Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Avalanche early set-up and early overnight report: Roy or no Roy, Avs present stiff test

Updated 2xat 4:36 AM: While I made up for five hours of sleep at night with a wee afternoon nap, Paul noted that one Patrick Roy is preparing to welcome the Red Wings to town for what may be the team's biggest "barometer" game of the young season tomorrow.

It turns out that the Wings did not practice on Wednesday afternoon (thus the non-practice practice post), choosing instead to fly to Denver and acclimate to altitude instead of practicing before tomorrow's game against the 6-and-0 Avalanche (9 PM EDT, FSD/Altitude) and Saturday's rematch with the Coyotes (9 PM, FSD/FS Arizona: see also Phoenix delivering Detroit an embarrassing 4-2 loss last Thursday)...

And I don't care whether Patrick Roy's coaching the Avs or whether he's going to sign Claude Lemieux to a one-game pro try-out for tomorrow night's game. If you're not geared up to play a team that can establish a team record for its best start ever, and if you've had trouble against that team over the last 4 of 5 years (last season excluded), you sure as hell better be geared up to play the home and streak-wrecker.

As Paul noted, a certain Patrick Roy wants "see less red" in the Pepsi Center on Thursday, and the Denver Post's Adrian Dater noted that the Avs' players are among the league's youngest, so some of them have no memory of the Wings-Avs battles of yore, starting with rookie Nathan MacKinnon:

"It's fun to look at clips on YouTube and stuff like that," the 18-year-old Avs rookie said. "It looked like it was pretty intense."

It was. But retirements, time and the Avs' slippage of the past few years have dimmed the rivalry that once was appointment viewing for the whole hockey world and beyond.

Thursday night at the Pepsi Center, the Red Wings come to town for their only appearance of the season. By moving to the Eastern Conference, Detroit can only face the Avs in the playoffs now if the teams make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Otherwise, the teams met six times in the playoffs from 1996-2008, including five times between 1996 and 2002. The teams split three series apiece.
Avs coach Patrick Roy 2013

"I watched most of those games on TV," said Matt Duchene, 22. "It was just great hockey, the best. It might not be like it once was, but we've played them pretty tough the last few years. I think they always bring out the best in us. They're still a great team, and it's going to be a good game (Thursday) night I'm sure, fun for the fans."

Patrick himself just wants to see Avs fans pumped up...

Roy has a message for Avalanche fans: Show up at the game Thursday. In recent years, the Pepsi Center has had a lot of Red Wings jerseys in the stands, and Roy wants that to stop.

"I hope I'm not going to see a lot of red jerseys, that's all I can say. I want to see burgundy and white," Roy said.

Roy can set an NHL record if the Avs can win. He is tied with his former coach, Montreal's Mario Trembly in 1995, for the best start to a coaching career at 6-0.

Dater posted a video of Matt Duchene speaking with the media in his blog, discussing the team's desire to set a new team record with their 7th straight win...

And Dater made something of a promise about tomorrow's content...

No on-ice practice for the Avs today. A few guys went on the ice anyway, guys like Ryan O’Reilly, the scratches of late and goalie coach Francois Allaire. But Patrick Roy wanted his team to watch some video instead, and have a workout in the gym.

Tomorrow, the Wings come to town, and I’ll have a story in the paper talking some about the great, old days of the rivalry. Some might call it, ahem, a “Blood Feud.”

Roy gave a nearly-8-minute off-day presser to the Avs' press corps, and the Avs' website posted a clip thereof...

And the Avalanche's website's Scott Ward issued some gushy praise for the coach's job thus far:

Matt Duchene scored twice Tuesday, for example, and is off to a great start in his fifth NHL season (seven points); goalies Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere have been nothing short of phenomenal in the early going; and 2013 first-overall NHL draft pick Nathan MacKinnon has been as advertised after adding another point Tuesday (assist) to his season total and is tied with Duchene for the team scoring lead.

But the foundation for this “Talk of the NHL” start for the Avalanche began back in May, when Roy returned to the Avalanche organization after a 10-years-to-the-day hiatus from the NHL.

In his short time back in Colorado, all Roy has done is tie the NHL record for consecutive wins to start a head-coaching career (Mario Tremblay, 1995-96), and re-ignite a Denver hockey frenzy that figures to reach an even bigger blaze Thursday when the Red Wings come calling.

When asked about all this Tuesday night at Pepsi Center, however, Roy attacked the question with the sort of swiftness he displayed as a goaltender in his Hall of Fame career. He said he’s not interested in looking back or even focusing on the now. He’s all about the big picture.

“[The potential 7-0 start is] not something that I’m looking at, to be honest with you,” Roy said. “I certainly appreciate more the way our guys played [tonight] then appreciate me breaking a record or something like this. I’m not really excited about that record, to be honest with you. I’m excited about looking at the way the team has been playing, how hard the team has been working. I don’t care about the 7-0. That’s what I said to the guys before the game. We have to take care of things that we control, and what we control is how we’re going to play the game. Most importantly, the commitment that we’re making to focus and also to hard work is probably what puts us where we are right now.”

I cannot deny that Roy's spot-on here:

At some point this “start” of the season won’t be looked at like that anymore. At some point it’s going to be considered the first block in a season-long build. And however the season plays out, Roy is glad to have these 12 points already in the bag, including from Tuesday night’s win, which wasn’t a masterpiece but still resulted in a victory.

