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Colorado Avalanche Have Chance at Revenge vs Blues

The Colorado Avalanche come off a tough loss to conference foe Golden Knights. They now have fellow conference and division foe, St. Louis Blues, next on the docket.

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The Colorado Avalanche is in the middle of finding an identity and fitting in some new pieces. This has many in Avalanche Country looking to pull the rip-cord. I say hold on, this is a long season that is only 2-weeks old. No wholesale changes should be made after 5 games.

With that being said, there are some areas of concern. The Avalanche has the 30th ranked power-play at a paltry 9.1%. They are also 26th in penalty minutes (71) and 23rd in shooting% (.083). No offensive category has them ranked above 20th.

The undefeated Blues on the other hand…well just look at this team comparison against the Colorado Avalanche courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

The Blues have come out the gate firing after their early exit at the hands of the Avalanche in last year’s playoffs. But they will be without old friends Ryan O’Reilly and Brandon Saad due to Covid-19 protocols that played a big role in their win over the Avs earlier this season. Ryan and Brandon combined for 2 points, 3 SOGs, 21 FWs, 1 hit, 4 blocks, and 3 takeaways in the Blues’ 5-3 win. They obviously had a point to prove to their old squad.

This does not mean this Blues squad is overwhelmingly weakened. They still have the likes of top goal scorer David Perron (6 G) and Vladimir Tarasenko who has 6 points and 26 SOG. This St. Louis squad is still loaded for bear and a home crowd to feed off of.

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They also have the confidence of thoroughly dominating this team in their house just a little more than a week ago. Those memories are fresh for both the Avs and Blues bench. Not so sure they are in Vegas as they have the Blues as home underdogs as of this writing. Either they see the losses of O’Reilly and Saad or see more in the Knights loss than even I did.

Key Stats:

.910

Yes, the Colorado Avalanche has lost twice this season with their goalie surpassing this mark. This is an outlier, market correction will come, and should soon.

-5

This is the combined +/- of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. While their scoring has seen an uptick over the last 2 games, their efficiency is still lacking.

Key Players:

Logan O’Connor: Can the little-known winger continue to shine on defense while adding some offense? (13 SOGs, 1 pt)

Bo Byram/Cale Makar: Can the youngsters trust the process after a tough loss and keep up the defensive energy they displayed throughout the Knights matchup?

Mikko Rantanen: He is the early season MVP and most consistent player on both ends. Can he continue this ride to a possible career year?

Final Prediction:

Colorado 3- St. Louis 1

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Colorado Avalanche Face Division Foe Las Vegas in Return Home

The Colorado Avalanche return home a little banged up. Las Vegas comes in depleted in what should have been a marquee matchup.

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The Colorado Avalanche draw another tough foe with an injury-depleted roster in their return to Ball Arena. Las Vegas comes into the Mile High City limping, both figuratively and literally. They have 9 players on the IL currently, with names varying from Zac Whitecloud to Max Pacioretty. They will not get the best of their division rival in this one.

The Colorado Avalanche have returned to the favorites and it’s easy to see why Vegas would turn against it’s own when you look at this team comparison courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

As much as I have made of the Avalanche’s struggles on the power-play. The Knights are one of only two teams that are worse. Vegas has yet to score a power-play goal this season. And one thing I probably haven’t talked about enough is the Avalanche Penalty Kill unit. They are stoning opponent power-plays at an 81.3% clip. That’s despite the sloppy play during their 3-game losing streak that has them middle of the pack in penalty minutes.

Not drawing penalties is one strength this Vegas team has shown in the early going. As evidenced by the graphic above showing they are 2nd in the league currently. This means we may not have to talk much about power-plays like in our other previews and reviews. But this is historically a heated rivalry, so that could counteract this balance.

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However this matchup ends up going, it will sure to be a hard-fought victory either way. Vegas has prided itself on its size and scoring ability. While the Avalanche has gone the speed and athleticism route. Which has always led to some exhilarating matchups. I’m not so sure Vegas has the bodies left to keep up in the thin air of Denver.

Key Stats:

5

That’s how many points MacKinnon has after his big game in Tampa. For the Avs to continue winning, he will need this to spark his own personal streak. As he goes, this team goes.

