Dec 19, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) is congratulated for his empty net goal late in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Oilers 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

What We Learned: Avalanche - Oilers

Somehow, some way, it looked like things were in question for awhile.

Frankly, watching this game, the Avalanche dominated for two and a half periods save for a few stretches. They outshot the Oilers 30-15 through two periods, yet only led 3-2 at the end of two.

Devan Dubnyk, for all the grief he’s been given this year, played very well and gave the Oilers a chance to win a game they probably didn’t even belong in, turning aside 36 of 39 on the night. There were a few times, especially over the first two periods, where Dubnyk turned away what seemed like certain goals.

But enough fawning over the opponent. Let’s see what we learned from Thursday night’s 4-2 win over the Oilers.

Matt Duchene, Ay Caramba

Listen, let’s just get this out there: I have a man-crush on Matt Duchene. There, it’s out there. And frankly, you should, too. He’s always been really talented, but this year it looks like he finally flipped that switch to “dominant”. The guy (kid, really. He’s 22 years old) has four multi-point games over his last five. He’s outscoring guys like Henrik Zetterberg, Taylor Hall, Claude Giroux and Zach Parise.

Duchene has hit a point where you can practically see the confidence oozing from him. He uses his speed like never before, pressuring defenders by simply turning on the jets and making them react. And then there are the hands. He does things around the net that leave people (me) mumbling and shaking their heads.

He hit a little bit of a hiccup with the oblique injury, but it appears he’s worked his way through it and is back to dominating. If the Avalanche want to stay in contention for the Central Division title and make a deep run in the spring, Duchene will be the catalyst. And if he keeps playing like this, the Avs will surprise.

Insert Confused Frye Meme Here

Not sure if Avs penalty kill was good or Oilers power play was just bad. Granted, the Oilers only had one power play opportunity on the night, but man oh man was it catastrophic.

Max Talbot and Marc-Andre Cliché ended up on a two-on-one rush with about :30 gone in the power play and the veteran Talbot buried a nifty backhander past Dubnyk to give the Avalanche the 3-2 lead (it wound up being the game-winner).

Not only that, but John Mitchell ended up on a breakaway just a short time later, taking a tumble as he attempted to get a shot off. It initially looked like he was interfered with, but it was a good defensive play that ended up saving the Oilers a goal.

Dec 19, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O

Small sample size, yes, but the penalty kill has struggled over the last few weeks and needed a kill like that to get them going in the right direction.

Transitional

One thing I noticed during the red-hot start the Avalanche had to start the season is that they used their speed to great effect in terms of transition offense. Patrick Roy has a stable of young, fast skaters on his bench and they used that speed as an offensive weapon.

Last night, Ryan O’Reilly’s goal that tied the game at 2-2 came from fast-break offense: Duchene turned on the jets to push the defense back, peeled off and passed to MacKinnon who turned that into some sort of nifty one-timer/deflection pass that O’Reilly buried.

Speed is an asset for the Avalanche. Using it to keep defenders back on top of their goaltenders will create space and chances for the young Avalanche. After all: speed kills.

Next up: 12/21 @ Los Angeles

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.

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Colorado Avalanche Devan Dubnyk Edmonton Oilers Matt Duchene NHL Semyon Varlamov

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