Good afternoon! I absolutely love me some matinee hockey, and that was what we had today as the Colorado Avalanche welcomed in old rival, the Detroit Red Wings. 

It’s no secret that the rivalry is nowhere near what it used to be, especially on the ice. I remember the days where you could feel the tension in the crowd. There was a genuine hatred for the Red Wings, and anything associated with them, in Denver. It’s not like that anymore, but whenever these two teams get together, there’s a little something extra for those “legacy” fans who remember those days. 

That said, Detroit fans showed up today. It had even several years since Motor City fans had the courage to show their support for the Wings publicly, but after a refreshingly average to below-average start to the season for their team, they came out in a little bigger numbers than we’ve become accustomed to. 

That seemed to get the Avalanche crowd going. The entire building was into the game from the opening drop of the puck, and honestly, I thought both teams delivered in the first period. It was fast-paced, some good physicality, and great action going both ways. 

It took only five minutes for us to get some controversy kicked up in this one. At the 5:12 mark of the first period, Nathan MacKinnon flashed across the front of the crease and got tangled up with Red Wings goalie Ville Husso. At the same moment, Cale Makar tee’d up Artturi Lehkonen right in the slot, who took a couple steps in and ripped it past Husso and into the net. 

It was signaled a goal on the ice, but we all knew it was going to be challenged. Full disclosure, I felt pretty confident that this goal was coming back. Husso and MacKinnon got their feet tangled up, and Husso straight up fell down. I thought it was pretty cut and dry. 

The officials deliberated for much longer than I expected, and ended up saying that since the contact occurred outside of the blue paint, MacKinnon had the right to that ice. It was a break the Avs needed in a big way. 

After looking at it several more times, I will say, I can see why they allowed it to hold up. You can totally make the argument that it was Husso who crossed in front of MacKinnon. You could also argue that had MacKinnon not been bumped by the Detroit d-man, he would have been able to get out of the way. 

In my eyes (and after about 15 re-watches) it was a 50/50 call, and it really just comes down to how you intemperate the rule. Colorado definitely got a break. 

The rest of the period was pretty back and forth, with the teams swapping chances, zone time, and power plays. It was the latter of those three that finally yielded more good fortune for the Avalanche as the opening frame was winding down. 

The Avalanche have been on the wrong end of a weird amount of Too Many Men calls over the last couple of seasons, but in the first period of today’s game, the got to be the beneficiaries of a team having six skaters and a goalie on the ice. 

They made it look easy on the power play. Some great puck movement for the first half minute of so, then it was Cale Makar who sent a laser beam through traffic and beat Husso under the arm. A little breathing room to take into the locker room at the first break. 

There was a calm confidence to Colorado’s game in the first. Something we haven’t seen in a while. They had that “we expect to win” demeanor that was prevalent every single night last season, and it felt like that late goal to give them a multi-goal lead just fed that confidence even more. 

The second period started, and it was all Avalanche. Like… ALL Avalanche. The Red Wings were having a hard time even getting puck possession. Detroit was playing a version of man-on-man, and while the speed and aggression helped them at times early, Jared Bednar and the Avs had made adjustments in the locker room and were just picking the Wing’s defensive scheme apart with ease.

It was dominant. It was surgical. The Nathan MacKinnon line especially. When MacKinnon and Makar were on the ice together in the second period, the team was almost unstoppable. 

It was just three minutes into the period when Makar darted down the far-side wall, weaved his way into the slot and slipped the puck underneath Husso and the Avs had picked up right where they left off in the first. 

In my opinion, that was when the Avalanche really started running downhill. Just imposing their will on every shift. The pressure eventually led to a Dylan Larkin slashing penalty that would send Colorado back to the power play. 

The second PP unit got a chance to shine when Rodrigues walked out of the corner and found JT Compher wide open on the back door for an easy tap-in to make it 4-0 halfway through the game. 

The power play was clicking, they were controlling play at even strength, and they were giving up very little defensively. This was the exact type of game you wanted to see from the Avs following their 7-0 win over the Ottawa Senators two nights ago. It felt like the Avs had been doing some good things over the course of the last few weeks, but hadn’t been able to put it all together. 

Halfway through this game, it felt like they had built on a strong performance last game and were putting together an even stronger performance today. 

Less than six minutes after Compher had gotten in on the action, Evan Rodrigues made another just ridiculous pass to set up MacKinnon right in front. 

Rodrigues held it, held it, then held it for one second longer and literally just out-waited everybody before putting the puck right on MacKinnon’s tape for another easy tap-in.

With less than five minutes left in the period, Detroit woke up just a little and was able to hold some zone time for more than 15 seconds. With 1:02 to go in the period, chaos in front caused Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz to have a hard time tracking down the puck, and Andrew Copp was able to find some daylight to give Detroit a pulse.

Give the Red Wings some credit, it was 5-1 when the third period started and they looked like they were going to try and make a game of this thing. They were pressing hard and were able to get one past Francouz during a 4-on-4 situation. 

It was a shot from out high and you could tell immediately that Francouz wanted that one back. 

That goal gave the Wings a jolt, they were able to generate a couple good opportunities immediately following the goal. You thought for one brief moment that they could maybe get another goal to make things interesting. 

Nathan MacKinnon had other ideas though. 

Before the 4-on-4 expired, MacKinnon caught Copp getting too cute at the blue line. MacKinnon lifted his stick and was off to the races. He was gone on a breakaway and nobody was going to catch him. 

He made the finish look so easy that I actually laughed out loud. It was one of the first shots Magnus Hellburg had seen since coming in for Husso at the start of the period, and he didn’t have a chance. 

6-2 and that, you could tell, just took the wind out of the sails of the Red Wings. The game was all but over. The goal that squashes a comeback is always soul-crushing. After the MacKinnon goal, the Avs did what they do best, shut you down. 

Colorado took the temperature of the game down and were pretty content to just let this one play out. 

Detroit got one super late, but it didn’t matter.

After struggling so mightily for offense in recent weeks, the Avalanche have now scored 13 goals in two games (7-0 vs OTT and now 6-3 tonight vs DET) and look like they’re starting to regain that confidence in their game we’ve seen over the last number of seasons. A tough task, but a very winnable game for them coming up on Wednesday as they head to Calgary to take on Nazem Kadri and the Calgary Flames. 

Let’s see if they can continue to build on another really strong performance.