3.51

This is Darcy Kuemper’s current GAA, although he bounced back nicely against Tampa. He needs to get this much closer to his career average of 2.48. Avalanche fans should look forward to some market correction here.

Key Players:

Bo Byram: His fire against Tampa was wonderful to see and as I have stressed, this Knights team has been lightened. He will need to throw his weight around.

Cale Makar: Just like with Bo, can he continue the improved defensive effort and physical play he displayed against Tampa?

Mikko Rantanen: The current Avs Goal Leader is an underrated scoring asset this team deploys deftly. If he can continue this pace with the improved play of Mack and Landy, this team will show why they are the favorites for a second straight President’s Trophy.

Final Prediction:

Colorado 4 – Las Vegas 1

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Colorado Avalanche Break Streak Against Lightning

The Colorado Avalanche came in amidst a 3 game losing streak. After the game they handed that baton to the defending champs in 4-3 shotout win.

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The Colorado Avalanche finished their East Coast road trip with a shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. Both teams were in a rut and came out with high energy. The Avalanche were on their first power-play barely 30 seconds into the contest. And the high-energy chippiness never waivered.

The Lightning had the right game plan, using their size and aggression against the smaller Avs squad. They outhit Colorado 43-32 and the Avalanche ended up with 7 power-plays when all was said and done. But this Colorado Avalanche squad showed the resilience and 5-on-5 dominance that took them to the President’s Trophy a year ago.

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Darcy Kuemper was able to get to a .900 save percentage on 29/32 shooting by the Lightning. The Avs have two wins so far, both have Kuemper with a .900+ save%. One of those goals would have knocked this team off-kilter during their 3-game losing streak. It was the first goal by Mathieu Joseph, his first point of the season, that he smacked out of mid-air and squabbled past a sprawled-out Darcy. It was great to see Kuemper bounce back and show some resilience after back-to-back sub-par performances and a day-off against Florida as we discussed in our preview.

Looks like Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog read the preview as well. They came into this game with 1 goal and 2 assists between them. They ended the game with 5 points, 2 goals, in this game alone. And this doesn’t include the game-saving Landy shootout goal.

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Bo Byram and Cale Makar took another step. Cale was everywhere with 2 assists and 3 hits in 34 shifts, he was also responsible for the game-winning shootout goal after an Anthony Cirelli miss. Bo showed he’s not scared of anybody giving up 30-50 pounds against players like Pat Maroon and Victor Hedman without backing down an inch. He put the league on notice, you can’t bully the kid.

Although it was nice to see old friend Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, it was better to shut him out of the boxscore outside of 1 SOG. But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Avs. They were outshot 32-27 when it comes to SOGs. They were only 1-7 on the power-play. And they lost the face-off battle as well as being outhit as mentioned before. So there is definitely still plenty for Bednar to harp on their two off-days.

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But let’s not nitpick too much, and just enjoy the fact this squad finally showed their dominance outside of one unlucky goal in the second period as mentioned before, and a late let-down that allowed Brayden Point to score his second goal of the season at the 17:25 mark in the 3rd. In between those 2 plays, this Avs squad showed resilience and physicality that was lacking in the previous 3 matches.

It was also crappy to see Sam Girard hit the injured list after a horrible hit that should have drawn a boarding penalty. The hit was almost identical to the one that got The Captain ejected and suspended. Yet nary a whistle within earshot. But again, unlike the last three contests, this Avs squad responded and fought for the victory instead of sulking and rolling over.

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Next on the docket is division rival Las Vegas Golden Knights, that resilience will be paramount to this Avalanche team turning this much-needed victory into a winning streak.

Up Next:

vs Las Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday, October 26 @ 6:00 PM MST

Where to Watch:

Stream: ESPN+

Colorado Avalanche Face Reigning Champs

The Colorado Avalanche are stuck in a 3-game losing streak. They look to end it against the defending champs in Tampa.

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The Colorado Avalanche were the odds-on preseason favorite to wint it all. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the defending back-to-back champs. Neither team has displayed that dominance through 4 games in the 2021/2022 season. The Avalanche sit at 1-3 after 3 straight listless losses. The Lightning sit at 2-2 after consecutive losses of their own.

