If you listened closely yesterday around 1 p.m. MT, a rather large exhale was likely heard echoing from within the Avalanche’s team hotel in Detroit. The NHL’s trade deadline expired at that moment, and it passed with no current Avs having to pack their bags.
The audible exhale wasn’t, however, necessarily because of the Avalanche’s relative inactivity on a day some hockey fans consider as exciting as Christmas.
Joe Sakic, Colorado’s executive vice president of hockey operations, and Patrick Roy, the Avalanche’s head coach and vice president of hockey operations, both said in the weeks leading up to the deadline that they would be happy doing nothing before the trade embargo set in.
The Avs (40-17-5) are coming down the stretch of a regular season that has seen them surpass nearly all expectations, and Sakic and Roy only wanted to do something if it made sense now and in the future.
In the end that philosophy meant sending just a 2014 second-round draft pick to the Flames in exchange for backup goaltender Reto Berra.
And that was it.
Berra will join the team at some point over the next few days and stay with the Avalanche through the rest of the season, backing up usual-starter Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who’s expected to be between the pipes tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
“With this acquisition we feel we have further solidified our goaltending situation, for the present and future,” Sakic said Wednesday afternoon. “[Berra] has already shown he can be successful at the NHL level and we are excited about what he can bring to our team.”
A couple important pieces to this year’s Avalanche success have been Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly, whose futures with the team are uncertain beyond this season. There was some outside expectation that one or both would not have skated tonight against Detroit after being traded yesterday.
That didn’t happen, though, and it’s not entirely clear how likely or close it was to even happening. Sakic and Roy mostly preached over the last month a desire to maintain status quo and address roster decisions like that this summer, after the chips have fallen on this yet-to-be-completed Avalanche season.
And they stuck to their guns. That exhale you may have heard? The sound of finality. With it a sense of unknown was ushered out the window and a feeling of, “That’s over with. Let’s do this, boys!” walked right through the door.
“I think we’ve got something special here,” Stastny said Thursday, following Colorado’s game-day morning skate. “We have a good group of guys who we feel can do something impactful, not just now but down the road. I think I can still be a part of it, and I’m just going to enjoy it and keep working hard.
“You always get nervous [at the Deadline]. You always expect the worse, so if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. It’s out of your control.”
“I think we showed a lot of character all year,” added forward PA Parenteau, who had a four-game point streak snapped Tuesday in Chicago. “It should be fun that we’re all here for the playoff run and the playoffs.”
That run started in full a week ago, when the Avalanche returned from the NHL’s Olympic break with a home game against Los Angeles. The Avs lost that game, 6-4, but haven’t lost since and are winners of three straight after winning their 40th game of the season against the Blackhawks, doing so faster than any team has reached the 40-win mark in franchise history.
Detroit (28-21-12) comes into tonight’s game with wins in four of its past six games but fell a spot outside the Eastern Conference wild-card race on Tuesday with a 4-3 loss to New Jersey.
“I know they’ve got a few guys banged up, but I don’t think that changes they way they play hockey,” Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden said. “They’re very sneaky good. They are always persistent on pucks—they turn a lot of pucks over—but at the same time they come at you physically, too. They’ve got guys who can hit pretty hard. I know the rivalry isn’t as big as it used to be, but I still think it’s going to be a big game tonight.”
» Detroit has qualified for the playoffs in 22 consecutive NHL seasons, but some of the injuries Nick Holden alluded to (Henrik Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss, Mikael Samuelsson) have put that streak in jeopardy.
They addressed it a bit yesterday at the Trade Deadline, acquiring David Legwand from the Predators for a player, prospect and a draft pick.
“[Legwand is] a real solid player,” Avalanche center Matt Duchene said. “He’s good offensively, good defensively, good on draws. [He] definitely is going to help this team with three of their [players] out. Having a guy like that comes in and helps them.”
» The Avs have reached 40 wins faster than any team in franchise history, doing so in their 62nd game. Colorado is 13-5-0 in its past 18 contests and 17-6-1 in its past 24. The Avalanche has the most wins (17) and points (35) of any NHL team since Dec. 31 and is 8-3-0 in its past 11 road games.
» The Avalanche and Red Wings are meeting for the second and final time this season. Detroit won 4-2 on Oct. 17 in the teams’ first game, which was the Avs’ only loss through the first 13 games of the season (12-1-0). These two teams crafted a notorious rivalry for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but this year is the first both compete in opposite conferences since the Avalanche relocated to Denver in 1995.
That doesn’t mean the embers have completely cooled, though. Ask any fan of these two teams and you’ll see plenty of emotion on display.
“For the fans it’s probably bigger than the players, and that’s probably what you’re thinking about in these games,” Duchene said.
» Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon assisted on a Stastny empty-net score Tuesday night, giving him points (five goals, 12 assists) in 12 straight games, the longest scoring stretch by an NHL rookie since Stastny himself had a league-record 20-game streak in the 2006-07 season.
He could make that streak 13 games with a goal or assist tonight, which would put him in sole possession of the NHL record for a point streak from an 18-year-old. MacKinnon tied Wayne Gretzky for that mark on Tuesday night.
“The only time I think about the streak is when people ask me about it,” MacKinnon said Monday after practice. “It’s literally not on my mind at all. At the end of the day it’s a point streak that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Our goal is to win our division. Whether I get a point or not, I want to help the team win games.”
MacKinnon leads all NHL rookies in points (50), goals (22), assists (28), power-play goals (eight), game-winning goals (five-tied) and shots (182). He is the fifth-youngest player in league history to score 50 points in a season, behind Bep Guidolin (18 years, 58 days), Ted Kennedy (18 years, 97 days), Sidney Crosby (18 years, 161 days) and Brian Bellows (18 years, 182 days).
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