“There’s not a whole lot of moral victories in hockey, or any sports, I think. It’s always nice to get points. On the road, it feels a little better to get a point but at home you don’t want to lose in O.T. and shootouts,” center Nathan MacKinnon said following Thursday’s morning skate at Pepsi Center. “That definitely needs to change.”
Colorado’s ability to collect points during that stretch is due in part to the perseverance and determination of the players, some of whom seem to be in midseason form. Alex Tanguay (four goals, two assists) is in the midst of a six-game point streak and is tied for the team lead—with Gabriel Landeskog—in goals.
Veteran Jarome Iginla, center Matt Duchene and defenseman Tyson Barrie are all tied for the team lead in points with seven each and a couple more Avalanche skaters are close behind. Even goaltender Semyon Varlamov is locked in, as evidenced by a 49-save effort in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks.
Although things are trending in the right direction, the Avs are still looking to string together some wins. According to head coach Patrick Roy, that will come with patience. As long as the team can relax, do the work required of them and respect the process, good things will come.
“Whether it’s bad luck or just not being sharp enough or whatever it is, for some reason we can’t finish the job in those overtime games and shootout games,” said Matt Duchene. “It’s frustrating, but I think you’ve just got to find the fun and enjoyment of the game back. Just come to the rink everyday a little bit lighter on your feet and try to enjoy it a bit more.”
Both for the team and on an individual level, patience is the key to success in the NHL. Patience in yourself, your teammates, your game, even in waiting for your hard work to pay off is imperative at this level of the sport and that is something that Calder-trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon is learning about. Despite his four assists this season, MacKinnon has yet to bury his own shot behind an opposing goaltender.
“I’m not worried. I feel like I’m playing pretty solid. I had some chances last game,” said MacKinnon. “Everybody has a next level to bring here, which is exciting. I feel like everybody is very motivated to play a little bit better and obviously I’m definitely part of that group.
“The worst thing I can do is worry every night. I like not to dwell on anything. It’s a long season. We have lots of games left, not just for myself but for everybody, the whole league. It’s exciting and hopefully when one comes, the net gets a little bigger.”
Hoping to stir the pot and get the goalscoring ramped up for everyone, not just MacKinnon, Roy has shifted his lines for Thursday’s match against the visiting New York Islanders. This includes putting Iginla and Jamie McGinn on either side of MacKinnon while creating a powerful, four-line threat for the Avs.
“You try to help any teammate out going like that because we all go through it at one time or another. But I know as a young guy they always feel more magnified,” said Iginla, who has certainly experienced the highs and lows of the game during his 17 years in the league. “He’s a very competitive guy, great young player. It’s hard in the games we’re losing by one goal and tight games. He wants to produce. But at the same time with how good he is, it’s going to come. You try to stay positive.”
For Iginla, the patience comes from knowing how things go when players and teams are at their best.
“You kind of think back, try to remind each other of when we have our best stretches. It’s usually when we’re feeling good and we’re posting. Not when we’re down and squeezing,” said the 37-year-old goalscorer. “So you try to get to that place. It’s easier said than done but that’s what you try. Just remain positive and work and not think about it.”
Roy said he believes that MacKinnon is on the cusp of finding the valve to let his offense come flowing out.
“I think now, he’s getting on top of the hill in the way that now he starts to see things. I think he was more positive last game,” said Roy. “He was positive. He enjoyed the game. He was skating well. He had chances. He was our best forward if you take chances for against chances against. He was by far our best forward. I think he’s playing really well defensively. He skates well.”
The difference that Roy said he sees is lessened internal pressure from MacKinnon, who held himself to a high standard entering the campaign.
“I think his expectations were really high at the start of the season. Obviously he was compared to [Sidney] Crosby. He was like the next Crosby,” said Roy. “I guess they’re big skates to fill. I think he went through different stages. He was a bit frustrated because he didn’t score early on.”
Not only does the coach think MacKinnon is close, but the team is close as well. The Avs are getting valuable lessons here in the early stages of the season that will pay off once they are behind them.
“We’re learning to manage our game a little bit better,” said Roy. “If we don’t manage our game, we’re giving them a chance to come back in the game and that’s the thing I think we’re learning a lot right now. Obviously when you’re not scoring, you’re more exposed. Game management is more exposed. I think it’s good for our players to go through that and I think it makes us a better team.
“I think it’s positive.”
Guess Who’s Back
|Dennis Everberg |
The Avalanche recalled Swedish forward Dennis Everberg from the Lake Erie Monsters yesterday afternoon. Everberg will fill in while forward Jesse Winchester continues recovering from a head injury, starting tonight against New York.
“We believe we need four good lines,” said Roy. “I think it’s going to take some pressure off of the first two lines, and we hope we could have production from the four lines.”
Everberg played in five games for the Monsters, tallying two goals and one assist through nine shots on goal.
“It was a good experience coming down there to play. It’s kind of different hockey but it was fun. Too bad we didn’t get as [many] wins as we wanted,” said Everberg. “I’m still going to bring my game, what I do and what I did down there. That’s what I want to see. That’s why I got up here.
“The game is always decided in the third period. You’ve got to stick to the system all day and believe in what you do out there and good things will happen.”
The 22-year-old began the season with the Avalanche, playing in five games before being sent down to Lake Erie.
Gabriel Landeskog—Matt Duchene—Ryan O’Reilly
Jamie McGinn—Nathan MacKinnon—Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay—John Mitchell—Dennis Everberg
Cody McLeod—Marc-Andre Cliche—Maxime Talbot
Jan Hejda—Erik Johnson
Brad Stuart—Nick Holden
Nate Guenin—Tyson Barrie