Welcome back to the regular season, hockey fans! I know I’ve been anxiously waiting for the 2011-12 NHL season and now that it has begun, life can resume its normal course. I’m not sure about any of you, but waiting in anticipation for this season to begin was a little like waiting for Novocain at the dentist office to take affect – painful at best… Anyway, now that we’re a full 5 games into the current season, let’s chat a bit about what we’ve seen thus far and what we think we’ll see throughout the season.
First, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. With the addition of Jan Hejda and Shane O’Brien, the defensive corps is much bigger, much stronger, and much more defensive minded than they have been in the past. The Avalanche went from being one of the smallest teams along the blue-line to one of the biggest. And it shows! Throughout the first few games this year, it has become readily evident that the opposing team will have more difficulties gaining the zone and controlling play within the zone. The Av’s now have the big bodies that can clear things out in front of the crease and they are definitely not afraid to stir things up in the corners. This toughness is already paying off in the win/loss column and if the boys are able to stay healthy, I do believe that the trend will continue.
Next, I must admit that I was on the fence when it came to bringing in Semyon Varlamov. The kid had played in only 59 career NHL games before coming to Colorado and he was always on the shelf with some sort of injury. Giving up 2 draft picks (1 first round and 1 second round) to get this guy sure seemed like an awful lot and there have been a lot of people saying that Washington got the better end of the deal. Well, after 4 games, “Varly” is sitting at a 3-1 record with a 2.17gaa, .938sv% and 1 shut out. Not too shabby! But, before we jump on this bandwagon, let’s do ourselves a favor and wait 20-25 games. Let’s see if he can keep up the pace and more importantly – STAY OFF THE SHELF!!! Think he’ll rebound tonight after giving up 5 to the Canadiens on Saturday?
Wasn’t it awesome to see the fellas put up 7 goals against Craig Anderson the other night?!?!?! Seeing that guy get plastered with pucks definitely made my day. That being said, the Avalanche offense looks like it may be pretty potent again this year. As of now, they are averaging 3.00 goals per game and 33.2 shots per game. If they are able to keep up that pace, they will be awfully tough to stop. Unfortunately, I must be the bearer of bad news – do you remember the beginning of last season? The Av’s were the league’s highest scoring team for quite a while and were fighting Vancouver for first place in the division! Remember that? Well, then the All-Star break came and that’s when everything went south. After the break, the club won a grand total of 5 games. Yep – 5. That’s it. What can they do this year to prevent the late season collapse??? Food for thought…
So, I do believe that tonight’s test against Toronto will be a tough one. Phil Kessel is on his game (5g, 3a, +7 in 3 games), James Reimer is stout in net (3w, 2.33gaa, .927sv%, 1so), and the Leafs have yet to lose a game. I know, I know, the season has just begun, but when you only play a team one time during the regular season you need to make it count!!! GO AVS!!!