Avalanche Leave Madison Square Garden With a Huge Two Points


Entering Last night’s contest with the New York Rangers, the Avalanche were searching for positives. The team has struggled early in the season, and it isn’t exactly a secret. The players know it. The fans know it. Head coach Patrick Roy knows it.

On his weekly radio half-hour on 104.3 The Fan, head coach Patrick Roy discussed the Avalanche’s season so far. “Yeah I’m pissed,” he said, but he also acknowledged that this is a process. The end goal is to win a Cup, but it doesn’t happen overnight, and he is working with the players to teach and get them to where he envisions this team.

Many fans are clamoring for heads to roll, trades to be made, etc. However, in a fashion dripping with irony, Roy has taken the high road. He has been the calm presence, and hasn’t blown a gasket on his team. Instead, he is continuing to search for positives, and things to build on. He speaks with a confidence, that this team will get things turned around, despite the shaky first quarter of the season.

Here are some positives the Avalanche can build upon after their 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Rangers.

1. How bout that first period

The Avalanche came out, and played a helluva period. They didn’t light up the scoreboard, but the Avs did two things that they haven’t been doing enough this season, extremely well in the first period. The first is puck support. Whenever a player had the puck, there was always another guy in his hip pocket giving him support. This gave the Avalanche several shifts of sustained pressure in the NYR zone. It also helped the Avalanche get the puck out of their own zone, because they always out-manned the blue shirts around the puck.

We had a really good start. I thought we had a good jump in the first period… unfortunately for us it was only 1-0 -Patrick Roy

Busting your butt to be in a position to support the puck carrier, isn’t a glorified way to play. It’s tedious, and isn’t nearly as easy as just floating around on the ice, hoping a teammate finds you for a pass. The Avalanche showed me something last night with the way they supported the puck, and this is something the team needs to continue if they want to win hockey games consistently.

The second thing the Avalanche did in the first period is attack the puck. No matter where the puck was, or who had it, the Avalanche players were aggressively on the puck at all times. They were able to sustain zone pressure, and also turned the Rangers over multiple times, all because guys worked their tails off to pressure the puck. The Avalanche didn’t play well because they were making pretty plays. They played well because they supported the puck when they had it, and they aggressively went to the puck when they didn’t. Kudos to the guys in white. I hope to see more of that in the future.

2. Resilience

In the article I wrote yesterday, I called the Avalanche out for being a mentally fragile team. Tonight, they came out and had a 1-0 and 2-1 lead, and yet still found themselves down 3-2 in the third period. Instead of folding up shop, they were able to score a timely game-tying goal to force overtime.

Hockey games aren’t always going to go perfectly, and one of the things I stressed in my article, is that sometimes things are going to go against you. You simply can’t fold up whenever you face adversity. Kudos to the guys in white for equalizing. Wasn’t a pretty goal, but MacKinnon threw rubber on net, and it found it’s way through the King to light the lamp.

3. Alex Tanguay

Alex Tanguay has been fantastic this season. Really no other way to put it. After injuries robbed him of the majority of last season, Tanguay seemed to need a few games to get his skating legs back, but since then he has been outstanding. The shootout goal he scored that ended up being the winner, was such a smooth goal. His patience was incredible.

I really liked Roy’s decision to pair Tanguay with Duchene. Dutchy has always seemed to enjoy playing with wingers who are creative passers, and a bit crafty with their playmaking. PA Parenteau and Tomas Fleischmann come to mind as wingers that Duchene has excelled with.

The balance of O’Reilly and Duchene on the cycle, with Tanguay as a facilitator really worked well. Roy has been searching for chemistry, and he may have found a bit with this trio.

4. Can’t Be Satisfied

I’m sure this win feels good, but the Avs can’t be content. They need to really build upon this game. The Avs still sat back, and got caught watching the play a little too much in the second half of the game last night. They really need to keep the pedal to the metal, and keep doing the things that make them successful. Aggression and puck support are two huge keys. When the Avalanche are doing these two things, they are a really good hockey team. When they get lazy, and hope that they can just out-cute the other team, they get into trouble.

The Avs need a string of wins to get back into the playoff picture. I’m happy with the win, but as a fan, I’m not at all satisfied. I know this team can play at an even higher level. Like Roy said, this is a process. This game is a good start, but the Avs need to build on it. They finish off this four-game road trip Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils at 5 pm MST.