Avs Winning Because They're Having Fun
The Avalanche had four goals Sunday night in its 4-1 win against the Capitals, and each score was impressive.
Gabriel Landeskog finished Colorado’s scoring and started a downtown Denver party with a beautiful coast-to-coast goal after he made quick work of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin right in front of the Caps bench. PA Parenteau found the net early in the third period, making it 3-1, shortly after the Avs put together a stellar penalty kill against the NHL’s top power play team.
Those two scores turned what was a close game into a no-doubter and sent the Avalanche (14-2) to its best 16-game start in franchise history, doing so in front of a loud and rocking Pepsi Center.
“I thought it was a great team effort again,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said, “and our fans were part of our team tonight.”
But the first two goals of the night—from Patrick Bordeleau and Nick Holden—were more than just goals, and not because they got the Avs on the board (Bordeleau) or represented the game winner (Holden).
When Bordeleau tipped in a Cody McLeod shot from the slot just 2:50 in the game, he celebrated like a child, and that’s meant in the best way possible. He lifted his arms, and one of his legs, and stuck his tongue out, too. He then skated around for a bit like that, and was the epitome of hockey happiness, complete with his gap-toothed smile.
His teammates eventually joined him, and they all celebrated Bordeleau’s second goal of the season and the fourth of his career.
As for Holden, he’s still probably wearing an ear-to-ear smile after finding the back of the net for the first time in as an NHLer.
“Landy made a great read coming around the net, and he found me coming around the slot,” Holden said. “ … I closed my eyes and got lucky, put it far side.”
Once he scored from the left faceoff circle at 16:16 in the second he looked like he didn’t quite have any idea how to properly celebrate such an accomplishment. He almost looked embarrassed. Almost like he couldn’t believe he had just done such a thing.
Almost like a kid.
Much has been made this season about why the Avalanche continues to defy all preseason expectations on a nearly nightly basis. But none of that discussion has delved into “fun.”
That’s what the Avs are having right now.
Is that why this team is winning? Hockey is a game, after all, and games are meant to be fun. The Avalanche, with Bordeleau and Holden as prime examples, are having a lot of fun right now.
“I think we’re the luckiest people,” Holden said, clutching the puck from his first NHL score, a souvenir that figures to be prominently displayed by the Holden family for a long, long time. “We get to play a sport for our job. I definitely will never take that for granted. I appreciate everything I get here, and I’m just going to keep working and always try and stay humble and remember that.”
“It’s been a little over a month since I played in exhibition, so to get in to the games now—obviously it’s terrible that somebody had to get injured for me to get an opportunity—but you’ve got to just roll with what you can, and I’ve been blessed to get this opportunity now.”
A main focus for both teams heading into Sunday night was their continued success in power-play situations—both offensively and defensively.
Washington came in ranked atop the NHL in power-play scoring percentage, finding the net 20 times in 71 chances before Sunday (28.2 percent). The Avalanche entered as one the league’s staunchest defenders of the power play, snuffing out 42 of 48 opponent chances, which was third in the league (87.5 percent).
Colorado lived up to its billing, and won the battle within the battle by killing off all four of the Caps’ chances.
The Avalanche’s biggest penalty kill came with about 15 minutes left in the third period, after Cory Sarich was sent to the box for hooking and Nathan MacKinnon took a seat, too, after the Avs were caught with too many men on the ice during a shift change.
It resulted in a 5-on-3 situation for Washington, which at the time trailed by just one. Colorado’s lead seemed tenuous.
The Caps rifled off eight shots against Colorado in the roughly three-minute stretch (Sarich’s remaining penalty minute and MacKinnon’s full two minutes), and Semyon Varlamov made three of his 33 saves, with each one drawing a louder and louder ovation from the near-sold out Pepsi Center crowd.
“That was big—the 5-on-3 was important,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “Your penalty killing needs outstanding goaltending, and we had that performance from Varly, shutting down every opportunity.”
Once it was over, and once MacKinnon skated out of the penalty box, the roar was deafening. In hindsight, Washington lost the game right there. Parenteau and Landeskog’s subsequent goals were just icing on the cake.
“The best player for us tonight was our fans, simple as that,” Roy said.
“It’s fun to have a full house like we did tonight and get them cheering,” Duchene added. “It was a great game.”
From PA Parenteau: “It’s fun when the building’s full like that. As a hockey player you enjoy that, and it makes you want to go out there and play hard for your fans. It was fun tonight.”
POSTGAME NOTES OF NOTE
- The Avalanche’s previous best 16-game season start in franchise history came during the 1994-95 season, when the Quebec Nordiques started 13-3-0.
- Varlamov improved to 2-0 this year in two starts against his former team … He allowed just one goal in each of those two victories, stopping 73 of 75 shots (.973 save percentage).
- Paul Stastny assisted on Holden’s goal, which extended his point streak to three games (2g/1a) and gave him 270 career assists, moving him past Alex Tanguay (269) for sole possession of eighth on the franchise’s all-time assist list.