I don’t know of anyone that believes the early season struggles for either of these teams to continue for any extended period of time. But it sure has bandwagoners ready to jump ship on both sides. If you truly understand hockey, you know both rosters are far too stacked to struggle indefinitely.

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The Avalanche have had buzzsaw of early opponents with the undefeated Panthers and Blues. And the one-loss Capitals. That is not an excuse, this is still supposed to be the best team in the league. But through 4 games, they have been thoroughly outplayed both at home and on the road.

Despite having Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog back, this Avalanche squad is still down Valeri Nichushkin and Devon Teows. Those are two underrated keys to this roster. Nichushkin gives you size and scoring ability. Toews brought another speed and scoring element to the roster. The good news is Friday Toews was removed from the injury report. Which means he should play Saturday.

Outside of PP%, these teams are almost identical to start. Look at this team comparison courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

This should be a game where the Avalanche can get back right against a team experiencing similar struggles. But it could just be a continuance of their recent ineptitude. I like to stay on the positive side of things as much as possible. So I will take the improved physical play, and better goaltending as a sign for better things to come.

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Final Prediction:

Colorado 3 – Tampa Bay 2

Key Players:

MacKinnon/Landeskog: For this team to get back on track, the Mack Attack and Captain must step up and show why they are 2 of the best in the business. They need to show Sakic picking Landy over Grub was the right move.

Devon Toews: If he is fully healthy and can play. Can him and the top line reignite the magic they created after the trade last year?

Darcy Kuemper: Can the vet rebound to his game 1 form after a night off?

Key Stats:

1

Just like last game, this is Mack/Landy goals combined through 4 games. This must change Saturday.

Hits/Face Off Battle

In the only game the Avs won both (Game 1) they won the game. It seems if they outmuscle at the point, they win at the net. Then the game.

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Colorado Avalanche Continue Losing Streak in Sunrise

The Colorado Avalanche switched it up in goal for the first time this season. Unfortunately the results remained the same after 4-1 loss to Panthers.

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The Colorado Avalanche decided to go with Jonas Johansson over Darcy Kuemper to try and inject some life in this squad. Early it seemed to work as the Avs matched the Panthers’ energy through the first frame. After the Panthers took an early lead on Sam Reinhart’s first of the year at the 14:32 mark of the period. Much has been made of the non-call for icing on this play that lead to Sam Girard eating the boards hard and sending him to the locker room for evaluation. But one play should never derail a championship team. The Avalanche answered with Mikko Rantanen’s second goal of the season at the 19:06 mark. Unfortunately, this would be the only time they could manage to get the puck to the back of the net.

Sergei Bobrovsky, the Panthers’ backup goalie, looked like he belonged as a starter after stoning 30 of 31 Avs attempts. Bobrovsky was a brick wall, very few shots even hit the post. Johansson did his best to match Brobrovsky block for block. But unlike Bobrovsky’s defense, Johansson’s defense hung him out to dry like poor defensive positioning that lead to the Sam Bennet goal, his 4th, in the second period, on the power play.

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Johansson actually surpassed the .900 save% we discussed in the preview to this game with a .917 mark. But when your defense allows 38 SOG, that number becomes much less important. I couldn’t fathom a team with Bo Byram, Cal Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog could be outscored when they met the physicality of the opponent. The consistent lack of effort on the defensive end is getting concerning.

It was nice to see the Colorado Avalanche show more physicality as they tied the Panthers in hits with 26, and outpaced them 18-16 in blocks. This was a nice step forward to see, and one I want to see continue. Erik Johnson was a big part of this, leading the team with 4 hits and 26 shifts. I think if he, Jack Johnson, and Macdermid can get on the ice together consistently, this physicality will only increase,

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The biggest concern to me is their lack of oomph on the Power Play (0-3). This team was able to cover for this bugaboo last year with 5-on-5 dominance. This year, that 5-on-5 dominance is non-existent, amplifying their Power Play woes. Then you add in the poor defensive showing so far, and you have the ingredients for this start to the season.

Another concern is unlike the last 2 games where the Avalanche showed life late and brought it close before giving up an empty-net goal to end it. In this game, they couldn’t even do that. They were thoroughly dominated from the beginning of the second period forward. They made Brobrovsky look like the second coming of Dominik Hasek. I don’t want to take anything from Brobrovsky’s performance, it was masterful, but he’s not .968 save% good.

