Avs road opener preview
Meetings between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild won’t be few and far between this season. The clubs square off to start a shortened season today in Minnesota, the first of five such match ups this year.
Hockey fans accustomed to the slow pace of the Wild of old are likely in for a surprise, as the club spent a hefty dollar in the offseason to bring in NHL stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Under Head Coach Mike Yeo, these additions add to a more offensive structured lineup than in the days of yore, which already includes Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Mikko Koivu, and Kyle Brodziak.
At a minimum, the game will be more exciting and dynamic than in the days of former Head Coach Jacques Lemaire and the trap style of play.
The Colorado Avalanche have a few aces up their sleeve as well. In six meetings last season, Colorado split the series by winning the final three contests. Luckily for them, they have the Wild-killer in starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who owns a lofty 4-0-0 record against the club from up North. Varlamov also has a 1.00 goals-against-average and a.962 save percentage versus Minnesota to boot.
Helping the 24-year-old Russian back stopper is a defensive core looking to get dirty. The hard-hitting, shutdown crew of Ryan Wilson, Jan Hejda, and Erik Johnson are all there and ready to get goin on the blue line. Avalanche Head Coach Joe Sacco also revealed today, via the Denver Post, that he would be pairing former Wild defenseman Greg Zanon and his unholy beard with rookie rear guard Tyson Barrie. The duo beat out Shane O’Brien and either Matt Hunwick or Ryan O’Byrne for the starting job.
This could make Colorado a little harder to play against in their own zone. At the other end of the ice, line pairings of P.A. Parenteau – Matt Duchene – Gabriel Landeskog and Jamie McGinn – Paul Stastny – David Jones appear to be a lethal one-two punch on offense. Much is expect of the young forwards, who need to use their speed and skill to strike against a defense bolstered by Suter.
Also, the grit factor is ramped up to 11 as Colorado has given tough guy Patrick Bordeleau a chance to play and leave his mark. He should join Mark Olver and Cody McLeod as a gritty, punishing trio. If camp is any indication, newcomer John Mitchell will partner with wily veteran Milan Hejduk and force-to-be-reckoned-with Steve Downie to provide a specialist approach mixed with talent, toughness, and smart hockey sense.
Tonight could be either team’s game but, capping off a day of celebration in Minnesota, the Hockey Day crowd at the Xcel Energy Center will certainly be a raucous bunch. Colorado has to be prepared to come out and silent the group otherwise it will be a long, loud game for them as they look to spoil the home opener for the Wild.
What do you think? Does Colorado stand a chance?