Avalanche announce exhibition schedule

As the Colorado Avalanche embark on what is sure to be an interesting off-season, the first thing that was announced was the organizations preseason schedule for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

The schedule consists of just six games with three at home at Pepsi Center and three on the road with two against divisional rivals Minnesota and Dallas and a return to Las Vegas for their final exhibition tilt against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Colorado will open the preseason at home on September 19th against the Golden Knights then two nights later against the Stars and their new/old head coach Ken Hitchcock.

On Saturday September 23rd, the Avalanche will hit the road for game one of a home-and-home battle against the Wild with the second game back at Pepsi Center on Sunday the 24th.

The following night, Monday the 25th, they will travel to American Airlines Center in Dallas to take on the Stars once again before a trip to Vegas on the 28th to face off again with the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

Five things from another Avalanche win

For just the third time this season, the Colorado Avalanche have won two games in a row. It’s not quite a winning streak yet, but it’s a start.

Powered by Mikko Rantanen’s first NHL hat trick and a shutout from Calvin Pickard, the Avalanche handed the Montreal Canadiens their fourth straight loss in a 4-0 win.

This was just the second time all season the Avalanche have won two games in any homestand this season, and will have a chance to win all three games if they can beat the Penguins on Thursday.

Here are my five takeaways from the win.

1. What a game from Rantanen. He scored the second hat trick this season for the Avalanche and did it in different ways. He floated a shot early in the first that beat Carey Price, then re-directed a Mark Barberio shot in the high slot for his second goal. He then topped it off with a beautiful one-timer from the right circle on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. He now has five goals in the past five games. The important thing for me is that he is starting to shoot the puck more instead of always looking to pass first which was his problem early on this season.

2. Pickard was terrific for the second straight game to earn his third career shutout with 26 saves. He wasn’t pressured a ton tonight, but made several key saves in the second period when the Avalanche weren’t as sharp in their own end and then held on with four big stops late to hang onto the shutout. No reason to think he won’t be back in net on Thursday.

3. Special teams were really good for the Avalanche tonight at both ends. The power play delivered it’s second 5-on-3 goal this year and the penalty kill went 5-for-5 while not giving up a goal for the first time in five games.

4. There is no question that depth has been a huge issue this season, especially when it comes to scoring but over the last two games the Avalanche have shown just how important it is. For the second straight game the got scoring from the fourth line with Andreas Martinsen’s first period tally. This after Jerome Iginla and Carl Soderberg scored from their bottom six roles on Saturday against Winnipeg.

5. Another solid effort for Nikita Zadorov tonight. His development continues to be one of the bright spots over the last month, and it’s just fun to see him start to play with a ton of confidence. He did take a bad tripping penalty tonight in the third, but you can live with it when the opponent can’t take advantage and he does good things around it. He played 22:09 tonight, second most on the team and had two shots on goal with six attempts total with four hits to go along with it. It appears that “it” has clicked for him of late, and let’s enjoy the start of what could be a stud defensemen emerging for this franchise.

Avalanche snap losing streak behind two goals from Nieto

There was a brief ray of sunshine in an otherwise season to forget as the Avalanche snapped a nine game losing streak with an impressive 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

It marks the teams sixth win at Pepsi Center this year and just the fifth win overall since November 21st.

Here are my five things from the victory.

1. I have to start with Nikita Zadorov who played like an absolute monster against the normally physical Jets. He had three bone crushing hits against the top line for Winnipeg with the biggest one coming midway through the third period with a beau trail zone blow on Mark Scheifele. Jacob Trouba came directly after big Z and got thrown out of the game because of it. It’s great to see this kid take steps almost every single game and especially when he beats a team at their own style like he did vs Winnipeg.

2. Matt Nieto added two more goals on three shots in the game giving him four total in 11 games in an Avalanche sweater. To me, he was the best offensive player for Colorado with his constant drive to the net and overall heads up play. I’ve mentioned it before, but I love the way he has played here in his short time. He’s been the perfect compliment to guys in the top-six.

3. It was nice to see the Avalanche get some depth scoring for a change today with Jerome Iginla chipping in a power play goal in the first period then Carl Soderberg netting his first goal in 24 games with his third period tally. I can’t remember the last time this club got a goal from all four forward lines like they did today, but it would be nice to see them keep it up.

