I’m not a cooking expert, but sometimes when I’m trying to make grilled cheese I turn up the flame on the stove too much and burn the bread before the cheese is melted. Other times, I’m waiting 20 minutes for my melted cheese. The Colorado Avalanche have played like the second example so far on the road this season – waiting for their spark to ignite, but never forcing the issue. Why use the cooking example? Well when playing the Calgary Flames, the Avalanche finally showed some consistency with the strength of their fire.
There are two no fail ways to win hockey games. The first is to have a cast of talented players that only take calculated risks, waiting for their opportunity to strike on the opponent. The second is to be the first players to the puck and consistently outwork your opponent, which in turn leads to odd-man rushes and second chance opportunities. In the Avs’ first four games on the road this year, all losses, the team sat back, but did not have the skill to back up the waiting game. This led to the mess of allowing three power play goals a game, while scorning their own man advantage opportunities. Although this behavior was still present at times in their win against the Flames, the flashes of a more aggressive team is what secured the victory.
The Avalanche scored goals off turnovers and on the power play. These goals were the result of a first to the puck attitude that saw the Avalanche make their own opportunities. This trait has been prevalent in newcomer John Mitchell, who scored two goals last night; second one of the team for the year behind P.A. Parenteau, who has also thrived with the Avalanche. This hustle has been absent when on the defensive end and penalty kill from the entire team, which has led to goals.
The emergence of Paul Stastny contributing late in the Flames game was also a signature mark on the win. He had two late goals after playing terrible for most of the game. The Avalanche has the talent to play up their advantages, but it’s only a potential talent. Jamie McGinn and Matt Duchene have the ability to join the already mentioned players on the scorers’ sheet every night, but are not quite at that level consistently. Duchene’s lead pass did, however, result in Parenteau’s first goal, in a great hustle move. This is the kind of pressure the Avs need all the time. It’s the correct flame to keep Colorado hot, but not burning.
Continuing in the Edmonton Oilers game, the Avalanche sustained excellence when aggressive. Jamie McGinn’s goal, set up by Duchene, was a prime example of when attacking works to the Avalanche’s advantage. That entire line, combined with Parenteau finally seems to have consistent chemistry on the ice. If the Avalanche are to succeed regularly, other combinations will have to play with this speed and aggression. The Avalanche cannot win on skill alone, but their young players coming into form can only help.