Monday, October 21, 2013

Colorado Blanks Penguins Thanks to Jean Sebastien Giguere

Despite being outshot 34-14, the surging Colorado Avalanche did what they've done pretty much all season--win.

All the talk was on Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon before the game, but when it was over the hero was Jean Sebastien Giguere.

Crosby, MacKinnon: Hometown Boys to Clash

On the strength of a Gabriel Landeskog goal the Avs wiggled out of Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center with their fifth consecutive road victory, a 1-0 smother job over the Penguins on Monday.

The real hero? Giguere. Thanks to him, the Penguins have been shut out with Sidney Crosby in the lineup for the first time at the Consol Energy Center.

Is it any surprise that a Patrick Roy-coached team is leading with its goaltending, and leading the league in the standings?

Maybe it shouldn't be.

The Avalanche were poised and patient on Monday, protecting a 1-0 margin against an onslaught from Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz and Co. Those three Penguins tallied 19 shots, many of them in a frenzied final period, but time and time again it was the defensive commitment of the Avalanche that helped them stave off the Penguins.

When the defense failed, Jean Sebastien Giguere was letter perfect.

Thanks to that combo, the Avs are first in the Central Division at 8-1 after going 16-25-7 last season.

The Penguins peppered Jean Sebastien Giguere with 16 shots in the final stanza, finding numerous ways to crack the the Avs defense. But when they slipped behind the defense (or blazed through it), Pittsburgh couldn't bury the tying tally against Colorado's stifling netminder. Even the seven power play opportunities the Penguins forced went wasted against the 36-year-old Montreal Native.

While Giguere was doing his thing, it was the Avs captain who would provide the goalie with all he would need in the second period. Gabriel Landeskog's third of the season at 5:26 of the second came after he raced out of the penalty box following a hooking minor. On a harmless looking play, Landeskog's shot through a screen had eyes, clicking through a maze of sticks before it headed to the twine.

From that instant on it was primarily Pittsburgh pushing the envelope and Colorado swarming in the defensive end with a sense of purpose and practicality.

In the end, thanks to Giguere, the Avs stole away with the win.

"These guys have a lot of firepower," chirped Giguere after the game. "I knew it was going to be a difficult game for me. You have to be ready, you have to be on your toes. Luckily I felt really good tonight."

In three games, Giguere has a .67 GAA. In five games, the Avs other Goalie, Semyon Varlamov is 5-1 with a 1.67 GAA. With those gaudy numbers it's safe to assume that the Avs are the best defensive team in the league. At least for now. But can it last?

We will find out soon enough.