On Thursday night at Pepsi Center, Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy saw plenty that he liked as he mixed and matched lines and tried new stuff against the Calgary Flames in the team's second preseason contest. He also saw plenty that the club still needs to work on before the season opener against the Minnesota Wild in two weeks.
"Overall, I thought we did a lot of good things out there," Roy said after the Avs' 1-0 loss to the Flames. "The things I didn't like is we made it too easy for their goalie. I thought our structure was pretty solid, our forecheck, our neutral-zone forecheck. We did a lot of good things out there, but our execution on the power play was not solid enough, missed too many passes."
Roy noted that the Avs didn't get enough traffic in front of Calgary goaltender Joni Ortio, and despite holding a 35-25 shot advantage, couldn't generate enough quality looks down low to knock in a greasy goal to knot the contest.
"The guys are working hard," he said. "The guys are competing at a good level tonight, but if we want to score goals we'll have to get more greedy in front of the net. There is no doubt about it."
That is how the majority of goals are scored in the NHL these days, and Roy and the players said they know they have to be better at screening the goalie, holding their position down low and finishing on rebounds.
"I thought we had some good chances, but those weren't there," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "A couple screens could have helped. Overall, we put a lot of shots on net, over 30 shots, and we just have to bear down and get a couple."
The Avs pulled goaltender Reto Berra late in the game and had an extra-man advantage for much of the final four minutes. They continued to get quality chances, but as Roy and Beauchemin said, couldn't score to force overtime.
Fortunately for the Avs, they still have four more outings to clean up their play before the two points won or lost count in the standings.
"I know it's only preseason, but it sucks to lose," MacKinnon said. "I think we're all pretty sick of losing. We have our last home [preseason] game on Sunday against the Kings, and then we go on the road. Trying to get ready for the regular season."
One of the positive notes to come out of the game for Colorado was the play of the night's third line, comprised of Andrew Agozzino, Ben Street and Borna Rendulic. The group had chances throughout the game, and saw ice time late when the club tried to tie the contest.
While all three played with the Lake Erie Monsters last season, Rendulic said he thinks Thursday marked the first time they have played together.
"They are really good players," Rendulic said of his other two linemates. "I really liked playing with them. I think this was our first time playing together. I don't think last year in the minors we played together, or [if we did] we only played a few games. I thought we played really good, and hopefully we can stick together and improve."
The line had six of the club's 11 shots in the first period and finished with 11 total.
It was Rendulic's first game since Jan. 15 when he suffered a broken leg and missed the remainder of the 2014-15 campaign.
"A little bit in the first period," Rendulic said on being a bit rusty at the start. "I didn't think it was that good, but when the game was going on, it was a lot better. My linemates, Agozzino and Street, I think we got a little more chemistry. It was good. Overall, it was good."
Roy was impressed with Rendulic's skating and the chances he had.
"Obviously, he's got some speed when he comes down on the wing," Roy said. "He is using his speed out there. He is becoming a threat out there."
The trio avoided the round of roster cuts made after the game, and will continue to fight for spots on the club until Colorado has to submit its 23-man active roster on Oct. 7. However, if all three don't make it on the Avs' opening-night lineup, Colorado's new minor-league affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, could have a very dangerous combo in their AHL season.
FIRST REAL LOOK OF EJ-BEAUCH PAIRING
Roy got his first chance to see how his probable top-defensive pairing would do against an NHL opponent, and so far he is pleased with what he has seen.
Erik Johnson and Francois Beauchemin made their preseason debuts on Thursday night and finished with 24:20 and 24:46 of ice time respectively.
"I liked it," Roy said. "EJ was solid. It's clear in my mind that that will be a really solid pair for us."
Beauchemin said Johnson and he are still getting to know each other's tendencies on the ice, but they are making progress with their chemistry.
"Still trying to get used to playing with Erik," he said. "I think we did a pretty good job tonight. We didn't give up too much. A couple mistakes, but that is normal for the first game. Overall, I'm pretty happy with how the night went."
When possible, the defensive duo was paired together during practices this past week at training camp and saw a good chunk of ice time at Sunday's Burgundy/White intra-squad scrimmage.
"A little bit for sure," Beauchemin said of their improvement since Sunday. "The more we play together, the better it is going to be. As long as we talk, communicate a lot on the ice, it's going to help us play well."
Beauchemin was signed in the offseason to join Johnson on the top line—playing big minutes, shutting down defenses and providing a little offense as well.