The Colorado Avalanche opened the 2016-17 campaign with a wild 6-5 win over the Dallas Stars under new head coach Jared Bednar.
It was a rough start for the Avalanche when Blake Comeau took a holding penalty in the defensive zone and Tyler Seguin scoring his first goal of the night all within the first minute of the game. The Stars took a 2-0 6:17 later but from that point the Avs turned it around.
Joe Colborne scored the first of his three goals during a frantic scramble in front at 9:21 then added his second of the night at 16:25 of the first period to head to the intermission tied 2-2.
The Avalanche reeled off three straight goals in the first 7:05 in the first period to take a 5-2 lead before the Stars were finally able to settle things down with goals from Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Up a goal to start the third and with momentum shifting in the Stars direction, Tyson Barrie gave them a bit of a cushion with a slap shot from the point to make it a 6-5 game. Brett Ritchie scored about a minute later to get the game to within one, but the defense was able to clamp down and Semyon Varlamov came up with some key saves to get the victory.
With the win, the Avalanche extended Bednar’s personal win streak to 16 games extending back to the AHL Playoffs and the preseason. More importantly, it got the team an early victory with a brutal road trip coming up on Monday, with stops in Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay and Sunrise, FL.
Here are my five takeaways from the win.
1. What a return to Denver it was for Colborne, the former DU standout. In his first 27 minutes in an Avalanche uniform he earned his first NHL hat trick. The three goals were great, but the thing that stands out to me is the way he did it. Colborne was a fixture in front of the Dallas net all night long and thats where all his goals game from. He was able to use his large frame to get great positioning and i think if he does that consistently he could be in line for another good season and provide the Avalanche with the depth scoring they need.
2. One of the biggest criticisms of the Avalanche under Patrick Roy were the possession numbers, or lack there of. It’s only one game but the Avs were the better possession team on Saturday against a high powered Stars offense. Total shot attempts finished 60-54 in favor of Colorado as did shots on goal at 33-28. From time the Stars scored their second goal the Avalanche were the better Corsi team, which is a good start.
3. It’s tough to evaluate teams in the preseason, since most clubs aren’t fielding their regular lineups and the Avs special teams are a perfect example of that. The Avs struggled on the power play in the exhibition games, but excelled on the penalty kill. On Saturday night, it was the complete opposite. The power play was terrific, finishing 2-for-3 and the unit of Grigorenko-MacKinnon-Colborne-Landeskog-Johnson were outstanding. They possessed the seemingly the entire time they were on the ice and were big part of the Avs six shots on goal on the advantage. The penalty kill really struggled, giving up two goals on four tries. There was a lot of scrambling around and lack of structure, hopefully it’s something they can get corrected in a hurry before facing deadly power play’s in Pittsburgh and Washington.
4. Another example of a tough evaluation from the preseason comes in goal, as Varlamov struggled most of the night against the Stars. He faced 28 shots and gave up 5 goals. He wasn’t able to do a good enough job controlling rebounds and looked like he was having trouble tracking the puck. He wont start again until Tuesday against Washington, with Calvin Pickard getting the nod against the Penguins.
5. I mentioned it earlier and a lot in the preseason, but i really liked the way the Avalanche didnt just sit back and try and protect the big lead. Yes, they gave up a three goal lead but a lot of that was based on the way the Stars kept coming and not the Avs just sitting back. Once Colorado went up 5-2 with just under 13 minutes left in the 2nd period they had 15 shot attempts to the Stars 11, with shots on goal 7-6 in favor of Dallas for the remainder of the period. Goaltending let them down a bit in that situation, and if Varlamov gets going they could be just fine.