Without doing a major overhaul of their roster, the Colorado Avalanche have transformed from one of the worst teams in the NHL to one of the best. The big question now is how close to sustainable this is and, if the Avalanche really are serious contenders now, how much of the credit should go to new head coach Patrick Roy.
Avalanche leading scorer Matt Duchene would argue that the Avalanche’s coaching change has made a significant difference. He wasn’t a fan of former bench boss Joe Sacco’s tactics and now that he’s gone, Duchene doesn’t mind going public with his criticisms.
“There were very few people in this (dressing) room who were happy. Our style of play, it wasn’t right for this team. We knew it would fail,” Duchene told the Denver Post. “That was the hard part. We knew (any) success was going to be short-lived. It was hard to really be excited about it.
“For myself, it was really hard to look at what we were doing and think it would keep on working. I can honestly say now, it’s not like that.”
Duchene credits Roy for working with players “constructively” rather than having a doghouse. He also appreciates his fast-paced system.
Sacco is an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres now and he decided not to respond to Duchene’s comments.
The Avalanche earned a 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to wrap up their October schedule with a 10-1-0 record. They’re enjoying offensive depth far beyond what they had last season, but it’s been their goaltending that has stuck out so far. Semyon Varlamov has been one of the league’s top netminders and backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere has allowed just two goals in three starts.
Colorado will resume its schedule on Friday against the Dallas Stars.
–Prior to last night’s game between Ottawa and Pittsburgh, the Senators held a moment of silence for those affected by the attacks in Manchester. A very touching moment. (The Score)
–Speaking of that game, the Senators managed to win it 2-1 thanks to some incredible goaltending from Craig Anderson. You can check out the highlights from the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.
–Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire takes a deeper look at P.K. Subban‘s contribution to Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. Despite dealing with a herniated disc, Subban has really been a key part of the Predators’ success both offensively and defensively. (Sportsnet)
–Many hockey fans thought Pekka Rinne‘s better days were behind him after he struggled during the regular season, but his playoff numbers have been incredible. From the start of his career, Rinne has always been underrated, so being underestimated is nothing new to him. (Yahoo)
–The Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs made a couple of trades last offseason. First, the Leafs got Frederik Andersen from the Ducks. Then, it was Toronto that shipped Jonathan Bernier to Anaheim. Could the two clubs make another huge deal this summer? The Leafs need a right-handed defenseman, and with the expansion draft coming up, the Ducks may have some blue liners to move. (The Hockey News)
–Former NHLer Manny Maholtra held a part time role with the Canucks last season, and he’s hoping for a larger one next year. “We’ve started discussions and it’s something I would definitely like to do. Obviously, a lot has to do with how (Travis) Green feels and how he wants to build his staff.” (Vancouver Province)
–We know that Brendan Smith wants to re-sign with the New York Rangers, but what will it take to get him under contract? According to the New York Post, Smith will likely fetch a four or five-year deal worth north of $4 million. (New York Post)
If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.
The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.
Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?
Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.
” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.
That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.
Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?
The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.
The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.
The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.
Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.
With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.
Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.
You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.
Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?
It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.
Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.
It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?
One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.
This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.