Once again, Patrick Roy has delivered for the Colorado Avalanche.
Yes, playoff hockey is back in Colorado, and there’s plenty to look forward to here in Avalanche country as the National Hockey League playoffs get underway this week.
It was less than a year ago when the Avalanche head office hired the former goalie great Patrick Roy to lead the team into the future as its new head coach. Along with the hiring of Joe Sakic as the team’s executive vice president of hockey operations, it seemed like the organization was, at the very least, trying to make itself somewhat interesting again. Who knew that the hiring of a fight-prone, hot-headed former goalie would make such winning sense? I’d like to say I did, but I’d be lying.
The fact of the matter is that nobody saw the drastic improvements Roy would bring to the Avalanche. In his first season as coach, the Avs finished at the top of the Western Conference’s Central Division, with a record of 52-22 and 112 points. That's a miraculous improvement from their 16-25 finish in the previous season, which was shortened because of a labor dispute.
Essentially, the Avalanche went from being the second-worst team in the N.H.L. to a playoff team in just one season. The Avs closed out their season Sunday with a 3-2 loss to Anaheim, which ended the season as the best team in the Western Conference. As Terry Frei of The Denver Post reported Tuesday, for awhile, leading up to the end of the season, the biggest story was how the surprising the Avs were in a second-place division fight with the Chicago Blackhawks. Then the Avs went on an 8-0-1 streak that, along with a St. Louis Blues slump, put the Avs in the driver’s seat to take the Central division. And the Avs were able to do all of this without top center Matt Duchene, who was injured last month and will be out for another week or so.
I think we all knew the Avs were good, but nobody believed Colorado would actually take the division. Not even Roy himself believed it.
“Let's not kid ourselves,” he told Frei. “Did I think we would win the division? The answer is no. Especially when 15 days or 16 days ago, we were like nine points behind the St. Louis Blues. Did I think that would happen? No. But at the same time, I was not trying to think about what would be the end of the season. I always believed we could have a very good year, and you never know where that brings you. But here we are.”
In the first round of the playoffs the Avs are set to face the Minnesota Wild, who made the playoffs as a wild card. The series begins Thursday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Denver.
I don't want to make any predictions here on how well the Avs will do against the Wild, but I do like their chances, because of their defense and because they have home ice. Having one of the greatest goalies in the game has paid dividends. This year Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov set an Avalanche record this season of 41 wins, beating Roy’s record of 40. Last year, according to ESPN.com, Colorado was 29th in the N.H.L. in goals allowed per game. This year, with Varlamov between the pipes and Roy coaching, the team has bettered itself in that category to 14th. Not the best, but a vast improvement from the previous year.
Along with a good defense, the Avs are fast and have young legs. You would like to think that with the home ice advantage at altitude, the Wild would have a tough time keeping up with the Avs. It certainly will be their advantage.
The downside to the youthfulness of the Avalanche is their inexperience in the playoffs, where the pressure is ten times greater than regular season games. How well will the team rebound when faced with adversity? Will the Avs be able to grab a lead and then hold it? One of the key traits of the Minnesota Wild is that they have scored more points than any other team when trailing at the start of the third period. On the other hand, according to The Denver Post, the Avs are 35-0-2 when leading after two periods.
If you listen to The Dan Patrick Show often, you know that he likes the phrase “sneaky good.” He uses it to describe players, basketball teams, and even movies. On the surface, these “sneaky good” teams may not raise eyebrows, at first glance. But when you get close and look at the details, you can see glimmers of greatness.
The Colorado Avalanche, I believe, are sneaky good. They have all the moving parts they need.
Paul Stastny is proving to be a good leader in the locker room. The Avs’ defense is stout. There are no-name goal scorers on the Avs like Tyson Barrie, who can catch a team sleeping in the third period. Of course, the team carries the intensity of Roy. As we might expect of any great goaltender, he is very good at keeping his team focused on the task at hand. When it’s time to play with intensity, he gets them to.
As I said before, the only thing that may hold the Avs up in making it deep into the N.H.L. playoffs is their inexperience. They are entering a big stage, where nerves often get the best of players.
But, hey, nobody thought Roy could turn the team around this quickly. The Avs aren’t supposed to be at the top of their division. Last October, it was a stretch to believe Colorado would have home ice for the first and second round of the playoffs. Yet here they are. They have nothing to lose, really.
Playoff hockey is back in Colorado.
101 N. Fir Street, Telluride, 970/728-9565
Since 1997, Telluride Truffle has become a confectionary staple in Telluride. Piping hot cocoa, handcrafted truffles and irresistible ice cream sundaes are served year-round in Telluride, Mountain Village and Lawson Hill.
On first glance, you wouldn’t know its Lawson Hill kitchen headquarters have been bustling for the last month confecting Easter sweets for Easter Sunday.
Rather than the conventional sedentary Easter bunny, Telluride Truffle’s Telluride Easter Bunny is an active hiker, complete with a satchel.
“I had to chose one bunny mold that I thought spoke as much about Telluride as it could, and I could find no better one!” said Telluride Truffle owner Peggy Denny.
Denny started selling her mountain peak-themed Telluride Truffles on the Internet, and was so successful, she soon opened a retail shop in town.
Denny has seen consistent growth ever since. Her chefs are kept busy year-round, but, like most businesses in Telluride, there’s a strong seasonal element to this confectionary shop.
“Christmas is definitely our busiest time of year – two chefs will crank out 35,000 truffles over the course of two months. But Easter is picking up,” Denny said, while trimming excess chocolate from a fresh-out-of-the-mold bunny.
