Tonight, at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, the Avalanche and the Canucks will be fighting it out for first place in the Northwest Division. With a victory tonight, the 1st place Av’s can extend their lead by as many as 4 points over the 2nd place Canucks. I don’t want to say that this game is a “must-win” for the Av’s – heck, we’re only 20 games into the grind – but so far this season, Vancouver has battered Colorado. The teams have already played 2 games against each other, and the Canucks have tasted victory both times.
In their first meeting, the teams battled long and hard into overtime, but Vancouver’s Mason Raymond secured a 4-3 win with a goal in the extra period. Peter Budaj played good and gave his team every opportunity to win, but Roberto Luongo was stellar in his own net, making 36 saves.
The second game involving the two teams wasn’t as close as the 3-1 final would indicate. Vancouver came into Pepsi Center and dominated from the initial face-off. The Av’s played an uninspired game and didn’t score their lone tally until the end of the third period. Again, Budaj played well while making 33 saves, but this time Vancouver’s back-up net minder, Cory Schneider, came within minutes of securing a shut-out for the Canucks.
Wins against division rivals are paramount to success. Every time a team plays against an opponent within their own division there is the possibility of a 4 point swing. Looking ahead, the next 3 games (including tonight) for the Avalanche are all against division rivals. If this Avalanche team wants to be in contention at the end of the year, these are the types of games that must be won.