Boiled down at its most basic level, the object of the sport is to score one more goal than the other team. Sometimes that means only tallying one time, others it means playing out a back-and-forth slugfest until there’s a winner and loser.
For the Colorado Avalanche, points have come in spurts, such as in five-goal nights against the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues. But there have also been days in which the club has struggled to produce one at all.
A veteran like Daniel Briere has seen it all and more during his long-running NHL career, including the surges and slumps that are just a part of the game.
“It’s like a vicious cycle. When you have a hard time scoring, you start thinking a little too much, you start squeezing the stick a little too much, and then that prevents you from doing the things you’ve always done without thinking and just letting things happen,” Briere said on Wednesday.
“I think there’s maybe some of that going on for us this year, on this team. But looking around the room, there’s certainly a lot of talent—enough to go around.
“We should be scoring more goals. It’s part of the reason [for] where we are in the standings as well. Lately, we’ve been playing a lot better defensively, but we have to find a way to score more goals.”
Success breeds success, as the old cliché goes, but it also comes with hard work. Both of these things will be what gets the Avalanche back on the scoresheet, according to Briere.
“I think as soon as we can get a big night, or two or three guys get going, it’s going to calm everybody down. It’s going to help us to get on our way and score more goals. But there’s no doubt that it’s been frustrating, especially when you know you have an offensive team and things are not working out for you,” he said. “The talent level on this team is certainly not the problem.”
To Briere, the turnaround starts with mental reconditioning and ends with playing a calm game.
“I guess you have to be strong mentally to get over it. It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said. “You have to just go out there and start playing and not thinking about too much. Just empty your brain and just go out and have fun. But it’s a lot easier said than done.
“We’re not going to hide from it. We know it’s been our problem. We know we haven’t been good in that category, and then when that happens you try to find ways to get out of it. I mentioned that you try to clear your brain and just have fun, or you try to get closer to the net, try to put all the pucks at the net. And usually when you get a lucky bounce after that it gives you the chance to relax a little bit and get back on track.”
Goalscoring is the last thing between the Avalanche and finding some continued success this season. The Avs have worked to shore up inconsistencies on defense and between the ruby red pipes, which leaves burying the biscuit as the next thing to improve.
“I guess, even at the beginning of the year, the scoring wasn’t there, and the defense, we were awful. We fixed that problem and goaltending’s been great,” Briere said. “Lately we’ve found ways to win more games. If we can get the offense going, we’ll definitely be one of the top teams and a very tough matchup for anyone.”
Colorado looks to jumpstart the goal generators tonight in a matchup against the similarly struggling Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m at Pepsi Center.
Filibustering the Flyers
The Avs will certainly have their hands full on defense against the Flyers, which have two players—Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek—playing among the best in the league. While Colorado looks to play it’s own speed game, shutting down these two guys will be as paramount as finding twine behind the orange and white goaltender.
“You play them hard. You play them fast ‘cause they’re very good playmakers, both of them. And you’ve got to be aggressive on them,” said former Flyers and current Avalanche forward Maxime Talbot. “They’re two guys that are not scared to go in the corner, get the puck and do the work. So we have to work hard on them.”
“They’re outstanding players. They’re having an outstanding year. They’re leading the league in scoring. They’ve been doing a good job,” said Avs coach Patrick Roy. “There’s no plan right now [for] which line we’re going to play against them. We haven’t decided yet. Obviously, [Erik Johnson] and [Jan Hejda] should play against them. But we just want to focus on us. I think we’re in a position right now where we need to look at how we want to play. Like I said yesterday, we want to generate more offense.”
Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie is certainly keyed onto what Philadelphia has to offer offensively.
“Obviously, that top line over there with Giroux and Voracek, they’re clicking pretty good right now. It’s no surprise they’ve been outstanding the last few seasons,” said Barrie. “So nothing really changes for us. We’ve got to do a good job playing as a unit of five and trying to shut them down effectively as a team.”
The Flyers enter the contest struggling on the power play, having gone 0-for-15 in the last six games. Stopping the man advantage is something that Colorado has had success at all year, but that doesn’t put special-teams specialist Talbot at ease.
“The P.K., I feel, lately has been slumping a little bit, but even though they haven’t scored in six games, they’re—in my mind—one of the most dangerous power plays in the league,” he said. “They have a lot of weapons and it’s going to be a very good challenge for us tonight.”
Having played 117 games with Philadelphia, Talbot says his familiarity with the team is something that makes matchups against his former club a little more exciting.
“It’s always fun to play against a team you played for. You see similar faces out there and a couple friends and stuff,” Talbot said. “It’s fun, and at the same time it gives you a little extra motivation to beat them, for sure.”
The same is true of Briere, who spent a significant portion of his recent career donning the orange sweater and still lives in the area during the offseason.
“It’s still home, first of all, and then there’s still a lot of good friends on the team as well. A lot of people that were there when I was there, they’re still around,” he said. “The Flyers will always have a special place in my heart. It’s hard not to follow what they’re doing and keep track. I still wish them the best other than the two nights that we’re facing each other.”
22-year-old forward Borna Rendulic was recalled from the Lake Erie Monsters Tuesday after the Avs skated with a 20-man roster against the St. Louis Blues. With his appearance in tonight’s match against the Flyers, Rendulic will pass Goran Bezina as the longest tenured Croatian-born skater to play in the NHL.
The rookie will play on the fourth line with Cody McLeod and Marc-Andre Cliche.
“The thing that we liked about Borna was his speed,” said Roy. “He played well enough defensively when he was here, and we hope that he’s going to bring a bit of offense to that line with Cody and Clicher.”
Rendulic has appeared in three Avalanche contests to date.
Gabriel Landeskog — Ryan O’Reilly — Danny Briere
Alex Tanguay — John Mitchell — Jarome Iginla
Max Talbot — Matt Duchene — Nathan MacKinnon
Cody McLeod — Marc-Andre Cliche — Borna Rendulic
Jan Hejda — Erik Johnson
Nick Holden — Brad Stuart
Nate Guenin — Tyson Barrie