Cross Checks: Matt Duchene

Avs not making excuses for slow start

October, 15, 2014
Morgan RiellyGraig Abel/Getty ImagesThe high-flying Avs have fallen back to Earth and were exposed by the Maple Leafs.
TORONTO -- About the last place anybody would have predicted the high-flying Colorado Avalanche to be after the opening week of the NHL’s regular season is dead-last in offense.

But that’s where they were Wednesday morning, with only four goals in four games, tied with Boston (four games) and Florida (three games) with that measly four-goal tally.

It hasn’t been the same sizzling start the Avs enjoyed a year ago, when they stunned the hockey world with a 12-1-0 record out of the gates under rookie head coach Patrick Roy, en route to a surprising Central Division regular-season title.

Many pundits have predicted some regression for the Avs this season, and the early returns (losing three of four) suggest they may be right, but it’s awfully early to know that for sure.

Veteran winger Jarome Iginla has had the chance to play with some pretty talented groups the last three years, ending the lockout season in Pittsburgh, playing last year in Boston, and now hitching his Hall of Fame wagon to the young Avs.

Iginla knows a good thing when he sees one.

"Definitely been fortunate to play with some really good teams over the last few years, and I believe this is one of them," Iginla said Tuesday night after a 3-2 overtime loss in Toronto.

"This is a very dynamic group of guys that can create a lot just by themselves. Their speed is second to none. Last year was a great year for the Avs, and we believe this will be another great year," Iginla continued. "We want to keep working on getting the chances [for] up and the chances against down. Later in the third period [Tuesday night], the Leafs had too many odd-man breaks.

"We’ll keep working on tightening the small things up, because with the talent and skill level in here, there’s no doubt we’ll able to score goals. We want to just to win that chances side of it, too."

Roy, the reigning Jack Adams Award winner as NHL coach of the year, talked eloquently during a preseason stop in Montreal about not betraying the Avs' identity while still wanting to be a better defensive team this season. The message was that they were making no excuses for their high-flying, entertaining style. It’s who they are, and their fans love it.

Those in the analytics community will point to the Avs as a team that was bound to take a step backward this year because of their mediocre puck-possession numbers.

[+] EnlargeJarome Iginla and Matt Duchene
AP Photo/John LocherJarome Iginla and Matt Duchene are confident happier times are coming for the Avs.
To watch them in person Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre hammers home the point, both good and bad. When they’ve got the puck in transition or on the counterattack, watch out, because they’re perhaps the most dangerous team in the NHL, and they’re electrifying to watch.

But when they get bottled up in their own zone, like they did for stretches Tuesday night by the Leafs, they labor to regain puck possession and give up quality scoring chances.

The fine line for Roy this season is to still accentuate his team’s strength, speed and skill up front while mitigating the defensive zone issues.

We looked down at the Avs' bench during Tuesday night’s game and saw Roy seemingly agitated after his team would give away the puck, notably when a Nick Holden turnover in the neutral zone led to a 3-on-1 break for the Leafs in the second period. But Roy insisted afterward not to read too much into that.

"Me? Agitated? No," Roy said calmly after Tuesday night’s game. "It’s always the way I am, I love to be involved in the game. But no different than last year, I can tell you that."

That was echoed by star center Matt Duchene.

"You know what, he wasn’t frustrated at all, he’s just animated when he talks," said Duchene, who scored his first goal of the season on a beauty of a top-corner wrist shot Tuesday night. "He’s just teaching."

But former NHLer Ray Ferraro, who was between the benches for TSN during Tuesday night’s telecast of the Avs-Leafs game, saw what we saw.

"Roy is usually is pretty animated behind the bench, but [Tuesday] night he was very vocal, and at times seemed pretty frustrated when his team turned the puck over as frequently as they did in the last half of the game," Ferraro said Wednesday via email.

"The McKinnon-Briere-Tanguay line won't work, as the veterans can't come close to keeping up with McKinnon. I think they miss [Paul] Stastny a great deal, with him, it allowed O’Reilly and McKinnon to attack from the wing, and they were a better balanced team. They haven't addressed their blue-line sufficiently ... I think they will take a 15-20 point step back this year."

Duchene felt the reason the Avs gave up so many chances Tuesday night was due to the type of opponent they were playing, the wide-open Maple Leafs, who outshot the Avs 40-24.

"We played L.A. twice the last two preseason games, we played Minnesota twice and then Boston, you know what those types of teams are like," Duchene said. "We just haven’t seen that much ice and that kind of speed and game like we did [Tuesday night versus Toronto]. We had some great opportunities because of it, but we also gave up some."

They easily could have scored more than twice Tuesday night, including Duchene missing a breakaway in the third period that would have given his team a 3-1 lead. But at least the scoring chances were there. Those were harder to come by when being blanked twice by the Wild to open the season and prevailing in a 2-1 defensive game in Boston on Monday.

"When you start out with two shutouts against, you start to press a little bit," said Iginla, Duchene’s linemate. "But we’re getting better. Just throw out the first game, that was horrible. We’ve been getting better since.

"It’s a dynamic group, we’ll find ways to score goals," added Iginla. "Guys, you can just see, are starting to feel better. We need to build that confidence back up."

The Avs’ Eastern swing continues Thursday at Ottawa before wrapping up Saturday at Montreal.

Duchene stressed he wasn’t making excuses but said the early schedule wasn’t making things easy, either.

"Our schedule has been really interesting so far," he said. "I think it’s the most difficult we’ve ever had here [while he’s been there], just because we start home-and-home against a team [Minnesota] that is probably in our heads a little bit from the playoffs last year. Then Boston, a great team that’s a defensive juggernaut. Then we play a team [Toronto] that loves to play almost pond hockey out there. They’re fun to play against, and they’re fun to watch play.

"Plus you throw in the travel, no excuses by any means, but there’s been a lot of adjustments to be made early on here. We’re going to keep on learning and keep on getting better."

