The Colorado Avalanche, it could be argued, is a team that’s successfully completed the "Win – Decline – Lose – Rebuild – Start winning again" circle of professional sports life.
After winning the Stanley Cup in the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons on the backs of players like captain Joe Sakic and goaltender Patrick Roy, the team slowly declined until they bottomed out in 2008-09 when they fell to last place in the Northwest Division. Along with failure comes an influx of young talent, and the Avalanche have reloaded with the likes of young captain Gabriel Landeskog and forwards Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and number one overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon. The team also has back-filled the roster with some solid veterans as well, bringing in forwards Alex Tanguay, Maxime Talbot and P.A. Parenteau to help out assistant captain Paul Stasny in bringing the kids along.
In goal, Semyon Varlamov is the starter but is backed up by the veteran Jean-Sebastian Giguere.
Lastly, the front office even got a makeover. Sakic returned to team leadership as Executive Vice President for Hockey Operations (which I take to be an equivalent to the John Davidson role with the Blue Jackets) and Roy, fresh off a stint of terrorizing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, signed on as head coach and vice president of hockey operations (which seems like a combination of Todd Richards and Jarmo Kekalainen’s roles in Columbus).
And I can’t help but share a little of Roy’s antics behind the bench, this one from his opening night in Colorado:
Roy was always a bit of a showman, and he sure got his team off to a rousing start in October. Talk about a change in culture in Denver.
The Avalanche’s current top scorers are:
– Duchene (16 goals, 18 assists, 34 points)
– Landeskog (11 G, 16 A, 27 pts)
– O’Reilly (12 G, 13 A, 25 pts)
– Parenteau (9 G, 15 A, 24 pts)
– Stasny (11 G, 13 A, 24 pts)
In net, Varlamov is 16-8-4 in 27 starts with a .927 save percentage. Giguere, with 11 starts, is -3-0 with a .918 save percentage. Quite a tandem.
THE REAL IMPORTANT STUFF TO KNOW
The Avalanche are a strong team – 50 points in the standings thus far in the rough and tumble Western Conference suggests that they’re no slouches – but they’re 3-3-4 in the last 10. That means that they’ve played just about good enough to win in seven out of those games. And in those last 10, they had four shootouts and lost three of them. (They also lost an overtime game to Winnipeg.) In my mind, this is going to be a tough game – on the road, challenging opponent – but it’s not Boston/Pittsburgh tough. It’s winnable if the Blue Jackets play a strong road game like we know they can do.
As for Columbus, what we’ve seen is what you’ll get tonight. Defenseman Dalton Prout is still out, as is goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Forward Nathan Horton continues to ramp up to game shape, but he’s not quite there yet. And forward Marian Gaborik just had surgery on his broken collarbone and is probably making offerings to Hockey Jobu in the hopes that he’ll be ready for the Olympics.
WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING FOR
After a video like what I shared above, you can’t say with a straight face that you’ll be watching an Avs game and not keep at least half an eye on Patrick Roy. I personally don’t care for the guy – I rooted for the Red Wings when Detroit and Colorado were sparring partners in the 90’s – but there’s no denying his electric effect on his club.
Beyond that, there’s the fact that this is a road game. And who, you may ask, is the team’s leading scorer in their recent road wins? Well, I went back and looked at the last three road wins – New Jersey, Carolina and Philadelphia – and learned that while Ryan Johansen had three goals in those games, it was actually Artem Anisimov who led the team in scoring with two goals and two assists. So keep an eye on Anisimov tonight. When he’s involved in the scoring on the road, things apparently are good.
(And that Corey Tropp, with a goal and two assists in the three most recent road win stretch, appears to be another traveling companion of note.)
YOUR FOX SPORTS OHIO BROADCAST INFORMATION
The puck drops at 8PM in Denver, which means…
– Your dose of "Blue Jackets Slap Shots" with Brian Giesenschlag at 7PM
– "Blue Jackets Live" with Brian and Dan Kamal at 7:30PM
– The Avs and and the Blue Jackets face off at 8PM with Jeff Rimer and Bill Davidge on the call
– "Blue Jackets Live Postgame" with Brian and Dan starts immediately following
– And, if you missed it early and don’t want to watch the ball drop, catch an encore of "Blue Jackets Slap Shots" around 11PM.