Can we agree now that the sky is not falling?
I haven't seen any postings by "fans" rooting for the team to lose lately, so hopefully everything is ok again. Those same fans are probably now planning the parade route through downtown Denver.
So what do we know so far?
This team can score goals. I think every Avs fan hoped the offense would look like this, but plenty of teams look good on paper and can't translate the talent to goals. So far, The RPM line (Ryan, Paul, Milan) is one of the scariest in the league. This gives the Avs the luxury of mixing and matching with Sakic and getting him out against the 2nd pair of D. Jones looks to be progressing nicely and obviously being on a line with Sakic is a great place for anyone. Still not sure about Tucker and where he fits. He has played better the last two games, and if he's willing to do some dirty work for that line, maybe that is the right spot for him. The third line is really starting to come on, and if they can be a consistent threat and be plus players, the Avs can realistically expect to continue to score 4+ goals per game. Wolski has really come on and his play powers that line.
Penalty killing is awful. The goal they gave up against the Kings was on Budaj, but they've still given up a PP goal in every game so far. But that illustrates the duality of the problem. Both the skaters and the goaltending share the blame for the poor PK unit. I've seen several instances on the PK where it doesn't seem like all 4 guys are on the same page regarding the rotation - and way too many passes are getting through the middle of the box/diamond. A major problem seems to be when the puck carrier starts off low and then moves with the puck up high and takes up a spot near the point. The low d-man (for some reason, I've noticed Salei) stays with the puck carrier, and the rest of the guys don't rotate. Or if they aren't supposed to rotate, then Salei needs to pass off the puck carrier. It's happened a few times now, and it's a problem that one can't tell if they are running a zone or a rotation.
Goaltending - The goaltending has been sub par. Budaj has let in at least one bad goal in each of his four starts, and that is not acceptable in the NHL. Raycroft looked decent in his two starts. It would be a mistake to give up on Budaj this early, but if Raycroft keeps outplaying him, then Raycroft should continue to poach starts. 1 bad goal is a fluke, 2 bad goals are an unfortunate coincidence, but 4 or 5 are a disturbing trend.
Power play - After looking awful in the first couple of games, the PP has looked great in the last several. So much of NHL success is dependant on special teams, and an effective PP is essential for this club, especially since it appears 4 or 5 goals will be required to win games.
Defense - Hannan looked lost again trying to find his man in front of the net on a goal that Dallas scored. He's not playing up to his contract and needs to get it together. This team needs a defensive defenseman - that's Hannan's role. Not much to complain about with the other 5, just need to be tougher in front of their own net.
Arnason - has played better the last couple games. He needs to continue to play well and be a positive force on that third line - even if it means being more defensive minded while Wolski and Svatos push the attack.
4th line - fighting, checking, agitating, drawing penalties, even scoring and not getting scored on. Can't ask for much more out of these guys. Hopefully they can keep it up.
In summary, some very good things going on with this team. However, they cannot be considered an elite team until the goaltending and penalty killing improve.
Next chance Thursday against an Oilers team that the Avs outplayed but lost to last time. Should be another fun one to watch.
The Kings played well but showed their youth at times. It will be interesting to see how they look the next time out. I suspect they will improve greatly as the season wears on. They are no longer an easy two points.
Sidenote - at the beginning of the season I predicted an implosion in Calgary, and it looks like that could be happening already. Still early, but the Flames are in trouble. Could happen sooner than later.