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Matt Duchene took part in his second full morning skate in three days and will be a game-time decision for Monday night.

Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said he would meet with the team doctor later Monday to get more information and will also see how Duchene feels after warm-ups Monday night before deciding if the star center returns.

Duchene, on Monday morning, skated with Ryan O'Reilly and P.A. Parenteau, although it should be noted Jamie McGinn didn't partake in the skate.

Roy was vague about where Duchene would fit in if he does play, saying only that he would find a spot for him among his four lines.

But it seems hard to believe that Duchene and O'Reilly, a pairing all season long, wouldn't find each other at some point Monday night if the star center does play.

The Avs' leading scorer in the regular season, Duchene has missed 13 games with a knee injury. His return, even if he's rusty, would add all-world speed to an Avs lineup that struggled to produce any offense here in Minnesota in Games 3-4.

While the Avs’ lineup is in flux because of the Duchene situation and their lines are a bit of an unknown, the Wild are expected to dress the same four forward lines:
Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Moulson-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine
Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormick

Roy a trend-setter?
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, in the aftermath of his team's crazy, come-from-behind win to eliminate the Stars on Sunday night, credited Patrick Roy for giving him the gumption to pull his goalie for an extra attacker with more than two minutes left in the game.

Traditionally, coaches over the years have pulled their goalies with about a minute left, but Roy's yearlong decision to pull his netminder for an extra attacker with well over two minutes to go, sometimes more, might have started a trend, judging by Boudreau’s comments.

Told Monday morning of what Boudreau said, Roy refused to take any credit.

"You might start to see it more and more, but I'm not going to take any credit for that," Roy said after the morning skate. "I'm going to give the credit to my players. Because imagine if we get scored on pulling the goalie with three minutes left in the game, everyone is going to say: 'Look at that stupid idiot, he pulled his goalie with three minutes and got scored on.' Our players deserve credit. The players are creating the trend here. Yeah, it's a decision by the coach to do it, but it’s the players that do the work and they’re the ones who should receive the credit for that."

Avs players say one of the effects of pulling the goalie earlier is that they don’t press as much with the extra attacker because they know they've got more time than usual. So they don’t feel like their next shot on goal is their last one. It shows on the ice, as the Avs look very much comfortable in that situation, scoring with the goalie pulled late in Game 1 and late in Game 5.
DENVER -- Matt Duchene had his first full skate with the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday morning, but he still wasn't cleared to return.

Avs head coach Patrick Roy said Duchene would not play in Game 5 Saturday night.

"It was his first day skating with the team," Roy said after the morning skate. "We'll see after how it was [for him]. I'll tell you more tomorrow."

Duchene has missed the last 12 games recovering from a knee injury suffered March 29 versus the San Jose Sharks. As per Avalanche team policy with injured players, Duchene wasn't available to speak Saturday.

The Avs' offense can certainly use him back in the lineup, with Colorado limited to one goal in the last two games in Minnesota and generating very little shot-wise or chance-wise.

If there aren't any setbacks, I'd bet Game 6 in Minnesota would be a possibility for Duchene, who led the Avs in scoring with 70 points (23-47) in 71 games this season.

Meanwhile, Roy said the only lineup decision he has to make is whether he'll dress Paul Carey or Joey Hishon for Game 5. Hishon played in Game 4 on the fourth line.

The big focus for Colorado is getting out of its own end, where the Avs were bottled up by an aggressive Wild forecheck in those two losses.

"Yeah, definitely, they come hard on the forecheck," Avs blueliner Nate Guenin said Saturday morning. "It's something we have to do a better job, both D and forwards, it's working together and make strong, hard plays."

Colorado's transition game has been a strength all season, so it's certainly been surprising to the Avs to get bottled up like that.

"We didn't generate much speed in those two games and that’s the name of our game, playing with the puck and attacking with speed," said Guenin. "They did a heck of a job on us in those two games. Now, we’re back at home and it's time to play our game."

Wild head coach Mike Yeo said there would not be any lineup changes for Game 5.

Neither team really showed lines at their morning skates, but here’s what is most likely for combos for Game 5:

Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville
Matt Moulson-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine
Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormick

Gabriel Landeskog-Paul Stastny-Nathan MacKinnon
Jamie McGinn-Ryan O’Reilly-P.A. Parenteau
Max Talbot-Marc-Andre Cliche-Cody McLeod
Patrick Bordeleau-(Joey Hishon/Paul Carey)-Brad Malone
Patrick RoyAP Photo/The Canadian Press/Paul ChiassonEven without their No. 1 scorer, Patrick Roy has the Avs staring down a stretch-drive run.

We've seen only early returns so far, but the manner in which the Colorado Avalanche have responded to Matt Duchene's knee injury tells you once again about the character of this young club that seemingly still hasn't made believers out of everyone.

Duchene was injured on his first shift of the game, but a short-handed Avs team still went out and beat the powerhouse San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Saturday afternoon. Then they went into a tough Columbus building Tuesday night and came back to beat a desperate Blue Jackets team 3-2 in overtime.

Bring on the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

The young Avs seem inspired by wanting to prove people wrong, and now with their leading scorer out roughly four weeks, they're as hungry as ever to do just that.

"It's part of the culture that we've ingrained here on this team," Patrick Roy told on Wednesday in an interview conducted in French. "It's about always believing in each other, it's about hard work, it's about perseverance ... at the end of the day, the guys have confidence in each other, even if we're missing a key player; we don't look for excuses, we seek answers. We look forward, not back."

And really, that's the kind of attitude that was established right from Day 1 when Roy took over as head coach in his first NHL season behind the bench. He helped foster an environment that was going to lay the foundation to this remarkable, 102-point (and counting) season for an Avalanche team that was 29th overall last season.

"Two words that mattered a lot to us from the get-go were 'trust' and 'respect,'" said Roy. "We wanted to trust each other and respect each other. That was really important for us. I think the culture changed here with this team and you see the results that have come from it. The players have worked really hard and they've bought in."

