That had to have felt great.
Not so much in the first period, but when it was all said and done, the Avalanche had overcome on the road and snapped their losing skid in resilient fashion. It looked really dicey early on as the Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead just over five minutes into the game, including picking up the first goal on a flukey bounce just :24 into the game.
Questions were starting to pop up in abundance in the midst of this recent stretch. The Avs had lost two in a row and three of their past four. Semyon Varlamov looked shaky, injuries were starting to pile up and it looked as though the team was finally regressing to the mean.
Instead, the Avalanche have a huge momentum-building win and the reinforcements are arriving: Jan Hejda and Ryan Wilson should be back for Saturday’s game with the Wild. With all that said, let’s see what we learned from Thursday night’s 4-3 shootout win.
Oh, Hi Matt Duchene
You remember Matt Duchene, don’t you? He’s the guy that was doing ridiculous things earlier this season, leading many to mention his name in early Hart Trophy talk as league MVP. Then an oblique injury interfered and Dutchy looked human for awhile.
Last night, he reminded us that he is not of this world. With five minutes to go in the first, he streaked down the ice, made a great move and buried a shot behind Ondrej Pavelec to cut the Jet lead to 2-1. Just minutes prior, it looked as though the Jets would pick up the back-breaker and end things early.
From there, Dutchy only added another goal to put the team up 3-2 with just :03 left in the second and scored in the shootout as the team’s first shooter. Oh, and he assisted on the second goal of the night, a beauty of a feed to snap Ryan O’Reilly’s scoreless streak. But that’s all.
When he’s on this season, Duchene is hands down the most important player the Avalanche have and he’s morphed into one of the most dangerous players in the entire league. Oh yeah, he’s only 22-years-old. He’s still learning, still getting better and still growing. Imagine when he’s really hit his stride.
There will probably be a little bit of discussion about Patrick Roy’s actions in the first period, when he kept lipping off to the referee and earned a bench minor. He was fired up as the Avalanche trailed 2-0 and was clearly trying to fire up his team.
No, he probably shouldn’t have taken that penalty. If the Jets score on that power play, the game is likely out of reach. But showing that fire, getting the momentum from killing that penalty; these are the sort of things Roy brings to the table. This is a young team and they are buying into the passion their coach is showing.
Roy getting fired up is a good thing for the team. It motivates them, it gives them a reason to fight back. But maybe rein it in a little next time, eh Patty?
Teetering On The Edge
We’ve been here before and it’s not good, but Varly’s confidence is right back to teetering on the edge. He started like a house of fire and clearly believed in himself; that’s why he played as well as he did. He’s talented enough to compete with any goalie in the game, but that confidence is the most important thing.
Over the last few games, it seemed as though that confidence was shaken and when he’s in that precarious position, the team will live and die depending on which side of the ledge he’s on.
That said, Varly responded to a fluke goal to start the game and a deflection on the power play just five minutes later with very strong play throughout the rest of the game. Keeping Varly on track will be a huge key for the Avalanche through the rest of the season. Getting back a few regular defensemen might help things, too.
Next up: 12/14 vs Minnesota
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