Tonight in Denver, the Colorado Avalanche suffered from not one, but two types of plagues at the Pepsi Center.
The first is an all too common occurrence during this shortened NHL season, and one which has hit the Avalanche extremely hard. That plague is the injury bug. Prior to tonight’s game, the Avalanche had already lost three of their top players to the Injured Reserve list.
Their newly-minted captain Gabriel Landeskog was injured in the 4th game of the season by a questionable hit to the head and has no timetable for a return. Steve Downie, who had been a great success last year after coming over from the Tampa Bay Lightning, joined the IR list in just the second game and is out for the season with a knee injury.
Ryan Wilson, who had been one of the brighter stars on an already weak defense, suffered an ankle injury on Feb. 4 and there is no timetable for his return. Although not on injured reserve, John Mitchell missed the game against the Phoenix Coyotes with the flu which tends to spread like wildfire around an NHL locker room and Matt Hunwick has a torso injury. However, none of this could have prepared the Avalanche for the rash of injuries they experienced tonight.
Patrick Bordeleau was injured during a fight with Coyotes player Paul Bissonnette. Fortunately, he returned in the third period after receiving treatment on his hand. There were additional scares when Matt Duchene, Jamie McGinn and Milan Hejduk each received treatment on the bench before returning to the game. When a player is treated in-game, it’s difficult to determine their level of injury. It is unknown whether something was just tweaked and they are able to work through it or if they are in real pain and are just sacrificing themselves to make it through the game.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, when Erik Johnson left the ice less than a minute into the 3rd period, he went straight to the dressing room and did not return. Judging by his anger, especially shown by slashing his stick in the bench area and almost hitting backup goalie JS Giguere with the bench, Johnson will probably be joining the injured players soon. On top of all these injuries, the Avalanche are still missing their star from last year, restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly.
All of which leads to the inexplicable second plague to hit the Avalanche – the Boo Birds. The boo birds have no business being at an Avalanche game this early in a season with so many injuries on the team. The Avs played well tonight killing all five Coyotes power players including a 5 on 3 for almost one minute. They had 43 shots on goal, a quantity which should generate more than two goals on an average goalie.
The Avs also got a point for taking the game to overtime. Yes, many fans will feel that they should have had two, but based on Semyon Varlamov‘s early play in the game and past history, the Avs could have just as easily earned no points from tonight’s match. There are times when booing is acceptable, even encouraged. If a referee misses a blatant call, or an opposing player lays a dirty hit on a hometown player then let the boos rain down. If it appears as though the team just isn’t putting any effort into the game, then boos are acceptable.
However, the only apparent reason for booing tonight was an impatient crowd that expects A level play from C or D level players. If the fans in Colorado want to earn respect in the NHL, they need to learn when it is appropriate to boo and when the team should receive encouragement for putting forth a solid effort, even if the results weren’t desired.