Saturday’s 5-4 shootout win over Chicago was a good one for Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog. The 18-year-old rookie had his first career two-goal game and was credited with six hits.
“He continues to impress; he continues to develop in the right way,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.
The game wasn’t as good for Landeskog’s teammate, Matt Duchene. The 20-year-old played just 11:35 after getting demoted to the fourth line and didn’t have a shot on goal.
“He knows he has to be better for us,” Sacco said.
While this is light years away from being a controversy, it’s still interesting — Duchene hasn’t experienced much adversity since turning pro. In his rookie year, he was nominated for the Calder and scored the goal that sent Colorado to the playoffs. In his sophomore year, he made his first All-Star team while becoming the youngest player to ever lead the Avs in scoring.
For what it’s worth, Duchene took Saturday’s demotion in stride. “It’s…whatever. We played pretty well, so I’m not complaining,” he said following game.
Thing is, Duchene’s struggles weren’t limited to the Blackhawks contest. He’s had a slow start with just four points through eight games and just one assist over his last four. Now there’s a bit of a conundrum to where exactly Duchene fits. The Milan Hejduk-Paul Stastny-David Jones line looked great against Chicago. Duchene could center Landeskog and Daniel Winnik, but they’ve got chemistry with Ryan O’Reilly (he assisted on both Landeskog goals Saturday — all told, the line had five points on the night.) So Sacco might be loathe to mess with success there as well. It probably won’t be a major issue as Duchene can play up and down the lineup, but it’s worth monitoring as we move forward.
Oh, right, almost forgot about the Landeskog bit. Through eight games, he’s proven worthy of the No. 2 selection over Adam Larsson, the Swedish defenseman many thought would go to Colorado at the draft. What’s most impressive is Landeskog’s workload, averaging nearly 17 minutes a night (most amongst all rookie forwards) on a Colorado team with solid depth up front. Sure, he’s benefited from the loss of Peter Mueller — getting more LW minutes as Mueller deals with what sounds like post-concussion issues — but he was thriving even before the Mueller injury, firing 20 shots on goal in his first five games.