While the Colorado Avalanche didn’t come away with a victory in Washington on Monday night, the third-period effort is something the club is proud off.
It’s also something that the Avs will look to carry over into tonight’s road matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I think it’s something to build off of,” said defenseman Nate Guenin. “We know every period is not going to be like that. We had the puck for most of the period. We did a lot of good things. We were buzzing. That’s the type of game that we want to try to play for 60 minutes. So just start from the first shift tonight and build off of that.”
“I thought we had an outstanding third period,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “We had around 18 shots in that period. I thought we had some great looks at it.”
The Avalanche was pouring it on late, trailing the Capitals by a goal throughout the final 20 minutes of play. The visiting team finished the frame with an 18-6 shot advantage, but the equalizing tally remained elusive.
“We had our chances in the third to tie the game. Even [Alex] Tanguay, I think, went under the goalie and missed on the far side, at the opposite side,” said Roy of the opportunities to tie the game. “We were playing against probably the hottest team in the NHL right now, and we outshot them 18-6 in the third period.
“To me this is very positive, and that’s what I said to our guys this morning. If we can maintain that intensity level for 60 minutes like we did in the third, we’re going to win our share of games.”
The Avalanche will have an uphill battle with tonight’s contest being the second of a back-to-back set to open a five-game road trip in the East. Vigor will be key in finding a measure of success.
“We’re going to have to work around our energy as well. They didn’t play last night. We played. We traveled. We got here 1-1:30 in our rooms,” said Roy. “I think it’s going to be very important for us to be smart early in the game and try to play with the lead. Obviously, the first period for me will be the key. If we can get some momentum in that first and take the lead and play with the lead, that will bring a lot of energy to our team.”
Line matchups are another area of focus for Roy on the road, as the home team has final say on any line changes after a whistle and before any faceoffs.
“The first thing I’m always trying to do as a coach is to feel which line has success against which line. If I feel that, let’s say, that line is struggling [against] that line, I’m going to try to outmatch that and kind of double shift that line to make sure that we get out of that matchup,” he said. “But sometimes on the road you don’t have a choice. They’ll come back and a coach will find ways to get back to that matchup.”
This kind of strategy applies to the makeup of each line as well as to how long each pairing is on the ice.
“When you feel that you have the momentum, I try to keep the shifts short because I want to maintain that intensity level. Sometimes, if you have longer shifts, the guys are getting tired faster and then they can’t sustain that pressure in the O-zone,” said Roy. “If we get some momentum and our legs are moving well and the energy level is good, I try to keep it around 35-45 seconds max. If we want to generate more flow, then I’m going to let the shift [go] a little bit longer.”
Momentum will be key with the Avs tonight, as setting the tone set early could be enough to carry through to the final horn.
“I think every shift, you’re building off the last one. You see the line in front of you buzzing and creating chances, and it gives the next line the energy to do the same thing,” said Guenin. “Any team can sit around and say we’re not getting the breaks, this and that, but you create your own breaks. And if you play the right way for 60 minutes, you’re going to get more breaks.”
The puck drops tonight at 5 p.m. MT.
Pickard Between The Pipes
It’s safe to say that Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov is back to fine form after a few brushes with a groin injury this season. The 26-year-old Russian was named the NHL second star of the week on Monday and, prior to last night’s match, had posted a 6-2-0 record, 1.96 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and two shutouts since returning from injury.
|Calvin Pickard |
While he is expected to carry the majority of the workload for the rest of the season, Varlamov will be getting a night off to rest up this evening. Calvin Pickard will get the start for the Avalanche, according to Roy.
“He will play tonight. He’s played so well for us,” said Roy, who recalled the young netminder for tonight specifically. “If you’re looking at his statistics, they’re pretty impressive—over .930 save percentage. Calvin deserves to play for us, and he will play tonight.”
Pickard leads the NHL with a .934 save percentage though 14 games played—11 starts—and owns a 2.21 goals-against average and a 6-6-2 record.
He made his NHL debut on Oct. 16 against the Ottawa Senators—coming in after backup Reto Berra was injured in a collision—and saw his first NHL start on Oct. 18 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Pickard netted his first NHL win on Nov. 22 in a comeback victory over the Hurricanes at Pepsi Center.