The Burgundy Letter
by Martin Krantz on 11/05/11 at 03:13 PM ET
The Colorado Avalanche lost 6-7 in OT against the Dallas Stars in what Steve Martin would’ve referred to as a wild and crazy game. I still believe that the Avs have reason to feel cautiously optimistic after their loss, even though the team saw several defensive breakdowns and didn’t get the usual quality of goaltending from Semyon Varlamov. The reason for the optimism can be spelled D-u-c-h-e-n-e, who has been off to a slow start this season and has received some justified criticism because of it. I’ve written a post about it myself after watching the Avs against Montreal, and seeing him try to deke when he should’ve passed, trying stupid passes up the middle that could’ve been easily interecepted, and being nearly invisible offensively. He’s had a rough time of it, and Joe Sacco responded by playing him on the fourth line against Chicago.
After he scored the game-winning goal against Los Angeles Kings, I wrote a blog post where I expressed my hope that he’d finally turned his game around and would start being the PPG player he needs to be for the Avs. He and the team responded with an atrocious performance against the Coyotes (or, as they’re also known - “a team to be named later”). So, against the Dallas Stars, Matt Duchene was moved to the left wing.
Now, Duchene seems to listen more closely to Joe Sacco than me, because he didn’t respond nearly as poorly to Sacco’s move as my comments. He played on a line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, and that line was on fire throughout the night. Matt Duchene scored his first career hattrick, and even though it wasn’t enough to secure a win, the Avs would feel much better about their playoff chances if they could get a scoring line working with some consistency. Paul Stastny and David Jones have been able to put up some points through October, but the second line’s production has been pretty bad.
This is the first time Duchene plays left wing, and even though it’s just one game, I’m hoping that it’ll prove to be a successful experiment. Duchene used his speed a lot better in tonight’s game, and had better skating lanes than he’s had as a center. Having a solid playmaking two-way forward in Paul Stastny covering up behind him so he can focus on offense is probably a big help as well.
In case you missed it, here’s Duchene’s hattrick goal. It’s a beauty and well worth watching!
Moving Duchene to the wing is also a good choice since the Avs’ third line is essentially a myth. The line, consisting of Landeskog - O’Reilly - Winnik, has been the team’s best line in October, often finding themselves on the ice in crucial moments of the game. They’ve been playing first or second line minutes most nights, so they’ve never really been a “third” line. Much of this line’s success can be attributed to the offensive revelation that is Ryan O’Reilly, who’s been considered a perfect fit on a third line as a hard-working defensive center. Entering his third year in the league, he’s starting to show his offensive upside (especially his passing skills) as well, and is currently on pace for a 62-point season. The line that should be considered the third line for the Avs right now is Lindstrom - Galiardi - Jones.
I think Jones would be a little wasted on the third line since he’s one of the Avs’ best goalscorers, and would like to see him bumped up to play with Landeskog and O’Reilly. Winnik is a great fit for a third line, and I would like to see him stay there instead of expecting him to be a top-line winger. Other than that, I’m pretty satisfied with the team’s forward lines right now.
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