Roy gives the players all the credit, but when he's announced as one of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year this spring, it will be clear other people will also want to underline his work.

Case in point: Tuesday night in Columbus, where the Avs were deservedly down 2-0 to a Jackets team that had outplayed them.

Roy decided on a third-period line change, putting rookie Nate MacKinnon -- who had begun the game replacing Duchene between Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn -- back on the wing with Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny. The result? Landeskog tied the game late and then scored in overtime as the line came up big in the clutch.

"Certainly, Mackinnon with Stastny and Landeskog is really working well right now," said Roy. "They've been scoring important goals and playing big games for us."

On the other hand, he doesn't mind his decision to give MacKinnon time at his natural center position between O’Reilly and McGuinn to start Tuesday's game; after all, it's where MacKinnon is eventually going to spend the rest of his career.

With Duchene out, Roy will take the opportunity to give his roster a few different looks down the stretch; it's a chance to find out things that he might not otherwise have had the chance to.

"I'm going to experiment," Roy said about juggling his top six without Duchene. "So that's not to say at some point I won't try O’Reilly in the middle, or on the right side with Stastny and Landeskog. There's a few things I can do. We'll see when [P.A.] Parenteau comes back from injury what we can also do. But right now, I can try different combinations."

Parenteau has been out since March 10 with a knee injury, but Roy said he could be back for a game or two before the end of the regular season. That would give the Avs coach another top-six option up front, at which point, Roy said, he could, for example, put O'Reilly in the middle between Parenteau and McGinn. Maybe.

"We'll see, I've got a few things I'm thinking about," said Roy.

As for Duchene's injury, there's nothing new to report.

"It's still early, his treatment will continue, but we're not taking any chances, that's for sure," said Roy. "When he returns, we'll make sure he's 100 percent. Obviously, it hurts to lose a player like him, and it hurts him not to be part of these games, but it happens -- look at Chicago with [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane, every team goes through it."

The Avs enter Thursday night's game three points up on Chicago with a game in hand. The Avs and Blackhawks know they're almost definitely going to meet up in the opening round of the playoffs in the 2 vs. 3 Central Division matchup. Which leaves one thing left to accomplish before then.

"We'd like home-ice advantage, obviously. That's going to be what we're working toward," Roy said. "Both teams have their injury issues. It's going to be an interesting end to the regular season."

3 stars: Stewart, Crosby, Duchene

December, 23, 2013
NEW YORK -- St. Louis Blues right wing Chris Stewart, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Dec.


Stewart led the NHL with six goals and added an assist as the Blues (24-7-4, 52 points) earned five out of a possible eight points to maintain second place in the Central Division. He opened the week by scoring twice, his first multi-goal game of the season, in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators Dec. 16. Stewart then was held off the scoresheet in a 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks Dec. 17, but responded with his 10th goal of the season in a 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Dec. 19. He capped the week by recording 3-1—4, including the game-winning goal, for his third career hat trick in a 6-0 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers Dec. 21. The 26-year-old Toronto native has 13-8—21 in 35 games this season, including eight goals, 10 points and two game-winning scores over his past six outings.


Crosby finished second among skaters with 2-6—8 in four outings, helping the shorthanded Penguins (27-10-1, 55 points) stretch their winning streak to seven consecutive games. He recorded the game-winning goal, the 33rd of his career, in a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Dec. 16.
Crosby followed that up with two assists in each of the next two games: a
4-3 shootout win over the New York Rangers Dec. 18 and a 5-2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild Dec. 19. He closed the week with 1-2—3, his 16th multi-point performance of the season, in a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames Dec. 21. The 26-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., native leads the NHL with 20-34—54 in 38 games this season, including 7-11—18 during a 10-game point streak.


Duchene led all players with seven assists and nine points, recording four multi-point performances to help the Avalanche (23-10-2, 48 points) remain in third place in the Central Division. He compiled 1-3—4 in a back-to-back, home-and-home series with the Dallas Stars: a 6-2 victory Dec. 16 (0-2—2) and a 3-2 loss Dec. 17 (1-1—2). Duchene then posted 1-2—3, his fourth three-point game of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers Dec. 19. He capped the week by assisting on both Colorado goals in a
3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings Dec. 21. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Duchene is the first Avalanche player to record two or more points in four consecutive team games since October 2008 (Paul Stastny).
The 22-year-old Haliburton, Ont., native leads Colorado with 16 goals, 17 assists and 33 points in 32 games this season.

How about that Matt Duchene?

October, 16, 2013
Avalanche 3, Stars 2
* Avalanche: start season 6-0-0 for first time since 1985-86 (7-0-0)
* Matt Duchene (COL): 1st multi-goal game (4, 5) of the season; goal in 3 straight games
* Semyon Varlamov (COL): 39 saves on 41 shots (79 saves on 82 shots in past 2 games)

Sharks 6, Blues 2
* Joe Thornton & Patrick Marleau (SJ): Goal & 2 assists each
* Sharks: improve to 6-0-0 on season; have scored league-high 30 goals

Red Wings 2, Blue Jackets 1
* Todd Bertuzzi (DET): Go-ahead PPG (2) at 11:14 of 2nd period
* Henrik Zetterberg (DET): assists on both Red Wings goals
* Red Wings: on 3-game winning streak

Lightning 5, Kings 1
* Martin St. Louis (TB): 2 goals (4), assist; 900th point with Tampa Bay (FROM ELIAS: 8th player in NHL history to record 900 or more points for a team other than the one he made his debut with, a list that includes Wayne Gretzky)
* Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell & Ondrej Palat (TB): Goal & assist each (FROM ELIAS: Malone scored 19 seconds into the game, the 2nd-fastest goal in the NHL this season)
* Kings: 3-game winning streak ends

Blackhawks 3, Hurricanes 2 (SO) (CHI wins shootout, 1-0)
* Patrick Sharp (CHI): scores only goal of shootout, also scores goal in regulation (1) (FROM ELIAS: Sharp had scored on just 1 of his previous 16 shootout attempts and 8 of 41 overall in his career (19.5%))
* Blackhawks: on 3-game winning streak

Penguins 3, Oilers 2
* Evgeni Malkin (PIT): Go-ahead PPG (2) at 7:20 of 3rd period
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): assisted on all 3 Penguins goals; has points in all 6 games this season (5-7-12)
* Penguins: 4-0-0 at home this season

Maple Leafs 4, Wild 1
* Mason Raymond (TOR): 2 goals (4)
* Cody Franson & Morgan Rielly (TOR): 2 assists each
* Maple Leafs: on 3-game winning streak

What had become almost a doormat (dormant?) NHL franchise now has life again.

