Avs Finding Ways to Win Games Early in Season
Colorado has won three games in three different ways to start 2013-14
The Avalanche has had some great starts to seasons over its previous 18 years, but the club has never begun a season like it is doing in 2013-14.
For the first since the team moved to Denver in 1995, Colorado is off to a 3-0-0 start. The franchise had started 3-0 or better four times previously but that was as the Quebec Nordiques in 1985-86 (7-0-0), 1987-88 (3-0-0), 1992-93 (4-0-0) and 1994-95 (5-0-0).
What might be even more impressive for the Avs is they've won three games in three different ways.
The Avalanche dominated Anaheim offensively in a 6-1 win in Wednesday's Opening Night victory, and Colorado grinded out a 3-1 win in a physical game Friday vs. Nashville.
Tuesday night's win it wasn't the best-looking contest, but in the end the Avs found a way to pull out the victory against the Maple Leafs.
"It wasn't real pretty, but the effort was there," said defenseman Cory Sarich. "Varly made some big saves there in the first and kind of let us get back on our feet. After that, we got the puck moving in the right direction."
Toronto was able to get on the scoreboard first in the game, but Colorado was resilient and tied the game at 1-1 nearly three minutes later on Sarich's wrist shot from the right side.
The tight game through two periods continued into the start of the third, but it didn't take long for the Avs to take the lead as PA Parenteau scored his third goal of the season off a deflection from his skate at 2:30 of the stanza
The goal was reviewed and was upheld after the officials determined that Parenteau didn't use a kicking motion.
Overall, the goal wasn't pretty, but it was hardworking by the players on the ice.
"This is what our team is about right now. Everybody is chipping in," said Colorado head coach Patrick Roy. "Last game it was [Patrick] Bordeleau with the winning goal, tonight Sarich tied it and it was a great effort by Parenteau to drive to the net for that second goal. Overall, it's a team effort and that's what we are looking for."
Parenteau said afterwards that his line didn't play its best game, but the other lines were able to step up in the first two periods before his line was able to strike with the game winner.
"I thought tonight we struggled a bit off the bat, but we stuck with it," he said of his line that also includes McGinn and Nathan MacKinnon. "Tough first period, but we kept going, we had some chances. We didn't play our best game, but some other lines played better than us and that is what a team effort is."
Through three games Colorado has shown it is capable of winning almost any type of game. The Avs will have another tough challenge ahead of them Thursday in the Boston Bruins, a squad that is solid defensively, has good goaltending, and is able to grind out goals.
The Bruins are also the defending Eastern Conference champions, so excuse the Colorado players if they are not too excited about a 3-0-0 start. There is still work to be done on the three-game road trip.
"It's just more momentum on our side," Sarich said. "We have to keep working on things, we have to stay grounded. We'll enjoy [the win] for a minute."
Semyon Varlamov's strong play in net has been a reoccurring theme for the Avalanche through the first three games of the season.
Each game, one goal against. Each game, a win.
Varlamov finished with 27 saves Tuesday and made several big ones early to keep the game scoreless and several more late to keep Colorado in the lead.
"He's been phenomenal back there," Sarich said of his netminder. "He's been playing the puck well, and he's been making some huge saves, and there were some really big ones in that first period."
Entering the game, Varlamov was the first Colorado goalie to allow one goal or less in his first two starts since David Aebischer in 2000-01. So far through 180 minutes of play, he has made 88 saves on 91 shots and has a .967 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average.
"Right now, what I like about his play is it looks simple," Roy said of Varlamov. "Every time you look at him, it looks easy. He is always squared to the shooters. He's at the right place, he plays a simple and I think this is the reason why he has had so much success."
Roy said that Varlamov's next start is scheduled for Saturday at Washington after an off day on Thursday in Boston. However, with the way he has been playing so far, Roy might want to change his mind.
SARICH GETS HIS FIRST
It had been 64 games since Cory Sarich scored a goal.
His first tally of the 2013-14 season came at a good time for the Avalanche.
With the Maple Leafs having just broken a scoreless tie in the second period and Jonathan Bernier having stopped all 24 shot he had faced, Sarich got the puck from Steve Downie off a cross-ice pass and made his way to the front of the net.
From a tough angle, Sarich released a wrist shot over Bernier's shoulder on the glove side and into top of the cage
"It feels good," Sarich said of his 21st career NHL goal. "We had a few opportunities for shots on that shift and we had the cycle going, just got a chance to sneak down the side and no one was there. I practice that shot a lot in practice, but I don't get to use it very often so it came in handy for a change."
While Downie made a great cross-ice pass to Sarich, the goal wouldn't have happened if the defenseman didn't jump into the play.
"They (the coaches) want us to help out, they want us to get into the play and get involved, and when we get opportunities make sure we are jumping a little bit and keep the opposition on their toes," he said.
It was Sarich's first goal since Jan. 10, 2012, and it was the first tally by an Avalanche defenseman this season. The score was also Sarich's first ever against Toronto (36 games).
IN FRONT OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS
For several members of the Avalanche, Tuesday's game in Toronto was a homecoming of sorts as five players grew up within a three-hour radius of Toronto: Steve Downie, Matt Duchene, Jamie McGinn, John Mitchell and Ryan O'Reilly.
Also, while he is from Sweden, Gabriel Landeskog has ties to the Toronto metro area as he played two seasons of junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, which is about an hour east of the city.
O'Reilly said it was nice to have that support from family and friends at the game, but he and his teammates also had to focus on doing their job and trying to get the win.
"I have 50-plus people I know in the stands to watch me play tonight," O'Reilly said. "It is special to have that, but at the same it’s a game and you have to go and produce and get these two points. It's a lot of energy for everyone, but at the same time we have to do our jobs and get it done."