Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Possible Lines for the Avs tonight in Vancouver

Per Adrian Dater, Landeskog did not skate this morning and will not play tonight.

The Avs will have a bit of a new look tonight with 20-year-old former OHL scoring champion Michael Sgarbossa likely to make his NHL debut.  Here's how the lines could possibly shape up tonight.


Of course, the million dollar question is the status of captain Gabe Landeskog, who missed the first game of his NHL career Monday night in Edmonton.  Obviously, the best case scenario for the Avs will be that he will be good to go tonight and we could see the above lineup.  Sgarbossa could fill in the 4th line center position that was held on Monday by Brad Malone, the player he replaced on the Avs current roster, but I would actually like to see Sgarbossa on at least the 3rd line in order to get him a bit more ice time in an NHL game and with scoring wingers like Milan Hejduk.  Olver-Sgarbossa-Hejduk would be a small line, but there would also be scoring potential there, which the Avs desperately need.  You could even switch Olver and McLeod to give the 3rd line McLeod's grit and size.

If Landeskog's symptoms have not yet cleared, we could see McGinn up on the 1st line with Duchene and Parenteau just like we did Monday night.  Playing with Dutchy and PAP helped McGinn earn his first point of the season and the Avs are of course hoping that will open up the flood gates for Ginner's scoring.  If that's the case, then why not give Sgarbossa a shot with Stastny and Jones?  Stastny and Jones are due over $10 million worth of offense and perhaps the young scorer can help spark the 2nd line veterans.  Of course, if Landeskog is out, Chuck Kobasew would be inserted into the lineup as he'd be the last avaialble forward.


It's unknown who will start in goal tonight, but with back-to-backs tonight and tomorrow, it seems very likely that veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get his first start of the season either tonight or tomorrow in Calgary.  Jiggy was perfect in his only appearance so far this season, stopping all 17 shots he faced when he relieved Semyon Varlamov against the Sharks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Varly, Landy, and Dutchy power Avs past Kings

Last Saturday, the Colorado Avalanche opened up their shortened 2013 season in Minnesota and fell to the new-look Wild, despite playing a good first and third period.

Three days later, the Avs made their season debut on home ice, where they faced off against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings.  Despite the fact that the Kings went on to win it all last year, the Avs actually had great success against Los Angeles, sweeping them in all four meetings last season.

The Avs and the Kings both entered last night's matchup 0-1 on the season and looking for their first win of 2013.  The Kings' best player is unquestionably their goaltender, reigning Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, so Avs netminder Semyon Varlamov had his work cut out for him to match Quick.

Varly was outstanding last night.  He surrendered a first period goal, which was the result of young defenseman Tyson Barrie failing to tie up his man across the low slot.  The Avs did get themselves into trouble, taking six penalties on the night, but Varly and the penalty killing unit were spectacular, killing of all six Kings power play opportunities. 

The game was 1-0 in favor of the Kings through two periods and the Avs failed to capitalize on a 5-3 power play advantage late in the second, despite getting some good looks. 

Enter Gabriel Landeskog.  The 20-year-old Swede was not named the youngest captain in NHL history for some gimmick or fluke, this kid is the real deal.  It's cliche in pro sports, but in order to win, your best players have to be your best players and Landeskog showed why he is just that.  Landy received a somewhat fortunate bounce from defenseman Jan Hejda, but he used his hockey awareness and strength to be in the perfect position and he put the puck home past Jon Quick for the Avs' first goal on home ice this year.

Barely over a minute and a half later, sniper David Jones, fresh off a new four-year contract, snapped a wrist shot over the shoulder of Quick to give the Avs their first lead of the night.  Not bad for Jonesy to get the eventual game-winner at the first game his six-month-old son was able to attend!

Newcomer P.A. Parenteau would later get his first score as a member of the Avalanche and put Colorado up 3-1 for good.

Although he only recorded one assist on the night, center Matt Duchene was unquestionably one of the best players on the ice throughout the entire game.  From the opening face off, Duchene was flying, using his trademark speed to create space for him and his linemates.  He set up the play nicely that led to Landeskog's goal and he was good in all three zones. 

With fan-favorite Ryan O'Reilly still playing over in Russia as he has been unable to agree to a new contract in Colorado, Duchene's already important role with the Avs increase exponentially.  During the first two games this season, Duchene has been frequently used as a penalty killer, a role that he has not been known for throughout his young NHL career.

