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Pat's Perceptions

All the Small Things of a Near-Perfect Avalanche Opening Night



Avalanche win Chicago
Jack Dempsey/AP

(Still workshopping a title for these things and they all stink)

Look, I’m not going to write recaps for every game. That’s what Dater and Brennan are for. They’re the ones at the rink every day and can write the post-games with quotes and insights from the locker room. I will more often than not go to bed and provide my phone with insights while brushing my teeth.

But for big games and events like Wednesday night, I will jump in and offer my thoughts and opinions. I have watched and been around hockey all my life, but I’m not going to see everything, so if I missed something you thought I shouldn’t have, drop a comment to tell me how much smarter you are than me (you are). I will let your comment eat away at me for hours after reading it, but I will read it!

Anyway… Let’s get started with Game 1 of “Cup Defense 3.0”!

The Great

The entire pre-game ceremony was damn near perfect. Mark Hoppus and his way-too-old-and-gray mohawk out there leading the crowd and singing along with the videoboard montage along with his very nice and complimentary speech were an incredible touch to a special night. Has there ever been a 90s/00 punk band prominently featured in a Stanley Cup banner celebration before? I doubt it!

The single lap with the Cup by Landeskog was great. It was seemingly an apologetic nod to the fans for not being able to win it at home in Game 5. One lap for fans, putting it back on the table and a kiss goodbye was the perfect way to close the chapter on the 2022 season.

The music. Leading into “All the Small Things” was another Blink song as “What’s My Age Again?” welcomed Hoppus onto the ice. Find a more perfect celebratory and reflective song than Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” and I will admit defeat. But you can’t, so I won’t. The perfect song to raise the banner to the rafters.

New contracts. Because Andrew Cogliano, Val Nichushkin and Arturri Lehkonen all made their new contracts look great as they scored all five of the home team’s goals. 

The power play. I’m not going to waste your time explaining how good it was. You saw it. Stupid good (against Chicago for what it’s worth).

The Good
– A subtle thing that some of you may have missed: the Avalanche social media team changed their profile pictures for all accounts to the ‘Snowy A’ team logo on a white background, moving away from the Stanley Cup Champions logo that has been there since shortly after winning that night in June. It was only after the start of the game that the profiles all swapped out and seemingly… turned the page to the new season. 

– Nathan MacKinnon. Yes he didn’t score, but he finished the night with a pair of helpers and was absolutely flying all over the ice. His speed was noticeable, which is saying something since he is known for his blazing speed. Maybe it’s because we hadn’t seen it in four months, but he’s very fast.

– Deflections. Four goals were tipped in and that was done without Landeskog in the game, a player known for being one of the league’s premier re-directors… is that a word?

– Wait… the game ended and Mikko Rantanen had four points? I felt like I watched this game with laser-like focus (except for the five-minute stretch I may have fallen asleep at the start of the third… being an Avs fan on the east coast suuuuuuucks some nights, but I didnt miss anything tonight) and I didn’t really notice him that much. He was just his typical really good Mikko, putting together a quiet four-point night.

– Hearing the story of Kadri ghosting the team chat. There are few things in life I enjoy more than the idea of ‘Irish goodbying’ and to do it to the group text thread with the guys you just won the Stanley Cup with is unreal. “Thanks for the cup, boys…” Naz has left the thread.

The first 10 minutes of the game. They were flying out of the gate. They didn’t score but they looked awesome. Reminded me of Game 1 of the Nashville series last year… just with five fewer goals.
The passing. Zip Zip Zip… goal. The top line and the power play looked really good moving the puck around.

The Bad
Are we the worst line-changing team in the league? Holy schnikes we stink at line changes. It didn’t hurt us at the start of the second period (or another time with six minutes left in the middle stanza), but it appeared pretty clear that there should’ve been a too-many-men penalty called and there wasn’t. Soon after, Lehkonen scored to make it 3-1 and, if I were on the Hawks, I would’ve been pissed. I texted a buddy and asked if we were the worst in the league and he responded with “I haven’t seen 30 teams’ line changes, but yes probably.” After Tampa (rightfully or wrongly) complained several times in the Final, I have to assume the officials are going to watch Colorado’s changes more closely. And don’t even get me started on Landeskog in San Jose in 2019.

