A 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild wasn’t the way the Colorado Avalanche wanted its home opener to end on Saturday night at Pepsi Center, but there were signs of improvement over the game previous.
Up and down the roster, the players felt they presented a more well-rounded effort, getting chances and putting pucks on Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper, but that first goal of the year still remains elusive.
“I think it was definitely a more complete game, more of a unit out there working together,” said Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly, who had a team-high six shots on goal. “Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but definitely it’s at least something to build off of. There’s a lot of points we did, but there’s definitely some big areas that we need to change in order to win games.”
According to O’Reilly, the major area of concern is scoring goals. Having been shutout twice in two games against the physically punishing Wild, the lack of offense is something that is definitely on Colorado’s radar.
“It sure is frustrating. You want to score goals, especially at home and in a home opener in front of a great crowd,” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. “Kuemper played a solid game and what more can you say?
“I’m not worried. We’re a strong group in here, and we win and we lose together. Right now we’ve had two tough games, but we’ve got 80 more to go. So we’ve got to put the work boots on and get to work.”
The way Landeskog sees it, the Avalanche is playing too intricate a game. There are a few too many passes instead of focusing on the basics like crashing the net for dirty rebounds off of initial shots.
“I don’t think we’re paying the price right now. Tonight, certainly a lot more than we did in Minnesota but driving the net, throwing pucks at the net,” said Landeskog. “We got better tonight but we’re a little fancy and we’re still looking for the extra pass, and at the same time, I felt like tonight we were close. It’s little details and it’s little inches here and there, but that’s what the game’s all about and we’re not worried.”
The shots are starting to come, but the quality scoring chances are still too infrequent for O’Reilly’s liking.
“Ton of shots tonight but they’re all brutal shots,” he said. “Just shooting for rebounds.
“It’s one of those things, you’ve got to put the puck in the net. It’s bearing down, trying to put the puck through the net.”
The Avs saw some first period momentum stifled a bit in the second period by a handful of penalties, including a five minute major and a game misconduct given to rear guard Erik Johnson for elbowing. While the Avalanche went 100 percent in stopping Minnesota’s man-advantage opportunities on the evening, constantly playing shorthanded was costly in other ways.
“I think penalty trouble hurt us a bit there. That second period, that whole first part of it, we’re killing. It’s hard to just generate momentum,” said O’Reilly. “It gives their skill players time to feel the puck where they kind of start to get opportunities and stuff. Staying out of the box is definitely a key thing against those guys. When we are firing and we are playing hard, we’ve got to stay out of the box and keep that momentum that we’ve got going.”
The second stanza wasn’t a total loss, as a couple of shots just missed going into the yawning Minnesota net.
“We were a couple of goal posts away from tying the game up. In the second, I thought we were buzzing pretty good,” said Landeskog. “But it is what it is, and I certainly think the effort was there tonight and we worked as a unit of five. I certainly recognized the group a lot more than I did Thursday night. So that’s a good sign and we’ve got to keep working.”
The Avalanche will take to the road on Sunday, traveling East as it prepares for a four-game road trip before returning home on Tuesday, Oct. 21, for a match against the Florida Panthers.
Everberg’s Home Debut
Avalanche forward Dennis Everberg played the first home game of his NHL career—his second match in the league—on Saturday night, registering three hits in 7:42 of ice time. His parents and sister were in the crowd, cheering him on.
After a strong showing in the lopsided 5-0 loss on Thursday, Everberg earned a spot on the second line on Saturday, playing wing with Landeskog and O’Reilly, who was center to begin the game.
Jarome Iginla, Brad Stuart and Daniel Briere also made their Pepsi Center debuts.