Preview: Avs, Panthers Looking for Win #2


“I certainly think we’ve got more in this room. We owe it to ourselves and owe it to the fans – and certainly to the logo.” – Gabriel Landeskog

It wouldn’t matter if the Colorado Avalanche were facing the team with the worst record in the league right now (Edmonton Oilers — just one point in five games) or the best (both Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks have a 5-1-0 record). The storyline for the Avs is, they really want to record a win.

The Avalanche are going into their seventh game of the season against a revitalized Florida Panthers team. Last year Florida finished second to last in the league (sound familiar?). This year, they’re not showing as much improvement as the Avs did last year, but they do have a marginally better record — 1-2-2 to the Avalanche’s 1-4-1.

Both teams would like to record their second win of the season. In the quest for that elusive W, here are the five storylines to watch.

#1: Battle of the Goalies

Florida Panthers Goalie Roberto Luongo surpassed Patrick Roy’s shutout record with his 67th on October 17, 2014. However, as much as the Avs Nation were hoping Roy would strap on the pads when our goalies started dropping like flies, Roy actually is no longer a goalie.

However, the big question going into this evening’s game is who will be in net for Colorado. It definitely won’t be starting goalie Semyon Varlamov, who’s still on injured reserve with a groin sprain. Regular backup Reto Berra suffered a neck injury early in the game against the Ottawa Senators, at which time rookie Calvin Pickard stepped in. The starting goalie against the Panthers could be either Berra or Pickard — it all depends on Berra’s neck.

#2: Nate Would Like a Goal

Wonder kid Nathan MacKinnon has yet to find the back of the net. It’s not for lack of trying. In his six games, he’s recorded 18 shots, second only to star center Matt Duchene. Needless to say, he’d like to see the lack of goals change.

Speaking of…

#3: Tyson Barrie and Jarome Iginla Also Want Goals

Neither offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie nor newly-minted assistant captain Jarome Iginla has seen a puck go in from his stick. Barrie’s also in hot water with Roy again because of his defensive play — Roy named him and Nick Holden specifically as failing defensively in the 3-2 loss against the Montreal Canadiens. Iginla often gets a slow start to his season, but the Avs would like him to get warmed up already.

“As long as we keep putting the work in, we’re going to get there.” – Matt Duchene

That’s not to say the other elite scorers such as Duchene (2), Ryan O’Reilly (1), Alex Tanguay (2) and Gabe Landeskog (1) would mind adding to their tally. As would third-liner Daniel Briere…

#4: Danny B Owns the Panthers

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  • Briere spent 11 of his 17 NHL years in the east, so he’s faced the Panthers a lot. And he’s historically done well against them. In 35 career games against Florida, he’s recorded 33 points — 15 goals and 18 assists. The Avs wouldn’t mind seeing him add to that record.

    Iginla has historically done well against Florida in his 25 career games, earning 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points. Duchene and O’Reilly have only played five and six games respectively against the Panthers, but they each have six points. Duchene has earned three goals and three assists, while O’Reilly has earned four goals and two assists.

    #5: Ahem, Defense, Please

    No one is satisfied with the Avalanche defense right now. Coach Roy laid some of the blame for the Ottawa and Montreal losses at the defensemen’s feet.

    However, defense isn’t just the purview of the defensemen — most players are expected to play a two-way game. Duchene stated that part of the problem was the lack of scoring has caused the Avs to “tighten up as a group.” He added:

    "“You’re not able to defend as well because you’re tight.”"

    Winger Jamie McGinn agreed that the Avs need to improve defensively:

    "“We gave up too many good rushes to them, where [Pickard] kept us in it.”"

    I think it’s pretty safe to say the Avs want to tighten up their defensive game, don’t you?

    Erik Johnson can commiserate with Aaron Eckblad about being a first-overall draft pick as a defenseman. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Side note: Forwards overwhelmingly get chosen as the first-overall draft pick. However, in the 2014 NHL Draft, defenseman Aaron Eckblad got selected first. When was the last time a defenseman earned that ranking? In 2006, when the St. Louis Blues selected our own Erik Johnson.

    Eckblad has played decent minutes in five NHL games, but has earned only a point, an assist. He’s at a -1. In his first season, Johnson earned five goals and 28 assists in 69 games but was a -9. It is, however, notoriously difficult to properly evaluate a defenseman.

    It’s doubtful Johnson will stop and give Eckblad any words of advice, though.

    The Avalanche have good reason to be optimistic about playing Florida — their record against the Panthers is 16-9-3-3. Last season they split the series 1-1-0.

    In the end, score early, score late, score ugly, score pretty — the Avs just need to score.