In the words of Avalanche defenseman Shane O’Brien, “the boys love playing on the road.”
The only problem is, that half the season is at home.
I am all for the Colorado Avalanche waltzing into other buildings and wiping the smiles off of the faces of their doubters. I am 100-percent in favor of them proving themselves the hard way, as long as they’re proving themselves – and they have more than done that so far. They’re carving out a place for themselves in this league and they’re holding their own.
But the wins have to come at home, too.
They have scored only one goal in 180 minutes played in the Pepsi Center so far this year, and that goal was scored unintentionally off of defenseman Ryan O’Byrne’s chest. (This was his first goal as a member of the Avalanche, by the way – and he’s been on the team since his trade from the Montreal Canadiens early last season.)
On paper, that doesn’t look great.
Coach Joe Sacco, however, has good things to say about the performances of his players on home ice: “I think our first two games at home have been played well. We could have had different results, we didn’t get the results we wanted, but I thought we played well in both of those games.”
He’s not wrong – especially when it comes to goaltending, as Semyon Varlamov had some unreal saves in both of those games. He has allowed only two goals in 39 shots in the opener against Detroit and again only two goals in 30 shots in the home game against Chicago.
Two games lost at home are not enough to tell if the Avs will be a bad home team. But the players know as well as the fans do that the Pepsi Center needs to be a hard place for traveling teams to play if the Avalanche are going to enjoy a successful season and – dare I say it – a playoff run. (Hey, they’ve only missed the playoffs three times since moving to Denver, and never two years in a row. I like those odds.)
The players know what’s at stake when it comes to games played on home ice. It isn’t just about winning and pocketing those two points. It’s also about gaining back the trust of a disillusioned fanbase that thinned out last season over the worst losing streak in franchise history — a stretch that occurred in the last three months of the 2010-2011 season where the team won only five games (and only two at home).
Nothing will draw the fans back in like some solid wins at the Pepsi Center.
One group, the Burgundy Brigade, is working to help make the Pepsi Center feel more like the home arena it used to be, back during the years of that legendary sellout streak. This grassroots fan club is free to join and offers members discount tickets to games throughout the year. At those games, Brigade members will be able to sit together to “cheer on the team regardless of the score and spread the Avalanche love throughout Pepsi Center.”
This kind of dedication from the fans will go a long way towards making the Pepsi Center the party house it once was.
With the organization putting a young, fast and exciting team on the ice, it’s only a matter of time before the heyday is no longer just a fond memory.