“That’s what we’ve been doing since the start of the year, finding a way to win,” Roy said. “There’s night where we’ve played better … tonight was not our best game. You can say whatever you want, but at the end, those points, nobody can take them away from us, and we won’t have to chase them at the end. Let’s take advantage of the situation. Right now we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

The Associated Press's Pat Graham asked Roy's charges about their coach...

“There’s never panic with him,” forward Matt Duchene explained. “We could be playing awful, be down a bunch of goals and he doesn’t really panic that much. It’s nice to have a guy like that behind you.”

This is the nurturing side of Roy, instilling confidence through compliments. He actually gave the team a break from the ice Wednesday because he thought they were looking a little tired.

“He knows how to win and he’s won before, so that jolt of energy has done a lot for us,” defenceman Erik Johnson said. “We’re confident in ourselves and trust Patrick and like playing for him. When you have a coach you’re willing to go through a wall for, it makes a big difference. Everyone has that mentality playing for Patrick.”

With a win Thursday, the Hall of Fame goalie would break the mark for most NHL wins to start a coaching career. Roy shares the record with Mario Tremblay, who won his first six games with Montreal in 1995-96, a team Roy played for before being dealt to the Avalanche later that season after a falling out with Tremblay. Toppling Tremblay’s mark, especially against the Red Wings — one of Roy’s most-heated rivals as a player — would mean a lot to the coach, even if he won’t admit as much.

“That’s not his focus. His focus is to get the two points,” rookie Nathan MacKinnon said. “But whatever records come along with it, he will be very happy. He’s worked very hard to get where he is.”

...

“It’s tough when a coach comes in and rips you apart at the intermission, and you’ve got to pull it together with about 7 minutes left until you’re skating on the ice again,” Duchene said. “When you’re not playing well as an individual and as a team, you know when you’re not playing well. I think when he comes in and teaches us, uses teaching points and is positive, it helps us to move on. You can’t live in the past. You’ve got to keep moving forward. That’s been really good, to have him treat us that way.”

...

Under Roy’s reign, there’s been more of a democratic approach to the game, a reliance on input from players such as captain Gabriel Landeskog. That helps keep the lines of communication open.

“You can relate to him, you can tell he’s been there before,” Landeskog said. “He’s preached the same message from day one in training camp. It’s definitely rubbing off on us, the passion and how calm he is, both on the bench and here, in meetings. ... We’re pretty calm out there and Patrick has been a huge part of that.”

And as you know, I am LOATH to post any sort of link to Hockeybuzz as our site and their site don't get along, but the former Rocky Mountain News's Rick Sadowski is a hell of a writer, and he's doing a professional job as their Avs correspondent, so I have to put good content out there. Here's what Sadowski noted from Roy's presser...

"A lot of good memories," he said Wednesday. "Detroit, Dallas, they were teams that we had great battles with. Every time we played them or Dallas, we knew that the winner had a good chance to go far in the playoffs if it was not winning the Stanley Cup. I think in that period we won two, Detroit won (three) and Dallas won one. They were intense games, they were fun to be part of and I think it was fun for everybody. It was exciting and a great rivalry.

"Unfortunately for both teams, we were in each other's way. For us to go to where we wanted, to win the Stanley Cup, we had to beat each other. The winner of that playoff had a good chance to be the winner of the big prize. There was a lot of intensity in our game and our fans were into it. The people were so excited every time we played them, and so were the players. The media, the fans, everybody ... there was a great buzz in the arena."

Roy also gave credit where credit was due:

"They certainly deserve a lot of credit for what they've been doing for a long time," Roy said. "They've got a great GM; Ken Holland has been doing a super job there. (Mike) Babcock is a really good coach. They draft well. They brought in Zetterberg and Datsyuk and all those guys. They should be proud of what they've been doing.

"Right now, to me, until we're making the playoffs and we establish ourselves among the top teams, we need to be patient and a rivalry will come back. It's going to be created by playoffs, by which team we're playing a lot. Obviously I think the one with Detroit has disappeared a bit, especially now with them changing conferences. I think we're living a lot in the past right now and I'm trying to move on and look at what's next for us.

"Let's make the playoffs a couple years in a row and I'm sure we'll find someone. Right now Chicago is in a class by itself. It's funny how things have changed since my last game. You could play in Chicago and there was like 10,000 people in the building and everybody came here in Denver. There was a full house every night. Now it's the opposite. But we're confident we're going to bring back our fans."

Alex Tanguay's the last one standing, really, save Pavel Datsyuk perhaps, in terms of the Wings-Avs rivalry's heyday, and he told Sadowski that he remembers the rivalry well...

"It's been a long time," said Tanguay, who was traded to Calgary in June 2006, and played in Montreal, Tampa Bay and Calgary again before returning to the Avalanche last June in a four-player trade with the Flames. "It brings back memories. (The Red Wings) had a great team and so did we. They were good battles. We're all aware that it's a new era; it's new teams for the most part. I don't think they have too many guys left from those days. But I'm certain that Patrick doesn't like the Red Wings jersey too much."

