Avalanche Ready to Start It Again

Colorado brings 6-1 mark into Buffalo tonight, looking to begin another winning streak.

Saturday, 10.19.2013 / 3:47 PM
Scott Ward

There was a prevailing theme Thursday following the Avalanche’s first loss of the season, a 4-2 setback to Detroit.

The Avalanche knew it was going to lose this season.

It knew an 82-0-0 mark wasn’t going to happen

So, Colorado’s players and its coaches, including head coach Patrick Roy, were composed and positive following the defeat and had already moved on and turned their attention to the next one—the Buffalo Sabres, tonight’s opponent at 5 p.m. MT at First Niagara Center.

But even though Thursday’s loss wasn’t that big of a deal, it was still a loss, and that’s something all teams want to experience as little as possible.

Colorado got off to an incredible start this season, winning its first six games under Roy in his first year on an NHL bench, but it knows all that can be looked at as a fluke if the next six games aren’t a worthy a follow up.

That starts tonight in western New York.

“[We’re] ready to start a new streak,” center Paul Stastny said. “The game against Dallas (3-2 win, Tuesday night) we probably deserved to lose, and we won, and the game against Detroit we probably deserved to win, but we lost. That’s funny how the game always evens out itself.

Added defenseman Erik Johnson: “You don’t want to be a team that loses two in a row or anything like that. You want to be a team that once you lose one you get right back on a little role again, so for us it’s important to get back on a role here, especially on the road. We started off the season so well, we want to continue to do that.”

This will be the first of two games against Eastern Conference teams in the next three days for Colorado, with a trip to Pittsburgh scheduled following tonight’s game and a matchup against the Penguins on the docket for Monday night.

Road trips always seem to test the mettle of a club, and the Avalanche hopes for similar results in the next few days as it got earlier this month, when it swept through a three-game, Eastern Conference road swing in Toronto, Boston, Washington.

The key to that trip—and to Colorado’s other three wins in its six-game shoot out of the gate—was defense and goaltending. Both suffered a bit Thursday night. The Avalanche’s overall team defense was solid (it outshot the Red Wings 40-28) but a few key missteps allowed Detroit to get some one-on-ones with Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov, and the result was relatively easy scores.

The Avalanche has allowed just 10 goals this season, which is tied with Boston for the fewest scores given up in the NHL this season, and it’s the lowest goals-allowed mark through seven games in franchise history.

There was clearly much to like about the way Colorado started this season, and there were many positives to be gleaned from Thursday’s showdown with Detroit—Roy said as much afterward, mentioning that his team had played much worse earlier in the season but still won.

So, there’s no sense of doom coming from the Avalanche or overexcitement.

And there shouldn’t be. Six wins to start a season is nice—it’s much better than the alternative—and one loss is just one loss—not an indication of anything other than the opponent did enough to win that game.

Looked at through that lens, tonight’s game in Buffalo is just the next game on the schedule. It’s just the next opportunity for the Avalanche to continue working on what it needs to do to get where it wants to be.

“The seven games we’ve played we played consistent [and] the same way all the time,” Stastny said. “We haven’t had that many bumps in the road or any mental lapses. If we stay like that we’re going to be consistent and give ourselves a chance to win a majority of the nights.

“We start a new road trip here—a two game-road trip—we’ve just got to worry about this one right now and get back on the winning track.”

D-MEN SURGING ON ‘O’

Erik Johnson took the puck from one end of the ice to the other Thursday against Detroit and finished it with a mighty wrister just over the right shoulder of Red Wings’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.

The score came on a Colorado power play and brought the Avalanche to within 2-1. It was also the third goal this season by a Colorado defenseman, which is just two shy of its 48-game total from its blue-liners last season.

Johnson said there’s been an emphasis in practices this season on a team-wide approach to offense and defense, and it’s paying off in both zones on game nights.

“A lot of it has to do with how we’re preparing for the game, and how our coaches want to see [the defensemen] run some plays and everything like that. In the defensive zone, working as a five-man unit, it’s kind of like that in the offensive zone, too. The forwards have been looking for us more, I think, and that’s given us more opportunities.

“If you look at just the seven games so far this year, I feel like I’ve had more chances than I did almost all 28 games I played last year. That has a lot to do with everyone being on the same page, and good coaching really helps that, too, with Patrick.”

KEEP AN EYE ON

- Despite Thursday’s 4-2 loss to Detroit, Colorado still comes into tonight’s game a hot bunch. Its 6-0 start was by far the club's best since the team moved to Denver in 1995 and one shy of the franchise record (7-0 in 1985-86).

- Jean-Sebastien Giguere is expected to start in goal tonight for Colorado following his shutout performance last week at Boston. He made 39 saves against the Bruins.

Giguere and Varlamove have combined to allow just 10 goals this season, tied with Boston for the league low. The Avs began the season by holding opponents to one goal or less in each of their first five games, becoming the first team in NHL history to begin a season with five straight wins while allowing no more than one goal in each game.

The Avalanche's plus-13 goal differential this year ranks second in the NHL behind only San Jose (+21).

- Colorado and Buffalo will meet twice this year, tonight in Buffalo and Feb. 1 in Denver. This marks the first time that Colorado and Buffalo will meet more than once in a season since 2001-02.

The Avs have won five straight games against the Sabres, with three of those victores coming in a shootout (including the last meeting on March 14, 2012 here in New York).

Sabres assistant coach Joe Sacco was the Avalanche's head coach for four seasons from 2009-13.

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