Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon has been in the NHL for less than one year, not much time to break one of Wayne Gretzky’s formidable records. But with an assist on Andre Benoit’s overtime winner against Detroit, the first overall pick in last June’s draft surpassed the Great One’s mark of 12 consecutive games with at least one point by an 18-year-old player, set in 1979-80. Gretzky finished that season with 137 points.
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Gabriel Landeskog is no stranger to making history in the NHL: When he was named captain of the Colorado Avalanche last season, the Swede became the youngest in league history to hold the title.
It’s more than a cool captain and some cooler kids representing a new era of equality in sports. It’s also the day that every team in the National Hockey League has now been represented by a player who has spoken on behalf of LGBT athletes, team staff, coaches and fans. Think about that. Every team in the NHL.
It might not be much of a surprise that all 30 teams have given their support to the cause, as longtime scout and current Director of Player Safety for the NHL Patrick Burke (son of Calgary Flames president and Team USA GM Brian Burke) started the organization, which is “dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.” YCP, which goes by the simple credo of “If you can play, you can play,” was created to honor Burke’s younger brother, Brendan, who was killed in a car crash shortly after he made headlines by coming out while a student manager for the Miami (OH) RedHawks hockey team.
EXTRA MUSTARD: Q&A with You Can Play’s director
A day after telling The Denver Post that he “doesn’t think about his situation anymore,” Semyon Varlamov got a stark reminder that he has bigger problems in his life than a rough outing on the ice.
The Denver District Attorney today formally charged the Colorado Avalanche goaltender with one count of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. If you think that sounds like a slap-on-the-wrist offense, think again. He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.
Varlamov is scheduled to appear in Denver County court on Dec. 2. The Avs host the Wild on Nov. 30 and then are off until they travel to Edmonton on Dec. 5.
I was kibbitzing with a couple of hockey folks last week about Team Canada and the likelihood that one player in particular would earn a chance to wear the maple leaf in Sochi.
Surprisingly, both expressed reservations about Matt Duchene making the club.
“Just not sure he’s there yet,” said one. “They have so many options up front,” said the other. “Has he done enough to stand out from crowd? I’m not so sure.”
To me, Duchene is all but a lock at this point. He’s versatile enough to play the wing. He’s stronger on the puck than ever and diligent at both ends of the ice. He’s matured into a tremendous leader.
And then there’s his speed.
Duchene is fast. Really, really fast, as you can see from watching his goal in last night’s game against the Predators.
Think that kind of speed might be useful on the big ice?
Pavel Bure scored 437 goals for the Canucks, Panthers, and Rangers during his 12 NHL seasons, twice hitting the 60 goal mark by using his trademark speed that earned him the moniker “The Russian Rocket.”
On Saturday, the Rocket flew a little higher when his No. 10 was raised to the rafters in Vancouver, the city where he built his legend by winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1991-92 after scoring 34 goals and 60 points in just 65 games. He followed that up with back-to-back 60-goal, 100-point seasons, leading the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Rangers in an epic seven-game showdown. Sadly, it was Bure’s one and only trip beyond the conference finals.
DALLAS — Some thoughts after Colorado’s 3-2 overtime win over the Stars here in Dallas, featuring the first appearance of Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov since his arrest on Wednesday:
• For a guy who had to be mentally exhausted after two days of dealing with the criminal justice system — and probably physically drained after spending Wednesday night in jail — Varlamov looked composed, relaxed and completely in control while stopping 27-of-29 shots.
It likely helped that his teammates took it to the Stars early, building up a 13-1 shot advantage in the first before letting Varlamov get a couple touches late in the period. After that, he got into a nice rhythm in the second, getting a good look at each Dallas attempt — mostly from distance — and took care of his rebounds.
The 25-year-old Russian was completely fooled on Dallas’ two third period goals, but both were high-end chances. Tyler Seguin’s wrister to tie it up was world-class — not many guys would have gotten a piece of that one. Still, this had to be his best frame of the night as the Stars took control of the game and the space down low. He rejected several premium chances from in tight, showing off his lateral movement to rob Jamie Benn late and then stoning Antoine Roussel on two bids from the slot in the final minute to keep the score knotted at two.
If the Colorado Avalanche were truly committed to keeping Semyon Varlamov as part of the team as he battles accusations of domestic abuse, they knew they would to have to put him back between the pipes sooner or later.
They chose sooner.
According to Adrian Dater of The Denver Post, Varlamov will get the start tonight in Dallas against the Stars. This comes just one day after he was bonded out of jail in Denver.
It’s a move that defies both common sense and propriety on so many levels but, if viewed strictly from a hockey perspective, it offers some logic: He’ll get a start under his belt at the relatively sedate American Airlines Center before the team returns to Colorado for four straight at home where he’ll be under much greater scrutiny.
Dater said backup J-S Giguere is expected to start Saturday against the Canadiens, making next Wednesday’s tilt against the Predators the first opportunity for Varlamov to play again in front of the home crowd.
More to come.
Evgeniya Vavrinyuk, the woman who has accused Semyon Varlamov of assault and kidnapping, spoke to reporters in Denver through an interpreter on Thursday night, painting a picture of the Colorado Avalanche goaltender as an arrogant serial assailant who felt he was above the law.
Vavrinyuk said Varlamov had been drinking for more than 12 hours before he returned to their Denver apartment on Monday morning around 6 a.m. and began kicking and beating her.
“He was having a lot of fun, he was laughing,” she said. “He has no concept of when to stop drinking, and when he drinks he turns into an animal.”
She said Varlamov had beaten her at least four times previously during their year-long relationship, but the incidents occurred in other countries where authorities choose to look the other way when called to domestic disputes.
Eugenia Vavrinyuk, the girlfriend of Semyon Varlamov, told police that the Colorado Avalanche goaltender kicked her, knocked her down, dragged her by her hair and told her that “if this were Russia, he would have beat her more.”
The stunning allegations were found in police documents as Varlamov had his day in court in front of Denver County Judge Claudia Jordan.
The netminder posted a $5,000 bond at noon and was released. He cannot drink alcohol or possess weapons and may not make any contact with his girlfriend as a condition of his release, but he was given permission to travel.
There was no word if Varlamov would be with the Avalanche for the team’s Friday night game in Dallas. It’s safe to assume though that the Avs will choose to avoid the media circus and recall a goalie from Lake Erie of the AHL to take his place on the roster, leaving starting duties to J-S Giguere.
Shortly after the fiesty Colorado winger had his right ACL blown out on a hit from Los Angeles defenseman Davis Drewiske last January, a scout offered up this thought to the assembled press box wags: “The Avs aren’t the same team without Steve Downie in the lineup.”
We’ll see now if that’s really true.
Colorado today sent Downie back to the Philadelphia Flyers, the team that originally chose him in the first round of the 2005 draft, in exchange for veteran winger Max Talbot.
Just 26, Downie is clearly the better player at this point, but it’s his born-to-be-a-Flyer approach to the game that the struggling Philly side desperately craves. Despite a reputation for mayhem earned earlier in his career, he’s matured into a solid performer who can make things happen with speed and creativity as easily as with a big hit. He had one goal and seven points for the Avs, an output that ties him with Vinnie Lecavalier for the Flyers’ team lead, and while he’s not a premium player himself, he has the tools to work well with guys who are — see his time in Tampa Bay alongside Steven Stamkos. Expect to see him line up alongside Claude Giroux in an effort to create some space for/light a fire under the struggling captain.