And Sadowski noted that the Avs took Wednesday off after defeating the Stars by the skin of their teeth:

"I thought today was a good day to give our guys a different type of day," Roy said. "We had a video session, the guys went in the gym. I thought it was good to be off the ice. We had a good trip in the East. I thought maybe sometimes (Tuesday) night we were a bit tired and I thought t would be a good thing for them mentally to do things different."

The Avalanche defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2 Tuesday despite a boat-load of turnovers and defensive mistakes. Duchene scored two goals and goalie Semyon Varlamov, who starts Thursday, made 39 saves.

This is really turning out to be something of a Wings-Avs set-up, so I'm just going to roll with it. NHL.com's John Kreiser penned a game preview, which will allow us to shift perspectives from those of the Avalanche to those of the Red Wings' coach and players...

Season series: The Detroit Red Wings swept all three games from the Colorado Avalanche last season, when both were members of the Western Conference. The Red Wings' move to the East means the teams will meet only twice this season; they won't see each other again until Colorado visits Joe Louis Arena on March 6.

Big story: The Avalanche will try to stay perfect while the Red Wings play the first of a quick two-game trip. Adding a little spice to the game is the fact that Patrick Roy will be facing the Red Wings for the first time since taking over as coach of the Avalanche during the summer -- and will be trying to break the NHL record for most wins without a loss at the start of a coaching career. The Red Wings and Avalanche were heated rivals during Roy's tenure as a player in Denver.

Red Wings [team scope]: The Detroit-Colorado rivalry isn't what it used to be in the days when Roy was in goal for the Avalanche rather than behind the bench. But Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who was running the Anaheim Ducks during Roy's last season as a player, is impressed with his fast start as an NHL bench boss.

"I know nothing about him as a coach, I just know he was an elite, elite goaltender, very competitive guy," Babcock said after practice Wednesday. "Obviously [he] went back and learned to coach by being in major juniors. He’s already got the 20 years of pro [experience], and he knows the nuances and all that. And when you coach good players you get to be a better coach."

...

Avalanche [team scope]: Semyon Varlamov may never be as good as Roy, but he's been plenty good enough this season for Colorado. Varlamov has been in goal for five of Colorado's six victories and made 39 saves Tuesday night in a 3-2 victory against the Dallas Stars

...

Who's hot: Detroit's Daniel Alfredsson has five points in the Red Wings' three-game winning streak. … Varlamov is 5-0-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. He's faced 41 shots in each of his past two starts.

As usual,  AP's preview adds stats to the mix:

Colorado (6-0-0) kept rolling Tuesday, defeating Dallas 3-2 as Matt Duchene scored twice and Semyon Varlamov stopped 39 shots. That pulled Roy even with Mario Tremblay, who won his first six games with Montreal in 1995-96, a team Roy played for before being traded to the Avalanche later that season. Tremblay played a big role in the trade after not pulling Roy out of a game soon enough in a lopsided loss.

...

The franchise's best start was 7-0 in 1985-86 as the Quebec Nordiques.

Colorado has allowed a league-low six goals, thanks in large part to Varlamov, who's won all five of his starts with a 1.20 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. He's faced 41 shots in each of the last two games.

...

If Varlamov is in goal Thursday, he may need to steal another one against a Detroit team that's averaged more than 35 shots in its last five games. The Wings (5-2-0) have also looked very good defensively, giving up eight goals in their victories.

Detroit got a second straight strong performance in net from Jonas Gustavsson on Tuesday, as he made 36 saves in a 2-1 win over Columbus. Gustavsson, who started in place of Jimmy Howard for the second consecutive contest, stopped 28 shots in a 3-2 win over Boston the previous day.

...

Duchene has four goals in the past three contests, while 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon notched an assist Tuesday and has recorded points in five of his six games for Colorado.

...

The Wings' Henrik Zetterberg had two assists against the Blue Jackets to continue his hot start. He has five goals and four assists to place him among the league point leaders.

Detroit has won three straight matchups with Colorado, all by one goal. The teams will be meeting for the first time as interconference opponents after the Wings' move to the Eastern Conference as a part of NHL realignment.

Most of Wednesday's "news" stories involved Darren Helm embarking upon his conditioning stint with Grand Rapids and Wings-Blue Jackets tailings.

We know that Petr Mrazek (and Landon Ferraro) were assigned to Grand Rapids, we know that Mrazek's mask is pretty bad-ass, and we know that Anthony Mantha was named the CHL's Player of the Week.

One would imagine that Mrazek's demotion means that the Wings believe that Jimmy Howard is good to go in terms of backing up Jonas Gustavsson tomorrow, but has his sore hand healed enough to back up Gustavsson.

Gustavsson was certainly good enough over his pair of possibly Red Wings-career-saving starts against Boston and especially Columbus, but the Wings have been out-shot by a fair margin of late, but the Wings need Howard back ASAP.

The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan took note of Babcock's latest update on Howard...

“I talked to Howie between periods, he was icing it, and the swelling is going down in his hand,” Babcock said. “Does that mean he’s playling in Phoenix (Saturday), does he play in Colorado? I haven’t talked to the trainer so I don’t know the answer.”

Before noting former Avalanche defenseman Kyle Quincey's take on Roy's helming of his former team (and Quincey still lives in Denver and works out/skates with his Avalanche pals):

By defeating the Red Wings Thursday, the Avalanche can match the franchise record of seven consecutive victories in 1985-86.

