It looked for awhile like it might be easy, but when the final whistle blew, it was a hard-earned victory; the 11th on the year for the Avalanche.
As noted here yesterday, we all expected J.S.Giguere to start the game, but head coach Patrick Roy announced later in the afternoon that it would be Semyon Varlamov getting the nod. Roy explained to the Denver Post:
“Why wait?” Avs coach Patrick Roy said after the team’s morning skate, when it was announced Varlamov will start less than 48 hours after being arrested on charges of domestic violence and kidnapping against his girlfriend. “We’re all aware of what happened, but we just feel that he’s our guy. We have confidence in him and feel that it’s good for him to play tonight.”
His teammates were naturally in full support of him and he had himself a pretty decent outing. HE didn’t need to be outstanding and that’s probably good in this instance. He’s capable of being dominant, but in a time like this, the Avalanche stepped up and made life a little easier on him.
Let’s dive right in to what else we learned in the Avs’ 3-2 overtime win on Friday night.
Adversity Is Good: Pt 2
This was a little different than the adversity they faced against the Jets, but it’s still good for teams — young ones finding success, especially — to be tested in different ways. And this was different.
The Avalanche dominated for two periods and thanks to the efforts of Kari Lehtonen, who is good at hockey, it was just 2-0 heading into the third period. The Stars rallied and then damn near won the thing with a late power play and buckets of chances. But the Avs fought through, Paul Stastny made a nice move and buried the winner in overtime.
Which is the difference between good teams and teams on the cusp. Good teams find ways to win in all situations. They don’t dominate all the time; they lose leads sometimes or fall behind early, but they find ways to fight through, fight back and get those two points. The Avalanche are showing that ability so far and it will serve them as the season stretches on.
One of the thoughts behind the trade of Steve Downie on Thursday was that the Avs not only felt they couldn’t re-sign him, but that they were trying to save a little money in the hopes of re-signing Stastny. And almost right on cue, Stastny has his best game of the season, opening the scoring on a pretty passing play with Alex Tanguay before picking up the winner in overtime.
It’s no secret that the Avalanche have a lot of centers, good ones, on the roster. And it’s also no secret that the general feeling is that one of them is going to have to go at year’s end when Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly will need new contracts. But look for the Avs to try their best to keep both if no late-season deal is made to move one for a badly-needed defensive upgrade.
I know his history with the Avalanche and that most fans would probably like him to stay. I would like whatever makes sense. If Stastny is playing so well that there’s no justifiable way to let him go or move him, then I want him here. If he’s better served as a trading chip to upgrade the defense and make this a tougher team to play in the playoffs? Then so be it.
Either way, Stastny is proving himself valuable to the Avalanche and it’s good to see him having some success.
Kari Lehtonen No Mas
All that stuff above being said, this game should’ve been over real early. The Avalanche outshot the Stars 13-4 in the first, but only held a 1-0 lead because of the play of Lehtonen. As usual, he kept the Stars in the game regardless of the way they played. He continued to make tough save after tough save and, before the Avs picked up their first goal on a ridiculous passing play that resulted in Stastny’s first goal, had shut down a very good 5-on-3 power play effort.
Then, in the third period after the Stars had cut the lead to 2-1, made what might be the save of the year:
The less we see of him, the better.
Next up: 11/1 vs Montreal
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