The Colorado Avalanche finally lost last night, falling 4-2 to Detroit in a game that was most notable for the suspension-worthy hit from behind on Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall by Cody McLeod.
If not for the Kronwall injury, there probably would have been more talk about the Avs putting 40 shots on Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who made 38 saves for his third outstanding performance in four nights. Because if not for Gustavsson, the 6-1-0 Avs may still be undefeated.
So what’s been the key to Colorado’s improved play compared to last season when it was one of the NHL’s worst teams?
Forward Matt Duchene points to the Avs’ aggressive attacking attitude under new head coach Patrick Roy.
“That’s one thing we’ve all talked about in our room the last four years,” Duchene said, per Yahoo! Sports. “Not to knock anybody or anything, but I don’t feel like we’ve played the way that our team is built. I think we’ve played a little bit too stingy and slow, or tried to play that way, and it wasn’t in our makeup, and it backfired, I think. I think we need to play a style like Chicago. We’re built like a Chicago.”
By that, Duchene means the Avs are more of a skill team up front than, say, the Los Angeles Kings or Boston Bruins, two recent Stanley Cup winners who rely more on big, physical forwards than Chicago does.
All that said, one caveat that should be noted about Colorado’s early-season success is the fact they’ve relied heavily on their goaltenders, Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who’ve combined for a league-best .958 team save percentage.
History suggests that sort of save percentage is unsustainable, meaning the Avs might need to tone down the running and gunning and take better care of the puck. Because at the risk of criticizing a team that’s only lost once, Colorado is also surrendering 34.3 shots per game, tied for the fourth most in the NHL. And consistently allowing a lot of shots is most definitely not how Chicago plays.