“He has a lot of emotion and the guys are playing well in front of him,” said defenseman Kyle Quincey, who was with Colorado until the Red Wings acquired him at the 2012 trade deadline.

People got a good indication of what kind of coach Roy will be on opening night when he pushed the glass partition between the benches toward Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau after the two began chirping each other. But it’s that kind of passion and intensity and Roy’s ability to relate to players — he participates in drills and works closely with the goaltenders — seems to have clicked with a young team that struggled last season.

“They have good things going.” Quincey said.

Quincey continued while speaking with the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness, and Pleiness starts the Babcockian Roy assessment narrative...

“He came out of the gates pretty hot,” said Kyle Quincey, a former Avalanche defenseman. “I’ve heard he has a lot of emotion and the guys are playing well in front of him, so they have a good thing going there.”

...

The Avalanche have outscored their opponents 21-6 thus far. The two goals Dallas scored on Tuesday were the most they’ve given up in one game this season.

“They look like they go very fast,” Babcock said. “Two years ago, they skated us, flat-out skated us. Then they got a bunch of injuries last year and this year they’ve got more guys again and keep adding good players.”

Rookie Nathan MacKinnon is tied for the team lead with seven points, along with PA Parenteau and Matt Duchene.

“The kid there looks like he’s going to be a star very quickly (MacKinnon),” Babcock said. “They’ve got a good looking team.”

Colorado’s penalty kill has also been outstanding, allowing just one goal on 16 chances.

“They’re building their team similar to how we are, their centers are unbelievable,” Quincey said. “They’ve got Ryan O’Reilly … that’s how good their centers are, he has to move to the wing. He’s a great player. Paul Stastny, Duchie and the MacKinnon kid, they got a great core of guys and good people. I’m not too surprised. This should be a fun game.”

I adored Babcock's take on Roy's tenure with the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts...

“Obviously he went back and learned to coach by being in major junior,” Babcock said. “Major junior is just NHL lite. It’s like lite beer it’s the same freaking thing. You learn. He’s already got the 20 years of pro and he knows the nuances and all that. And when you coach good players you get to be a better coach.”

And with that, we'll head over to MLive's Ansar Khan's story about the Wings' takes on the Avs to wrap this little narrative up:

“I know nothing about him as a coach, I just know he was an elite, elite goaltender, very competitive guy,’’ Babcock said. “Obviously went back and learned to coach by being in major juniors. He’s already got the 20 years of pro (experience) and he knows the nuances and all that. And when you coach good players you get to be a better coach.’’

The Avalanche is stocked with young talent, including MacKinnon, who has seven points (goal, six assists) in seven games. Matt Duchene (five goals) and PA Parenteau also have seven points.

“They’re building their team similar to how we are -- their centers are unbelievable,’’ Quincey said. “They got Ryan O’Reilly … that’s how good their centers are, he has to move to the wing. He’s a great player. Paul Stastny, (Duchene) and the McKinnon kid, they got a great core of guys. This should be a fun game.’’

...

Said Detroit’s Daniel Alfredsson: “From what I’ve heard, they’re a young team and they’re skating. They’re coming at you in swarms. I’m sure in their building they’ll be even more aggressive. We’re going to need to play a smart game and move the puck well to hopefully get away from their forechecking.’’

The Avs have been stellar defensively...

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is 5-0, with a 1.20 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. Backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 39 saves in a 2-0 victory at Boston in his lone appearance. The Avalanche rank No. 1 in the league on the penalty kill (15-of-16, 93.8 percent).

But if Jonas Gustavsson has to go tomorrow, he's ready:

“It’s always tough to play a team that’s on a roll,’’ Gustavsson said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence. It’s going to be a good test for us. So far guys have to feel pretty good about what we’ve been doing.’’

The Red Wings (5-2-0) are focused on extending their three-game winning streak, not denying Roy a record.

 

 

 

Otherwise...The Hockey News's Rory Boylen posited a top ten list of the "most loved NHL'ers," and two Wings made his list...

7. Henrik Zetterberg: A seventh round pick in 1999, Zetterberg was one of those Red Wing diamonds in the rough. He’s only ever posted more than 40 PIM in a season twice and quietly plays his role within a system that has kept Detroit a powerhouse for more than two decades. He puts up points, he plays defense, he’s a respectful player and a Conn Smythe winner.

...

3. Pavel Datsyuk: The man with the magic hands was a sixth-rounder in 1998. At that time, he was an undersized afterthought who had a great head for the game and could do amazing things with the puck. Since arriving in the NHL, he’s slowly built his celebrity through highlight reel goals and a self-deprecating sense of humor. The four-time Lady Byng winner and three-time Selke winner is a wizard with the puck and has earned the respect of every player in the NHL.

In an ironic twist, WKZO's Martin Levin spoke with Darren McCarty about the IHL's Kalamazoo K-Wings...

The 40th season of professional hockey in Kalamazoo kicked off Wednesday with the K Wings press lunch at Old Burdick’s Wings West.

The K Wings finished the 2012 season four points out of playoff contention. Veterans and rookies alike have used the frustrations of missing the postseason as motivation for preparing for the 2013 season.

