Preseason is a funny thing.
Players are trying to get back into the swing of things, forge relationships with new teammates and potential linemates, and audition for jobs - all while trying to avoid injury as much as humanly possible in games that, quite literally, Do Not Matter.
Keep that in mind on Tuesday evening, when the Avalanche host the Vegas Golden Knights at the Pepsi Center for the NHL Network-broadcasted preseason tilt between the two Western Conference 2018 surprises.
Every goaltender in Colorado’s system is auditioning for a job; make no mistake about that.
Although team GM Joe Sakic insisted that he wanted to see the newly-acquired Philipp Grubauer ease the workload for starter Semyon Varlamov and didn’t hint at a hope to see them battle it out to change the guard, Grubauer’s comments earlier this week suggest that he’s in town to take over as the Number 1.
Even at the minor league level, there’s going to be competition. Pavel Francouz immediately joins the team as their most successful player, statistically, outside of the NHL, but has no North American experience - and while Joe Cannata significantly outplayed Spencer Martin last year, he did so predominantly in the ECHL. No one is guaranteed any spot, so the goaltenders will be under pressure to earn their jobs without starting the season injured (and you need to look no further than last year’s Arizona Coyotes to see what happens when preseason injuries weaken the goaltending depth chart).
There’s also something to be said for how the defense with play in preseason.
Coaches love to challenge their blue liners during preseason tilts, because it’s the perfect time to test their limits. They’ll deploy guys auditioning for the seventh blue line spot against another team’s top forwards, just to see how they step up in a game that won’t cost them the season, and they’ll mash up the pairings to see if there isn’t a combo that clicks in a way they wouldn’t have expected.
For more on who those blue liners are, by the way, here’s a deep dive into the depth chart for Colorado’s defenders. [Mile High Hockey]
Anyways, all of this is to say that the team may get absolutely eaten alive tomorrow, and they may steamroll Vegas. Preseason is weird. Enjoy the ride!
In other Avalanche news, there’s been a Conor Timmins sighting in full gear at training camp!
Timmins has been plagued by injuries, but he’s back on the ice - which is an important step in being cleared for this upcoming season. [MHH]
Speaking of prospects, Brandon Saigeon is likely headed back to the OHL this year, despite being immediately AHL-eligible. That’s a potentially huge boost for the 2018 draftee’s team in Hamilton. [The OHL Collective]
From around the league, here’s a picture of Alex Ovechkin with every award known to mankind:
CAPS TODAY: Alex Ovechkin, who is celebrating a birthday today, is the only player in NHL history with a Calder Trophy, a Hart Trophy, a Maurice Richard Trophy, a Ted Lindsay Award, an Art Ross Trophy and a Conn Smythe Trophy. More information on https://t.co/HecIC0ECg1 pic.twitter.com/Pn4qlUvAjd— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) September 17, 2018
Someone is going to point out that any award given for preventing goals is conspicuously absent. That’s totally fine.
It’s also pretty cool to see Chase De Leo playing for the Anaheim Ducks, becoming the next Very Good Cali Boy to suit up for his home state:
For more on his journey from pint-sized Ducks fan to NHL player, here’s a pretty neat story about the local kid who fell in love with the game. [The OC Register]
Finally, go check out this nifty podcast from Red Wings SB Nation writers Peter and Jay, who got to chat with The Athletic’s Katie Strang before talking about the legacy that Henrik Zetterberg is leaving behind.
It’s weird to think that for the current generation of fans between the ages of 20 and probably 35 or 40, all of the players we grew up watching have more or less been phased out of the game. Marian Hossa? All but retired due to a skin condition. Zetterberg? Same situation, but due to a degenerative back condition. Kimmo Timonen, Martin St. Louis, Shane Doan, Alex Tanguay, Jaromir Jagr, and Jarome Iginla have all hung up the skates in the last few years, Pavel Datsyuk is wrapping things up in Russia, and the Sedin twins went out on some pretty iconic terms this last spring. We’re down to, essentially, Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara, Patrick Marleau, and Matt Cullen as skaters, and Roberto Luongo in goal.
Anyways, it’s a great podcast, so you should check it out. [Winging It In Motown]