4. You have to have depth scoring, but it always helps when your stars step up and Colorado’s did just that. Nathan MacKinnon was dominant with five shot attempts and a goal in front early on and Matt Duchene contributed three assists along with eight shot attempts with five on goal. It definitely helps when they are playing with capable linemates like they did today.

5. There was some bad in the game as three of the defensemen continued to struggle. Francois Beauchemin, Cody Goloubef and Eric Gelinas were noticeably bad for most of the game as they have been most of the season. Beauchemin led the team in minutes with over 28 and that is going to continue with Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie out and that will expose him in such a bad way. Gelinas only played 7:29 so fortunately Jared Bednar noticed how bad he was especially in the third period.

Five things from another Avalanche home loss

It’s the same story almost every night for the Avalanche at Pepsi Center with the team failing to do much at home, and it continued on Wednesday with a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

The loss dropped them to 5-18-1 on home ice this season and continued a stretch where they have one win over their last 15 home games. Fortunately, they now will have several days off with the All-Star break coming this weekend.

Here are my five takeaways from tonight’s loss.

– Is it too late to make Matt Nieto the team representative for the All-Star game? I know the answer to that, but the newcomer was far and away the best player on the ice for the Avalanche. He tied the game with his second goal of the season with a nice wrist shot midway through the third period, and led the team with seven shots on goal. He has been given an opportunity to play in the top-six and has thrived in it during his six games with the club. He will be a restricted free agent next season, and could be a nice part of the future for the team.
– Calvin Pickard followed up a solid performance in Anaheim last week with another one tonight, despite giving up three goals and taking the loss. To say he had no help in front of him would be an understatement, but he managed to stop 38 shots with 19 saves coming in the first period. I still need to see more from him and Spencer Martin before i’m convinced they should be the goaltending dual next season, and hopefully these two will play a lot the rest of the way.

– Nikita Zadorov continues to be a mixed bag of mostly good hockey, with a brutal mistake or two that hurts the team. Tonight he played really well until a brutal turnover behind his own net led to a wraparound goal from Markus Granlund. Fortunately he bounced back nicely with some solid play in his own end and even a little help offensively with a primary assist on Mikko Rantanen’s second period goal. If he can just cut down on the costly mistakes, the kid has a chance to be a very good d-man in this league.

– Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the rest of the Avalanche defensive core as it was a struggle for 32, 18, 44 and 51. I’ve said it a lot this season, but Francois Beauchemin continues to actively hurt this team with his poor decision making and slow play. It’s gotten to the point where you feel bad for him on a nightly basis. Cody Golebuf is absolutely not an NHL caliber player and will likely find his way to the AHL one Erik Johnson is healthy. Really, it’s the same story different night for most of the guys on the back end.

– Scout watch continued tonight with representatives from Minnesota, Dallas, Los Angeles, NY Rangers, New Jersey, Anaheim and two from Arizona.

Avalanche blow another lead, fall to Preds 3-2

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

It was a sloppy game with a ton of whistles, and despite the Avalanche getting out to a 2-0 lead, they somehow found another way to blow it and fell 3-2 to the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon.

Here are my five takeaways from the game.

1. Jared Bednar did a little line juggling after Thursday’s loss to Anaheim. Today he paired Gabriel Landeskog with Matt Duchene and Matt Nieto as the second line, and the Avalanche captain had a terrific game. Landeskog led the team with seven shots on goal on nine attempts and also scored the first goal of the day with a shot that went in off of goaltender Pekka Rinne. Nieto kept the play alive deep in the Predators zone with some nice work in the corner. He really stood out as one of the best players in this game.

2. It was awkward seeing Cody McLeod in another uniform following Friday’s trade to Nashville, and even weirder seeing him play his first game against the Avalanche. The veteran received a nice video tribute, accompanied by a large amount of applause from fans during the first media timeout, and even chipped in a goal for his new club midway through the second period. But it wouldn’t be a game with 55 in it if there wasn’t a fight, and Jarome Iginla obliged early in the second period. A lot of fans probably enjoyed it, but as usual i perceived it as a pointless staged fight that brings nothing to the game. Hopefully with him now gone, the pointless fights for the Avalanche will dissapear.