– Tell me if I’m the only one who thought this, and I know it’s hard to be critical of Cale Makar after a two-point night, but I didn’t think he played that great. I thought he had some great moments (breaking Tyler Johnson’s ankles for example) and he did a great job of getting pucks on net that led to goals, but he wasn’t as sharp as we’ve come to expect from the best defenseman in the world. He missed a few passes, pucks jumped over his stick and he wandered out of position at the top of the zone that led to Chicago going the other way. But, I’m also a complete moron and he probably played a great game.

Backdoor penalty killers. Chicago scored both goals by sending the puck to the far post on the power play. Colorado was running around a bit on the first kill that allowed Jonathan Toews to score a goal that even I couldn’t mess up in men’s league (…I 100% could screw that up). The second one was a better defended, but if Chicago can do that on the man-advantage, much better teams with much better PP’s will find success against Colorado’s penalty kill.

The fourth line. Maybe not bad, but more like they weren’t memorable. I get that the power play was out there a lot, but the MacDermid, Myers and Sedlack never really felt like they got into the game. I was shocked to look at the box score and see they all played roughly 9-10 minutes. Dermy, though, did have NINE hits.

– You know what really stinks? (Sorry for my salty language.) Traveling right after a game to play the next night. For the better part of a decade as staff member with the Dartmouth men’s hockey team, part of the routine for college hockey – and especially ECAC Hockey teams – is the back-to-back weekends. It’s not so bad when you can stay in one hotel for both like you do on a St. Lawrence/Clarkson weekend. But Quinnipiac and Princeton games where you have to drive through NYC at midnight after a Friday game stinks out loud. I know it’s first class and private charters for the Avalanche and not the coach bus through the Adirondacks or some back roads of Vermont or Connecticut, but it still can’t be fun to come down from the highs of this win to then have to get all the way out to that godforsaken airport and fly to Calgary to play a top-level opponent the following night. But if the charter has warm cookies… 

The Wholesome

Jack Johnson sitting on the Chicago bench smiling as he watched the pregame video. Someone pay the TNT cameraman all his money for getting that shot and the one of him nodding as Landeskog skated by with the Cup. I noticed it was J.T. Compher who skated over and brought JJ onto the ice for the banner raising… Michigan guys looking out for each other. The way the Avalanche players reacted to seeing their former teammate in the midst of the group before the banner lifted was good, wholesome content. I also think Johnson snuck into the back of the photo, but had two Colorado players put their shoulders together to block the Chicago logo on his chest so it didn’t stand out too much. Just a really classy moment. I didn’t think I’d miss Jack Johnson, but here I am, pining away for a serviceable seventh d-man after one middle-of-the-road season.  

The Other

The moving advertisements on the boards. I know there is a clip from the Oilers game where the digital ads were freaking out, but in Denver, the ads were seamless and not as distracting as I thought they would be. I found myself watching them to try and find fault and couldn’t. We just need the celebratory graphics on them like ESPN did during the World Cup of Hockey in 2016.

–  My dog has the uncanny ability to know when I want to watch something. She wastes no time in coming right up to me, whining, bringing me toys and asking to go outside. You waited until 9:31 PM (Eastern) to do that, Ellie? You’ve been sleeping in four different places and licking yourself for the last 90 minutes, but as soon as the banner ceremony starts, you think it’s a good time to bring me your rubber carrot and stuffed corn on the cob? Figure it out! (She’s such a good dog!)

– I noticed this last year too during the Western Conference Final, but the audio on TNT isn’t great. They either need to do a better job on the mics or I’m completely misjudging the audio levels in the arena that causes them to have to yell. And don’t get me wrong, the TNT guys are awesome… a lot better than the ESPN production… but when they talk over/fight with one another constantly and Liam McHugh can’t be heard, it’s a bit much.

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