Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate DNVR Sports Community!

Duchene's return shows Avalanche how far they've come

AJ Haefele Avatar
October 27, 2018

It all felt so familiar.

Matt Duchene was looking locked in, giving his team a 2-0 lead on a deflection and getting his team amped up. It didn’t matter the other team had started pushing back and was slowly starting to take over. Their goalie was feeling it tonight!

The second period got going and the bad guys got on the board but in this world that just doesn’t matter and the good guys responded right away. Duchene again, clearly in the zone and looking to make this a memorable evening. A late goal against drew the game to 3-2 entering the third but a lead is a lead. No sweat, they’ll finish this off.

Then the third starts and before you know it, that lead is gone.

Tie game.

Okay, fine. Let’s reset and get back to doing what got us that lead.

Wait, now they have the lead! What do you mean it’s 6-3?

What just happened? And when did the Colorado Avalanche start ending up on the right side of those games?

Tonight’s game featuring a Matt Duchene-led Ottawa Senators and his former club in the Avs had all the classic notes of an all-too-normal night at Pepsi Center during Duchene’s time wearing the burgundy and blue. Duchene did his part but his team ultimately crumbled and the great goaltending of the first period evaporated under the weight of enormous pressure and a team on the other side that simply outclassed his group.

That it was Duchene made the events of the evening all the more poetic. Like it or not, Duchene’s time in Colorado was a modern day tragedy. It had all the makings of an all-time great romance but it simply didn’t work out. We’ve all had our hearts broken by the cruelty of love. It happens.

But in his first game back in Denver, the face of a failed era of Avalanche hockey (though certainly not the lone culprit in a near-decade of on-ice futility) brought with him another rebuilding group and this Avs team showed him what they’ve become since his departure: one of the up-and-coming teams in the league looking to displace the old guard at the top of the NHL’s hierarchy.

Nashville, Winnipeg, and Tampa Bay have all ascended to the status of contender to the throne so frequently fought over between Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Boston.  With LA in shambles and Chicago coming off a season in which they couldn’t even find their way to the postseason (let alone do something once there), the league may be seeing another changing of the guard and who better to position themselves as one of the bright teams of both today and tomorrow than the one boasting the NHL’s best forward line?

Sorry, Boston, but you have enough shiny toys in your toy box. Colorado gets this one as each member of their top line is sitting in the top five of the NHL’s scoring list after tonight’s combined 10-point explosion. This is the makings of a special group who are going to try to accomplish some special things.

And while the Avalanche still have plenty of growing to do and holes to fill (looking at you, secondary scoring), this group showed again tonight just how far they’ve come since their former teammate was one of them suffering through the embarrassment of a 48-point disaster.

The cruel irony for Duchene is this may not have been possible until he left Denver because of the personality dynamics involved and the jaw-dropping return they fetched for him. Sam Girard, the player who has elevated himself to the centerpiece of the deal, showed again tonight why he’s one of the top young defensemen in the league as he scored his first goal of the season and created several more scoring chances throughout the night.

Tonight, we saw one of the NHL’s best teams at home show again why playing in Denver has become much more than just handling the adjustment of playing at altitude. Colorado’s combination of speed, skill, stifling defense (Colorado allowed just 11 shots on goal combined in periods two and three), and great goaltending (the Avs entered the night number one in the NHL in team save percentage) was simply too much for the retooling Senators to handle.

As general manager Joe Sakic has repeatedly said in interviews the last few months, the Avalanche are “just getting started.” At times, it has sounded like Sakic’s excuse for not being more active on the trade market in trying to fill the team’s more obvious goals (seriously, secondary scoring, where ARE you?). But as this team continues to find its way and the top line decimates opposing game plans, Sakic’s favorite phrase will sound more and more like a warning to the rest of the NHL.

The rest of the NHL, which now includes Matt Duchene. The team made a half-hearted attempt to thank Duchene for his time in Denver with what amounted to a quick shoutout on the jumbotron during a commercial break in the first period. Duchene waved to the crowd while Avs players stood and tapped sticks on the boards, acknowledging the moment. Duchene immediately scored off the next shift. Then the Avs got back to work and took from Duchene what they really coveted tonight: two points in the standings.

Let’s do the time warp again next year, Matt.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?