As part of the continued celebration of the K-Wings 40th season, there are several star studded appearances scheduled. Among the celebrities on the slate is former Red Wing Darren McCarty, who will appear at the K-Wings December 20th game against the Toledo Walleye. McCarty played most of his professional career in Detroit. As a result of the 2004-05 NHL lockout, he signed with the Calgary Flames for one season.

In December, 2007, McCarty signed with the Flint Generals of the IHL. In ten games with the Generals, McCarty had three goals, two assists, and thirty penalty minutes.

Kalamazoo’s 40th Anniversary season will commence on Saturday, October 19th at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana against the Evansville IceMen.

And as you can imagine, McCarty, who lives in Florida now (it's a little easier to stay sober when you're not a folk hero and everybody you meet in public wants to buy you a beer), also talked about the Wings in a 7:46 interview. And yes, he talks about Danny DeKeyser, too. He's speaking to people in the home of Western Michigan University, after all...

In the Twitter department...

I think this is very cool: the Wings are holding a contest which involves winning 2 tickets to a Wings-Hawks game in Chicago as well as airfare and a morning skate pass for pledging to not text and drive;

This is good prospect news:

In the fantasy hockey department, Victoria Matiash noted that the Wings' current back-up and a former back-up are both doing quite well...

We’re only two weeks into the regular season and, already, three designated backup goaltenders are attracting positive attention as early-season substitutes. While Jonas Gustavsson is filling in admirably for Jimmy Howard (bruised hand) with the Detroit Red Wings, veteran goalie Joey MacDonald is putting forth his best impression of No. 1 netminder for the Calgary Flames. Then there’s Josh Harding doing simply outstanding work between the pipes for the Minnesota Wild, as Niklas Backstrom recuperates from a minor knee injury. And two of the three are conceivably in position to sport the No. 1 crown for their squads for the foreseeable future.

Of the aforementioned trio, Harding (3-1, 0.94 goals-against average, .952 save percentage) stands the best chance of keeping a grip on the starter’s job. As discussed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Wild coach Mike Yeo is keen on sticking with the 29-year-old, even once Backstrom’s knee is all better.

“I have liked not only how he’s looked in the net -- he’s looked quick, he’s looked big -- but I’ve liked the way he’s been playing the puck, too,” Yeo said. “He has helped our ‘D’ go back in transition and get ourselves out of trouble.”

Meanwhile, even though Karri Ramo was the favorite ahead of the season’s launch, MacDonald is the current clear-cut option to start for the Flames.

“Right now, we’re on a roll,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said Tuesday. “We feel Joey is good, we’re playing good in front of Joey. Why make a change? Why make a change? It’s nothing against Karri. After every game, it might change. We didn’t tell Joey MacDonald he’s No. 1, we didn’t tell Karri Ramo he’s No. 2, and we certainly didn’t tell Reto Berra he’s No. 3. We’re going to go day-by-day. You play well, you give us a chance to win, you’re playing.”

On the flip side, Gustavsson’s recent successful, if somewhat brief, run for Detroit is likely soon coming to an end. Howard hopes to be back in action Thursday, versus the Colorado Avalanche. Unless Howard’s health takes an unexpected turn for the worse, Gustavsson remains relatively negligible as a fantasy asset.

You may take this for what you will...

Detroit fans could see Darren Helm (groin) back in action before the month is through. The Red Wings hope to have Helm in the lineup Oct. 26. The center has appeared in only one game for the Wings since the 2011-12 campaign. When healthy, Helm is capable of contributing fairly regularly with the Wings' second power-play unit.

If it's OK with you, I'm just going to update this post with overnight report stuff. S'alright?

 

 

Update: Aside from praising Avs GM Greg Sherman for snagging Semyon Varlamov, the Denver Post's Adrian Dater discussed the heights of the Wings-Avs rivalry given that the Denver Post's sportswriters feel that their city's teams are without rivals...

Looking for a rivalry? So are Denver's pro teams.

Duke-North Carolina. Red Sox-Yankees. Auburn-Alabama. Harvard-Yale. For a while, Avalanche-Red Wings was right there with those storied sports rivalries. Time, contrition and a lessening of the quality of the NHL teams has diluted the once great rivalry. Now, the teams aren't even in the same conference.

Not only are the Avs without a great rival, the same can be said for the other pro teams here. That might be a product of geography. It's easier to develop a bitter rival when teams are close together, vying for the attention of the populace. The lack of a rival could also be because of tradition. The oldest team in Denver, the Broncos, didn't debut until 1960. The Red Sox and Yankees, on the other hand, go back to the early 1900s.

Here's a look at the best rivals of Denver pro teams, as judged by Denver Post beat writers.

Avalanche: It has cooled a lot, but it's still the Red Wings. No other team brings more interest to Avalanche fans than a game against Detroit. The Pepsi Center usually is sold out, thanks in part to a strong contingent wearing Wings jerseys. First-year Avs coach Patrick Roy wants to get a good rivalry going with new Central Division mate Chicago, but it will take a lot for that to match the one with the Wings.
 

As such, 'tis time for a trip down memory lane!

"It was best of my career, no doubt about it," said Roy, whose Avs can improve to 7-0 with a victory tonight in Detroit's one and only regular-season visit to the Pepsi Center. "We were into it. There are a lot of good memories. Every time we played them, we knew that the winner had a good chance to go far in the playoffs, if not win the Stanley Cup."

