Colorado Avalanche Can Be Much Better Than They Were in Game One

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Tyson Barrie
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Tyson Barrie /
NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 05: Semyon Varlamov
NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 05: Semyon Varlamov /

The Colorado Avalanche were fortunate to come out with a win in the first game of the season.

The Colorado Avalanche have a winning record for the first time in nearly 12 months. The team pulled out a 4-2 victory on the road against the New York Rangers, thanks in large part to Semyon Varlamov erasing a boatload of mistakes committed by the young Avalanche.

While it certainly wasn’t the cleanest game, the most important thing is the two points.

And there’s a lot to be excited about. Almost all the big names scored a point, Varlamov was unbelievable, there was good speed and puck movement, a couple of incredibly skilled plays, some new guys contributed, including rookie Alex Kerfoot in his first ever game. All in all, there’s a good deal for Avalanche fans to celebrate right now.

But there’s also a lot that can improve.

With everyone still adjusting to the new season, there’s no point in reading too much into anything just yet. It is nice to know that


the Avalanche can win a game they were badly outplayed in. As long as they don’t start making it a habit.

That’s Real Good…

Varlamov was easily the brightest spot for the Colorado Avalanche. He made a pile of incredible saves, and looked better than he has in a long time. He was the tip of the spear of the much maligned core carrying the team.

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Almost all the biggest names got on the board. Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie led the way with a goal and an assist each, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog scored and Nathan MacKinnon notched an assist. Erik Johnson had a solid game, meaning the core guys carried the load.

And they got a little bit of help from new faces.

Nail Yakupov, Patrik Nemeth, Alexander Kerfoot and Chris Bigras all got assists. Bigras obviously isn’t new to the organization, but it’s his first NHL game in about a year and half and he looked strong. He nearly made it 3-1 in the first, but rang iron on a nice looking rush.

The Duchene line was good whenever they were on the ice. Kerfoot made some good patient plays in his professional debut, especially the primary assist on the GWG. In addition to his assist, Yakupov made at least one incredibly skilled play to spring Duchene for a great chance.

Barrie had a bit of a tough game, but in the end, his two points helped the team win. Finding a way to contribute even when they’re not at their best is sometimes the most you can ask of a player.

All in all there was some good speed and puck movement, and a team that looks faster and more skilled than last year’s version. The big names carried the team to an important win on the road in a tough building.

But Needs Improvement

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It was the same old Colorado Avalanche blueline. Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie played over 25 minutes each, while the other 4 dmen were under 19 minutes. No matter who was on the ice, there was frequently a Rangers player wide open in front of the net, not to mention the parade of turnovers in the defensive zone that led to both goals.

Speaking of goals against, the penalty killing got off to a poor start. Thankfully getting lots of practice seemed to help, because they got better as the game went along, but still ended up 4/6.

Matt Nieto especially had a tough night, earning three minor penalties. The second one was good in that it prevented a scoring chance, but no coach is going to like a 4th liner putting his team shorthanded repeatedly. He could have earned Carl Soderberg a spot in the lineup with this performance.

The 4th line in general had a pretty bad night. With Tyson Jost’s hooking minor, they took 4 minors, were hemmed in their end a lot and didn’t do much offensively. Whether it was nerves or a lack of rhythm from sitting for extended stretches, Jost struggled in his role.

The power play looked decent in the 1st period, especially on the 2-0 goal, but got worse as the night went along. They still look very stationary, without much puck or player movement.

Mark Barberio, a surprise addition to the top pairing, had a really tough game. Lots of turnovers and chances against when he was on the ice.

Sven Andrighetto fought the puck all night. The hands that made him so successful last season weren’t there in this game, and a few of his turnovers contributed to the plethora of odd man rushes against.

Jared Bednar isn’t off to a great start. The team looked sloppy and disorganized for much of the game, and he made some strange personnel decisions. Healthy scratching Nikita Zadorov, then playing Jost, Duchene, Yakupov and Kerfoot under 14 minutes each raises some eyebrows.

The Avalanche won the game, but got crushed just about everywhere else. Faceoffs, shots, special teams all tilted heavily in the Rangers’ favour. The two points are clearly the main thing, but the team relied way too much on Varlamov. There was a lot of bad puck decisions and some questionable personnel decisions as well.


It was far from perfect, but the Colorado Avalanche emerged the victors in game 1. It’s way too soon to draw any conclusions yet, but there are definitely things the team can improve on going forward. They passed their first test against a tough team and have a good chance to go 2-0 when they take on the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

The best news is that virtually everyone who struggled on an individual level has shown they can be much better. Some of them need to get more of an opportunity, while others need to step up if they want to keep their jobs.

All in all, it’s one where Avalanche fans can be happy with the result. They can be even happier knowing that there is a great deal of room for improvement.

Next: Erik Johnson Awarded the A

Hopefully the team can clean up the mistakes they made, and the curious roster decisions end up being an anomaly rather than the norm. Nevertheless the season’s begun and the Avalanche started it with a W.

Both those things are worth celebrating.