When the Colorado Avalanche finally scored Tuesday night, it was like turning on a radio only to be shocked that the volume is turned way up. A previously disgusted Pepsi Center crowd who had descended into downtown Denver only to watch two less than inspiring periods was suddenly energized. Captain Gabriel Landeskog scored exactly one minute into the third period and changed the game’s fortunes. The Avalanche ultimately prevailed over the Los Angeles Kings 3-1.
For the Avalanche, goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been an anchor through the first two games. The Avalanche let the Russian fend for himself much of the game, but he made 28 saves in the team’s first victory of the year. Varlamov looks much calmer in the crease this season, with his positioning shutting down opportunities for the opposition. This fundamental change could be key as the Avalanche try to develop in front of the net minder.
The defense had a less inspiring performance, but exhibited a lot of positives. Erik Johnson is finally looking like the number one overall pick the St. Louis Blues expected when they drafted him. Ryan Wilson played physical last night, something that has not always been evident through the defenseman’s injuries. Ryan O’Byrne continues to be a solid defenseman, except he has a lot of problems clearing the puck.
The negatives for the defense led to the Kings only goal. Tyson Barrie and Greg Zanon were the weakest defensive pair. Barrie was down low in the offensive end and failed to skate back in time to stop Kyle Clifford of the Kings from scoring. However, Zanon completely misplayed the rush and allowed Clifford the open look. Zanon has not shown a lot of sound defensive play through two games. Jan Hejda was an enigma last night. He did not make great plays, but he did not cost the team.
As for the offense, the top two lines found some chemistry. While I have my doubts that Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene complement each other long term, Duchene set up the reigning Rookie-of-the-Year’s first goal. Additionally their linemate, P.A. Parenteau, had a nice first goal in his debut in front of Avs fans. Paul Stastny may have been the Avs best player last night, getting an assist on the David Jones goal. Jones was aimlessly wandering around the ice before he scored the team’s second goal and the resulting momentum propelled them through the game.
The Avalanche victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champions was a pleasant homecoming. The Pepsi Center was filled close to capacity and the energy was great once the Avalanche found their spark. The low point of the game was the team’s inability to score on a 5-on-3 that lasted well over a minute during the 2nd period. Unfortunately, the team did lose forward Steve Downie for the season to a knee injury. The team takes on the Columbus Blue Jackets, in Denver, Thursday night.