Probably not time to panic, but the Avs certainly aren’t off to a sterling start to the 2014 pre-season schedule. Colorado took to the ice for a “home” game tonight in their former stomping grounds of Quebec City. The opponent, their old rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.The Avalanche fell 3-2, and saw their record in games that don’t matter fall to 0-3-1. Montreal is now a perfect 3-0-0.
Things started off well for the Avs. They had a decent first period, controlling play for the most part. Erik Johnson scored his first goal of the pre-season, on a nice shot from the left slot on the Avs second power play of the night.
Entering the second period, you felt pretty good about things. Peter McNab informed the audience on several occasions the Canadiens only had one out of their top fifteen scorers in the lineup from last season. The Avs started off the second period with the momentum, and looked like they might start to put the clamps down on the game. However, Montreal youngster Dustin Tokarski had a strong showing between the pipes, as he tries to displace veteran and former Av Peter Budaj from his backup role. Tokarski thwarted the Avs in the 2nd, and kept his team in the game, until Sven Andrighetto tied things up midway through the period.
The third period was right there for the Avalanche. They had their top two lines in full force, and looked primed to win the game. Ryan O’Reilly put the Avs in front 5:30 into the period with a nice little move in front of the net after receiving a pass from Matt Duchene. It was Duchene’s second assist on the night.
The lead was short lived, unfortunately. The Avs were burned by TJ Hensick (remember that guy)… well, they weren’t burned by him directly, but he picked up the primary assist on a Jiri Sekac goal a little more than two minutes after O’Reilly had put the Avs ahead. The rest of the period was a mostly back and forth affair, until Brandon Prust made a strong move at the blue-line to and got around Tyson Barrie on the outside, and cut to the front of the net all alone. Barrie seemed to be caught a bit flat-footed, and Prust made him pay, sliding the puck between Varly’s pads.
The Avs, in true Avalanche fashion, pulled their goalie at the end. Gabe Landeskog had a great chance to tie it with a few seconds left, but once again Tokarski was up to the task.
I don’t want to be too negative on the Avs, because after all, this was just a pre-season game. That being said, I was a bit disappointed by the result tonight. The Avalanche suited up pretty much their main roster tonight, and had their number one stud in net, while Montreal iced a line-up of mostly young guys and a goalie fighting to make the team as a back-up.
- I thought this was a game the Avs would maybe have a little extra motivation to win, since it was being played in Quebec City. The storylines of Roy returning home, Sakic returning to where he used to play, and the team returning to its roots, plus the excitement of the crowd seemed like enough to give the Avs that extra jump. To me they just didn’t seem to have it. Montreal played hard. Their young guys came out and competed, which I guess isn’t surprising since they are fighting for roster spots.
- The Avs have now lost a game in regulation that they led after two periods this pre-season (something they never did last year), and also have dropped two one goal games (their record in one goal games last year was 28-4-8). The Avs aren’t doing the things that made them successful last year, but yeah, everyone will be quick to tell me it’s only pre-season… cool your jets.
- The Avalanche struggled at 5-on-5 tonight, and were outscored 3-0 in that department. A much different story than last night when the Avs were burned by three power-play goals (granted Holden had just stepped out of the box on the OT goal for Montreal).
- The Avalanche power play converted twice tonight. Going to be really nice if our special teams are a big weapon this season.
- Matt Duchene had 2 assists on the night. I thought Duchene was the Avs best forward overall. He used his speed a lot more effectively than MacKinnon tonight, and seemed to have and create the best scoring chances of all the forwards. Stick tap to Dutchy.
- Erik Johnson has fully arrived. Even last year there were still a lot of people who were still pretty wishy-washy on EJ. That shouldn’t be the case this year. His demeanor is calm and under control, he is playing with confidence, and his shot is really impressive. He showed off that little wrister and half slapper in the slot often in training camp, and it’s going to be a big weapon for him this year. The Avs have that number one defenseman they have coveted for the last several years. Another solid outing for Johnson.
- No injuries. As much as my competitive nature hates to lose, it’s a lot easier to get over these games when everybody in burgundy and white skates off healthy at the final horn.