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 NHL.com’s recap is a mini-travesty (okay, I’m getting a little dramatic).
Next up: 12/8 @ Vancouver
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