Over the summer, Duchene trained with Sidney Crosby, arguably the world's best hockey player and his trainer to work on his game.  Duchene eliminated gluten, sugar, and dairy from his diet to get into the best shape of his life.  He excelled in Sweden and Switzerland during the lockout and looks to be hungry to take his game to the next level with the Avalanche.  He is playing a more physical game it seems thus far.  He appears to be stronger and not afraid to get into the gritty areas of the ice.  On the set up of Landy's goal, he casually brushed off defenseman Rob Scuderi to get to the front of the net.

Duchene was also involved in a scary incident last night after he blocked a shot by Kings all-star defensemen Drew Doughty, who certainly has a cannon of a shot.  Duchene took the shot up high and immediately skated to the bench and into the locker room.  Just a couple short minutes later, Duchene returned to to game with a bandage on his jaw.  He would require stitches after the game and said he was lucky the shot didn't hit him higher, otherwise he probably would have lost all of his teeth.  Head coach Joe Sacco praised Duchene's play and his toughness for returning to the ice so quickly after sacrificing his body to block the shot.

Whether or not O'Reilly returns to Colorado, and of course we all hope he does very soon, Duchene will be a key piece for the Avs. 

The Avs are back at it at home tomorrow night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Jackets traded the longtime face of their franchise and former captain, Rick Nash over the summer, but the new-look Jackets are not to be taken lightly.  In a short, 48 game season, every game is an important one.  The Avs' key to success will be for them to use their youth and energy night in and night out and to not take games and even periods off.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The X Factor

After a long, frustrating, and arduous lockout, Colorado Avalanche fans are finding themselves victim of another maddening dispute.  This time however, it is between the Colorado Avalanche and their popular center Ryan O'Reilly.

Now, while the official party line is that talks remain ongoing between Colorado Avalanche General Manager Greg Sherman and O'Reilly's agent, Mark Guy, the fact remains that an already shortened season has begun, and the Avs are without their leading scorer from a year ago.

Much like the lockout itself, both sides have legitimate claims.  Over the course of his short three year NHL career, O'Reilly has certainly proven his value.  From the get-go, he established himself as a reliable two-way center who was very responsible in his own end as well as in the face off circle.  Last year, he saw his offensive abilities blossom as he nearly equaled the output from his rookie and sophomore years combined.

Greg Sherman and the Avs front office however, still have a business to run.  The Avs are still a very young team with budding talents and emerging superstars.  If they comply with the O'Reilly camp's demands and overpay the young center, it may be setting a dangerous precedent when the contracts of key players like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and Semyon Varlamov expire in two years.  The Avs are well under the salary cap now, but if they shell out big bucks for all of their young, talented players, they may not be able to afford to keep them all down the line.  A hockey guy and a team guy, O'Reilly should understand that.

There have been reports as to what the Avs have offered and what O'Reilly has reportedly turned down.  Yes, the numbers are important for the team and O'Reilly now and of course in the long term, but much like the lockout, we fans don't care.  The CBA is certainly a necessary evil, but it was completely unnecessary that we had to wait until January to watch our first NHL games of the season.

Signing O'Reilly to a contract that is fair for both him and team is important, but all we fans care about is that he is in the lineup, representing the Burgundy and Blue and helping this young team win games in a very competitive Northwest Division.

The longer this drags out, the worse it will be for both the Avalanche and Ryan O'Reilly.  Owner Stan Kroenke has developed the reputation as an owner who won't spend money to help improve his teams and Greg "from Accounting" Sherman has been labeled as a numbers guy, not a hockey guy.  This certainly isn't helping to cure those rumors.  We've been told for years now that no one loves the game of hockey more than O'Reilly.  The team's biggest "rink rat," always the first to arrive and the last to leave.  Well Ryan, prove to us that you do love the game and that nothing means more to you than playing hockey at the highest level possible   Not some second-rate league like the KHL, the National Hockey League.

We were cheated out of 34 regular season games this year because of people's greed, arrogance, and stubbornness and now we are being cheated out of watching a young, talented, valuable player help the team who turned him into a bona fide NHL center as he wastes away in the KHL.

Bettman, Fehr I mean Sherman, Guy, get a deal done!