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Avalanche Bounces Back and Quiets Doubts

by Scott Ward / Colorado Avalanche

Need any further reason to think this year is different than last? How about this? The Avalanche matched its road win total from all last season—yes, in just eight games—with a 4-2 win against Buffalo on Saturday night.

Let that marinate a bit.

Ryan O'Reilly, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog each had a goal and an assist, and Paul Stastny scored for the first time this season to give Colorado its seventh win in eight games this season.

There might have been a little anxiety rippling through Avalanche fans following Thursday’s loss to rival Detroit—a little wonder about the first six games being reality or merely a great dream—but the Avs didn’t play like that tonight in western New York, and they didn’t think like that either.

Colorado scored two goals in the first 12 minutes of the game (one from Landeskog and one from O’Reilly) and then, after going ahead 4-1, held tough when the Sabres made a game of it with a score just more than a minute into the third period that made it 4-2.

“We were talking in here, ‘This team doesn’t lose two in a row,’” said Duchene, who upped his season point total to nine with Saturday’s effort. “That’s the attitude we want to have.”

Colorado is already off to one of its best starts to a season in franchise history, and any worry of a crash back to earth following Thursday’s emotional game can be put to rest.

And not because of any one thing. Not because of a coach. Not because of a player.

The Avs are making a statement through the early part of the NHL season because of their collective. They’ve shown themselves to be great scorers—they’re fourth in the league in goals per game at 3.38—and they’ve proven great in the defensive zone, too—they’re second in goals-allowed per game at 1.50, with goalies Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere having allowed just 12 pucks past in eight games.

Simply stated, Colorado thus far has shown that it’s great, in all facets.

“I think we just look around,” Stastny said, “and we know what we’ve got: We’ve got four lines that can compete with anyone, two good power-play units. I think everyone is kind of pushing each other. We want everyone to do well, but we know that on any given night and one line doesn’t show up, the other lines show up, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win. I think in goaltending, we’re the same thing, where two guys both eager to win, pushing each other and both kind of feeding off each other. I think that all starts from the top down.”

The person at that top position, head coach Patrick Roy, definitely gets credit for the turnaround, and that’s how it should be. He’s one of the franchise’s all-time great players and is back performing the same sort of magic he put on display many times when he was on the ice.

But the best trick he’s pulled off since his return to Denver has been getting his players to believe in themselves, so their massive amounts of natural talent can shine through.

Was Roy worried about how team would respond Saturday after suffering its first loss of the season? Doesn’t sound like it. He sounds like a leader of professional players, letting those players play.

“We didn’t even talk about that,” Roy said. “I didn’t feel I had to because I thought our guys were sharp this morning. We gave them the day off yesterday. I thought that was important to do that, because we had a really good game [Thursday]. The message was clear: If we play as hard as we did against Detroit we’re going to win a lot of games.”


Duchene’s goal, a power-play score, less than a minute into the second period put Colorado ahead 3-0. At that point the Avs looked like one of the hottest teams in the NHL this season, and Buffalo looked like one of the coldest.

“We talked about that this morning, we talked about it before the game: We needed a good start, and that’s exactly what we got from our guys,” Roy said.

The rest of the game was a different story, though, with the Sabres throwing 24 shots on goal in the next 39 minutes and the Avs getting just nine shots on goal.

“It always helps when you score four goals,” Giguere said. “You give yourself a chance to win, and after that it probably wasn’t the best game we’ve played overall, but it was a good enough of an effort to get two points on the road.”

Of course, it didn’t matter. The damage was done following Duchene’s score, and who knows how the Avs would have played from there if the score had been a bit tighter, but it’s still something that Roy said will need to be cleaned up moving forward.

“Sometimes in hockey when you take a three [-goal lead] and 4-1 lead, the tendency is to sit on it,” Roy said. “You don’t feel the urgency to go as much on the offense, but these are things that we’ve been learning, and I think it makes us a better team. But we’re very happy where we are at.”


- Colorado and Buffalo will meet twice this year, tonight in Buffalo and Feb. 1 in Denver. This marks the first time that Colorado and Buffalo will meet more than once in a season since 2001-02.

The Avs have won five straight games against the Sabres, of which former Avalanche coach Joe Sacco (2009-13) is an assistant coach, and three of those victories have come in a shootout (including the last meeting on March 14, 2012 here in New York).

- More from the locker room:

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere
“That was the gameplan today, actually. We talked about it before the game, to have a good start to the game, you know, the first 10 minutes. Scoring the first goal on the road is very important, and being up 2-0 after the first gave us the help we needed to win the game.”

“We knew that they were going to be desperate, that they were going to look at this game as maybe turning their season around. It’s not too late for them if they start winning some games. So, we needed to be ready. You have to show up against good or bad teams. I thought we did a terrific job.”

Forward Matt Duchene
“We let them back in, but we came out on top, and that’s what matters.”

"It was great to bounce back and go to 7-1. Points right now—we’re rolling; we’re feeling good—we’ve got to get as many points as we can because we’re going to go through some adversity in the season. That’s the NHL, and we’ve got to be ready for it and get as many points as we can while we’re hot.”

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