The second full day of Colorado Avalanche training camp is in the books, complete with the same format as Day One. While the Blue and Black squads taking the first scrimmage slot, sending the Gray squad to the secondary rink for drills and individual coaching.
Within moments, defenseman Erik Johnson set the tone of the day with an absolutely crushing blow on rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog -- a "welcome to the NHL" statement of the highest level. Combined with offseason acquisition Jan Hejda, the newly revamped Colorado blue line had another spectacular day, giving goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere a very easy day's work.
His counterpart on the blue squad, Calvin Pickard, was not so lucky. The young goalie faced an offensive assault all day, led by the dynamic line of Paul Stastny, Joakim Lindstrom, and David Jones. Lindstrom in particular has been excellent in camp, using his quickness and great hands to create opportunities for Jones down low. He has built obvious chemistry with Stastny, and represents a serious upgrade over the forwards that Stastny was forced to play with for half of last season after injuries decimated the Avalanche's roster. Right now, Lindstrom is playing like a top six forward and an impact player.
In the second scrimmage, the physical barrage against Landeskog continued, as Kyle Quincey and fellow rookie Duncan Siemens both landed major hits on the young rookie. But Landeskog would strike back, as he used his ability to blow past his defenseman on a one-on-one and beat goalie Semyon Varlamov...only to hear his shot deflect off the goalpost. Varlamov was beat early by a great top shelf shot from forward Ryan O'Reilly early in the scrimmage, but was solid for the remainder.
As impressive as the Stastny line was for the Black squad, the line centered by Matt Duchene was even better. Flanked by Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller, these three forwards were on the same page all morning. Passes were crisp, and all three players use their excellent puck-handling skills to embarrass the defensive schemes in front of them. Mueller displayed that game-changing talent that made him a first round selection, using his size and stick ability to fire off multiple shots and passes. These three forwards could have played keep-away with the puck for five minutes if they wanted. That's your likely top line on Opening Night, and they looked in mid-season form.
Siemens had his best play of camp midway through the scrimmage, as he avoided several hits and weaved his way through the defense before making a crisp, composed centering pass in the neutral zone. His play has been inconsistent throughout camp, but he certainly showed flashes of what the Avalanche front office likes in him. He still needs to add some weight to his slender frame, but he could be a difference maker in two years.
TJ Galiardi continued his very impressive camp with a second straight day of impact play on the ice. Late in the scrimmage, he poke checked the forward, hustled down the boards for the puck, and carried it straight to the net before being taken down from behind and drawing a penalty. He is looking more and more like a top 6 forward on a team that already has the top two lines filled, but his talent and hustle would play well on a third scoring line, along with rookie Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly.
It's only been two days of scrimmages, but there are some great trends showing at camp this season. Unlike the past two years, there won't be players making the Opening Night roster simply because there are available spots. The team is much deeper at forward and on the blue line, and there are three or four players competing for each of the approximately five available spots on the roster. Players like Mark Olver, Ryan Wilson, and Cody McLeod are currently on the outside looking in because of the increase in talent. Whereas previous camps had a focus on training and getting into game shape, these camps have been all about getting the best possible team together. Training camp has been all about the competition for the job, with a lack of emphasis on the training. As a fan, I can't really complain about the results.