Boy oh boy, was this past week fun or what? Two games up for the Avalanche and a big number “2” padded right there in the “W” collum. It’s hard to ask for anything more than that. The Avalanche opened their season against division rival Minnesota Wild last Thursday. It was standing room only for the matchup as Avs fans saw their favorite players don their sweaters for Opening night.
It was Wild left winger Zach Parise who opened up scoring just six minutes into game number one.
The Wild lead wouldn’t last long as just six minutes later Carl Soderberg put the Avalanche on the board for the first time this season with a goal after skating down the left wing and placing the puck bar-down over the left shoulder of Devan Dubnyk. It was the turning point the Avs needed, Varly would go on to make 20 saves and MacKinnon scored the go-ahead game winning goal in the second period. Mikko Rantanen assisted on the goal and later scored his own empty netter which sealed the Avalanche victory. J.T. Compher also scored an empty netter.
Saturday brought the Philadelphia Flyers—and the terrifying Gritty—to Pepsi Center for the second game of the season. The Avs knew that the Flyers could pose a major threat and would have to strike early, after Philly took down the Western Conference Champions Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 in their first game of the season. The Avalanche fired off with a bang, as Colin Wilson scored the first goal off of a rebound from Alexander Kerfoot just a minute and a half into the game. From there, the shots and goals came in a back-and-forth motion. It wasn’t until Gabriel Landeskog tipped MacKinnon’s shot that the Avalanche took the lead for good in a 5-2 victory. Varly made 35 saves.
Matt Calvert stands out to me as being a really big surprise in his immediate impact on the team. Although he did not gather any form of point in the first two games of the year, Calvert has been a speedy and reliable forward, not afraid to throw his body around. Similarly, I have to give a bunch of props to the entire team’s speed this season. Last year, the Avalanche would tire themselves out after play extremely fast hockey. This was made very apparent in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. This year, the team has seem to piece together a way to stay consistently faster than their opponents while not emptying the tanks early. If the Avs can keep this up, the team will be a true force to deal with in a stacked Central Division.
Where to Improve:
Of course, with great speed means the risk of giving up the puck in dangerous situations and that has come to fruition once this year already. The Avalanche will really have to work upon limiting breakaway opportunities from their opponents. One wrong pass in the zone could lead to disastrous results down on the other end of the ice.
The Week Ahead
The Avalanche play 19 of their first 30 games on the road, so now their first road trip begins. The Avs travel to Columbus, Tuesday to play the Blue Jackets, before heading to Buffalo, NY to take on the Sabres. The Avs will return home on Saturday as they prepare to take on the Calgary Flames, a team that has had a lot of success playing at the Pepsi Can.
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