ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – The Colorado Avalanche were deflated after their blowout loss in the season opener.
Their egos, especially. And maybe not a bad thing, either.
Coach Patrick Roy thinks maybe the success of last season went straight to their heads, as did all the preseason hype proclaiming them contenders again in the Western Conference.
The Avs didn’t play with their usual chip on the shoulder throughout the preseason, and it carried over when they were outhustled and outshot in a 5-0 loss at Minnesota on Thursday.
Roy is hoping to see a different team — one resembling the squad that captured the Central Division last season — on the ice Saturday night for the home-opener against the Wild.
“All summer long, everybody said how nice we were, how good we were, how special we were, how everybody was excited about the team, how everybody was excited about this year,” said Roy, whose team tied a franchise record with 52 wins. “We forgot how hard we worked last year to be the team we were. That’s what we have to do.
“This is a wake-up call.”
The Wild had a franchise-record 48 shots on goal and chased goaltender Semyon Varlamov from the game. When asked if Varlamov would be in net again Saturday, Roy chuckled. Not because his goaltender’s performance was laughable, but because Varlamov was actually solid in spite of the score.
“He’s the reason why it was only 5-0,” Roy said.
Just like last season, Roy’s trying to keep an even-keel approach. No highs after big wins and no eruptions after losses like this one. The team was scheduled to have a day off the ice on Friday, so Roy kept it that way. The players worked out, watched film and then went home.
However, Roy will alter his lineup. He’s pairing Jarome Iginla with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly on one line. The second line will feature Alex Tanguay, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.
Simply trying to find a spark just as Roy did all during the preseason when his team went 1-5-2.
“It’s only one game, but we have to learn from that game,” Roy said. “We cannot push it aside and say, ‘Hey, let’s forget about it.'”
Roy’s coaching debut last season was quite memorable — he tried to push through a glass partition to get to Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau. And that was after a 6-1 win.
The team took on the persona of their fiery coach and got off to a sizzling 14-2 start.
But the way they lost this opener — struggling with possession and outraced down the ice — made for a long plane ride back to Denver.
“It’s always quiet after a loss, but last night guys were kind of talking to each other on the plane and chit-chatting about what really happened and what are we going to do to get better,” Landeskog said. “Everybody has a right to be (mad) and disappointed, but everybody’s got to be able to step back and look at what we really did and what we didn’t do and what we have to do to be a better team.”
Like putting the past behind.
“We have to know that we can’t just show up and put the gear on and we’re going to be a good team,” said Duchene, whose team was knocked out of the postseason by the Wild by an overtime goal in Game 7. “We have to do what we did last year — come to every game with enthusiasm and hard work and excitement. Last night, we almost seemed a little tentative.”
This team is a trendy pick to possibly make an even deeper postseason run. The Avs brought in veterans like Brad Stuart, Daniel Briere and Iginla to not only improve the roster, but help in tough situations like this.
“A lot of us didn’t want the puck last night,” Duchene said. “There were times when we tried to pass the problem off to someone else. We just have to take control and be loose and just play. There’s no reason to be nervous or uptight about trying to duplicate what we did last year.
“We just have to relax and play hockey, work hard and have fun. That’s what we did last year.”
BY PAT GRAHAM, ASSOCIATED PRESS
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)