The past few years have mostly been rivalry-free for the Avs as age, attrition and a rotten record turned them into patsies against most opponents. Colorado and Detroit last met in the playoffs in 2008, and that series finished ignominiously for the Avs, a sweep in the second round.

...

What makes a good, lasting rivalry?

Geography helps, and Denver's isolation hurts compared with other cities. The Canadiens and old Quebec Nordiques were about a 240-kilometer drive apart on the Trans-Canada Highway. History helps rivalries, too, but the first major Denver pro sports team, the Broncos of the old American Football League, were born in 1960. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, by comparison, have been going at it since the early 1900s.

Mostly, though, repeated playoff matchups are what makes a great rivalry, and that is something Denver teams have lacked since the Wings and Avs duked it out on an almost annual basis.

"Let's make the playoffs a couple years in a row and I'm sure we can find someone," Roy said. "The playoffs are where the rivalries build up, and we faced Detroit a lot in the playoffs back then. Until we establish ourselves as one of the top teams, we need to be patient and then the rivalries will come back."

The Wings and Avs met five times in the postseason from 1996-2002, with the Avs winning three (1996, 1999 and 2000) and losing twice (1997 and 2002). Some of the most intense hockey in Avs history was played between two teams full of future Hall of Famers. The regular-season battles weren't bad either.

"The first thing you always looked for when the schedules came out was when the Detroit games were," Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said. "There were other good teams, like Dallas, and we played them in the playoffs a few times, but I think we always measured ourselves against Detroit, and I'm sure they thought the same thing with us."

Dater continues, and he gets quite the quip from Roy regarding what transpired between the Wings and Avs. There are a couple of classic photos accompanying the article, as well as Dater's top moments from the Wings-Avs rivalry. As for who's tonight's "spotlight" player?

Dater picks Bertuzzi.

In Colorado Springs, the Colorado Gazette'sPaul Klee has determined that sports fans in Colorado need to know that the Avalanche are a decent team:

Don't look now.

Actually, do. There's another 6-0 team in town.

Ahem.

AHEM.

"Eventually we will lose a game," center Matt Duchene said in the locker room Tuesday after scoring two goals as the Avalanche beat the Stars 3-2.

Losing? What's that?

The Avs are 6-0-0. The Broncos are 6-0-0, too.

How's that for pressure, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw?

"We want to be 7-0," Avs winger P.A. Parenteau said. "We want to win every game."

Pssst, here's a secret: I learned where the cool kids hang out when the Broncos aren't playing.

They're all at the Pepsi Center. Duchene, Parenteau, Semyon Varlamov, Gabe Landeskog, Nathan McKinnon and the Avalanche boys are keeping pace with the Broncos.

What is this, 1998?

Oh, does he ever continue...

 

 

The Free Press's Helene St. James offers her own wider-focus article, assessing the state of the Wings:

The Wings are confident enough in Jimmy Howard’s recuperation from a bruised hand to believe he can either start against the undefeated Avalanche, or back up Jonas Gustavsson, who has been the team’s best story of the week. Seemingly putting last season’s struggles solidly in the past, Gustavsson looked dependable playing in Monday’s 3-2 win at Boston and Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Columbus.

Just as important, offense has come from sources besides Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk during this winning streak. Daniel Alfredsson has five points in the past three games. Todd Bertuzzi has two goals. The power play has contributed four goals after starting 0-for-10. The penalty kill is among the best in NHL at 85.7%.

I can't quote her entire article, but you know by now that tonight's game provides a stern test, and that the Wings could earn a measure of redemption by beating the Coyotes on Saturday.

St. James also believes that Darren Helm's return should bolster the team's ranks:

Darren Helm, who because of various injuries has played one game in the past 18 months, is scheduled to play twice this weekend in the minors. If that goes well, he could be activated to return Oct. 26 when the Wings host the Rangers. Patrick Eaves, sidelined by a sprained knee, also is expected to be ready that night. If only Eaves is available, the Wings can make room for him by returning Luke Glendening to the minors. If both are available, someone else will have to be moved, too.

There’s a long route to navigate still, but the Wings have showed buoyancy after a second-week dip, and they have shown depth, and now Helm is on the horizon.

 

 

 

In the prospect department: I didn't post Saturday or Sunday's prospect results, so prepare for something of a digest. I want to get up to speed here and get you up to speed.

In the AHL, on Saturday, Calle Janrkrok scored his first goal and Gustav Nyquist scored a goal, added an assist and posited the shootout winner in Grand Rapids' 3-2 shootout win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Griffins' website posted a recap and a Flickr photo gallery, the Bulldogs' website posted a recap and a highlight clip, and the CP posted a recap with quotes. Woo.

The Griffins raise their Calder Cup championship banner this Friday against Milwaukee.

In the ECHL, on Saturday, Trevor Parkes had 2 assists as the Toledo Walleye defeated the Kalamazoo K-Wings 3-0. In an exhibition game. The Walleye's website and the Toledo Blade's Mark Monroe provided recaps.

The Walleye begin their regular season schedule on Saturday against the Fort Wayne Komets.