First, Joe Sakic agreed last month to become more of a factor in the day-to-day running of the Colorado Avalanche, becoming executive vice president of hockey operations.

Then on Thursday, confirming weeks of speculation, Patrick Roy became the team's new coach.

Next month in Newark, N.J., the Avs will have the first overall pick in the NHL draft, which most believe they will use to select stud defenseman Seth Jones, a kid who dreamed of playing in the NHL because he grew up watching Roy and Sakic win two Stanley Cups in Colorado.

Bang. Just like that, the Avalanche are back.

With two Hall of Famers now at the helm, and perhaps a future Hall of Famer to be drafted June 30, the team in Denver has been rescued from irrelevancy.

Because frankly, that's what the Avs had become the past few years, irrelevant in their market and certainly around the league. There was no buzz whatsoever surrounding the team.

Greg Sherman is a very nice man, and I've always enjoyed my conversations with him, but is there a general manager with less of a profile in the entire league?

In many ways, that reflected what the franchise has become. The problem in Colorado is that ownership hasn't cared about the hockey team for a few years, and it showed on the ice.

Suddenly, the Avs' image has undergone a drastic makeover. And it took two of the legends who first made hockey cool in Denver two decades ago to make it happen.

[+] EnlargePatrick Roy
AP Photo/Hans DerykPatrick Roy is headed back to Colorado, where he helped the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup title in 1996.
Sakic and Roy. Back together. Running the Avalanche.

And yes, I include Roy in the "running the Avalanche" category because that's exactly what he'll be doing.

He didn't leave Quebec City just to stand behind the bench. As the news release stated Thursday: "The organization has reached an agreement in principle with Patrick Roy to become the franchise’s Head Coach/Vice President of Hockey Operations."

If I were the Avs' public relations department, I would have put the "Vice President of Hockey Operations" part in bold letters.

Because you had better believe Roy never would have agreed to join the club without a guarantee that he will have a say in the makeup of the team. He will have a say in any future trades or signings.

And you have to believe he one day will be the general manager of the team.

For now, Roy and Sakic will have to pull the club back into the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Colorado has missed out in four of the past five seasons.

Roy inherits a team with good young players, particularly up front with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly.

The Avs are thin on defense, and the aforementioned Jones certainly would help change that if the team does indeed draft him over electric forward Nathan MacKinnon. And it just so happens Roy has seen MacKinnon play up close in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League the past two seasons. Just saying.

Of course, some will wonder if Roy is up to the task of coaching in the NHL. I think there's no question about it. His eight seasons coaching the Quebec Remparts is more than enough to help him learn the coaching ropes. He's ready for this.

And you can be sure it won't be boring with Roy in the fold. He's cocky and confident, and boy, can he be emotional. But he's a winner.

Buckle up, Avs fans, because this is about to get really interesting. Been a while since you heard that about your team, right?
It’s a good thing for the Colorado Avalanche that the Calgary Flames are around to deflect some of what should be a mountain of criticism given their nightly ineptitude. But the Flames, because they are a Canadian market in the midst of trying to move iconic players Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, have become a symbol for organizational dithering and dysfunction.

But just because everyone’s pointing a bony finger at the Flames these days does not excuse the embarrassment the Avs have become. Seems like a million years ago that the Colorado Avalanche were perennial Stanley Cup contenders and the benchmark for organizational success. They were a power in the boardroom, at the ticket window and on the ice. Now? The Avs quietly lost another one Thursday night, this time 4-1 to the Vancouver Canucks. They have lost four straight and have won just once in their past nine games and four times in their past 18, a stretch of futility that has seen them settle into a tie in points with Florida for last place overall in the NHL and an inside track on a franchise player at the draft. That’s quite an accomplishment for a team that at the beginning of this shortened season looked like it might have a shot at becoming a dark-horse playoff team. Ha, ha, ha.

Not that having high picks has helped the Avs in recent years. In spite of picking second overall in 2011 and nabbing eventual rookie of the year Gabriel Landeskog and third overall two years earlier with Matt Duchene, the team has managed to take zero steps forward and will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

While all of the attention has been on the Flames’ potential fire sale leading up to Wednesday's trade deadline, there has been little discussion about what GM Greg Sherman needs to do to get his forgotten squad back on track. Given the colossal mess that was the Ryan O’Reilly offer sheet, one wonders what kind of plan exists for changing the culture in Denver and whether ownership has even noticed what’s going on under its collective noses.

As for the Canucks, a shifting of the sands there as well, as they have now won six in a row, all with Cory Schneider between the pipes. The Canucks are embroiled in a great to-and-fro battle with the Minnesota Wild, winners of seven straight, for the top spot in the Northwest Division and what will be home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The re-emergence of Schneider as The Man in goal for Vancouver has also heightened discussion about whether there might be a taker for the erstwhile Roberto Luongo before Wednesday's deadline.

Never a dull moment in the Northwest Division.

