Semyon Varlamov was in top form Thursday, and the Avalanche played with the type of offensive reckless abandon that head coach Patrick Roy had been seeking in Colorado’s past few games.
Those two factors are why the Avs knocked off Philadelphia 2-1 at Pepsi Center and kept the Flyers winless in Denver since 2002.
Following his team’s game Sunday against Winnipeg, Roy said he wanted his players to stop striving for perfection. That is, he thought his players too often on offense were looking to make the perfect pass or hit the perfect shot.
The phrase “paralysis by analysis” doesn’t quite work here, but it’s close to paraphrasing Roy’s criticism of his team. He wanted to see his players make the opposing goalie work, instead of having some of chances torpedoed by stickhandling mistakes or too-fine pass attempts.
For one game, at least, the message was received. Both Avalanche goals Thursday came on good chances, but they weren’t great chances.
Jamie McGinn put Colorado (25-11-4) ahead 1-0 with a crease-crashing rebound a little more than 11 minutes into the game, and Ryan O’Reilly scored the game winner about halfway through the second period when his push down the left wing ended with an impromptu flick shot against Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason.
O’Reilly’s shot bounced off, up and over Mason before sliding across the goal line. It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.
“The cute plays are nice, but at the same time, they’re not always the best thing to do,” Roy said.
Colorado also had other attempts against Philadelphia (20-17-4) that likely would have been passed up a week or so ago in search for an opportunity just a bit better. The Avalanche took nearly all its chances Thursday with what seemed like a, “Let’s see what happens,” mentality.
That approach, paired with Varlamov’s 29 saves—including more than a few, “How’d he do that?” moves—helped Colorado to its first back-to-back wins since Nov. 30.
“We’re about a team, and everybody is part of it,” Roy said. “When [the players are all] jumping in, they’re playing a good game for us. We have a great team concept right now, and we’re very happy about it. Everybody is playing inside of their role, and everybody does really well.”
The Avs on Thursday matched their 1996-97 counterparts for third most points (54) in franchise history through 40 games, but a 5-5-4 December had the team looking to get back to its ways of October and November that saw it lose just six times (19-6-0).
Varalmov earned his first career victory (1-0-1) against Philadelphia and was the game’s ceremonial First Star. His best save might have come in a one-on-one situation late in the first period when former Avalanche player Steve Downie leaked behind Colorado’s defense and found some open ice.
Downie skated toward Varlamov and then went left. Varlamov mirrored the move, sliding right, and blocked Downie’s try in an impressive spread-legged save.
“I don’t even know how he stopped that,” Avalanche center Paul Stastny said, “and then he pushes the pad and somehow holds on with that leg strength. You know, saves like that and being super flexible, makes him who he is.”
Added Roy on Varlamov, who’s 5-0-4 in his past nine games: “‘Varly’ was again outstanding, and the team played well defensively. There’s no doubt about it. … I thought we did a really good job coming and helping in our end. I was very happy about our performance.”
TALBOT FACES THE FLYERS
His first few hours as an Avalanche player were hectic and stress filled, but Colorado forward Max Talbot has found his place within the franchise after an October trade from Philadelphia landed him in Denver.
|Maxime Talbot |
He skated against his old team Thursday, with two hits and a shot in 15:25 of ice time, and dealt with the emotions that come in a situation that often presents itself in professional sports.
“Every time you play a team you’ve parted with it’s exciting; it’s different,” Talbot said. “You know all the guys on your team, but I battled with [the Flyers] for a year-and-half, two years, so it’s always special.”
Talbot, 29, joined Colorado Oct. 31 in exchange for Downie. He said he was on his way home for lunch that day, following Philadelphia’s morning practice, when he got a call from Flyers management, telling him he had been traded.
Avalanche executives Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy then called a few moments later, welcoming him to the team and quickly letting him know they would meet him in person that night in Dallas, where the Avalanche was set to play the Stars the next day.
“Three hours later I was at the airport and [I had] packed a big bag of stuff,” Talbot said. “It’s part of the business of hockey, but you never really expect it when it happens to you. It’s a lot of stress for a short period of time, but once you meet your new teammates, net team you kind of get familiarized with everybody and everything. It’s good.”
In 29 games with Colorado, Talbot has nine points (three goals; six assists) and is plus-two on the plus-minus scale.
“When we made that trade we were looking for someone to play on our penalty-killing [unit] and someone who could play on the third line for us,” Roy said Thursday morning. “It’s been just perfect for us. … He’s having an important role for us, and we’re certainly happy.”
On the other side Thursday, Downie had two shots against Varalamov and was minus-one in 17:04. He played 31 games for the Avalanche in the past two seasons, including 11 games this season.
- Thursday’s game was the Avalanche’s 1,400th regular-season game since moving to Denver in 1995. The club improved to 718-498-101-83 (.579) in the Mile High City.
- Colorado and Philadelphia played in Denver for the first time since Dec. 19, 2011. The Avs downed Philadelphia at home for the sixth straight time, with the last Flyers win in Denver coming Dec. 27, 2002 (2-1 OT).
- The Avalanche improved Tuesday night to 10-3-0 against Eastern Conference teams this season and 5-2 against them at home. Colorado is 6-1-0 against teams from Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Division. Its lone loss came Nov. 12 at Carolina (2-1).
“We don’t want to be satisfied; we want more,” Roy said. “And I think that’s the approach that we try to have every day. Tomorrow it’s a new day, and we have to be ready for San Jose. Enjoy tonight and be ready for the next game. We don’t want to be a satisfied team. We want to work even harder. We want more, and I think that’s the only way we’re going to be in a playoff picture at the end, if we have that approach.”