On Monday, the Walleye received Jared Coreau from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

In Sweden, in the J20 SuperElit League:

On Saturday, Rasmus Bodin didn't register a point in Linkopings HC's 5-4 loss to HV71, and Hampus Melen didn't register a point in Tingsryds IF's 5-0 win over Vaxjo;

On Sunday, Bodin didn't register a point in Linkopings HC's 3-2 OT loss to Frolunda;

And on Wednesday, Melen didn't play in Tingsryds IF's 2-1 loss to Rogle.

In the SHL: On Saturday, Mattias Janmark had an assist in AIK's 4-1 win over Orebo;

And Mattias Backman didn't register a point in over 22 minutes of ice time in Linkopings HC's 3-2 shootout loss to Lulea.

On Wednesday, Jamark had 2 assists in AIK's 3-2 OT win over Leksands;

And Backman had an assist in Linkopings HC's 5-2 win over Orebo.

In the QMJHL: On Saturday, Anthony Mantha had 3 goals and 2 assists, including an assist on the game-winner, as the Val-d'Or Foreurs defeated Sherbrooke 6-5 in OT.

In the OHL: On Saturday, new Owen Sound Attack captain Zach Nastasiuk didn't register a point in the Attack's 1-0 win over North Bay;

Andreas Athanasiou didn't register a point in the Barrie Colts' 2-1 loss to Mississauga;

On Monday, Jake Paterson stopped 32 of 33 shots and 3 of 4 shootout shooters in the Saginaw Spirit's 3-2 shootout win over Oshawa;

On Tuesday, Paterson sat out the Saginaw Spirit's 6-5 shootout loss to the Erie Otters.

In the WHL: On Saturday, Marc McNulty finished at +1 in the Prince George Cougars' 4-3 OT win over Evertt;

On Monday, McNulty finished at -2 in the Prince George Cougars' 3-0 loss to Victoria;

On Wednesday, McNulty scored a goal in the Prince George Cougars' 5-4 OT loss to Victoria;

And Mitchell Wheaton registered a cross-checking penalty in the Kelowna Rockets' 6-0 win over Lethbridge. Wheaton made his season debut as he was recovering from shoulder surgery.

In the BCHL, on Saturday, David Pope didn't register a point in the West Kelowna Warriors' 3-2 loss to Prince George.

In NCAA hockey: On Friday--I missed this one--Mike McKee didn't register a point in Western Michigan University's 4-0 loss to Notre Dame;

On Saturday, James De Haas didn't register a point in Clarkson University's 5-2 win over Mercyhurst, but he did take 3 shots;

McKee didn't register a point and took two penalties in Western Michigan University's 3-0 loss to Notre Dame,

And Ben Marshall didn't register a point in the University of Minnesota's 3-2 win over New Hampshire, though the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Jason Gonzalez reports that Marshall played through a bruised foot.

Finally, on Monday, the Grand Rapids Griffins website's Alan Cross penned a profile of Ryan Sproul:

As an offensive defenseman, Sproul’s deadliest weapon is perhaps his slap shot. His 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame grants him the ability to fire wicked shots from the blueline, and that shot has been one of the major contributors to his success. The power and speed of his heavy artillery often leaves defending goaltenders befuddled and wondering how the puck made its way into the net.

“I give a lot of credit to my brother, actually, who is a goalie. I used to shoot on him all the time,” said Sproul. “I think the slap shot mainly came with me gaining weight and getting bigger. I always had an alright shot, but I started working on it in my rookie year in the OHL when I was on the ice after practice.”

Despite Sproul entering this season with the odds stacked in his favor, the adjustment to professional play could be a rude awakening even for someone who had such a highly successful junior career.

In fact, it’s practically commonplace for rookie players to stumble across a few roadblocks as they enter the league. Some are able to make the transition easily by hard work and determination, while others fall to the wayside as they succumb to personal frustrations.

...

Fending off any initial rookie demons, Sproul scored two goals in an 8-1 victory over the Rochester Americans in the season opener. After three games, he still leads Griffins defensemen in goals and is the only player on the team to have tallied multiple goals in a single game.

He remains humble.

“The two goals are just part of the process. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team. Scoring is one of my attributes, so I’ll definitely keep that up as much as I can.”

 

 

And finally, the Yorkton (Saskatchewan) News Review posted an article from Frank Block, the author of the to-be-released Metro Prystai Story, about Prystai, who passed away on October 8th:

In 1947 Metro made the jump to the NHL with the Chicago Black Hawks. In his third season there Metro centred what became known as the “Boilermaker Line” with Bert Olmstead and Bep Guidolin on wing. In that season Metro scored twenty-nine goals and had twenty-two assists, good enough for third in the NHL in scoring behind legends Maurice “The Rocket” Richard and “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe, who Metro would soon be teammates with.

The following season he got traded to Detroit where he would room at the boarding house called “Ma Shaw’s.” Team mates Gordie Howe, Red Kelly and Marty Pavelich also lived there. Metro would win two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, in 1952 and again in 1954.

The 1952 Stanley Cup was incredible. The Red Wings defeated the reigning Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs in four straight games and then likewise defeated the Montreal Canadians four straight. In the final game (a 3 to 0 victory) Metro scored the first goal, assisted on the second and he scored the final goal for Detroit in the third.

When I asked him what that was like winning the Stanley Cup that year he said, “Oh, terrific, you know. Sawchuk got four shutouts. They never scored a goal on us at home.”

