This off-season. the Colorado Avalanche were all the rage.
It was quite popular to jump on the bandwagon and start the hype train barreling towards what, based on the speculation, was a sure-thing Stanley Cup contender. Three games into the season, the Avs have looked like a team worthy of that praise, starting out of the gate with some fire.
The NHL season is a long one, so a fast start doesn’t assure contender status, but it absolutely doesn’t hurt as the team still seems hungry and playing like a team trying to prove their worth.
Through three games, what have they shown?
For starters, they are 3-0 having beaten the Calgary Flames, who secured the no. 1 seed in the West a season ago, the team’s long-time rival the Minnesota Wild, and the also undefeated Boston Bruins. The Avalanche have scored at least four goals in every game while having given up an average of 2.33 goals per game through the opening week of the season.
The incredibly talented first line has yet to disappoint leading the team in points with MacKinnon and Rantanen tied for the team lead with five points each, and Gabriel Landeskog ranked third with four points. A season ago, secondary scoring was the team’s weakness, but the off-season acquisition has already paid off with Bellemare, Burakovsky, and Donskoi scoring five goals in three games. The big-ticket off-season piece, Nazem Kadri, has yet to record a point, but he does lead the team in face-off wins and is second among centers in shifts behind only Nathan MacKinnon.
The defense has played really well, with the first line of Erik Johnson and Samuel Girard leading the team in TOI/G and the second pair of Nikita Zadorov and Cale Makar leading in points and penalty minutes for defensemen. Philipp Grubauer has started the season on an absolute tear, stopping 93.1 percent of shots on net, facing an average of 30.66 SOG/G. Grubauer has shown he absolutely can be a number one goalie, and at only 27 years old, will have the youth and experience to carry this team through the regular season.
The next steps toward improvement for the Avalanche will be to get the second line scoring at a dependable rate, reduce the number of penalties for Nikita Zadorov, improve face-off win percentage to closer to 50%, and get more shots for Cale Makar, who has yet to record one. Nathan MacKinnon has only scored one goal on 13 shots which will not continue, once he starts scoring it isn’t going to stop until the end of the year.
The next game the Colorado Avalanche will play the Arizona Coyotes at the Pepsi Center on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. MT. The Coyotes were the first team out of the playoffs a season ago and are 1-2 through their first three games. The Avalanche has an opportunity to start 4-0 with the hope of carrying momentum into their six-game road trip where they play six straight playoff teams over 11 days.
Starting the season with a four-game home stretch has its advantages, but the downside is an inevitably grueling stretch of games that can test the team’s mental toughness. The Avalanche took care of business in their homestand, and next week marks the start of the season where contenders are defined, on the road.