Five things from the Avalanche 1-0 win over the Wild

The Colorado Avalanche rebounded from a tough loss in Chicago on Thursday with a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Wild in front of an announced crowd of just over 16,000 at Pepsi Center on Saturday after noon.

Here are my five takeaways from the win:

1. Calvin Pickard picked up his second career shutout with a fantastic 32 save performance in just his third start this season. He has given up just five goals on 89 shots in those three games against the Penguins, Coyotes and Wild. His performance will only make those fans clamoring for him to be the number one goalie a little bit louder. It’s hard to argue with them. He has played well over the last two seasons, and while Semyon Varlamov has had his moments this season, he has struggled more than not. After the game, head coach Jared Bednar said that the team will continue to keep their current week to week goaltending schedule and that Varlamov will start on Sunday in St. Louis.

2. The Avalanche continue to struggle being able to find the net offensively despite a barrage of shots on goal against opponents netminders. Gabriel Landeskog broke a drought of over seven periods without a goal, going back to the 5:35 mark of the first period on Tuesday against Nashville. They have 99 shots on goal over the last three games but just two goals to show for it. They have played against some red hot goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Devan Dubynk the last few games so i wouldnt expect it to last. This team will get it going offensively.

3. The turning point in the game definitely came early in the third period when Dubynk and Landsekog got into it after the Wild goaltender slashed the Avalanche captain a couple of times in front of the Minnesota net. That woke up a Pepsi Center crowd that had been relatively quiet most of the day and turned the momentum in Colorado’s favor capped off by Landeskog’s power play goal minutes later.

4. Mikko Rantanen had played really well in his four games since being called up on October 28th against the Jets, but had somehow been held without a point until Saturday. The winger registered his first NHL point with and assist on the Landeskog power play goal. He played on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene and led the Avalanche with a Corsi percentage of 68.57%. He was on the ice for 24 Avalanche shot attempts and only 11 against. I would love to see this line stick together for a while.

5. The penalty kill continues to be really good for the Avalanche with a 3-for-3 performance on Saturday. They have now killed 19-of-20 and 25-of-27 recently. They came into the game 22nd in the league on the disadvantage but should move up after another strong performance.

Changes to the Avalanche lineup ahead

With five days between the end of a season opening four game road trip and their next game on Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets, there is expected to be a couple of changes in the lineup for the Colorado Avalanche.

Forward Ben Smith, was put on waivers Sunday and claimed Monday by the Toronto Maple Leafs meaning his time in the Mile High City lasted a mere four games. Smith, signed a one-year deal with the Avalanche this past offseason after spending the previous season in Toronto and San Jose.

In four games this year, Smith registered just one shot on goal and did not have a point while playing on the fourth line. He was brought in to be a depth guy and the organization had planned on him going down to San Antonio had he not been claimed.

The roster move likely means that top prospect Mikko Rantanen is headed to Denver for his third stint in the NHL. He began the year on a “rehab assignment” in San Antonio after injuring his ankle in the opening game of the rookie showcase against the Sharks.

Rantanen did not earn a point in nine games played with the Avalanche last season, but I believe it is likely that he could be looking at a top-six role possibly with Matt Duchene once his promotion becomes official.

It also appears that John Mitchell could be returning to the lineup after missing the preseason and first five regular season games with a hip injury. My guess is that he will take Smith’s spot centering the fourth line and that Cody McLeod and Gabriel Bourque would be scratched on Friday, but nothing confirmed by the team just yet.

Five things from the Avs 6-5 win over Dallas

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.

Avalanche closer to setting their regular season roster

As the NHL regular season is set to get under way on Wednesday night, the league has a 3pm MST deadline for clubs to have their rosters down to the required 23 players. The Avalanche got their roster set with some cuts before practice and one move after.

The club announced on Tuesday morning that forwards Trent Vogelhuber and Mike Sislo were reassigned to the clubs AHL affiliate in San Antonio, putting the roster at 24.

According to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post injured players Mikko Rantanen, Jarome Iginla and Blake Comeau participated in practice, while John Mitchell did not.

It would appear that Mitchell is likely headed to IR with a hip injury and the roster should be set for the opener.

The club will open the season on Saturday night against the Dallas Stars with 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goalies.

Gabriel Bourque, Rene Bourque, Joe Colborne, Comeau, Matt Duchene, Mikhail Grigorenko, Iginla, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Andreas Martinsen, Cody McLeod, Rantanen, Ben Smith and Carl Soderberg will be the forwards.