Here’s to hoping another day off gives this team time to make real adjustments, regain some energy, and come out firing on the last leg of this road trip in Tampa, Florida Saturday evening.

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Up Next:

@ Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, October 23 @ 5:00 PM

Where to Watch:

Stream: ESPN+

Denver: AltitudeTV

Colorado Avalanche Outplayed by Washington Capitals

The Colorado Avalanche entered Tuesday against the Capitals after a heartbreaking loss to St. Louis. They looked to correct the slow start that cost them Saturday.

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The Colorado Avalanche laid an egg against St. Louis until about 6 minutes left in the contest. They made a furious rally to get to within 4-3 with 2 minutes left. They ended up losing 5-3 after the tying goal was waved off for kicking, and an empty-net goal by the Blues to seal it. That slow start that allowed St. Louis to build an insurmountable 4-1 lead would doom them against the high-powered Washington Capitals. After the first period, it looked more of the same.

The Avalanche was out-shot in that first period 19-5. I think it’s an obvious statement to say that will never get it done. The return of superstar and perennial MVP candidate Nathan MacKinnon to the lineup should have signaled a return of the high-pace play that defined this team over the last couple of seasons and we discussed in my season preview. It just did not translate in that first period. Thankfully due to some heady goaltending by Darcy Kuemper and a short-handed goal by J.T. Compher they kept the Avalanche to within 2-1 at the first break.

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The 2nd period started better for the Colorado Avalanche as they would get a goal from Darren Helm just 3:12 into the period. They even had an 8-5 SOG advantage in the period until the 14:00 min mark. Then the wheels fell off for the Avalanche. Anthony Mantha started the Capitals cascade at 14:47 with his 100th career goal and first of the 2021/2022 season. Then Evgeny Kuznetsov added his 2nd of the game and season at the 16:41 point in the 3rd. That would cap the scoring in the frame and a 4-2 Caps lead. The Avs would end up tied at 8-8 with SOG.

The third period started where the second ended. At just :39 into the frame Nic Dowd added the 5th lamp-lighting for the Capitals, his first of the season. The period would end the way the Blues game ended. With the Avs pulling to within 5-3 with a Power Play-Empty Net goa by Mikko Rantanen with the 6-4 man advantage. This was the first Power Play goal of the season for the Avs and the first goal by Mikko. Then immediately after Alex Ovechkin finally got into the act with an empty-net goal to give us the final score of 6-3.

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While much could be lumped on Kuemper in the Blues matchup last Saturday. Today was much more on poor defensive positioning and defensive zone discipline that lead to multiple break-aways for the Capitals. The Capitals were also more physical, as they not only out-shot them 39-26. The Avs were outhit 20-15, and also lost the faceoff battle 32-26. They were thoroughly outplayed in every area. Let’s hope Jack Johnson returning after an early puck to the face doesn’t let this play continue as they have a hard road ahead with trips to Sunrise and Tampa Florida before they get back home to Ball Arena.

Up Next:

Vs Florida Panthers on Thursday, October 21 @ 5:00 PM MST

Where to Watch:

ESPN+

Colorado Avalanche Look For 2-0 Start Saturday

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The Colorado Avalanche play game 2 against the St. Louis Blue in their first. After drubbing the Blackhawks on opening night, Colorado looks to assert dominance vs Blues.

The Colorado Avalanche came out firing against the Blackhawks and left Ball Arena with a 4-2 win. The only true question I had for this roster coming in was quieted considerably as Darcy Kuemper looked more than up to the task of replacing Philipp Grubauer. They did lose Captain Gabriel Landeskog for 2 games due to a suspension stemming from a bad hit late in the Blackhawks game. And star Nathan MacKinnon has been ruled out for Saturday due to a positive COVID test right before opening night. Devon Toews is still on the injured list. But they did get back their coach Jared Bednar after his own bout with COVID.

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Despite the losses of Mack, Landy, and Toews, this team still has plenty of star power, scoring, and defense. The ridiculous depth of this roster with Cale Makar, Bo Byram, Nazem Kadri, etc. should be just fine for the next few games. They first face the St. Louis Blues, a team they swept out of the playoffs in the first round last year. Colorado and St. Louis actually split the regular-season series 3-3.