Morning jam: Down-to-the-wire Duchene

March, 11, 2013
Avalanche 3, Sharks 2 (F/OT)
* Matt Duchene (COL): 2 goals (11); GW Goal at 4:59 mark of overtime (3rd career OT goal)
* P.A. Parenteau (COL): 2 assists; 6-game point streak (2G, 8A)
* Avalanche: won season-high 5 straight at home
* Patrick Marleau (SJ): Goal (13); ends 6-game goal drought
* FROM ELIAS: Matt Duchene scored his second goal of the game with two-tenths of a second remaining in overtime to earn the Avalanche a 3-2 win against the Sharks. It was the first goal at the 4:59 mark of overtime in an NHL regular-season game since March 18, 2012, when Scott Hartnell scored an OT buzzer-beater for the Flyers against the Penguins, and it was the first such goal in Quebec/Colorado franchise history.

Blue Jackets 3, Red Wings 2 (F/SO)
* Blue Jackets: won 5 straight games following 4-game losing streak (4 of those 5 wins in either OT or shootout)
* Blue Jackets: 4-0-1 vs Red Wings this season (6-12-3 vs rest of NHL)

Wild 4, Canucks 2
* Zach Parise (MIN): 2 Goals (11), Assist; 1 goal, 1 Assist in 7 career games vs Canucks entering game
* Canucks: lost 4 straight
* Wild: 8-3-0 when scoring 1st this season
* Niklas Backstrom (MIN): 25 saves; won 5 of last 6 starts

Ducks 4, Blues 2
* Ducks: have earned point in each of their last 7 games (5-0-2) (won last 3)
* Ducks: scored 3 unanswered goals in 3rd period (trailed 2-1 with 18:19 left to play)
* Corey Perry (ANA): 2 goals (9), including go-ahead PPG with 14:40 left
* Blues: finish 5-game road trip at 2-3-0

Devils 3, Jets 2 (F/SO)
* Devils: 2nd win in last 9 games
* Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ): 1 assist to extend point streak to 4 games
* Evander Kane (WPG): 1 goal (10); career-high 10 shots on goal

Flyers 3, Sabres 2
* Flyers: Won 5 of last 6 games vs Sabres
* Claude Giroux (PHI): 4 Power Play Goals this season (6 last season)
* Sabres: lost last 4 road games

Oilers 6, Blackhawks 5
* Blackhawks: 2 straight losses in regulation for 1st time since Feb. 26, 2012
* Blackhawks: 6 goals against in each of 2 straight losses; had allowed 3 or fewer in previous 22 games; hadn't allowed 6 goals in back-to-back games since Mar 2 2007
* Oilers: 1st win in 6 games; goals on 3 of 4 power play opportunities; were 1 for last 16 power play opps
* Patrick Kane (CHI): 2 G (14), 1 A (16); leads CHI with 1 pt per 17:36 of ice time this season

Penguins 6, Islanders 1
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): ties career high with 5 assists
* Chris Kunitz (PIT): 3 goals, 2 assists (2nd hat trick of season); 5 points are a career high
* Penguins: 5th straight win
* FROM ELIAS: Sidney Crosby didn't score a goal on Sunday night but he assisted on five goals in the Penguins' 6-1 win over the Islanders. Crosby's five-assist game was the second of his NHL career; he recorded five assists against the Flyers on Dec. 13, 2006. He's the only active NHL player with more than one five-assist game. The only other player in Penguins history to register at least five assists in a game more than once is the man who signs Crosby's paychecks, Pittsburgh's co-owner and chairman Mario Lemieux. Lemieux did that eight times in his NHL career.

Rangers 4, Capitals 1
* Brian Boyle (NYR): 1st goal of season (13:48 average time on ice in 19 GP entering game)
* Rangers: 5-1-0 since 0-3-1 slide
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): no points, 4 SOG, -3 plus/minus in 22:26 TOI
* Capitals: outscored 9-3 during 2-game losing streak after outscoring opponents 14-4 during 3-game win streak

Canadiens 5, Panthers 2
* FROM ELIAS: Michael Ryder scored his first two goals since he was reacquired by the Canadiens in a trade with the Stars on February 26 in Montreal's 5-2 win at Florida. Ryder's goals were his 100th and 101st regular-season tallies for the Canadiens, making him the 57th player to reach the century mark in goals for the "bleu, blanc et rouge." Three other NHL teams have had at least 50 players scored 100 or more goals for them: Boston (55), the Rangers (54) and Toronto (53).

Morning jam: Blackhawks' streak by the numbers

March, 9, 2013

Avalanche 6, Blackhawks 2
* Blackhawks: loss snaps 24-game point streak to start season (NHL record)
* Blackhawks: loss snaps 30-game point streak dating back to last season (2nd-longest in NHL history)
* Blackhawks: loss snaps franchise record 11-game win streak
* Blackhawks: allowed season high 6 goals (had allowed 3 or fewer goals in previous 22 games)
* Blackhawks: 1st regulation road loss in over a year (March 6, 2012 at STL)
* Avalanche: won 4 straight home games
* Matt Duchene (COL): goal, 3 assists (ties career high with 4 points)

Most Consecutive Games with a Point, NHL History
1979-80 Flyers<< 35
2011-13 Blackhawks 30
1977-78 Canadiens<< 28
>>Reached Stanley Cup Final

Longest Point Streaks To Start Season, NHL History
2012-13 Blackhawks 24
2006-07 Ducks<< 16
1984-85 Oilers<< 15
1943-44 Canadiens<< 14
>>Won Stanley Cup

Predators 6, Oilers 0
* Pekka Rinne (NSH): 24 saves (4th shutout of the season)
* Predators: 5-1-1 past 6 at home, allowing 10G, 18/20 on PK
* Oilers: 0-4-1 past 5 games, 0/7 on PP
* FROM ELIAS: Colin Wilson set a single-game career high with four points (two goals, two assists) in the Predators’ 6–0 win over the Oilers. Wilson’s father, Carey, played in the NHL from 1984 through 1992 and he scored three points in a game 23 times but never recorded a four-point game.

