The Colorado Avalanche was looking to enter 2017 headed in the right direction, not only just on home ice but overall.
Unfortunately, that won't be the case, as the surging New York Rangers skated out of Pepsi Center victorious after handing the home team a 6-2 defeat on New Year's Eve.
The Avalanche finished the first frame in a 2-2 tie, matching offensive efforts and trading chances, but things got away from Colorado in the middle frame and that was that.
"We were playing a pretty good game there halfway through, and that third one goes in there," netminder Calvin Pickard said of the game-winner. "Obviously, I would like to have it back, but after that it was kind of like we had that 'here we go again' feeling. They got a couple lucky bounces at the end, but I thought for the 60 minutes we pushed pretty hard, had our chances."
Now, the Avs will be looking for a fresh start in 2017, one which frees them from the shackles that have limited them to just four home wins this season and allows them to overcome whatever plagues them on friendly ice.
"We got to erase it out of our memories," Pickard said of 2016. "The last month especially, it was really tough. There's a lot of games, especially at home here, where it felt like we were doing a lot of good things but we were not getting anywhere near the result we wanted. So it's going to be nice to end this year and turn the page and get ready for Vancouver."
Video: Postgame interview with Gabriel Landeskog
"That's what we got to do, really. That's what we got to really look at here," team captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "Ten straight at home, that's embarrassing. That's flat out embarrassing. That isn't the way that anybody wants to play at home. We talk about it all the time. You want to be a dominant home team, and obviously the end of 2016, at home and on the road, hasn't been good enough. We got to start fresh, and that starts on Monday in Vancouver."
The beautiful thing about the sport of hockey is that there's a new chance to begin anew each shift, every period, game after game, until the final buzzer sounds. So Colorado is hoping to cast off what ails it and to turn things around when the squad heads off to face the Canucks on Jan. 2.
"We have to start coming out playing as a brand new team here come January," said Landeskog, who would like to see better choices made on the ice. "Decision making is something that you got to control, and that's something that we can control. Whether we look for that extra pass or try to put pucks at the net, whatever it might be, that's things that we have to do. We play in the best league in the world. You get here for a reason, and your decision making is a part of that, but when your team's not playing well and you're losing games, you start second guessing your decisions and you start second guessing yourself. And that's something that we have to get away from.
"We got to come together as a team. Really, that's what it's all about. Obviously, going on the road will be a good thing for us… A lot of people probably had a lot of family in town for the holidays, and it's a stressful time, but you got to be able to relax and come together as a team. I've said it all along, we lose as a team, we win as a team. If you start getting away from that, you're in deep trouble. So we got to make sure that we stay together and talk about it and dig our way out of it."
If the previous 365 days proved anything, it's that Colorado is in development. There's plenty to improve upon moving forward.
Video: Coach Bednar after loss to Rangers
"Obviously, we're a work in progress here. We have a lot of work to do. We know that. We have to continue to keep working on it daily and making sure that our practice habits [are good] and that we're curing those mistakes that we're talking about and keep teaching and learning and see where we get to as a group," head coach Jared Bednar said after the loss. "We play a really good game, we go and win a hockey game and then we shoot ourselves in the foot a lot and we end up losing hockey games that we should be in. So as a group and as individuals, we have to get better at that. There's no question.
"You can see it when another team scores. We've talked about it. They get down and we try and pick them up, but half of that is part of our own mistakes. We're still making critical mistakes. In a 2-2 hockey game, we have a turnover at the offensive-zone blue line and they score, and then we take a bunch of penalties and they get another one, right? So it's on us to make sure that we're not making those types of mistakes and putting ourselves shorthanded all the time when we're in the hockey game."
That is particularly important at Pepsi Center, where area fans are aching to see a victory.
"The last few times we've played at home, we've gotten kind of destroyed," Pickard said. "Tonight didn't have that feeling. We had a pretty good first half of the game. I thought actually the full game we were pushing pretty good, but we didn't get many bounces. They got quite a few, but it just seems like that's the way it's been the last few games here at Pepsi Center. We haven't really gotten the bounces and they have, but we just got to stick it with. It will change at some point."
Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie closed out 2016 with a nice milestone for his burgeoning career. The 25-year-old rear guard skated in his 300th NHL game, which comes in his fifth full season with the club.
Barrie made sure he contributed in Saturday's New Year's Eve loss against the Rangers, as well. He picked up an assist on Cody McLeod's first goal of the season, firing a blue-line blast that McLeod tipped behind goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Barrie extended his running assist streak to a career high four games (six assists) on the play. His current scoring stretch is just one point short of his best, set from Jan. 25-Feb. 3, 2014. He leads the Avalanche in helpers and his 25 points this year paces club defensemen.
The blueliner has 172 points (42 goals, 130 assists) in his 300 games, including six points in seven games against the Rangers.