Colorado Avalanche alternate captain, defenseman Erik Johnson, spoke out about how the team is performing this season.
“We’re a lot for teams to handle right now.”
The Colorado Avalanche have gotten off to a good start. At the time of writing (which was right before the Tampa Bay Lightning game), the team had a 6-1-2 record.
Within that record, you see a lot of good that you can build on, especially as a young team. They had lost only three games, and only one of those was in regulation. Of any of the games they’d played, only that regulation loss — in their first road game of the season — saw the team play truly lackadaisical hockey.
What’s more, we saw the the top line of Nathan MacKinnon centering Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog was going to pick up right where they left off and be one of the top lines in the NHL. Indeed, they’re starting to get notice from the national media, with those East coast reporters even staying up past their bedtimes to watch their magic.
We’re seeing MacKinnon dominating and Rantanen refusing to be ignored. Even Landeskog has come in with probably the hottest start of his career.
The Avalanche’s goal tending has also gone exactly as we had hoped — exactly as GM Joe Sakic likely meant it to go when he declared the team has “two number-one” goalies. Both Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer are playing on level 10 to put their best game forward.
While secondary scoring hasn’t been quite as present as the team might like, it hasn’t been completely absent either. The second and third lines are chipping in, and we’re even seeing the defensemen get on the points sheet.
In fact, one of the defensemen — whom I have taken to calling “captain of the blueline” — Erik Johnson likes what he sees in the team. During his pre-game presser, he remarked that he thought the road trip was pretty successful:
"“Seven out of eight points — if we’d said before the road trip, if you were offered that, I think we’d take it.”"
He acknowldged that it could have been “eight out of eight” except for the misstep in New York that led to a shootout loss against the Rangers.
Interestingly, Johnson thought the team was “on our heels” a little in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes. That game was a 3-1 win for the Avs. However, it was also a game that saw the Avalanche go up 2-0 midway through the second period and 3-0 late in the third. Unfortunately, they let Grubauer get shellacked with a total of 43 shots — 11, 16, 16 in consecutive period. Ultimately, the goalie let one in.
Johnson had a smile for when Avalanche reporter Ron Knabenbauer asked about the team “finding ways to win.” Erik observed that, even when the team isn’t playing its best hockey, the players are finding ways to get points. He expands on what that can mean for Colorado:
"“That’s a sign of a team that’s maturing and becoming hopefully a great team.”"
According to Johnson, that maturity comes out in games. No matter what’s going on, whether they’re up or down a goal, “We’re staying in the game and finding ways to claw back, put our foot on the gas when we’re ahead.”
Trying to come back from behind has been a Colorado Avalanche special since the Why Not Us season when the media dubbed the Avs the “Comeback Kids” because of how often they won the game in the last couple minutes. Putting the nail in the coffin — as Matt Duchene liked to used to say — when the team is ahead has been harder. However, so far this season, they’ve been succeeding.
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One thing that’s still a part of the Avalanche mantra is staying “even keel,” the idea of not getting too high after a win or too low after a loss. They’re calling it “hit the reset button,” but it’s the same idea.
The Avs are even applying that to how they approach opponents. Something that has frustrated fans for years is the fact the Avalanche can beat really good opponents they have no business beating then fall to bad teams by playing down to their level.
That hasn’t been as evident this season. While the Avs certainly should have accounted themselves better against a rebuilding Rangers team, rather than let them come back into the game, they were downright bloodthirsty (6-1) against the Buffalo Sabres.
Johnson opined, “You’ve got to treat every team the same way and treat every opponent with the same attitude.”
What’s the result of that attitude, according to Johnson? This:
"“We’re a lot for teams to handle right now.”"
Like I said, I almost hesitate to say too much as I write this just before the Lightning game. You never know when Colorado is going to go full hemorrhage again. They’re still a young group. And that ability to completely lose their minds has always been a part of Avalanche hockey.
That said, I think the even-keel rule will still be in effect with leaders like Johnson preaching with confidence and preaching temperance. Hopefully the Colorado Avalanche become so much to handle that even the national media has to keep giving them respect.