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Morning Flurries: Varlamov not to blame

The Avalanche drop a shutout decision to a divisional rival, Leafs fall prey to old demons

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Winnipeg Jets Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Semyon Varlamov really did not deserve that kind of return, my friends.

The Avalanche dropped a disappointing 3-0 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night, ushering starter Varlamov back into the folds after his lengthy stint on injured reserve with a wonderful uphill battle.

The team would get outshot 32 to 25, unable to solve Connor Hellebuyck and not giving themselves the best chance to do so, either.

In their defense, the loss of Nathan MacKinnon is huge. And this is still a team that can only go up from last season; even if they lose every game for the rest of the year, they’ll still finish with 12 more points than they did in the spring of 2017. They still look more fun in most of their losses (not counting this one), and they have a lot to look forward to in the future.

Still: when your goaltender posts a .935 save percentage and makes 29 stops, that’s a game you should be able to at least put up a fighting chance. The final decision was disappointing, for sure. [Mile High Hockey]

In brighter news, though, the Denver Pioneers have been dominating as of late. At the start of the season, we asked whether they could pull off another repeat; it’ll be tough, but it certainly seems pretty doable. [MHH]

Also, I’ve dropped the ball on the last few days of flurries. In my defense, it’s been a weird week; I had a big piece due for my main hustle job and my water heater took its last breath on Thursday. My property manager needed to order a new one and it won’t come in until Monday, so I’ve been splitting my time between my actual residence and a vacant property nearby for showers, kid baths, laundry, and dishes.

Still, I’ve left you all without my usual subpar list of fun articles to read, so let’s quickly play catch-up! Here’s what we’ve missed:

NHL GMs are reportedly frustrated that they can’t pull in the same haul for their trade pieces that Sakic got for Matt Duchene. It feels good to be the team that ruined the trade market, eh? [MHH]

It’s also very obvious by now, but here’s our sad reminder that Nathan MacKinnon may not be back until after the trade deadline. [MHH]

Around the league:

While the league’s most talented rat, Brad Marchand, is out with suspension and MacKinnon is getting healthy, Nikita Kucherov is busy racking up more points. [Raw Charge]

Tampa Bay is also voting on a Top 25 Bolts All-Time list. Manon Rheaume isn’t on it, but there’s a campaign to get her written in for her contributions to the game. [RC]

The Carolina Hurricanes are also doing some bold things:

In Leafs Land (and speaking of Brad Marchand), does anyone remember when it was 4-1?

The last time It Was Four-One, things went very poorly for Toronto - and it was their lead.

This time, things went very poorly for them again; apparently, not everyone can come back when It Was Four-One. In a game that could very well be an eastern conference playoff preview, Boston showed Toronto that they still have a lot of work to do to be a legitimate threat this year. [Stanley Cup of Chowder]

In 2011, Yale hockey star Mandi Schwartz passed away from acute myeloid leukemia.

Today, her younger brother Jaden wears her old number 17 on the ice in her honor - but on the Blues’ recent father’s trip, their dad got a chance to watch her former teammate Bray Ketchum wear her number on the ice for the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters, as well. [NHL.com]

In keeping with #BellLetsTalk and Hockey is For Everyone, Corey Hirsch told more of his story. Give it a listen:

Finally, since it’s Super Bowl Sunday, a pair of football stories to put things in a bit of perspective:

First, here’s a piece written by a good friend of mine, Steve Benko (a noted Pittsburgh Penguins fan, but we’ll forgive him anyway). We’ve seen a lot about Larry Johnson’s mental health scares recently, as he believes he is living with CTE right now - but Benko took a walk down memory lane with Johnson to talk about the trials and obstacles that he overcame to be a part of the game. It’s a look at why he works with children now, how he approaches mental health, and how he still views the game today. [Medium]

Then, another sad but important piece. I know I promised I was done with these after the Larry Nassar ESPN long read, but this one is just as crucial.

Retired photojournalist Ted Jackson spent over three decades memorializing the heart and soul of New Orleans through photographs and harrowing stories.

His long read on his relationship with former NFL Super Bowl champion Jackie Wallace, though, is the most eye-opening story he’s told (and as a former Houston resident who went through Katrina, I’m pretty familiar with his work). From drug addiction to the terrifying void that is life after professional sports for many athletes, it’s not a tale with a happy ending - but it’s one that everyone should read. [Ted Jackson]