Senators 3, Rangers 2
* Jakob Silfverberg (OTT): Goal (4); 1st career GW goal
* Senators: have won 6 of past 7 vs Rangers and have won 5 straight games AT Rangers
* Rich Nash (NYR): Goal (9) in 1st period (1st goal OUTSIDE 3rd period this season)
* Rangers: loss snaps 4-game win streak
* FROM ELIAS: Rick Nash is the second Rangers player in the last seven years to score goals in each of five consecutive team games in one season, joining Marian Gaborik, who had a five-game goal-scoring streak in December 2011.

Jets 3, Panthers 2 (F/OT)
* Jets: 4-1-0 in past 5 road games, 15/15 on PK
* Dustin Byfuglien (WPG): Game-winning goal (4), first goal in last 13 games, had 3 goals in first 5 games of the season
* Panthers: 1-4-1 past 6 games, 1/10 on PP
* Panthers: 1-0-6 in overtime games this season
* FROM ELIAS: Jonathan Huberdeau who made his NHL debut in Florida’s season opener, has scored 12 goals while playing in all 25 games for the Panthers this year. Only four other active players scored at least a dozen goals in their first 25 NHL games: Teemu Selanne (18), Alex Ovechkin (15), Evgeni Malkin (15), and Sidney Crosby (12).

Ducks 4, Flames 0
* Ducks: 16th straight home win vs Flames (last loss 1/19/2004)
* Ducks: 4-0-2 past 6 games, 13/14 on PK
* Viktor Fasth (ANA): 2nd shutout of the season
* Flames: 0-3-1 past 4 road games

Need to know: Inconsistent Islanders

February, 19, 2013

  If there is one thing that separates the good teams from the mediocre and the great ones from the good, it's consistency of effort. Poor teams invariably see wild swings in effort and results, sometimes within a few days. Monday was a perfect illustration of that. How do the New York Islanders look so good -- dare we say almost playoff-ready? -- in handling New Jersey 5-1 on Saturday night, then turn around and lay a complete egg in a 7-0 shellacking at home Monday afternoon by Philadelphia? Embarrassing. Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov (is there no Plan B on the island in terms of goaltending?) gave up three in the second and three in the third, and from reports out of the game, he might have been the Isles' best player. It was just the third road win for the Flyers, one of the reasons they're outside the Eastern Conference playoff bubble.

  Not a good day in Colorado for the on-ice officials, who blew an offside call that led to a Colorado goal, nor for Nashville backup Chris Mason, who has been solid this season but allowed six goals on 18 shots in less than two periods of play as the Predators were nipped 6-5. The game was the first for the Avalanche after blowing a 4-1 lead in Edmonton Saturday night, a game in which they gave up an Oilers-record 56 shots. Things looked like they might follow a similar pattern Monday as the Preds kept eating into Avalanche's leads, launching 38 shots on Semyon Varlamov, but the Avs held on. On the disputed goal by the suddenly red-hot Matt Duchene, officials mistakenly believed the Predators had played the puck back into their zone, allowing Duchene -- who was offside -- to go in alone and score.

  Kudos to the Ottawa Senators and coach Paul MacLean for being able to turn attention away from the loss of Erik Karlsson for the balance of the season. With Ben Bishop giving Craig Anderson a break in net, Bishop matched the peerless Martin Brodeur save for save as the Senators ended up with a 2-1 victory in a shootout Monday afternoon. Jakob Silfverberg scored the only goal of the shootout. Bishop stopped 30 of 31 shots, while Brodeur stopped 29 of 30.

  Speaking of the Northeast, it's become a very interesting place to be this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs won their sixth in seven games with their 3-0 victory Monday over the hapless Florida Panthers. Meanwhile, Montreal was taking care of business against a much-improved Carolina Hurricanes team, defeating the Southeast Division leaders 3-0 for its fourth straight win. With starting goalie Carey Price feeling under the weather, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien went back to Peter Budaj for a second straight time (Budaj beat Philadelphia Saturday). The point totals are a bit misleading because Boston has played two or three fewer games than the rest of the division, but as of Tuesday morning, Montreal assumed the top spot in the Northeast, with Boston, Ottawa and Toronto all among the top eight in the Eastern Conference, as well.

  The Anaheim Ducks are doing in the Pacific Division what the Chicago Blackhawks are doing in the Central: threatening to run away and hide. The surprising Ducks won again Monday, edging Columbus 3-2 to improve to 12-2-1. The win was the Ducks’ fifth straight, and their plus-14 goal differential is tied for second in the league behind the Blackhawks. The Ducks lead Phoenix by seven points with a game in hand, as the second-place Coyotes (8-6-2) continued to put their slow start to the season behind them with a 4-0 whitewashing of Calgary on Monday. The Coyotes have won four of five but are proving how hard it is to make up ground in the division. As for the Blackhawks (12-0-3), they have a shot at tying an NHL record for the best start without a regulation loss when Vancouver visits Tuesday night. The record for starting without a regulation loss was set by the 2006-07 Ducks, who went on to win the Cup after starting the season 12-0-4.
No doubt Damien Brunner is one hot name in fantasy hockey league drafts this week with news that he’s slated to begin the season on the top line for the Detroit Red Wings with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

The Swiss star has yet to play an NHL game, but the hype surrounding his arrival on this side of the ocean is inescapable.

It might have something to do with putting up 25 goals and 57 points in just 33 games in the Swiss league during the lockout.

Still, given that he’s 26 years old and has never been drafted by an NHL team, there are some skeptics out there as well.

There’s only one way to find out: See how he does when the NHL season begins this weekend.

"He has good quickness and finish -- that talent level should translate well here unless he can't get to the areas on the ice where his talents can flourish," a pro scout from a rival NHL team told Tuesday.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds, Brunner will need to fight through heavier traffic in a smaller rink to get to the scoring areas.

“He's obviously a goal-scorer, but he's got more qualities than that,” Zetterberg told this week. “He's a good skater, sees the ice very well and he wants to win. That's a good quality to have."

