The Avalanche wasn't going to win all 82 games this season.
But while Thursday's final score read "Detroit 4, Colorado 2," ending the Avs' six-game season-opening win streak, coach Patrick Roy was anything but disappointed with his club.
"There have been games where I think we didn’t play as well as we did tonight," said Roy, referring to the club's first six wins of the year.
The Avalanche finished with 40 shots on goal and outshot the Red Wings 30-16 in the final two periods. Colorado had several good scoring chances late in the game but was unable to find space past Detroit goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
"Their goalie came up big for them, I can’t stress that enough," Avs center Matt Duchene said. "I think at the end there, I don’t even know how many shots we had, maybe 10 shots there at the end of the game on him and he was stopping everything. I mean, he had a heck of a game for them.”
Colorado's streak ended one victory shy of tying its franchise record of seven straight wins to begin a season, in 1985-86 when the club was in Quebec. The six-game streak had already set an Avalanche team record to begin a season.
For Roy, he ends up tied with Mario Tremblay for the NHL record of consecutive wins by a head coach to begin a career (6-0). Tremblay won his first six games after taking over the Montreal coaching duties after just five games in the 1995-96 season, a team Roy was the goaltender for.
Roy said before the game that continuing the streak and going 7-0 wasn't a focus for him or his team.
"We certainly want to focus on things that we can control, and what we can control is how we prepare ourselves tonight," the Avs coach said after morning skate. "How we are going to be focused. What kind of work habits are we going to have tonight on the ice? How we are going to forecheck them. How we are going to backcheck. These are the details that I would rather see our team thinking about than looking at the big picture (the result of the game)."
While tonight's end result was a loss for the Avalanche, Roy saw enough good things to know his team is capable of winning games like it played Thursday against the Red Wings.
However, playing well doesn't always mean a victory.
"We played a good game," Roy said. "I know we had no reward tonight, but there have been nights we didn't play as well and there were some [rewards]. It is important for us to keep our heads up and get ready for the Buffalo game."
STRONG SECOND PERIOD
The Avalanche's second-period performances this season could be categorized as its least strongest through the first six games of the season.
Colorado had been outshot 76-55 in the middle stanza entering Thursday and coach Patrick Roy had been vocal over the past week on how his club needed to allow fewer scoring chances and be overall better in the period.
Roy got his wish Thursday against Detroit.
Down 2-0 on the scoreboard and 12-10 on shots, the Avs dominated the second 20 minutes by scoring twice and outshooting the Red Wings 13-5 in the stanza.
"The intensity was there – I thought we could have scored three or four goals," Roy said. "It wasn't easy, but we had really good chances."
DESPITE LOSS, VARLY SOLID IN THE CAGE
Twenty-four saves may not seem like a lot, but goaltender Semyon Varlamov had another solid night between the pipes.
The Red Wings came out fast in the first period and had several good scoring chances early, but Varlamov's play helped keep the Avalanche in the game.
"It was a tough game for him, there was a lot of scramble plays and I can't blame him on any goals," Roy said of Varlamov. "I can't say they were easy goals from [Detroit]."
Three of the Red Wings' goals came from in front of the crease, where the Colorado netminder had little or no chance of stopping the puck. Detroit's other tally came from what Roy described as a "perfect shot."
Despite picking up his first loss of the season, Varlamov did pick up his first point of the year as he had the only assist on Johnson's goal in the second period.
Varlamov's 5-0 start matched the franchise record for the longest winning streak to begin a season with Stephane Fiset (1994-95) and Mario Gosselin (1985-86). His five-game win streak also tied his longest of his career, which he had done twice before in 2009-10 with Washington and 2011-12 with Colorado.
AVALANCHE-RED WINGS STILL SPECIAL
The clubs may be in different conferences and may only play twice a season now, but that doesn't mean Thursday's game had any less meaning for the fans.
Pepsi Center was over capacity with 18,101 in attendance to watch the only meeting between the Avs and the Red Wings in Denver this season.
While the matchup was no longer an in-conference battle, it was also important for the Avs players. Colorado veteran Alex Tanguay said before the game that it would be a good indicator for the team on how it does against a veteran squad that had made the playoffs for 22 straight seasons.
"Detroit is always a team that is always there when it comes down to playoff time, when it comes down to the end of the road for the team that is going to be in contention, and for us it certainly measures where we are at against teams like that," Tanguay said.
For Matt Duchene, who grew up watching the old rivalry back in Ontario, the Avs-Wings game is one he looks forward to.
"It's always exciting when we play these guys," Duchene said. "It's a great atmosphere. It's fun to wear that burgundy and blue against the Red Wings."
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