings pay.

Right off of the faceoff win, Landeskog took possession on the right wing. He floated a pass to Rantanen behind the net, and the Finn one-touched a pass to MacKinnon in the slot and the 2018 Hart Trophy Winner... err.. Hart Trophy Runner-up picked Jonathon Bernier’s five-hole to give the Avalanche a 1-0.

The power play marker was reminiscent of many we’ve seen from the Avalanche over the last season and a half. Rantanen is one of the strongest behind-the-net passers in the league and MacKinnon now has 19 goals this season.

Colorado’s defense played a magnificent game and Varlamov was never seriously tested. All in all, it was a weird, physical, forgettable win, but a win is a win. Rantanen has 45 points this season which is pretty ridiculous.

The Avalanche will play the Penguins on Tuesday night for the second time in a week. Last Wednesday, Sidney Crosby scored a hat trick in Denver, but the Avalanche won 6-3. Game start on this upcoming game will be 5 p.m. MT.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Tyson Barrie missed his fourth straight contest with a lower-body injury, but he is traveling with the team on this trip and even skated on Sunday morning. Expect to see him back in the lineup later this week. The 2009 third-round pick has 23 points in 20 games this season.
  • For Varlamov, the shutout marked the 24th of his career and his 20th since coming to Colorado.
  • The Avalanche top line added six points tonight, giving them 118 combined this season. For context, the top ten scorers on the Los Angeles Kings have a combined 115 points this season.
  • This was the second-straight very physical game for the Avalanche, following the St. Louis loss from Friday night. It seems like teams are trying to combat the Colorado speed and youth by playing this style. It’s not working.
  • The Avs are now 16-6-5 this season and tied with Nashville at 37 points to lead the Western Conference. Not bad. Not bad at all.
  • Erik Johnson played 29:22 tonight. That’s...a lot.