That’s just the kind of a guy Metro was, he never bragged about his hockey accomplishments which is probably why he was a fan fav-ourite everywhere he played. He was always the perfect gentleman.

The Norris family who owned both the Black Hawks and the Red Wings traded Metro back and forth a couple of times before injuries forced Metro to hang up his blades early in the 1958-59 season. In 674 NHL games Metro got 151 goals and 179 assists for 330 points.

Metro has been inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame.

More important than all of the accolades Metro received, he remained a humble, kind and gracious man until his passing on October 8, 2013.

 

Update #2: FYI, per NHL.com's John Kreiser:

Patrick Roy was a record-setter during a playing career that earned him a berth in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He'll try to add another record to his resume Wednesday, this time as a coach.

Roy has led the Colorado Avalanche to victory in each of his first six games as coach, matching the mark for consecutive wins at the start of a coaching career set by former teammate Mario Tremblay with the 1995-96 Montreal Canadiens. Ironically, Roy was in goal for all six of those games.

To break the mark he shares with his old teammate, Roy's current team will have to beat an old nemesis -- the Detroit Red Wings, who had one of the NHL's fiercest rivalries with the Avalanche from 1995 through 2003. The Red Wings come to Pepsi Center with a three-game winning streak of their own.
...

Detroit Red Wings at Colorado Avalanche -- In the absence of injured starter Jimmy Howard (bruised left hand), Jonas Gustavsson stepped up and stopped 64 of 67 shots in back-to-back victories against Boston and Columbus. Howard is questionable, but the Red Wings have to feel a lot better after Gustavsson's performance against the Bruins and Blue Jackets. Colorado allowed 41 shots in back-to-back games but won both of them thanks to Roy-esque goaltending by Semyon Varlamov, who has allowed six goals while winning all five of his starts. Still, the Avalanche are allowing an average of 35.3 shots and being outshot by five per game; like Toronto, that's not a formula for season-long success.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

TreKronor's avatar

I saw an interview with Roy on NHL Network yesterday, and he was talking about his “passion” and how he thinks it is important to get verbally (and apparently physically) involved with opposing players and coaches, to fire up his own team. 

I would expect some attempts at this tonight, especially since he is so concerned on getting people back into the arena and watching the team.  Oh, and because of the history between the two teams as well, I guess.

Posted by TreKronor on 10/17/13 at 09:20 AM ET

Avatar

The Avs are about as overrated as it gets.  People think they are a good team because they are 6-0-0, and sometimes record is a good indicator.  Not so much here, though.

Colorado wins barely 49% of their team faceoffs, gives up the 3rd most shots in the NHL, but their goalies are saving at something over 97%.

That’s an insane level of goalie play, and when it reverts to the mean they’ll be a roughly .500 team.

I mean, I suppose it’s possible Varlamov and Giguere play like wildmen all season, it’s just not the sort of thing I’d proceed on from a betters perspective.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/17/13 at 09:40 AM ET

DocF's avatar

HockeyinHD is probably right.  However, this year’s Colorado team is actually playing, not merely going through the motions like they did for the past several years.  This can be attributed to Patrick Roy.

Now do not get me wrong, I still hate this guy, but one has to admire him as a coach and realize that he is real.  He makes his team better.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 10/17/13 at 10:41 AM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

... but one has to admire him as a coach and realize that he is real.  He makes his team better.

Posted by DocF from Reidsville, NC on 10/17/13 at 10:41 AM ET

So did Dan Bylsma…for half a season.

Since then?

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 10/17/13 at 11:13 AM ET

Avatar

So did Dan Bylsma…for half a season.
Since then?

So Roy doesn’t deserve credit because a different guy coaching a different team couldn’t sustain his results?

Posted by Garth on 10/17/13 at 11:43 AM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Yay for rain clouds.

It’s six bloody games. Roy doesn’t deserve squat.

Yet.

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 10/17/13 at 12:21 PM ET

Avatar

I still hate this guy, but one has to admire him as a coach and realize that he is real.  He makes his team better.

The thing is, I don’t think they are any better. 

I mean, the two goalies are playing out of their minds.  Is that Roy?  I doubt it, mostly because there wasn’t anything remotely similar happening to his goalies in Quebec.

I think Colorado is playing harder now than they did to end the year last year… but when you’re one of the 5 worst teams in the league you’re going to play dead the last month or so.

The first 6 games last year Colorado’s goalies had a save percentage of around .915 and they were 2-4.  They’re giving up more shots than they did then, it’s just that the goalies are stopping them all to the tune of a team .972.  With equivalent production you’re talking about Colorado giving up 6-8 more goals… which turns around at least a couple of their wins.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/17/13 at 02:54 PM ET

Avatar

Let’s see, Roy used to be the best ever goalie in the NHL and his two, well one has only played one game, have played exceptionally well. It seems like Roy might know something about motivating a goalie. If this continues for the entire year he deserves a lot of credit.

I think the Wings will have a lot to handle tonight. Colorado has a win over Washington with the mighty awesome Mike Green, defeated arguably the best team in the NHL by a shutout, thankfully beat Nashville like every other team should, are Toronto’s and the Duck’s only lose, and beat Dallas which a lot of hockey writers like immensely this year.

Of course, I not saying they will win all 82 games but they are a good team and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Posted by howeandhowe on 10/17/13 at 04:30 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.