The Colorado Avalanche are perhaps surprising themselves with the start they’ve had. It’s really early, and in an instant, they could be three or four games below .500, but they must be enjoying a 3-1-0 start. The Avs have had an offseason plagued by off-the-ice drama pertaining to Matt Duchene. Duchene wanted out of Denver and on a new team, but Joe Sakic was not going to hand over a couple of cookies in exchange for Duchene. So, the Avs have hung on to him and as the story goes, they’ve gotten out to a 3-1-0 start in 2017-18. He’s been playing well too, paired on a line with Nail Yakupov who needs a good year as well.
Duchene did not perform up to par last season. Why do you think teams are not lining up to trade for him? They’re skeptical that what we saw last season is what you’re going to get from him. The Haliburton, Ontario native amassed just 18 goals and 23 assists in 2016-17, a decrease from 30 goals and 29 assists the previous year. Perhaps the most startling was his +- rating of -34. That’s one of the best indicators of effort, and if we’re going off that, Duchene wasn’t helping out much anywhere on the ice.
Even though Duchene has had his issues with Avalanche management, perhaps he uses this as motivation. It’s more personal motivation to prove some people wrong, rather than he’s playing for the team, as selfish as it sounds. He could be out to show that he is worth more than a bag of pucks. The Avalanche made it sound like they don’t want him this offseason, and then no other teams wanted to give them much in exchange, so I would say he doesn’t feel too wanted. Yakupov hasn’t felt too wanted either, but he’s already been labelled a bust. He’s looking to reinvent his career in Colorado, so far so good. Head below for our free Ducks vs. Avalanche pick.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Colorado Avalanche Pick
Before Connor McDavid, there was Nail Yakupov in Edmonton. Yakupov was selected first overall by the Oilers in the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been nothing more than a role player, that’s about it. Yakupov hopes to play a larger role on a line with Duchene, and he’s been playing well thus far. He’s already potted 3 goals and 2 assists.
As a comparison, he scored 3 goals and 6 assists in 40 games with the Blues last season. His highest mark was 17 goals and 14 assists as a rookie. The Avalanche are averaging 3.75 goals per game and allowing 2.25 goals a game. That’s better than anyone could have imagined, but we’re only about a week into the season, so wait a second.
Semyon Varlamov has been playing extremely well with a 1.67 GAA and 0.945 save percentage. Varlamov isn’t getting the nod tonight, though. According to reports, the Avalanche will go with Jonathan Bernier, who holds a 0.897 save percentage in a backup role. The Ducks have made a point of making it look easy against the Avs. They’ve won four straight against the Avalanche, scoring an average of 4 goals per game and allowing only 1.5 goals a game. With Bernier in net, my faith in Colorado is just a tad lower than it’d be if Varlamov was starting. I like Anaheim in Colorado tonight.
PICK: DUCKS (-120)