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Duchene Heating Up

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
If Matt Duchene breaks out and ends up having a fantastic rookie season in the NHL like many people expect, Colorado’s most recent stretch of games may be looked back upon as a turning point to his season.

Duchene has had to deal with a lot early in his rookie season. Besides the fact that he’s playing against many opponents twice his age, the 18-year-old has dealt with a handful of tough breaks that include ringing crossbars, hitting posts and watching goalies make unbelievable saves on his attempts.

While the rookie has been playing good hockey throughout the season, his point total might not be what some expected at this juncture of the season. Still, if you’ve been watching him all year, you just knew the points would come soon enough.

With a goal Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild, Duchene now has five points (2g/3a) in his last six games after netting seven points (2g/5a) in his first 21 contests.
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“I don’t think it’s as much a slow start as it is a learning curve,” said Duchene. “I think I’ve had a great season so far. I’ve contributed in a lot of different ways other than just points. If you look at my stats they can be a bit deceiving. I’ve been playing some good hockey and have been able to really help the team.”

Early on it looked like it might be another hard luck night for the rookie as he had a goal disallowed after it was ruled he knocked a David Jones centering feed in with a high stick nine minutes into the game.

Undeterred, Duchene came back and scored his fourth goal of the season at the 17:40 mark of the opening frame. With the Avs on a power play, Paul Stastny found Duchene with a cross-ice pass from the right point into the left faceoff circle. When Wild netminder Josh Harding attempted to follow the pass across his crease, he was tripped up by the stick of his own defender and fell onto his side. With half the net open, Duchene buried his second power-play goal of the year.

“Points are usually the result of hard work and smart play,” said Duchene. “I think the hard work and smart play have been there, but the experience part is just getting there now. I’m starting to learn what it takes. I’ve been watching a lot of film of the guys who are very successful in this league to see what they do. I’m trying to pick up those traits that they have.”

Duchene has spoken on record about how he’s often been a bit of a slow starter in the points department before eventually going on a tear later in the season. His numbers from the Ontario Hockey League the past few years back up that statement.

In 2008-09, the Haliburton, Ontario native put up 10 points (6g/4a) in his first 11 games with the Brampton Battalion. Not bad numbers by any account, but when you consider he ended up averaging nearly 1.4 points-per-game on the season, you can see how those stats weren’t up to his personal standard.

An even better example may be the 2007-08 season, his first in the OHL. That year, Duchene totaled 10 points (6g/4a) in his first 20 games before finding his groove and netting 40 points in his last 44 contests after adjusting to playing in the OHL.

“Things are starting to open up and the game is starting to slow down for me,” said Duchene. “It’s starting to become easier, so I just have to keep it going. The points are good, but it’s just a start. More importantly we want to get the team back on track.”
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