St. Louis made the playoffs despite a negate point differential (-1), which means they were stout in close games going 27-20 overall. But that lack of scoring did them in during their first-round matchup with the Avalanche. With the distraction of Vladimir Tarasenko’s trade request still looming, and no moves outside of Pavel Buchnevich and Bradon Saad, I see no true upgrades on this St. Louis roster.

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Biggest Concern:

Against a better team, say Tampa Bay or Las Vegas, the loss of Mack, Landy, and Toews would worry me. But with the way, Kuemper played in game one, and this being a home game, I’m much less anguished. This St. Louis squad should not be taken lightly, but outside of their top-line, Colorado blows every other line out of the water in pure talent. So we will put “biggest concern” in quotations.

Key Stats:

Colorado was 0-4 on the Power Play Wednesday night. While giving up a Power Play goal to Chicago. This is a small sample, but a continuation from last year where the Av’s 5-on-5 dominance was unmatched. But was at the bottom of the league with the advantage and against the advantage. Something that really showed up against the more physical Golden Knights in the playoffs. This is why Sakic went out and got the likes of Jack Johnson and Kurtis MacDermid and moved Nichushkin to the second line and PP unit. We’ll see if we start seeing the fruits of his labor against a light Blues defense that will most likely be without David Perron.

Final Prediction:

Colorado 5-St. Louis 2

Colorado Avalanche Bury Blackhawks on Opening Night

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Colorado Avalanche came into Opening Night the odds-on favorite to win it all. After burying the Blackhawks 4-1, they looked every bit of it.

Almost every Colorado Avalanche I mentioned in my season preview made an impact on opening night. Jack Johnson had the first goal of the season and as an Avalanche after signing a one-year contract just days ago at the 4:26 mark in the first. The Captian Gabriel Landeskog followed shortly after with his first of the year at the 5:48 mark in the first. And Bo Byram capped the scoring in the first at the 9:34 mark for his first goal ever.

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The Blackhawks were able to notch their first goal of the game on a power-play goal by Dominik Kubalik at the 16:47 mark in the first period. Outside of this and a late goal by Connor Murphy, Darcy Kuemper did his best to make everyone forget about Gru. Darcy stoned 32 of 34 shots on goal. If Darcy plays like this throughout the season, the biggest question facing the Avalanche during the pre-season becomes a distant memory.

You also had Nazem Kadri add the final Avalanche goal to go with his assist on the Landy goal at the 16:12 mark in the 3rd. Bo Byram notched an assist on the Kadri goal as well. But it wasn’t all finesse, as the Colorado Avalanche showed a new attitude and physicality I mentioned so much in the above season preview. They outhit the Blackhawks 25-17, lead by Jack Johnson’s 4. But it wasn’t all the new guys making noise, The Captian took 3 penalties including 2 on a single play at the 16:26 mark in the 4th on a bad hit in relation to Kirby Dach being chippy most of the game. J.T. Compher took two others, with Logan O’Connor taking the only other Avalanche Penalty.

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It wasn’t a perfect game though, as much as you would like to overlook the bad after such a good performance. There were a couple of concerning factors at play, like going 0-4 on Power Plays continuing a concerning trend from last year. While they gave up a Power Play goal to the Blackhawks. They were also beat at the face-off with Chicago winning 31 to Colorado’s 24. These are fixable with good coaching. Thankfully the Colorado Avalanche has great coaching.

Let us not forget all of this was done without the Avalanche’s best player, Nathan MacKinnon. Mack was sidelined due to a positive COVID-19 test just two days before the opener. They were also without 2nd-liner Devon Toews. If this is how physical and fast they can play without those two. NHL teams need to be worried about what happens when this team is fully healthy.

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Up Next:

Saturday October 16, 2021 vs St. Louis Blues

Where to watch:

Radio Broadcasts

Home: FM 92.5/AM 950

Away: 101 ESPN

TV Broadcast

Home: Altitude TV

Away: FOX Sports Midwest

Colorado Avalanche 21/22 Season Preview

After a disappointing exit in the 2020/2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Colorado Avalanche come into this season as the odds-on favorite to win it all. Did they do enough to come through?

