It was closer than most expected. Sometimes, it didn’t feel like it, other times, it felt like the Calgary Flames were right on the doorstep. But a victory is a victory.
When your team gets out to a 12-2-0 start, it’s hard to remember that not every win can be that beautiful, dominant effort. Sometimes, you have to grind one out, survive an onslaught or two and hope for the best. The Avalanche played well on Friday night, well enough to win obviously, but had more than it could handle in a tough Flames team.
That said, let’s get on with what we learned in Friday’s 4-2 win.
No Easy Out
The Flames were considered a bottom-feeder entering the year. A team stripped of talent, everyone thought this would be an automatic win whenever they played Calgary. Watching last night’s game, it’s easy to tell that isn’t the case.
They work hard every shift. You have to when you’re a young team low on talent. To their credit, they look a helluva lot better than the Buffalo Sabres. At least this group looks like they belong in the NHL.
They also happen to have a really good first line going right now. Mike Cammalleri – Jiri Hudler – Mikael Backlund was an absolute NIGHTMARE for the Avalanche. The slick-passing trio combine on both of Calgary’s goals and nearly had a few others. Hudler, as mentioned in the preview, has been the epitome of a hot player of late and managed to find Cammalleri in the end. The latter might be the sneakiest player the Avs have faced this year; he managed to slip silently into open spots with regularity and could’ve had one or two more.
If this group can get some goaltending, they will be legitimately dangerous in the short term.
Two things about the defense.
Firstly, the depth is starting to get a little dicey. Ryan Wilson missed last night’s game with a back injury. If that weren’t bad enough, Erik Johnson scared us all to death when he left the bench to head to the locker room at one point only to return some time later. If the Avalanche lose anyone, let alone Johnson, things could get really scary for this group.
Depth is precarious, but the second thing about this defense is that they have been struggling of late. Bad breakout passes, a rough night from Andre Benoit (and nearly making my prediction come true when he rang a shot from the point off the post), this team can’t afford bad defensive play for long periods of time.
It will be interesting to see how the depth issue is handled as the season goes on. Will Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic part with a roster piece to improve the back end or will they part with future picks? Time will tell.
The forwards, meanwhile, are deep as deep can be even with Alex Tanguay out due to his knee injury.
Jamie McGinn returned and the Avalanche got goals from their top three lines during the night as well as a slew of chances all around. Hell, Nathan MacKinnon probably could’ve had a couple himself if the puck bounced the right way. He’s working well with anyone right now and has likely found a season-long partner in Max Talbot.
The top line, meanwhile, continues to dominate. Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene scored again — the latter on a pretty empty-netter because Dutchy wouldn’t score any other way than “real pretty”. They’re going to make their impact every night, it’s just a matter of how many times they get on the scoreboard.
That’s not even mentioning the work that Paul Stastny and Gabe Landeskog have been doing lately. And that’s without Tanguay. This is a deep, deep group that is going to continue to carry the Avalanche. It’s just a matter of how far.
Next up: 11/10 vs Washington
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