Colorado Avalanche go Duck Hunting: Lessons Learned


The Colorado Avalanche hosted the Anaheim Ducks for the first preseason game of the season. I think a lot of Avs Nation was on pins and needles. Though preseason games count for nothing, we remember what a black cloud all those preseason losses created last season. We remember how that black cloud carried into the regular season.

The day started out auspiciously with rumors of Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson agreeing to a contract extension with the team. Blessedly, the rumors turned out to be true, and the news broke right before the game started. (Read more here.)

So, it’s clear head coach Patrick Roy and the coaching staff are testing out some players during this preseason. Many players are fighting for a job — including ones currently listed on the roster. Likewise, the Colorado Avalanche really want to get off to a good start.

The Colorado Avalanche beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-4. The game was guaranteed to go to overtime as teams try out the now 3-on-3 format, but in this case that OT was necessary to decide the game. Let’s see what we can take away from this auspicious Colorado Avalanche preseason win.

Alex Tanguay‘s Got Soft Hands

Colorado Avalanche left wing Alex Tanguay celebrates with Bernie after earning first star honors. Phot credit: Nadia Archuleta

Left wing Alex Tanguay is known for having a very accurate shot. Last season he led the NHL’s regular shooters, with ~21%, and for most of the season he was hovering around 25%.

Tanguay’s hands show no sign of getting rough. He earned an assist on Jack Skille‘s short handed goal and scored the game winning goal in overtime.

Jack Skille Might Make the Team

Professional tryout forward Jack Skille meets with Bernie after being named a star of the game. Photo credit: Nadia Archuleta

Speaking of Jack Skille, the man might just make the team.

Skille is on a professional tryout for the Colorado Avalanche. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound right wing is coming off a season in which he scored just six goals and two assists in 45 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets. In this game alone, though, he earned that short handed goal and an assist on Conner Bleackley’s game-tying goal in the first period.

Skille is deceptively fast. He’s got puckhandling, and he’s got positioning. Yet for some reason he’s never had a dominant season. He’s also never played a full NHL season.

Obviously the 28-year-old would like to change that. His training camp, play in the Burgundy and White game and preseason make it clear he wants a role on the roster.

Mikko Rantanen Might Make the Team

I keep thinking forward Mikko Rantanen is too young to make the team. He wasn’t even a top-five draft pick. The Avalanche have plenty of seasoned competition for the roster.

Mikko Rantanen doesn’t seem to care about any of that. He was positively electric in training camp, especially when he skated with fellow Scandinavians Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg. He skated on their line during the Burgundy and White game and even scored a goal.

Rantanen didn’t skate on the Scandinavian line again but with Joey Hishon and Andreas Martinsen. That didn’t stop him from making a second period goal that put the Colorado Avalanche up 2-1.

Last season I thought prospects Dennis Everberg and Borna Rendulic were neck-in-neck for a roster spot and that the difference maker was Everberg’s preseason goal.

Rantanen already has one of those, and I can’t even see who his main competition is for a roster spot. Kid plays like this the rest of the preseason, I don’t see how head coach Patrick Roy doesn’t put him in the opening night roster.

Nikita Zadorov is an Exciting Player

I went into the preseason wanting to check out defenseman Nikita Zadorov especially. I can say definitively that he’s an exciting player. And that’s both good and bad.

There’s no question that Zadorov is a big, physical player. He uses his size to his advantage — and to his disadvantage. He laid some exciting hits on the Anaheim Ducks. One of them was a classic boarding, though, which sent him to the penalty box.

Zadorov was also on the ice for two of the Anaheim Ducks’ goals.

On the flip side, Nikita Zadorov is a fast and agile skater. He moves with alacrity. Also, he assisted on two goals — including Alex Tanguay’s game-winning goal.

So, yeah, Nikita Zadorov is an exciting player.

3-on-3 Works for the Avs

The 3-on-3 overtime is a new rule that’s going into effect this year. It definitely favors skating teams like the Colorado Avalanche.

Matt Duchene wasn’t playing, and yet the Colorado Avalanche still made it clear they’d like to own the new 3-on-3 overtime format.

The starting trio for overtime was Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie and Gabriel Landeskog. Like I said, Duchene wasn’t playing, and neither was Erik Johnson. You’ve got to think that the 3-on-3 overtime would be a natural for both those skaters, too.

Head coach Patrick Roy said of the new format:

"“I think it’s going to be quite something — a breakaway on one side, two-on one, three-on-one on the other. Obviously, it’s going to take a little time for everyone to adjust to it. They don’t want to see games going into shootouts, and I think it’s a nice way of doing it…It’s going to be entertaining for our fans, that’s for sure. It will be pretty to watch. For coaches, it might be ugly.”"

While initially the Anaheim Ducks looked like they’d make a game of the format, the Avalanche skaters took over. Colorado skaters roved all that open ice like they were born to it. In the end, they were able to score within that paradigm.

Essentially, all looks good, Avs Nation. We’re not having to make excuses about the fact that this is the preseason and the games don’t matter. Colorado has brought it’s A game regardless — and it looks good on them.

Next: Avs Extend Johnson

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