Brunner caught the Wings’ attention last season en route to winning the Swiss league scoring title with 60 points (24 goals-36 assists) in 45 games.

Former Red Wing Stacy Roest, who was still playing in the Swiss League last season, kept emailing Wings GM Ken Holland about Brunner. Roest and Holland both summer on the same lake in Vernon, British Columbia.

"Stacy felt Brunner would be a guy he thought that could make the jump from the Swiss League to the NHL," Holland told this week.

Once the Wings were eliminated by Nashville in the first round last spring, Holland and coach Mike Babcock headed overseas to the world hockey championship to watch Brunner play for Switzerland.

"We liked him," Holland said. "So we made him an offer. I know there were other teams involved, but he ultimately signed with us."

Brunner’s agent, Neil Sheehy, said there were five NHL teams seriously in the bidding for his client, "but Detroit was the best fit for Damien," he told Tuesday.

Then came the NHL lockout. Silver lining? Brunner and Zetterberg become linemates for Zug of the Swiss league this season.

"It couldn’t have worked out any better for us during the work stoppage that Henrik Zetterberg went over to play with him, and they obviously found great chemistry over there," Holland said. "He’s got nothing more to prove in Switzerland, he led the league in scoring last year, and he looks to have led them in scoring this year [had he stayed]. He’s a good skater, really quick, knows where to go to score, he has a quick release, thinks the game at a high level. Obviously, the question is, at 5-10, 5-11, on a smaller rink with less space, can he still find ways to get open and create scoring chances? We’re going to give him every opportunity."

Brunner, by the way, isn’t eligible for the Calder Trophy. He turned 26 last March. Under NHL rules, a player can’t have turned 26 by Sept. 15 of his first NHL season to be eligible.

Blackhawks rested and ready

The Chicago Blackhawks made very few roster changes in the offseason other than adding defensemen Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank.

Otherwise, it’s largely the same team that returns, and I’m one who believes that in this short season with a short camp, NHL clubs with the smallest amount of roster turnover will get off to better starts. Especially a talented team like Chicago.

"It’s funny because everyone around here was up in arms last summer, why we didn’t make all these changes, not that we listen to that stuff anyway,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told Monday. "But we had 101 points last season and, while our playoff performance was below expectation, you don’t want to overreact."

No new system to learn; these players are used to each other. No adjustment period.

I like the Hawks’ chances of getting off to a flying start.

Having star forwards Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa both in perfect health also helps, of course. Toews returned in time for the playoffs after missing time with a concussion, but he wasn’t quite the same. Hossa got decked by a brutal hit from Raffi Torres in Game 3 of the playoffs and needed months to recover from that concussion. The rest did him well.

"Marian’s probably never been this healthy if you think about all the hockey he played with Pittsburgh, Detroit and with us with all those Cup runs (2008 through 2010),” Bowman said. "He had an extended period to get himself strong and completely healed. He’s feeling better than ever. Same thing with Jonathan. They’re your key guys. You have to have your top guys rested and healthy. And we are, we’re totally healthy heading into the season and that gives us reason for optimism."

The question mark in Chicago remains in goal after Corey Crawford struggled last season. Much is riding on how he rebounds. Two years ago, Crawford was sensational late in the season in helping Chicago get into the playoffs and nearly stole a first-round series upset win over Vancouver with a magnificent performance.

"It’s the tale of two seasons with him, and this season will show us which of those was accurate," Bowman said. "You go back to two years ago, at the end of that season, I think any team would have been excited to try and acquire Corey because of the way he played. He was great down the stretch. Was that a fluke? I guess it’s possible, but not likely it was a fluke. You don’t lose your skills in five months. But it’s a whole different dynamic when you come in expected to do well. Your mentality changes. He didn’t play badly last year, I wouldn’t say he was great but he was steady."

It’s pretty simple. If Crawford rebounds, the Hawks are once again big Cup contenders.

"Corey needs to rebound and we think he will," Bowman said. "Time will tell if we’re right or we’re wrong."

Don't doubt Duchene

If you’re looking for a candidate to have a bounce-back year, I’d peg Matt Duchene in Colorado.

After putting up 55 points (24 goals-31 assists) in his rookie campaign in 2009-10 and following that up with 67 points (27 goals-40 assists) in 2010-11, the young forward slumped to 28 points (14 goals-14 assists) last season, albeit in 58 games. But whether it was part of the maturity process and learning how to be a consistent pro, Duchene got a bit of tough love last season from coach Joe Sacco as his ice time and role diminished at times.

But that’s in the past.

"I expect a response year from Matt, no question," Sacco told Monday. "His first couple of years in the NHL were pretty good. And then last year, he kind of got off track and got away from his game a little bit. We had some situations where I felt he wasn’t playing the way he should be playing, so his ice time went down. But it’s a fresh start for Matt."

Sacco sees a reenergized, refocused Duchene, who turns 22 on Wednesday.

"I think he’s really redefinied himself as far as committing himself to getting in really good shape, taking the opportunity to playing overseas in Sweden (during the lockout) -- that was real important for him to reestablish his game," Sacco said. "I felt he needed that. This is a new beginning for him. He’s an important player for us. When he’s playing the way he’s capable of playing, that certainly should help our team offensively. I know he’s excited right now."

Duchene has started camp playing between captain Gabriel Landeskog and newly acquired winger P.A. Parenteau.

"They’ve looked good the first few days," Sacco said.

On the second line, Sacco has Paul Stastny between Jamie McGinn and David Jones.

"That was one our better lines last year, probably our best line down the stretch, so we kept that line intact," Sacco said.

The third line is John Mitchell between Steve Downie and Milan Hejduk; a unit with some pretty good offense.

"I guess it’s not your typical third line," Sacco said. "Downs’ plays an energetic, in-your-face type of game but also can bring some skill to it as well. Obviously, Milan is a good goal scorer and can make plays. And John Mitchell has looked good in camp. He’s fit in well there."

