It is very early in the season and you can’t make predictions for the season based on just a few games, however, you can identify key, significant improvements from last year’s team.
Beginning with a bigger defense, the Avs defense the last few years was small and mobile, which was supposed to bring us more scoring from the defense. I guess theoretically they would score enough points to offset the points that they would allow? That didn’t work and kudos to Greg Sherman and Joe Sacco for seeing that their defensive-approach was not working. There is only 1 defensemen on the team this year that was here at the beginning of the season last year. All of the defensemen are over 6 feet tall and weigh more than 200lbs. Peter McNab (Altitude/Avs network color analyst) pointed out in the last game that the size of our defense this year is more intimidating to opponents. I agree. Last year, opponents would easily cross the blue line and we spent way too much time in our own end. Special teams were also a huge failure last year which I think can also be contributed to the lack of size on defense (2 of our big defensemen last year – Adam Foote and Kyle Quincy – were out with injury much of the season).
Our other significant improvement from last year was in net. Both Varlamov and Giguere are huge improvements over Anderson and Budaj. So far, Varlamov has started all but 1 game and has shown quickness and composure in net. He not only stops the 1st shot on net, but he also smothers the rebound – something we’ve been sorely missing since Patrick Roy retired. Giguere looked great in net on Saturday and I’m hoping he stays healthy.
The rookie, Gabriel Landeskog, is impressive. I had the privilege to attend opening night and he was thrilling to watch. While we lost the game to the rival Red Wings on Peter Forsberg’s night, Landeskog was a bright spot with several scoring chances. The Hockey News picked Landeskog to win the Calder trophy this year and from what I’ve seen so far, they are spot on. He will be fun to watch this year.