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Looking Back At The Road Trip That Was...

by Kyle Shohara / Colorado Avalanche
THE BEGINNING: It was nine days ago when the Avalanche, fresh off a 3-0 defeat at home on Opening Night, embarked on a season-long five-game road trip that would take them through Boston, Columbus, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.  Ask any hockey expert and they'd tell you that six out of a possible 10 points - for any team on the road -  would be considered a success.  Factor in those five games being played over eight days? Even more impressive.  To say that this road trip is make-or-break would be a stretch, but, as history has shown, every point earned at any time of the season is huge.  How would the Avs respond after a disappointing home opener against Detroit? Would the offense awaken? Will the goaltending tandem of Varlamov and Giguere stand tall? How important is size on the back end?  Needless to say, those questions were emphatically answered on a road trip that became the best in franchise history.

THE AFTERMATH: The Avs swept their East Coast journey, having gone five-for-five, earning 10 out of a possible 10 points on a road trip that saw the Avs ourscore their opponents 18-10.  The offense came alive, highlighted by a 7-1 rout of the Ottawa Senators on the second of back-to-backs.  David Jones sparked the Avs' offense, tallying four goals and an assist over the course of five games.  Three of those points were earned in Colorado's fourth straight victory, a 6-5 five shootout win over Montreal on Saturday.  The defense, collectively, was a force.  The increased size on the blue line cleared the crease and punished opposing forwards at every opportunity. Goaltenders Varlamov and Giguere put up a brick wall, keeping opponents to no more than two goals in four of the team's five wins.  

THE RECORD BOOK: Entering last night's contest against the Maple Leafs, the previous franchise record for a road trip of five or more games was 4-0-1 done twice (March 1-11, 2007 and Jan. 25 to Feb. 6, 2003).  The Leafs were undefeated, having gone 3-0-0 in their first three home games at Air Canada Centre.  With J.S. Giguere in net facing his former team, the veteran netminder turned aside 27-of-29 shots,  giving the Avs an opportunity to win it in the extra session.  David Jones sealed the deal after tapping in a rebound off the stick of Kyle Quincey, giving the Avs their first perfect road trip of at least five games in franchise history.  Like so many good teams do, the Avs found ways to win hockey games.  Colorado now leads the Western Conference and sits atop the entire National Hockey League with 10 points in six games.  

A LOOK BACK: Let's take a look at each game of this historic road trip, beginning in Boston.

AT BOSTON (1-0 W): The Avs opened their five-game road trip with an afternoon tilt against the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions on Columbus Day.  Boston was 1-1-0 at the time, having defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 two days prior.  The Avs came into Beantown 5-0-1 in their last six visits; their last regulation loss dated back to 1998.  With Varly starting his second consecutive game, the Russian netminder record his fifth career shutout (first as a member of the Avalanche) in a 1-0 gritty victory.  The veteran Milan Hejduk netted the Avs' first goal of the season and the lead was preserved by stellar goaltending from Varlamov.  A handful of his 30 saves were highlight worthy, including this gem with 5:50 remaining in the contest: 

The Avs carried their momentum into Columbus to face the winless Blue Jackets.  Still without defenseman James Wisniewski (suspension), the Jackets were 0-3-0 and hungry for their first win of the young season.  The Jackets were 40 seconds away from securing their first victory until 2011 draft pick Gabriel Landeskog deflected a wrister by Jan Hejda into the back of the net.  Gabriel Landeskog, the second overall pick in this year's draft (and highest draft pick in franchise history) tied the game, earning his first career NHL goal.  It was a clutch performance by the 18-year-old and his celebration was nothing short of fantastic.  The Avs went on to win 3-2 in a shootout courtesy of goals from Milan Hejduk and Matt Duchene. Take a look at Gabriel Landeskog's game-tying (and first career) goal:

The Avs had little time to celebrate their come-from-behind shootout victory against Columbus.  With the second of back-to-backs in Ottawa, the Avs faced a Senators team with a familiar face in net.  Craig Anderson, who was traded to the Sens last February, faced his former team for the first time.  Anderson was subsequently lit up like a Christmas tree, allowing seven - yes, seven - unanswered goals against the Avs who were playing their second game in as many nights.  Joakim Lindstrom had two goals in his Avalanche debut and Gabriel Landeskog scored in his second straight game and finished with two points.  Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk also had two-point nights (1g/1a) and J.S. Giguere, in his first start with the Avs, stopped 15-of-16 shots.  The Avs peppered Anderson with 39 shots. Take a look at Joakim's second goal of the game that put the Avs up 7-1:

The Bell Centre is arguably one of the most intimidating buildings to play in.  With 21,000 fans packing the house every night, the atmosphere is electric and the crowd noise defeaning.  But that didn't the faze the red-hot Avs as they brought a 3-0 road record into Montreal.  The game was anything but a goaltending duel, as both teams went tit for tat throughout the night.  But it was the resiliency of the Avs that eventually rewarded them with a 6-5 shootout win.  Despite allowing five goals, goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped 38 saves in the win.  David Jones had two goals and an assist and Kyle Quincey came through in the clutch with the game-tying goal with 4:03 left in regulation.  Milan Hejduk and Matt Duchene delivered in the shootout and Varly denied both chances by the Habs.  The Avs, now 4-0 on the road trip, had a chance to make history in Toronto.  Take a look at Kyle Quincey's game-tying goal late in regulation:

A victory in this game would give the Avalanche a franchise-best five consecutive/uninterrupted road wins.  The previous best was 4-0-1 done twice (last: March 1-11, 2007).  Already 4-0-0 on the road trip and 4-1-0 overall, the Avs faced a Maple Leafs team just as hot with a 3-0-0 record.  In front of a national audience, the Avalanche once again showed their flare for the dramatic.  After allowing the game-tying goal with less than five minutes remaining in the game, the Avs made the most of their opportunity in overtime.  Defenseman Kyle Quincey received the puck along the boards and fired a shot that James Reimer kicked out.  Unfortunately, he kicked it right to David Jones, who managed to sneak behind defenseman Cody Franson and tap the puck into a wide open net.  It was Jones' fourth goal in three games and his team-leading fifth point of the season.  Goaltender J.S. Giguere was in net against his former team and delivered with a 27-save performance including a sprawling save on Colby Armstrong late in the game.  It was Jiggy's second win in as many starts.  The win capped off a perfect 5-0-0 road trip earning them 10 out of a possible 10 points that propelled them to the top of the conference.  Take a look at David Jones' overtime goal that set a franchise record for wins in a road trip of a least five games:

LOOKING AHEAD: The Avs have two days off before a home-and-home series against the Chicago Blackhawks starting Thursday night at Pepsi Center.  After a Saturday night contest in Chicago, the Avs will face the Calgary Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome on the 26th before returning home for matchups against the Edmonton Oilers on the 28th and Los Angeles Kings on the 30th to finish the month of October.
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