3. As good as Landeskog and even Nieto were today, I thought Duchene was pretty invisible outside of the shift his line scored on. Duchene has just one goal in his last 13 games, and when given sufficient linemates today he only managed one blocked shot attempt in sixty minutes of hockey. Yes, there are times when Duchene is paired with guys that are not up to his level, however when given good linemates today he was invisible like he is far too often. Maybe, the trade rumors are getting to him, but if he wants to be considered one of the top players in the league, he has to step up and contribute way more than he has.

4. Nathan MacKinnon missed the first half of the second period after his final shift of the third that lasted all of five seconds. He returned to the ice around the ten minute mark when the team started a power play, but his absence did not appear to be injury related. Following the game, Bednar did not elaborate on why MacKinnon didnt play in the second, but he did confirm it was not due to injury leading to speculation that it was a discipline related benching.

5. The scout list in for the game today was a small one with just three teams listed on it. Montreal, Vancouver and Minnesota were the only teams listed to have a scout in attendance, however the only scout I actually saw was the one from Minnesota.

Avalanche trade McLeod to Nashville

The Colorado Avalanche made the first of what should be many roster moves today, trading F Cody McLeod to the Nashville Predators for D Felix Girard.

Girard, 22, was a fourth round draft pick of the Predators back in 2013 and spent all 35 games played this season with the clubs AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. He has three goals and five assists this season. He will be assigned to the Avs affiliate in San Antonio.

McLeod has just one point in 28 games played this season, while picking up 52 penalty minutes with an average TOI of 5:53. He carries a $1.3M cap hit with one more year on his deal and the Avalanche will retain 40% of his salary according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. According to CapFriendly.com, the Avalanche now have $1.02M in cap space.

This is a move that I’ve long advocated for because for all of McLeod’s leadership abilities, his on ice contributions do not merit him being on a roster that is in need of a major overall. Hopefully this will be the first event that starts a ridding of aging veterans that should be replaced but younger, more skillful players currently stuck in the AHL.

Avalanche fall at home again, 4-1

Well, it’s been a while since I have attended an Avalanche game in person, and obviously with the way the season has been going, its clear I haven’t missed much other than them ending their terrible Pepsi Center drought last Friday night.

On Tuesday night at Pepsi Center the Avalanche returned from their CBA mandated “bye week” and once again struggled on home ice in a 3-1 loss to the now Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks. Here are my five takeaways from the game.

1. Semyon Varlamov made his first start in goal since giving up five goals at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 22nd. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, he picked up right where he left off, allowing three goals on 31 shots. As said quite often, it’s not all his fault and it’s hard to blame a guy who has missed a significant amount of time of late, but this team needs their goaltending to bail them out virtually every night, not guys that are floating around a .900 save percentage.

2. Nathan MacKinnon was one of the few bright spots for the second game in a row. After his two point night last friday against the Islanders, he delivered a beautiful backhand goal on a breakaway after knocking the puck away from three Ducks at center ice. His talent is obvious to anyone that watches him play on a nightly basis, but if he can ever find the consistency every night he has the chance to be special.

3. Francois Beauchemin made his return to the lineup after being a scratch last game with an illness and has been the case most nights this year he was able to make an impression, but it wasn’t a good one. Early in the first period he pinched in on a loose puck along the boards and proceeded to take a shot that was blocked and brought back the other way for an easy goal from Jakob Silferberg. I get that this guy is considered a leader in the locker room and probably on the ice, but his play this year has been a disaster, and obviously the Avalanche would be better suited giving some of their kids a chance since it’s a lost season anyway. We’l see if that actually happens.

4. Speaking of scratches, Joe Colborne and John Mitchell took their turn out of the lineup due to their lack of production on the season. For Colborne, it was his third scratch in six games while Mitchell sat out as a healthy scratch for the first time all season, although he missed the first five games this year with an injury. Eric Gelinas was the healthy scratch defensively, for the 16th time this season.

5. With the way this season has gone, it has really become an interesting thing to see which scouts are attending Avalanche games, and tonight certainly had some interesting ones given the rumors circulating about potential trades. Vancouver, Philadelphia, Montreal and Carolina had pro scouts here. Pittsburgh sent their Director of Pro Scouting. I have maintained that Carolina and Philadelphia seem like obvious trade partners with the amount of depth both teams have on their blue line, so we will see what happens with the scouting list on Saturday afternoon.

That’s a wrap for tonight. I’ll be back at the game Saturday afternoon against Nashville and for those wondering about the Avalanche Unfiltered podcast, we will be bringing it back next week as a weekly show but we will no longer be doing them postgame.