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The Colorado Avalanche start the 2021/2022 season with a new look. Between the Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken, Free Agency, and the Amatuer Draft. The Avalanche have a new goaltender, and a new look defense. The acquisition of Darcy Kuemper from rival Arizona Coyotes was one that grabbed headlines. But the acquisition of big winger Kurtis MacDermid and his 6’5″ 233 lb. frame will add a lot of heft to the Avalanche lineup. He won’t add much scoring with only 6 goals in 118 games played. But that’s the last thing the Colorado Avalanche need.

With Nathan Mackinnon (despite COVID issues), retaining Gabriel Landeskog, and moving Valeri Nichuskin to the 2nd line will provide all the offense they need. What cost the Avalanche in the 2020/2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs was that they couldn’t match the Vegas Golden Knights physicality. Once Zach Whitecloud and Co. hunkered down and started hitting Colorado in a way they weren’t used to, the Avalanche rolled right over.

Below is the full Colorado Avalanche Roster:

Courtesy Yahoo! Sports

Joe Sakic continued to show an ability to look internally, find the problem, and create a solution. He moved deftly through all 3 major phases of the offseason with ease and has been recognized for it nationally. It looks like the Colorado Avalanche are back to relevance. From the aformentioned move to get MacDermid for a fourth-rounder 2 years from now (2023). Retaining The Captain Landeskog for a manageable $56 million over 8 years, pretty much ensuring the 28-yr. old retires in the maroon and blue.

Obviously with a hard salary cap you can’t keep everybody, and losing Brandon Saad, Ryan Graves, and Philip Grubauer hurts. And regardless of Grubauer having a shaky start for the Kraken against Vegas on opening night, you can’t help but thing Darcy Kuemper is a slight downgrade while Pavel Francouz is out with an injury to start the season. Graves and Saad brought a veteran presence/attitude you will miss. But again MacDermid and more Bo Byram will help salve that wound.

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So all in all, Sakic either kept the same level of talent, or upgraded pretty much every where a loss was suffered. You still have the star power of Nathan Mackinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Cale Makar. Then you have the tight rope walker in Nazem Kadri. And also you have the depth in J.T. Compher, Nichushkin, Tyson Jost, and so many more. This team is primed for a title run if the goaltending is just middle of the road. Hence Sakic choosing to keep Landy over Gru.

I know I said Kuemper was a slight downgrade, and he is. But he is cheaper and competent, that’s all this team needs. Once Francouz comes off the injured list, the depth doesn’t really worry me either. I worry about Jonas Johansson taking on an expanded role, but Kuemper/Francouz I can trust to play steady and not lose a game for you. Kuemper will even mix in some absolute gems as many Avalanche fans can attest too. Here’s how they stack up:

Grubauer: .923 save percentage, 2.29 goals against average over nine seasons.

Kuemper: .917 save percentage, 2.72 goals against average over nine seasons.

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So the biggest question mark on this roster is a small one. If Francouz can get and stay healthy. If Kuemper goes down for any extended period of time, then this will transform into a huge one. As for offense, this is the reigning NHL scoring champion, it’s what got them to the dance. The lack of size and physicality is what cost them the ultimate prize and allowed Vegas to take their place in the finals and the Lightning to repeat.

This year has a new feeling, maybe its the new faces? Maybe it’s the simple high that a new season of hockey gives fans when Opening Night approaches? But I, as with all Mile High Hockey fans, can’t help but be optimisitic. Sakic closed the open wounds with surgical precision, Landy and Mack are back, Cale and Bo are set to take the next step, and Sam and Kurtis look to bring to the wood. How can you not be ready for October 13, 2021 at Ball Arena?

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Season predictions below:

Record:

58-20

Leading Scorer:

Nathan MacKinnon

Team MVP:

Gabriel Landeskog

Top Rookie:

Bo Byram

Most Improved Player:

Valeri Nichushkin

Best Offseason Acquisition:

Kurtis MacDermid

Awards Won:

Nathan MacKinnon Hart Trophy

Cale Makar Norris Trophy

Bo Byram Calder Trophy

Season Ends:

With a parade.

Avalanche Hang on For 4-3 Win Over Blues

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The Avalanche would battle in the first, dominate the second, then found a way to stem the tide in the third.