Of course, at some point last season’s leading scorer Ryan O'Reilly, a huge heart-and-soul guy on this team, will finally sign and return to the Avs. The NHL club and his representatives from Newport Sports continue to negotiate. Once O’Reilly is back, whenever that is, that will somewhat change a line or two above.

But that doesn’t change my point on Duchene: I think he’s in for a big offensive year.

Sens' depleted blue line

The season-ending injury to Jared Cowen and the broken finger to Mike Lundin have left the Senators thin on defense to start the season.

Senators GM Bryan Murray wants to see how AHL call-ups Patrick Wiercioch, Mark Borowiecki and Andre Benoit do in camp this week before deciding whether or not he needs to go out and acquire help.

"It will be at the end of the week at the earliest if we try to do anything," Murray told Monday.

The Senators have good depth at the forward position throughout the organization, so if they make a trade for a defenseman, that’s where the asset would come from. The Sens could also wait and see who goes on waivers from other NHL clubs over the next week.

Morning Links: Day 18 of the lockout

October, 3, 2012
  • Marian Hossa worked out on the ice with coaches for an hour on Tuesday as he continues to rehabilitate from a season-ending concussion suffered in the playoffs. (CSN Chicago)
  • Avs center Matt Duchene announced on Twitter that he signed with Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League. (Denver Post)
  • Claude Giroux hasn’t decided where he will play during the lockout, but he said he believes the lockout will end in time for the NHL to play this year. (Ottawa Sun)
  • About a dozen Red Wings players have been skating at Troy Sports Center, with the ice being booked in Henrik Zeterberg’s name, but it hasn’t been decided yet which player will pay the bill for the ice time. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Matt Cooke has become the Penguins fill-in equipment manager, sharpening the skates of teammates on his own machine, and the reviews are mixed on how good his work is. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • New Jersey native Bobby Ryan has been working out with some of the Flyers top players during the lockout. (Courier Post)
  • The Kings brought the Cup to a 9-year-old girl who fractured her skull and bruised her brain stem while hiking in the mountains in July. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Preds forward Colin Wilson is getting advice on dealing with the lockout from his father, Carey, who was a part of the 1992 NHL players strike. (The Tennessean)
  • Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is preparing for multiple training camp scenarios given that there is no set date for when – or if – the season will begin. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Carolina’s Anthony Stewart is playing in Britain’s Elite League for basically nothing just so he can get as much playing time as possible. (New York Times)

Stock Up

Mikael Samuelsson, Vancouver Canucks: One of the question marks about the Canucks -- apart from whether they'll have enough defensemen to field a team from night to night -- is whether they have enough scoring depth to stay with the big boys in the Western Conference once the playoffs start. With Ryan Kesler having a breakout year and Mikael Samuelsson suddenly coming on strong, the answer seems to be an indisputable "yes." Samuelsson has shaken off a tepid first half and has points in five straight games (four goals, six assists) and six of seven.

Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs: It's not often that a Leaf ends up in the Stock Up category, but here's a nod to Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle who has six points in his past six games and is a plus-4 over that stretch. Kaberle's strong play has coincided with a mini-playoff push for a Leafs team that looked like a draft lottery team a few weeks ago. The playoffs likely aren't in the cards for Toronto, but Kaberle's play will certainly make the veteran more attractive as the Feb. 28 trade deadline closes in. After much to-ing and fro-ing the past couple of years about Kaberle's future or lack thereof in Toronto, it appears this will finally be the moment when Kaberle bids adieu to the blue and white for whom he's toiled his entire NHL career. Lots of suitors for his talents, now it's just a question of where he lands.

Stock Down

Todd Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings: After providing important depth scoring last season when the injury-plagued Red Wings needed all hands on deck to make the playoffs, veteran Todd Bertuzzi's production has slowed this season. Bertuzzi had 18 goals a year ago but has just eight this season and just one goal in his past 14 games.

Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche: The bottom has fallen out on the high-flying Avs as they have lost seven of eight and fallen into a tie for 13th in the Western Conference. Injuries continue to plague the team and netminder Craig Anderson has returned from the team's current road trip for personal reasons. Rookie of the year nominee last season Matt Duchene has also seen his production slow of late as he has just one goal in his past seven games. The gifted forward has not scored a power-play goal in 18 outings.

Stock up

Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche continue to lose key personnel at an alarming rate yet continue to score goals by the bushel (they lead the NHL in goals per game). As of Friday morning, the hard-luck Avs were riding a four-game winning streak, including back-to-back wins over the defending Stanley Cup champs from Chicago this week. Sophomore Matt Duchene has been doing yeoman work in the face of an injury-depleted forward corps with 15 points in his past 11 games. He has eight goals over that stretch.

Sergei Kostitsyn, Nashville Predators

The Preds are streaking once again with points in nine straight games (7-0-2). Surprisingly, it's the forgotten Kostitsyn who has picked up his game over this period. After being essentially ridden out of Montreal at the end of last season, the younger of the two Kostitsyns (brother Andrei is still with the Habs) is starting to find a comfort zone with the Preds, playing mostly with Martin Erat and Marcel Goc. Kostitsyn has points in seven straight games (nine points over that period), and the Predators have jumped back into the Western Conference playoff fray thanks in large part to the trio's play.

Stock down

Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets

Once again, the bottom has fallen out on the former rookie of the year and Vezina Trophy nominee. Mason was shelled by Edmonton on Thursday night, allowing six goals on 27 shots through two periods. He was then yanked for the third time in four games. Mason has just one win in his past seven outings, and the Blue Jackets have fallen like a stone through the Western Conference standings as a result.

Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

Wonder why the talent-laden Sharks are such a befuddling team, flirting with the lower end of the West playoff bracket? Well, take a look at former captain Patrick Marleau, who has somehow managed to amass a minus-17 rating. Yes, plus/minus is a sometimes misleading (if not meaningless) stat, but the fact Marleau has one assist in his past eight games isn't. It's just plain shocking. So is the fact he's managed to score just once in his past 12 games.