Tyson Barrie, Francois Beauchemin, Eric Gelinas, Erik Johnson, Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch and Nikita Zadorov will be the defensemen.

Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard will the the net minders.

Stay tuned for my Between The Pipes podcast on Wednesday night with my co-host Bruce Pape as we will preview the upcoming Avalanche and NHL season. You can subscribe to it on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/between-pipes-hockey-podcast/id1144808654?mt=2

 

Avalanche roster update


The Colorado Avalanche don’t kick off the 2016-17 season until Saturday night, but the roster moves have been coming daily with more moves coming on Monday.

The club announced that they have signed Rene and Gabriel Bourque to one-year deals. Both players, who are not related, were invited to training camp on professional tryout contracts.

Head coach Jared Bednar said after today’s practice, “We feel they both earned the right to be here and earned the contracts. Both different in their own ways but we like them.”

Rene, 34, played in 49 games for Columbus last season, tallying eight points with three goals and five assists. This will be his 12th NHL season. His deal is a one-way for $650k.

Gabriel, 26, spent the last five seasons in Nashville but played just 22 games last year with four points (1g, 3a). His deal is worth $800k and is a two-way deal.

According to TSN’s Bob MacKenzie, the team put forward Mike Sislo on waivers today, and if he clears he will likely be assigned to San Antonio. Duncan Siemens cleared waivers on Sunday and was reassigned to San Antonio, and that move left seven defensemen on the active roster and that will likely be how Bednar starts the season.

The forward roster is down to 16 with Sislo being waived and probably reassigned, so they’ll have two more moves to make in order to get down to the 23 player maximum. Mikko Rantanen, Jarome Iginla, Blake Comeau and John Mitchell are are nursing injuries and their availability is not yet clear.

My best guess is that Trent Vogelhuber and Mike Sislo would be the likely cut once they finalize the roster.

Avalanche hire Bednar as Head Coach

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The Colorado Avalanche announced on Thursday that they have hired Jared Bednar as the seventh head coach in Avalanche history.

Bednar, 44, was previously the head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL who won the Calder Cup this past season. He served as the head coach of the Blue Jackets affiliate for two seasons after being brought in as an assistant coach, but was promoted after Brad Larsen was moved up to be an assistant for Columbus. He went 81-50-21 in his two seasons as the Monsters head coach.

“After profiling the type of coach I wanted for our team and going through an interview process with several good candidates, I believe that Jared Bednar is the best person to lead this team behind the bench,” Executive Vice President/General Manager Joe Sakic said in a press release. “Jared’s track record of success as a head coach in the American Hockey League speaks for itself and he is considered to be one of the top up-and-coming coaches in our business.”

Bednar was the head coach of the Peoria Rivermen from 2010-12 after coming over from the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL where he won his first championship.

In six seasons as an AHL and ECHL head coach, his clubs have made the playoffs four times and won two championships.

The Avalanche brought in Nolan Pratt to be an assistant coach this offseason from Lake Erie and he will join Bednar on the Avalanche bench.

 

“My family and I are thrilled to be heading to Denver to begin this new challenge,” said Bednar in a team press release. “I feel ready for this role with the Avalanche and I am grateful for the trust that  Josh Kroenke, Joe (Sakic) and the organization has shown me. This is a great sports market with a passionate fan base and I can’t wait to get to work. I would also like to thank the Columbus Blue Jackets organization for the opportunity they gave me.”

 

Avalanche and Barrie agree to a new for year deal


Following an arbitration hearing on Friday, the Colorado Avalanche and Defenseman Tyson Barrie came to terms on a new four-year, $22 million deal for the restricted free agent.

The deal was announced on Sunday which was when the arbitrator was expected to rule on the salary for Barrie. The Avalanche submitted a salary of $4-million  for the first season and $4.25-million the following two years, while Barrie and his agent Don Meehan submitted a one-year, $6-million deal.

Barrie will make $5M, $5.25M, $5.75M and $6M over the next four years with an annual cap hit of $5.5M making him the sixth highest paid player on the roster, and the second highest paid defenseman behind Erik Johnson and his $6M cap hit.

The Avalanche now have all 23 NHL players under contract for next season, however the two new deals for Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon put the team right up against the salary cap. GeneralFanager.com projects that they currently have only $959, 407 of cap space.

Barrie is coming off a 13-goal, 36-assist season with 21 points on the power play. In 264 career games Barrie has registered 40-goals and 113-assists for 153 points.