There were a few dicey moments, but the Avalanche went into Calgary on Friday night and took two points from the Flames.
Obviously, the effort was miles better than the night before in Edmonton, where the Avs were thoroughly embarrassed in an 8-2 shellacking. Against a similarly lowly Flames team, the Avalanche pressed early, but were left trailing after the first period thanks to a somewhat questionable power play goal in which J.S. Giguere may have been interfered with.
Still, they rebounded to grab the lead and ultimately the all-important two points. Let’s not waste a lot of time: here’s what we learned in Fridays’ 3-2 win.
Special Teams Rebound…Sort Of
The penalty kill was 1/4 on the night, but even that goal came with some question behind it. Lee Stempniak may have interfered with Giguere a bit and it’s hard to really blame that goal on the penalty kill unit. Other than that, they shut down the Flames power play which may have won the night.
They needed a solid night on the penalty kill after a recent stretch where the unit has plummeted down the stats list. The power play on the other hand? Well, despite going 0/4, actually looked better and nearly got on the board a couple of times. Flames goalie Karri Ramo, who has been on quite the hot streak of late, made a few good saves to keep the Avalanche off the board with the man advantage.
Still, someone needs to score with the extra man soon to stop this skid and get things going in the other direction.
How Long Can He Go?
Giguere was outstanding yet again, stopping 26 of 28 shots on the night. The first was the aforementioned potential interference, the second was in a scrum in front of the net where a pass went to a wide-open Matt Stajan on the back door. That was all the Flames could muster on the night and ended up being the difference in the game.
Just how long can Giguere go? In all of his starts this season, he has given up two or fewer goals and won all seven decisions. There was the one game against St.Louis where he came in for Semyon Varlamov, who had been shelled early, only to get equally shelled as the Blues rolled off seven goals on the night.
Giguere is showing a level of dominance we haven’t seen from him since the early 2000′s, though obviously on a much smaller scale. There’s obviously no way he’s going unbeaten over the course of a season — even though his season will be 20 starts or so — but if he can get past the 10-start mark without losing?
The Avalanche have a lot of forwards who get press — Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, etc — and rightfully so, but perhaps the most underrated forward on the team, if not the most underrated player, is John Mitchell. Grabbing two assists last night, he showed again that he can be impactful even on the third line.
His talent has earned him some time on the power play and he’s a solid defensive forward; there isn’t much he doesn’t do on this team. Last night, he set up the first goal by Max Talbot (Talbot’s first as a member of the Avalanche) by stealing an errant pass from Ramo and finding Talbot in front.
It didn’t end there, either. Late in the third period, with the Flames pressing, Mitchell intercepted a cross-crease pass that very well may have ended up in the back of the net. His impact on this game was profound and the fact that he didn’t make the three stars in Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by forward Taylor Hall (4) during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Special Teams Not So Special What in Jebas’ name is going on with the special teams? There was a time when the penalty kill was the top unit in all the land. Since then, it’s been a gradual decline and last night’s effort was key in the loss. Granted, they gave the Oilers seven opportunities (which is way, way, way, way, WAY too many), but to give up three of those? The Oilers are talented, yes, and they have the ability to go off at a moment’s notice, but the Avalanche should be better than this on the P.K. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the Avalanche had six opportunities on the man advantage themselves and put up a big fat goose egg. How do you expect to win games like this when you can’t score in six power play opportunities? Just massive frustration across the board with the special teams. Saving Semyon Varly has become quite the streaky goaltender of late. For a few starts, he’s lights out; making incredible saves that no goaltender should, standing on his head and limiting opposing offenses to nothing more than head shakes and slumped shoulders. Then there are nights like this where Bad Varly comes out. The Avalanche only faced 28 shots on the night, but EIGHT of them went in. Some of the shots were just good shots but Varly looked about as shaky as he has all season long. Dec 5, 2013; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a save against the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Maybe it’s this groin injury he was supposedly nursing over the four-day layoff. You kind of have to hope that’s the issue because he can get over that in a short time and move on with his life. If it’s an indication that he can’t maintain any kind of consistency, there may be cause for some concern. The Silver Lining For a hot minute there, it almost looked like the Avalanche were going to come back. After going down 3-0 at the end of the first period, they came out in the second skating much better and cut the deficit to just one less than ten minutes into the period. A snap shot from David Perron destroyed that momentum and it was never close again. Sure, this game ended ugly and the Avalanche got stomped by a bad team, but the flash of resiliency is something to put in the back pocket. They showed fight and nearly brought this one back but that’s not going to happen every night when you’re trailing and you’re not going to overcome every deficit. Now it’s time to regroup and take care of a bad Calgary Flames outfit. Next up: 12/6 @ Calgary Ryan is the editor of Mile High Sticking as well as co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to talk Avs, Sabres, hockey in general, or to let him know what a yutz he is. The NHL schedule was recently released. Check out our partners at TiqIQ for the best deals on Colorado Avalanche tickets” target=”_blank”>NHL.com’s recap is a mini-travesty (okay, I’m getting a little dramatic).
Next up: 12/8 @ Vancouver
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