Two games ago Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene spent the whole game demoted to the third forward line. Last night he was moved back to a top scoring line with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen on his wings. First-year head coach Jared Bednar said that the demotion was just a part of mixing things up and trying to find something that might help to spark the offence, but anyone who has been watching the team this year understands that Matt Duchene has been held pointless in his last 11 straight NHL games. I would have to do some research on this to confirm, but I would be willing to bet that Matt Duchene has not had a single stretch in his hockey career up until this point where he has been held pointless in 11 straight games.
Did playing with Mikko and Gabe help Duchene to break the streak in the last game? Well, not really. Here is a video of Duchene’s reaction after missing a chance right in front of the net mid way through the third period. Mikko Rantanen set him up with a beautiful saucer pass that he just could not get to find the back of the net.
I think that we have to be fair to Duchene here and say that he really should have ended up with a point in the last game against the Arizona Coyotes. He was the Avalanche’s best player in the third period and was playing hard. He had a few chances and he was giving it his best effort.
Mike Smith made multiple highlight reel saves against him and other players on the ice that kept him from being able to pick up the point to get the game tied up in the 3rd. It is really amazing to see Mike Smith’s success against the Avalanche. In his last 15 games, he has played against the team he has a 10-1-4 record.
Matt Duchene had a pretty tough situation last year when his name began to pop up in all kinds of crazy trade rumors and suggestions in the media. Everything from “he’s just not good enough” to “he gave up on the team”. Personally I don’t believe Duchene has given up on the team that he has loved sense he was a child.
The way that he responded last year when all of this craziness started up is that from December on he became the league’s hottest player ending the season with his first 30+ goal season of his NHL career.
While times have been rough this season starting off with Patrick Roy walking out on the team a month before training camp was scheduled to get under way, to the team finally starting to work out the new systems and play style that new coach David Bendar wanted to play just to see Erik Johnson get hurt. (This season without Johnson the Avalanche were simply not deep enough or skilled enough on the blue line to play the kind of system that Bednar wants to play. That was evident with the team losing 10 of the next 12 games after Johnson’s injury.)
Honestly I still believe in Matt Duchene. From his international resume to what hes been able to do with the Avalanche sense he was drafted he has shown me that he has what it takes to be a top line player and help his team win a lot of games.
Going into the off season I fully expect to see Duchene double down on his off season work out and training regime and come back to camp in not only the best shape of his life but the most hungry we have seen him sense his rookie year. I also expect to see him come out here and prove to the team, the league and maybe most importantly to himself that he does, in fact, belong in the NHL.
Feature Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post