5 Things Preview: Avalanche After Wake Up Call


For us, (the loss) was a bump in the road. But we can’t hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to move on.”- Gabriel Landeskog

The Colorado Avalanche host the Minnesota Wild in their home opener on Saturday, October 11. This game has been much anticipated by Avalanche fans. It has sold out, with standing room only available.

Unfortunately, it’s coming on the heels of an embarrassing loss in Minnesota — the Avalanche were shut out 5-0. Obviously, it was not the start to the season that they wanted. Colorado is stating the loss was a “wake up call.”

So, as Colorado goes into the home opener, let’s look at the storylines being played out.

#1: No Lack of Chemistry

Both head coach Patrick Roy and star center Matt Duchene stated the meltdown against the Minnesota Wild was not a result of lack of chemistry amongst the players. Duchene added that the Avalanche have a “ton of great players,” many of whom have played together before. He stated that players have to take responsibility for their own game and “not pass the problem off to their teammates and linemates.”

Coach Roy observed that players didn’t compete along the wall or in front of the net:

"“There’s no secret in this game – the goalies are too good. You have to go to the net hard. You have to compete and get those rebounds.”"

Captain Gabriel Landeskog also noticed that the players were not in sync with each other:

"“I felt like at times guys were a little bit too much one-on-one, and we weren’t supporting each other out there.”"

Even though the Avalanche didn’t hold a practice today, I think it’s pretty safe to say they’re going to work a lot more with each other. They’re a proud, young team with a lot of talent — one goal, and they’ll be off to the races, no matter with whom they line up.

Speaking of lineup, though, the projected lines are the following:

Ryan O’Reilly — Matt Duchene — Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Alex Tanguay
Jamie McGinn — Daniel Briere — Maxime Talbot
Cody McLeod — Marc-Andre Cliche — Dennis Everberg

Brad Stuart — Erik Johnson
Nick Holden — Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda — Ryan Wilson

#2: Work Ethic

While a lack of chemistry was not blamed by anyone, lack of work ethic got mentioned more than once.

Duchene, who’s showing he has a way with words, pointed out:

"“We’ve got to know that we can’t just show up and put the gear on and be a good team. We’ve got to put the work in.”"

The general consensus was that the Avalanche players didn’t expect the game to be as hard to win as it was. From an outsider’s point of view, it looked like the players were working pretty hard, they just weren’t in sync with each other. However, veteran Alex Tanguay observed:

"“Most nights, the team that works the hardest wins, or gives themselves a good chance at winning the game.”"

The Avalanche certainly weren’t in any danger of winning the game last night, so he must have a point.

Coach Roy, in a rare negative moment, went farther:

"“I’m not going to say I’m surprised [by how the loss happened]. I’d be lying if I said that. All summer long, everybody said how nice we were, how good we were, how special we were. How everybody was excited about the team, how everybody was excited about this year. Then I think we kind of forget a bit how hard we worked last year to be the team we were.”"

There’s no question the Avalanche know about work ethic. They’re certain to put their best foot forward.

#3: Need to Compete

Coach Roy’s mantra after the loss was that Colorado needs to get out there and compete. He pointed out specifically that players didn’t compete along the wall. He wants to see “better stick in our D-zone coverage.” He also wants to see the players playing strong in front of the net and screening the goalie.

He advised:

"“We’re going to have to compete. We did it perfectly last year, and now we have to get back to that. It was only one game, but we have to learn from that. We can’t just push it aside.”"

That said, that first game wasn’t exactly an anomaly…

#4: Avalanche Hockey

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  • The Avalanche are not bad — they pretty much never were. They’ve been a too-young team at times. They were a badly-coached team in the Sacco years. At a certain point, they may have been a team playing for a draft pick once they realized they couldn’t earn a playoff spot. But Avalanche hockey is not bad hockey.

    The first game against the Minnesota Wild absolutely was classic Colorado Avalanche hockey. Their first, magical year, when they won the Stanley Cup, they had some real stinker games, losing by three or four goals sometimes — and a really ugly 7-0 loss against the Detroit Red Wings. They also beat teams by three, four, five goals — and San Jose by a humiliating 10 goals. Avalanche hockey is about peaks and valleys — their winning seasons come when they have more peaks than valleys.

    Coach Roy and all the players interviewed said universally they need to “refocus” and “regroup.” That’s certain to lead to a rebound.

    #5: Mental Games

    Of course, the Avalanche need to get out of their own heads first. The  expectations from last year are weighing on them. Again, Roy and every player interviewed after practice talked about last year and how they didn’t need to try and replicate the year.

    Tanguay reasoned that, while last year’s start was very important to the end result, any success has to come from hard work.

    Landeskog remarked that teams have to find a way to win “every year.” He also acknowledged:

    "“Certainly it was a little disappointing last night. We wanted to play with that chip on our shoulder. We wanted to start off the right way and send a message, and it really backfired on us. We didn’t do any of that.”"

    Duchene pinpointed it:

    "“We’ve got forget about trying to duplicate what we did last year and just be a good team. We don’t have to go 13-1 like we did at the start of the season. We just have to be a good team—be a playoff team.”"

    So, the Avalanche need to get out of their head space. As Duchene puts it, they simply need to relax and have some fun playing hockey — the scoring will come.