04 October 2009
I think that the biggest, most unbelievable part of the entire weekend is the energy surrounding this team. Even Saturday against Vancouver, the Pepsi center wasn't filled to the brim, but the fans who were there were loud and energetic (well at least I thought so).
For the die-hard fans of the Avs I think the first flicker of hope started at the draft when the Avs took Matt Duchene. I mean this with no disrespect for John Tavares or Victor Hedman, as I think both will be fantastic players, but The Avs lucked out when the Isles and Lightning passed on Duchene. He's every bit as talented as the other two, but his enthusiasm for being not just a hockey player but a member of the Colorado Avalanche has been refreshingly contagious. The die-hards have been excited since we saw him give a fist pump at not being drafted by the Lightning so that he could go to his favorite team, the Avs.
For the non die-hards the energy started to build as soon as the avs announced that opening night would be Joe Sakic night, but it really hit full force about 6:30 Thursday night. The arena was buzzing, and the anticipation in the crowd was palpable. And then the ceremony started and the Pepsi center erupted. I didn't cry, but I definitely teared up a couple times and was on the verge. The ceremony was everything you would expect from a Joe Sakic ceremony, with Joe Sakic doing his best to keep the attention off of himself, and the fans rightfully forcing him to realize it was his night. He probably received 8-10 Standing Ovations through the hour ceremony. He stayed classy and understated, as if you would expect anythign different. As the "19 banner" was raised to the ceiling I thought it wouldn't make it because we were going to blow the roof off. The energy infected even the sharks, who were classy enough to go to the bench to honor Joe for a good portion of the ceremony. I think Joe Thornton (although it could have been Rob Blake) stayed on the bench for the entire thing, and Dan Boyle and a few others came out to watch the ceremony and honor Joe. Unfortunately my seats were facing the backs of all the speakers so my pictures aren't all that great. For good pics I recommend Real Denver Sports, who had seats facing the ceremony and near Joe Sakic's luxury box, and took some awesome pics, the one above I shamelessly swiped.
The energy carried over into the game as well, as the crowd was buzzing from the moment Matt Duchene won the opening face-off. It helped that Tuckeri scored early (this is called foreshadowing, more on him later), giving the crowd a sense that the Avs were as energized by the ceremony as they were.
Even players who have been called lazy in the past showed some energy. Wolski has started to look like the player we all know he can be. The best part was that all three of his goals this weekend came from crashing the net and punching in rebounds. Coach Quenneville spent 2 years trying to use his size to his advantage, but the two games this season seems to be Wolski at his theoretical best. Using his incredible skill to create shooting lanes for his teammates and then crashing the net looking for rebounds off those shots. On all three Wolski rebound goals, had the original shot gone in Wolski would have had an assist, which means he's helping to setup his own goals.
And how about Darcy Tucker? This is clearly not the same Tucker we saw through last season. So far he's been on a line with Chris Stewart and TJ Galiardi, and he seems to be taking his mentor role on that line quite seriously. He's finishing checks and driving hard to the net, which has allowed him to pickup goals. His goal against Vancouver was pretty impressive, and wouldn't have happened last season. He drove hard to the net and tippied it in with one extended hand.
And then there's Craig Anderson, who has quickly become a fan favorite here in Colorado. Fans who have been unhappy with Budaj have criticized his almost robotic dependence on technique and form, and fans who liked Budaj (like me) have just been disillusioned. Well Anderson has been exciting, and frankly superb. Chants of "AN-DER-SON" have rained from rafters for 2 straight games. His best save so far was one he made with the inside of his elbow slingshotting a puck out to the faceoff circle as he sprawled from left to right.
There's clearly some work to do with the Avs still, but they have started the season well, and started to create a buzz in this town about the Avs. I was hiking in the mountains Sunday and a guy saw my Avs had and started a conversation. Even though the Avs had awful attendence for the Saturday game against the Canucks, it won't take too many more games with that kind of energy for fans to come back.
The Bandwagon left the station Thursday, and there are plenty of seats available, but not for long.
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