How I View the Wild and a First-Week Avalanche Recap
Hand up: I don’t hate the Wild. At least not like I’m supposed to as a die-hard fan.
I hate moments that the Wild have caused: 2003 and 2014 were bad. Ending Patrick Roy’s playing career and then ending the only good season in Patrick Roy’s coaching career… in overtimes.. in Game 7s… in Denver.
You know what… I’m back. I hate Minnesota. Typed myself into hating them.
But in reality: I hate other teams more. I hate Vegas because of everything they’ve done since coming into the league. I hate St. Louis because that’s what playing a team in consecutive postseasons will do. Also: Jordan Binnington… and their fans’ reaction to everything after Game 3.
I guess Minnesota takes third. But that’s neither here, nor there. I didn’t intend to write a hate-rankings piece when I started this, it just kind of went that way from the start. Maybe that’s something I’ll do down the line. There’s nothing I love more than telling people what I hate. That’s the New Englander in me.
So let’s take a quick look back at the week that was (with a heavy emphasis on Minnesota because I wrote this right after the game):
- Opening Night. From Blink and banners to beating the Blackhawks, the first night of the season was beautiful.
- The Avalanche’s top dogs: Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon were the best players during the first three games. Mikko is involved in everything and is near the league lead in scoring… but still behind MacKinnon (8) and Nichushkin (7). Mack has a different level of giddy-up to start the year. Looks like that St. Louis Game 5 goal in terms of his stride on every clean breakout. Even his dump-ins look great!
- Defensive goal scoring. When you see that the Avs’ defensive scoring has been good, you would assume it was Cale Makar and Devon Toews driving the bus, but no. Bo Byram, Sam Girard and Josh Manson with the d-core’s three goals in the first trio of contests. Erik Johnson and Makar then get primary helpers on point shots redirected down low by Ben Meyers and MacKinnon. And though he hasn’t found the back of the net himself, Makar is still third in the league in points by a defenseman.
- Through three games, it’s been Byram who has, to me, looked like Colorado’s best defenseman. His game appears so well rounded right now, building off his strong postseason play from last spring. His goal against Calgary was nice, but his defense against Minnesota I thought was solid. He got stuck on a couple long shifts against the Wild, but I think that was due more to the five-man unit than anything he did. For so many reasons, please stay healthy.
- Alexandar Georgiev. Looked okay against Chicago… for what that’s worth. Looked really good against Minnesota and helped take two points from the Wild. Did he give up three goals? Yes. All three of those goals were either pretty shots or beautiful redirects in the slot with no defensive help in front of him. That three-save sequence with roughly seven minutes to go was awesome. His save percentage could use a boost, but he’s 2-0 right now and that’s what I like most.
- Luck. To be good, you have to have an element of luck. Meyers’ goal was lucky. Mikko’s goal was a lucky bounce after the weird MacKinnon dump on net. Girard’s goal was lucky in that Minnesota had Filip Gustavsson playing goal and apparently he doesn’t like stopping backhanded shots along the ice.
- The Calgary game wasn’t great… but it actually played out pretty much how I thought it would. The highs of banner night followed by an immediate flight to Calgary to play a hyped-up Flames team in front of that crowd? That’s tough. The middle stretch of that game really showed that for the visitors. The bounce back in the third was promising.
- Let’s be honest: the penalty kill is bad. Ranking 32nd of 32 teams is a pretty solid indicator of that. But the eye test is pretty clear, too. They’re running around and losing defensive-zone assignments, leading to goals. There’s also been an element of bad luck too. See that second Kaprizov goal off the skate of Toews and into the net. It’s just three games in, so there’s a lot of time to turn it around.
- It’s hard to say they’ve been good or bad. The fourth line has just kind of been… there. I thought the start of the Minnesota game was good for Meyers, Lukas Sedlak and Kurtis MacDermid. The first part of their shift even nearly led to a wrap-around goal from MacDermid! I just had to re-read that last sentence three times just to make sure I wasn’t talking nonsense. Anyway, Meyers gets the tip after the ensuing faceoff to give the visitors the 1-0 lead, the fourth line gets on the board and is playing with house money the rest of the game.
- During the game, I thought to myself “Nichushkin seems to be going through the motions.” I didn’t really think the second line was playing great. End of the game, I check the box score and there he is with a three-point night alongside Nate Dogg. Just goes to show you: I’m dumb.
The Avalanche’s empty-net goals this season:
- Valeri Nichushkin at Minnesota (10/17)
So I work at a high school here in New Hampshire. My wife and I just bought a house, but haven’t closed on it yet, so my office is basically the man cave until I can finish the basement in our new place. The students come in and see all the framed pictures and newspapers, pennants and pucks. They see how I dress on ‘casual days’ and the license plate cover and bumper sticker on my car in the parking lot. They know I love the Avs. Everyone does really. I don’t hide it that well.
Seeing as how none of them are fans of the team, they like to give it to me and stir the pot. As Bruins fans and in the year 2022, this is comical, so I just brush off the comments and feign to raise and kiss an invisible Cup. But Saturday night at our football game, I was actually taken aback by a comment from one.
I’m walking in front of the student section and a bunch of the hockey guys start giving it to me, all in good humor, of course. Then I hear what was meant to be an actual and intentional dig at the 2022 Colorado Avalanche: “Hey Mr. Salvas! The Avalanche got lucky! Makar carried them to the Cup!”
- That’s not true. Many would argue that the depth of the team’s roster, anchored by superstar talents like Makar carried them to the Cup.
- And how is that an insult? You mean the generational defenseman the team drafted FOURTH overall after a historically bad season and won the Conn Smythe played very well and helped them with a title? Burn. Hey Oilers fans! You guys got lucky because Gretzky and Messier carried you to those Cups! Penguins fans… Congrats on your fake cups that you would never have won without Crosby or Lemiuex!
I’ve mentioned recency bias before, but sometimes I have to remember when you talk to teenagers that they are so young, they have limited first-hand knowledge of the process it takes to build championship teams. These kids were like 10 when the 48-point season happened… they don’t know my struggles!
AM I A LOSER?
Short answer: yes.
Long answer: probably. This comes up after listening to MacKinnon’s most recent interview on Spittin’ Chiclets. Nate was re-telling stories from the run and he is talking about Frankie coming into the Western Conference Final and his story is off just a bit as it relates to when the backup netminder entered the series. I found myself speaking corrections out loud like anyone could hear me and validate my need to be right.
Nathan MacKinnon was on the team that won the Stanley Cup — one of the main driving forces, too — and here I am unsuccessfully correcting his memories of moments during my morning commute… like a loser.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
My buddy made an Avalanche pumpkin. Kinda stinks, but A for effort.
DOG PHOTO OF THE WEEK
This is Ellie from a few years back. But this seems like an appropriate place to share it.