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Opening-Game Scuffle Set the Tone for Avs' Season

The end-of-game scrum vs. the Ducks helped the Avs start the year with a 13-1 record

Friday, 03.14.2014 / 3:47 PM / News
By Ron Knabenbauer

Little did the Avalanche players know that the end-of-game scuffle on opening night against the Anaheim Ducks would be the start of a historic 2013-14 season.

Colorado won that first game 6-1, but things quickly escalated at the end after rookie Nathan MacKinnon was hit on what head coach Patrick Roy thought should have been a kneeing penalty.

A scrum by the players ensued in front of the teams' benches at the final buzzer, and Roy and Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau eventually traded some heated words. Roy went on to push the partition that separates the benches toward Boudreau, and he was later fined $10,000 by the league for his actions.

"All along, I've been talking about a partnership with my players and letting them know that I am with them," Roy said Friday morning of the incident. "When that thing happened at the end, it certainly gave me an opportunity to show them that I am with them. It is nice to talk, but sometimes talk is cheap.

"Obviously, I would have loved to have saved 10 grand, but it was part of it."

While his wallet became a little lighter after the game, Roy's actions helped show his players that he had their backs in any situation. The team definitely noticed and has responded.

Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny celebrate after the Avalanche won 6-1 against the Anaheim Ducks on opening night on Oct. 2 (Photo: Michael Martin).

"That was a great start to the season," Jamie McGinn said. "That was what we needed to see out of him (Roy), just to show how much he cared about us and was behind us."

Colorado went on to win its first six games, which marked the club's best start since moving to Denver in 1995. The Avs kept winning and went 12-1 in its first 13 contests to become the fifth team in NHL history to accomplish such a feat.

The Avs' historic start has continued through the season as their 43 wins are the most and their 91 points are the second most in franchise annals after 66 games.

"It was only one game, but it started the season the right way," Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said.

The Avalanche was playing with tons of confidence late in the opening game and led 6-0 before the Ducks scored with seven seconds left to spoil Semyon Varlamov's shutout attempt. Forward John Mitchell said that the Avs' performance in the Oct. 2 game helped with the team's belief that they were a good club, and Roy's actions played a part in that belief as well.

"It was a good game for us obviously, a little bit of a blowout," Mitchell said. "I think it brought us all together. I think we were a good team going into the season, but I think it just solidified it a little bit. Then Patty Roy showed a little fire at the end of the game so you knew he was for real, too."

With 16 games remaining, Colorado sits in second place in the Central Division and is chasing St. Louis for the top spot. The Avalanche can improve its standings in the Western Conference this evening as it is just two points behind the Pacific Division-leading Ducks (93 points), who have also had a great season since that end-of-game scuffle.

The Avs are in a spot where they're competing for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, division and conference titles and the Presidents' Trophy, but they wouldn't be in this position without the strong start to their season and their coach showing his loyalty.

"Obviously, Patty showed that he was here to coach for us and would have our backs from the very start," Matt Duchene said. "I wouldn't expect to see the same thing tonight, but I think it definitely set the tone for the season."

AVALANCHE SPOTLIGHT ON: SEMYON VARLAMOV

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is expected to make his third consecutive start and appear in his 200th career game tonight.

He will also be looking to pick up win No. 101 of his career after he hit the century mark for NHL victories with a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Semyon Varlamov
Goalie  - COL
Record: 33-12-5
GAA: 2.44 | Sv%: .926
Varlamov became the fourth Russian-born goalie in league history to reach 100 victories, joining Evgeni Nabokov (347), Nikolai Khabibulin (333) and Ilya Bryzgalov (213). He ranks second in the NHL with a career-high 33 victories this season, reaching the 30-win mark for the first time in his career.

Varlamov made 35 saves in the Avs' season-opening game against the Ducks and helped keep Colorado in the game early as he stopped 22 shots in the first two periods.

"Varly set the tone by playing so well at the start of the game," Roy said of his goalie in the season opener. "They dominated us without a doubt [in the first period]. In the second and in the third we started playing much better hockey."

Varlamov is 17-4-1 in his last 22 starts and 20-4-5 in his last 31 games (29 starts). He has the most victories of any NHL goaltender since Dec. 31 (17) and Dec. 12 (20).

MORE MORNING NOTES

Paul Stastny is still day-to-day with a back injury and won't play tonight. Roy said the team is going to be patient and won't to rush him back until he is 100 percent.

• Coach Roy said after morning skate that he won't make any changes to his lineup from the Avalanche's last game against Chicago. Ryan Wilson, Cory Sarich and Reto Berra were scratched that game and expect the trio to join Stastny on the scratch list this evening.

• Tonight is the second of three meetings between the Avs and the Ducks. The clubs will close out the season against one another on April 13 in Anaheim.

• Colorado wraps up its four-game homestand this evening and will play the next three games on the road in Canada. The Avs will play 10 of their final 15 games away from Pepsi Center.

Matt Duchene has tied his single-season career high with 40 assists (2010-11). He has also matched his career best in shots (202 in 2010-11). With 62 points, Duchene is just five short of equaling his career best in scoring (67 in 2010-11).

• John Mitchell needs one assist to tie his career high (17 in both 2008-09 and 2009-10 with Toronto).

• Max Talbot also needs one assist to tie his career high (14) set with the Flyers in 2011-12.

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