Colorado Avalanche Hope to Contain Matt Duchene and the Senators

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 10: Matt Duchene #95 of Ottawa Senators during warmup ahead of the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series match between Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche at Ericsson Globe on November 10, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images)
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 10: Matt Duchene #95 of Ottawa Senators during warmup ahead of the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series match between Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche at Ericsson Globe on November 10, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images) /

A supposedly hungry Colorado Avalanche team host the Ottawa Senators — and the return of the prodigal Matt Duchene.

The Colorado Avalanche are hosting the Ottawa Senators on the first game of their first back-to-back series. The second game of the series is on the road against the (hated) Minnesota Wild.

But before the Avs go off to face their erstwhile rivals, the Avalanche have to face the elephant in the room. Erik Karlsson will not be skating with the Senators.

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Ha ha, just kidding, no one here in Avs Nation really cares about Karlsson except that he’s not part of our team. The big story across the hockey universe is the return of Matt Duchene to his longtime hockey club, the one he grew up loving as a kid in Canada.

Before we get to our penultimate post involving Duchene (because I’m sure I’ll want to recap how it all went), let’s go over a couple keys to tonight’s game.

The Avalanche have a slight edge over the Senators through the years, having gone 15-13-1-2 (ties). Last season the two teams played each other back-to-back in Sweden. Unfortunately, the Avs dropped both games, though the first went to overtime.

Colorado is coming off that tight game against the Tampa Bay Lightning that saw them lose 1-0 to the Bolts. The Senators are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. However, considering the Avs have the Sens’ first-round draft pick as part of the trade, we can say Ottawa isn’t doing as poorly (4-3-1) as our draft lottery hopes might dictate.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: October 26, 7:00 pm MT
TV Networks: Alt, RDS2, TSN5 (Sens feeds)
Radio: Altitude Radio (FM 92.5)

Hungry Team

The Colorado Avalanche played a tight game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks to an offsides call and an inopportune hooking call on Tyson Barrie, the Bolts prevailed.

Anyway, water under the bridge and all that. Coach Jared Bednar thinks the team has an “added incentive” tonight. During his post-practice presser, he remarked:

"“The Tampa game, we played real well and weren’t able to get any points. We should be a hungry team.”"

Besides remarking that goalie Philipp Grubauer will get the start — more on that momentarily — he didn’t indicate any of his other roster decisions.

I’m expecting Tyson Jost to get either scratched or remain demoted. I find that annoying.

Moving on.

Grubauer’s Pepsi Center Debut

Goalie Philipp Grubauer has yet to play in Pepsi Center. Well, that’s not technically true. He played in the preseason in the Can. However, tonight marks his regular-season debut in front of the home fans.

Grubauer came from the Washington Capitals as part of a summer trade that saw the Avs immediately sign their pending RFA. Grubauer will be here for the next three years — two years past the completion of Semyon Varlamov‘s current contract.

Grubauer has made no bones about the fact that he wants to be a starting goalie. I’m not saying he’s breathing down Varlamov’s neck, but… he’s an heir apparent while the current player is still in residence. Tonight Avs Nation will catch a glimpse of what our goalie situation is likely to look like for the next three years.

Currently, Grubauer has a 2.68 goals against average and .925 save percentage. Varlamov is throwing a 1.56 GAA and .953 save percentage.

The Matt Duchene Saga Comes to a Close

Ok, back to the Matt Duchene portion of the post. I already discussed in a previous post what his return means to me, a fan, and what I hope it can come to mean to you.

Let’s be real for a second. Duchene, who’s in his prime, is currently on a point-a-game pace on a really bad team. He’s a really good player. I kind of hope he scores a goal, but I want the Avs to get their two points. And Duchene is the kind of skater that makes Samuel Girard look like he has cement in his blades.

Ok, pragmatism aside, I wrote the previous post before Duchene had talked to the media about returning to the Pepsi Center. He’s already faced his former teammates a couple times when the Avs and Sens played those back-to-back games in Sweden.

But now he’s coming to Pepsi Center, his home for eight seasons. And he admits, “It’s going to be weird, really weird, walking into that rink.”

I’m going to cite one of the reasons — besides the best-ever breakaways in burgundy and blue — Duchene is one of my all-time favorite players — he genuinely loves the fans. That’s evident in the fact that, even as he was awaiting the trade at the beginning of last season, he still came out to meet fans after practices.

Here’s what Duchene said about Colorado fans in his pre-return presser:

"“I loved playing in front of the fans. I loved being an Av. It was a dream come true, playing for my favorite team growing up… I had a good relationship with all the fans when I was there and I really appreciated their support over the years. I think people realize how much that franchise meant, and still means, to me.”"

In that same interview, Duchene talks about how life isn’t black and white — which is what I’ve been trying to do here for four years. When you’re dealing with people — and hockey is a game played by people, coached by people and governed by people — it’s all just one big gray area. As Duchene points out, there’s no “good-versus-evil story.”

Matt Duchene was a man who wanted to make a change in his career. He asked his boss for what amounts to a transfer. Said boss made the transfer, albeit in a tardy fashion, and scored a good return. If you’re an adult, you’ve almost certainly asked for a transfer or even quit a job for better prospects. It’s what people do.

What’s more, I say if you’re willing to boo Duchene for a business decision he made, you’re petty. Former Avalanche and current Senators goalie Craig Anderson was a little more forceful:

"“Anybody who doesn’t, anybody who brings negativity to him coming back, is just a narcissist.”"

Well, then, Avs goalies sure do know how to speak their minds, don’t they?

Anyway, it would be nice if we could all support a talented, skilled, driven young man who gave his all for the Colorado Avalanche, for Avs Nation, and for the Denver community. And if some cannot, just get over the situation.

Next. Grubauer Finding his Footing with the Avs. dark

So, the Avalanche will face the Senators one more time, in Ottawa, on January 16. As noted, after tonight’s game they will fly to Minnesota to face a team full of players we should all be booing — the Wild.