Standing in the kitchen, looking at everything from bustling chefs churning out trays full of fuchsia and gold-accented truffles to freshly-wrapped festive Easter baskets ($28 to $68) – made from chocolate, mind you – ready to put a smile on parents and children across the country, I found smiling with pleasure.
But if Denny’s kitchen resembles a ski town Willy Wonka factory, her Telluride Truffle shop in Telluride is more like the famed Tiffany windows on New York’s Fifth Ave., stocked with ready-to-go Easter baskets and, of course, truffles.
Denny’s truffles aren’t just mouthwatering – they’re eye candy, with names like Powder Day, Snowcapped, Mud Season and First Tracks.
There’s Class 5, a raspberry and bittersweet chocolate truffle, with a cascading smear of white chocolate running down its triangle front like a river. The Black Diamond is my favorite, with its sprinkle of salt, topping of dark chocolate and a slash of tequila (sometimes needed to get down Telluride’s arduous black diamond ski runs).
Savoring this truffle, I couldn’t help but feel the rhythmic bumps on Kant Mak’m, the powdery feel of the Palmyra Basin or the excitement felt on top of Bald Mountain, ready to hit Jackpot.
But Telluride Truffle’s most impressive offering is the ganache ($16 per jar).
“I try to do what’s better than what’s on the market,” said Denny, and she succeeds.
She recommends serving the ganache warm and creamy, over ice cream; for a late-night snack, fill a small saucepan halfway with water, put it on the burner to simmer, plunk the ganache in the center of the saucepan and watch its putty-like texture melt into oil-thick goodness. The secret, said Denny, is in the ingredients. “There’s almost no syrup in our ganache. Almost all syrups are filled with corn syrup.”
But her anti-corn syrup policy means the containers aren’t sealed.
“Here, have this,” said Denny reaching into a large freezer and handing me one.
“Just make sure you put it in the fridge or freezer when you’re done!”
Later that night, served heated over freezer-fresh Rocky Road, I couldn’t have felt better.
Price Point: Each truffle costs about $3, but the intricate designs and elegant flavors make it worth the price.
The Vibe: Cool in the summer, warm in winter. When looking at the truffles in their glass case, try not to drool.
What else? If you’re not in the area, no problem: Telluride Truffle offers an assortment of gifts online. Cookies, hot chocolate mixtures, packages of truffles – you name it, they’ve got it.
The Telluride Truffle store on Fir St. (behind Sunglass HQ) is open daily during the off season, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; the factory store in Lawson Hill (104 Society Drive, next to the Conoco station) is open from Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The Mountain Village Telluride Truffle store will open in mid-June.
RIDGWAY – For supporters of Measure A, which voters passed earlier this month to partially fund Ridgway’s long-awaited Streetscape project, the deal got a lot sweeter this week, with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs announcement that it has awarded a $500,000 grant to support the project.
By reducing the proposed bond issue to complete the Streetscape Project, the DOLA grant will ultimately mean significant savings for taxpayers.
“What a historic couple of weeks we have had,” Ridgway Mayor John Clark said on Tuesday. “We are obviously very, very happy, and we are so thankful to DOLA.”
Earlier this month, an overwhelming 76 percent of Ridgway voters approved a tax measure to help finance the $2 million cash-match obligation for a $10.5 million Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The CDOT grant will be used to complete Ridgway’s Streetscape Plan, which has been on the docket for nearly 10 years.
When Measure A passed, which would increase the town’s property taxes by $160,000 annually, Town of Ridgway officials proposed to issue a 20-year bond in the amount of $1.9 million to cover its $2 million cash match obligation.
Now, with the $500,000 DOLA grant secured, the town plans to reduce that 20-year bond amount to from $1.9 million to $1.4 million. This means, according to figures provided by Town Manager Jen Coates, the maximum annual debt service will be reduced from $110,000 a year to $65,750 a year. The mil levy requirement will be reduced from 4.03 mils to 2.41 mils.
This means that for a resident with an assessed valuation of $300,000, the tax increase per year has been reduced from $96 to $58. Commercial businesses tax increase for an assessed valuation of $500,000 a year will drop from $584 per year to $350.
“It is astounding,” Clark said. “The actual savings is something like 40 percent. We are obviously extremely psyched and grateful.”
Coates added that the partnership between the town, CDOT and DOLA to complete the project is monumental, because this marks the first RAMP project the two state agencies have participated in together.
“Everybody is really excited about that,” Coates said.
The RAMP grant will pay for Highway 62 improvements that extend from Laura Street to the Highway 550 intersection. They include a three-lane highway all the way through town, including two drive lanes and a center turn lane; two bike lanes extending from the Highway 550 intersection to Laura St.; concrete crosswalk intersections on Highway 62 at: Railroad, Lena, Cora, and Laura Streets; curb and gutter; sidewalks on both sides of Highway 62, from the bridge to Laura St. and on one side of Highway 62 from Laura Street to Amelia Street; surface and subsurface drainage improvements; landscaping and irrigation, including raised planters, from Railroad Street to Laura Street; decorative lighting and amenities (benches, trash, recycle, etc.); and a connecting sidewalk under the Highway 62 bridge to existing sidewalk on the north side of the bridge.
While upbeat about the election and the recent DOLA grant award, Clark cautioned that completing project of this magnitude is going to take patience.
“I am still nervous on what the actual construction will be like,” he said. “I hope the community will be behind the effort and support all the businesses during that tough time.”