Avalanche-Bruins Takeaways: Defensive Hockey


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The Boston Bruins are one of those defensive teams, which generally makes for less exciting hockey. They’re not as bad for that as the New Jersey Devils or, heaven forbid, the Minnesota Wild. The Colorado Avalanche, of course, are known as more of an offense-minded team.

However, head coach Patrick Roy has emphasized defensive play from all his players since training camp. They’re not a defensive hockey team, but they’re better at it than before — they can play in that wheelhouse when necessary.

In the afternoon game at TD Garden, the Colorado Avalanche kept grinding away until they recorded their first win, 2-1, on a goal scored with a whopping .5 left in the third period.

#1: Defensive pairings are taking shape.

Coach Roy started cornerstone defenseman Erik Johnson with Nick Holden. They seem to be developing good chemistry. He paired rover Tyson Barrie with stay-at-home defenseman Jan Hejda, which offers good balance on that pairing. Brad Stuart got paired with Ryan Wilson.

Unfortunately, Roy couldn’t run his defensive pairings the whole game because…

#2: Ryan Wilson is out with an injury.

Some time in the first period Roy stopped putting Wilson out on the ice, which obviously affected his defensive pairings. At first it seemed as if Wilson had fallen out of favor again. However, midway through the third period, Denver Post writer Mike Chambers tweeted:

Chambers later released that Wilson took a puck to the head and has a possible concussion, which is bad news for Wilson. Healthy wishes to him.

Luckily Roy likes to keep eight D-men at the ready. Nate Guenin played in the first game, but sat out the home opener and the match against the Bruins. Zach Redmond has yet to see any regular season time. If Wilson’s injury stands, one of them is going to get his shot — I’m guessing Redmond because he had a strong preseason.

(The injury led to Johnson playing an impressive 24:56 of ice time, with Barrie just behind him at 22:50.)

 #3:Reto Berra is a solid back-up goalie.

Reto Berra backstopped the Avalanche to their first win of the 2014-15 season. Let that sink in for a second. Reto Berra, whom a lot of the Avs Nation thought was a folly acquisition by Colorado, has helped the Avalanche record their first win.

Berra was solid in net. He made 27 saves on 28 shots for a .964 save percentage. The only goal that got past him was on a power play — the Avs’ second for too many men on the ice. Berra should no longer be a question for Colorado.

#4:Jamie McGinn is the new Mr. Clutch.

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It seemed as if the Avalanche couldn’t buy a goal. Granted, in the first game of the season they hardly earned one. But they had so many good scoring chances in their home-opener, but no breaks. The bet was on — who would break the goal-scoring ice?

The answer: Jamie McGinn. McGinn is not normally seen as a Mr.Clutch, but he scored on a snap shot with assists from rookie Dennis Everberg and none other than star center Matt Duchene. Which brings up…

#5: Ryan O’Reilly not the same without Duchene.

Ryan O’Reilly had a career season last year playing on a line with Duchene. McGinn also had a career year playing on a line with Duchene. Matt Duchene had a career season… being Matt Duchene. The point of that is that Duchene elevates his linemates’ play. Is it really any surprise role player McGinn scored the first goal of the season being on a line with Duchene, who earned an assist?

O’Reilly is looking a bit sluggish, and his possession stats are not anywhere near where they were last season. According to Sporting Charts, through three games, he’s had one takeaway and one giveaway — that’s hardly the player from last season who led the league in turnover plus-minus by a wide margin.

Duchene, on the other hand, has been displaying the skating and puck-handling that forces even opposing announcers to express their awe. Which brings us to… the star goal countdown. Which Avalanche star will score a goal first? Role players McGinn and Daniel Briere got the Avalanche their first win. However, the Avs Nation is waiting for one of its high-octane players to find the back of the net.

Side note: Congratulations to Briere on scoring his 300th goal! Not a moment too soon, too, considering it was the game-winner.