For the Colorado Avalanche, that specifically narrowed vision will be key until the end of the season, and it played a big role in the club’s 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
“Right now, we’re not looking at the standings anymore. We just need to win our games,” goaltender Semyon Varlamov said after turning aside 28 shots to seal the win. “We’re in a good position, and I can tell you it’s up to us.”
Defeating the Canucks, a team that had recently topped the Avalanche 5-1 when the two clubs last met on Feb. 21, put Colorado back into the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. The win also doesn’t matter anymore.
Moments after the elation, the high from the solid effort and taking away the precious two points, the game was cast aside. It’s in the past and what’s next holds value for the Avs.
“It means nothing. There’s a lot of hockey to be played,” head coach Patrick Roy said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time. We did what we had to do tonight. Now we’re going to have to refocus for Calgary. That’s what good teams [do]. Good teams are capable of refocusing and getting their game ready for the next challenge. Our next challenge will be in Calgary.”
They say the night is always darkest just before the dawn, and for the Avalanche, there could be brightness ahead.
In a city known for its rain and cloud cover this time of year, the Avs found sunshine in British Columbia, both literally and figuratively. They needed to come out and have a good game against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night, and that’s largely what they did.
The visiting squad fell to an early deficit in the first period but battled back strong, scoring three unanswered markers to take a 3-1 victory with them into Alberta.
Mikkel Boedker scored the equalizer and the go-ahead goal, and Andreas Martinsen put away the insurance tally.
“We played a good game tonight. I thought we were sharp for 60 minutes,” Roy said. “It was one of our better third periods of the season. Obviously, there were a lot of key moments in that game. When they took the 1-0 lead, we scored right away after. That was good for our confidence.
“I thought in the second, we had some good chances and we could not [score]. Then we had a big goal by Mikkel and another big one by Marty. It gave us a 3-1 lead, big difference in the game. They tried a little push at the end, but I thought we defended well. We were very smart when they pulled the goalie. We didn’t look for the empty net. We just keep the puck out of the zone. We did a good job.”
Boedker was the hero of the night, mere hours after having a one-on-one session with his coach about taking his production to the next level.
“I just wanted to give him some confidence because I said to him my thought was that he was playing well,” Roy said of the interaction. “He just needed to play with more confidence and things [would] turn around for him. I really feel that his game is right there, and sometimes if you’re just more confident around the net, things will go your way. I thought that’s what he did tonight.”
According to the 26-year-old Dane, Roy told him to “keep playing, just [be] a little more confident and keep going to the net, and good things are going to happen.”
“I think it worked out pretty well,” said Boedker. “It’s huge. That’s what we all want. We all want to be a difference maker and make good plays and make things happen. I think it’s huge for your confidence and as a team, I think we played really well [for] a full 60 tonight.”
The forward admitted that when he scored the game-winning marker just 37 seconds into the final frame, he wasn’t sure the puck had found twine.
“You don’t see much. You’re so focused on making the move and making sure that you get a shot on net,” he said. “I didn’t know it went in. [Nathan MacKinnon] asked me why I didn’t smile when I scored, but I didn’t know it went in before everybody came to me and hugged me. That definitely feels good. You’re just trying to get around the defenseman and get a shot on net, and that went in. So that was nice.”
His first tally was turning point of the night. It came after MacKinnon had a prime scoring chance ricochet off of both posts behind Ryan Miller and into the Canucks goaltender, who smothered it for a whistle.
“I think at that point we were…right there, and that post-post, I think it was that was the last bad one before the good ones came,” Boedker said of the way the puck was bouncing. “Hopefully we can continue on this road trip with the good ones.”
Even Varlamov, who made some major stops to keep Vancouver trailing, was impressed with his teammate’s performance.
“He’s very skilled, very dangerous in front of the net, and tonight he played outstanding,” said Varlamov. “He had a couple scoring chances, scored two big goals for us. He’s a great player.”
“He played some good hockey for us, and I was happy to see him be rewarded [for] it tonight,” added Roy.
The win was the result of hard work, determination and perseverance.
“Vancouver is a good team, same as usual. They’ve got great players, really good goaltending,” Varlamov said. “I think Miller played outstanding tonight. He had lots of great saves, and he kept the game [close]. We always have a hard time [playing] here, but I’m really happy we won today, and we got the two points.
“I feel like playoffs starts for us right now, and it’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to playing against Calgary. It’s going to be another big one.”
Avalanche rookie rear guard Chris Bigras missed Wednesday’s match at Rogers Arena, bringing his total absences to four games.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman has been out of the lineup with a head injury since March 7 and will continue to be until he’s deemed ready to return to action.
Unfortunately for Colorado, there’s no precise timetable for that.
“I’m not sure yet,” Roy said of when Bigras will be available. “He’s going to be reevaluated in Calgary, and if he’s cleared, then he’ll play. If he [isn’t], then we’ll wait.”
The 21-year-old skated in 23 straight games with the Avs after being recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL on Jan. 13, recording a goal and an assist in that span.
With Bigras out of the lineup, Roy inserted Andrew Bodnarchuk into the third defensive pairing alongside Eric Gelinas. They both finished with a plus-2 rating in over 10 minutes of ice time.