The Burgundy Letter
by Martin Krantz on 12/05/11 at 08:54 AM ET
The Colorado Avalanche faced off against the
Detroit Red Wings for the third time this season after being outscored 8-2 in the first two games. And lo and behold - this time the team got the result I was hoping for during Peter Forsberg’s jersey retirement night. After an uninspired first period, the Avs came out hard in the second period and outworked a Red Wings team that seemed a bit sloppy at times. Instead of making a backup netminder look like the new Dominik Hasek, the Avs made Ty Conklin look like what he really is - a stable backup who was hung out to dry by his teammates.
And since Paul asked a couple of days ago who was the MVP on every team, it couldn’t be more fitting that this win was orchestrated by the Colorado Avalanche’s MVP for the first quarter - Ryan O’Reilly.
O’Reilly has been hot lately with 7 points in the last 3 games. Playing much of the time on a line with Landeskog and Winnik, he has stepped up from being a third-line center to playing on the Avs’ 1A/1B line. During the team’s struggles Sacco finally removed Winnik from the line and gave Lando and O’Reilly a chance to play with newly appointed captain Milan Hejduk. The move payed immediate dividends, and O’Reilly is most likely going to shatter his previous record for points in a season. Through the first 27 games, O’Reilly has 21 points. His previous two seasons in the NHL were 26 point efforts where he went through extended scoring droughts. He’s currently on pace for a 63-point season.
Another player who was in the running for my MVP choice was Gabriel Landeskog. He had a great effort tonight, starting with a steal behind the net in Detroit’s zone and then feeding the puck to O’Reilly for the tying goal. He put in a really strong showing, and I’m very impressed with his hockey sense. On a PK in the second period last night he got the puck in his own zone, and instead of dumping it into the Red Wings’ zone, he rounded a Wing, skated up the right side of the ice and fired two shots on Ty Conklin who was hard-pressed to make the saves. He was also out on the PK in the third period with the game tied. Galiardi stole the puck and got it to Landeskog who skated into the offensive zone and passed it back to Galiardi for the eventual game-winner.
I really think that in a couple of years, the Detroit Red Wings’ fans will come to hate Gabriel Landeskog as much as we currently hate Johan Franzen. The Mule had another goal against the Avs tonight, and I thought that he would once again ruin my night.
I think the word “crisp” is a good word to describe the Red Wings. Crisp passes, crisp shots - watching the Detroit Red Wings at their best is usually an awe-inspiring feeling. But tonight they were a little bit flat and lacked some of that crispness. If this had been a playoff game, I think they would’ve run roughshod over the Avs. Luckily, the Wings will have games like these during the regular season, and the Avs are a bit lucky that tonight was one of those nights.
The Avs finished their 8-game homestand with three straight wins, thereby giving Sacco some job security a while longer. He has the devil’s own luck, that one. He gets the wins when he needs them and does just enough to cling to his job for a while longer. A three-game winning streak is a bit of a cushion for him, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Avs do against their division rivals in three straight road games now. The team will face the Canucks, Flames and Oilers next, and if they can go 2-1 in those games I think Sacco’s job his safe. Worst scenario would be going 0-3, and it’s not out of the question as the Avs have had a hard time getting points against division rivals this season.
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