Maybe the biggest confidence boost for a hockey player is knowing that your contribution on the ice is having a positive effect for the team on the scoreboard.
So when Ryan O'Reilly scored with 20 seconds left in overtime Wednesday to give the Colorado Avalanche a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, the smile on his face was not just from the joy of scoring but also revealed a sense of liberation for tallying when the club needed it the most.
"It was nice to definitely to get that goal. Tyson [Barrie] made some great plays that when I got the puck, I just tried to put it on net, and lucky for me it went in," O'Reilly said. "It's a relief to get that. Definitely been struggling offensively this year. To contribute like that and help the team win is definitely one of the best feelings you can have."
O'Reilly's seventh goal of the season capped off a New Year's Eve comeback for the Avs and got the team back in the win column after dropping two straight games. Colorado is now 5-2-2 in its last nine games and will look to build on that record this evening at Pepsi Center against the Edmonton Oilers.
What helped the Avs against the Flyers was not diverting from their game plan, even after falling down 1-0 in the first period and trailing 3-2 in the third.
"We have to bring the same mentality into this game," O'Reilly said this morning in preparation for the first of three meetings this year versus Edmonton. "We're not focused on the big picture, just details. One shift at a time; doing everything in that shift to help the team win."
Taking it shift-by-shift and staying in the moment is something that O'Reilly has tried to do more recently, and it's resulted in one of his best stretches of the season. He has four points in his last four games and has registered two goals and three assists in the last six contests.
After only tallying five goals and 17 points in the first 33 games, the Avs' 2013-14 leading goalscorer said he thinks his season is starting to turn around from an offensive standpoint.
"Absolutely. I think my mind-set is more focused on the game-to-game mentality, and that is when you're able to have the most success," O'Reilly said. "For me personally, trying to get to the net and use my body more has helped me create more offense. It's something that I need to definitely maintain."
He said the toughest part about being 'cold' offensively is just thinking about it.
"You know what your strengths are, and then you go out there and they are not working for you and you're not having success," he said. "A lot of thinking comes into that. You start questioning yourself. You're trying to do new things instead of sticking with your strengths."
O'Reilly will have new linemates tonight after playing with Gabriel Landeskog and Daniel Briere last game. He'll be centering a line with the Avs' two leading scorers on his wings, Alex Tanguay (25 points) and Jarome Iginla (24 points).
Playing with two of Colorado's steadiest offensive threats this season can help jumpstart a player's scoring as well.
"It's one of those things where you give them the puck, they'll make the right play," O'Reilly said of his new line partners. "They're going to be on the forecheck. They're going to create turnovers. It's one of those things that we have to be ready at all times because you never know when you're going to get that opportunity."
BREAKING WITH TRADITION
Patrick Roy doesn't usually mess with his line combinations after a win, but the Avalanche head coach is going wander away from that 'if it's not broke, don't fix it' mentality tonight against the Oilers.
Roy will break up the Matt Duchene-centered line that included wingers Nathan MacKinnon and Maxime Talbot to help maximize the threat of his top three lines, while trying to get Duchene and MacKinnon going offensively. Both forwards only have one goal each in their last 10 contests.
"We always [look at] chance for versus chance against," Roy said. "Obviously Dutchy and MacK, the numbers are high. We just think changing the mix will help both of them."
Duchene will now center a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Daniel Briere, while MacKinnon will play with John Mitchell and Talbot. Ryan O'Reilly with center the other top-nine line with left wing Alex Tanguay and right wing Jarome Iginla.
Borna Rendulic, who began Wednesday's game on the fourth line but finished the contest and scored his first goal with O'Reilly and Landeskog, will return as a right wing on the fourth forward group with center Marc-Andre Cliche and left wing Cody McLeod.
The defensive pairings will remain unchanged. Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov will make his third consecutive start in net.
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Daniel Briere
Alex Tanguay – Ryan O'Reilly – Jarome Iginla
Maxime Talbot – John Mitchell – Nathan MacKinnon
Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Borna Rendulic
Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
Nate Guenin – Tyson Barrie
Nick Holden – Brad Stuart