The Avalanche entered Enterprise Center for the first time in a year. They were hunting their first win there against the St. Louis Blues since March 18th, 2018. These are not your 2018 Avalanche, or Blues for that matter. This matchup saw a team in the Blues fighting for their playoff lives. Facing the number 1 seed in the league that found out mere hours before the game Philipp Grubauer, the best goalie in the league this year, was put on the COVID-19 list. This means they could see the remainder of their season without their and the the NHL’s number 1 goaltender.

This just meant we all got a look at the newest goalie acquired by Joe Sakic in Devan Dubnyk. Sakic never looked more prescient as he does now when everyone was questioning why they were “wasting” a roster spot on a 3rd goalie. We also got to see an end to the Carl Soderberg/Tyson Jost “controversy” of who would play Center. That was answered mere moments into the first as Soderberg started at Left-Wing and Jost was at his usual Center position.

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St. Louis would come out firing to test the newly-acquired veteran goalie early and often. Too bad for them the Avalanche defense was up to the task, blocking as many shots (8) as Blues had shots-on-goal (8) for the period. The Avalanche, even though falling behind 5-3 in the SOG category, ended up out-shooting the Blues 10-8 by the end of the period. Returning things to normal for the Colorado kids. To go further into the norm, the Avs struck first.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare put his 6th past Jordan Binnington at 10:28 into the first. This was done after some grunt work by JT Compher against the boards, digging the puck out of 3 Blues defenders. he then bounced a pass off Belly that went to Liam O’Brien who promptly tapped it to the deft lefty who put a wrister past Binnington before he could react for his 6th goal of the season.

Here is said goal by Bellemare courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Social Team:

Dubnyk and his mates were up to the constant pressure of the Blues for most of the period. Matching them shot for shot, Blues got a bit more physical though out-hitting the Avs 14-9. The Blues would break through at 15:20 into the period as Vince Dunn put his 6th of the year. Tyler Bozak threaded a perfect pass to Dunn through the middle of the zone that he simply used his stick to redirect just past the right pad of Dubnyk. Both teams would bang each other around for the final 4+ minutes to end the period in a 1-1 tie.

The Blues had to be feeling good being on a 3-game win-streak over the Golden Knights and Wild. Well, the Avalanche had a 3-game streak of their own, albeit a less impressive Ducks/Yotes duo. The Avalanche commenced showing why they are the current #1 seed in the playoffs, their scoring depth. The scoring began quickly at 2:52 into the 2nd period with an opportune goal by Compher as he was rewarded for being in the right place at the right time, as usual, for his 6th. That makes 3 straight players scoring their 6th of the year, do with that what you will. This made it 2-1 Avalanche up.

Here is that goal by JT courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Social Team:

Mikko Rantanen would continue his excellent season parking his 26th of the season past Pinnington on a searing one-timer that went through Liam O’Brien’s legs and over the goalies’ glove arm. This put him within 6 of Auston Matthews who has been pacing the league for most of the season. This does not make it likely for Mikko to overtake the Maple Leaf’s star, but it means the Moose still has a chance if he can keep producing with a couple of big games mixed in. Should be a fun race to watch as we hit the final stretch. This put the Avalanche lead at 3-1 and gave them yet another power-play goal which has quietly been turning into a strength.

Brandon Saad got in on the action at 11:17 into the period when Tyson Jost flaunted the speed flying behind the net and out the right side, then dishing a perfect centering pass to Saad who one-timed it to the net. This built a seemingly commanding 3 goal lead for the Avalanche at 4-1. Dubnyk was doing a great job of holding the Blues at bay, the defense was still blocking shots like men possessed and they ended 2-periods of hockey with that same lead.

Here is some evidence of how insane Dubnyk played at points in this game courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Social Team:

The 3rd period would see the Blues sniper do his job as Mike Hoffman would put in his 12th of the season at 5:55 into the period to draw the Blues to within two at 4-2. He would further the damage from afar with his 13th at 16:44 for the Blues second power-play goal of the game making it 4-3. The Blues tried the strategy of hitting everything moving with a 32-20 hit advantage over the Avalanche. They even outshot the Avalanche 34-28. And the third had the Blues throw everything they had to scratch out at least a point. It was simply too little too late as that ridiculous scoring depth for the Avs (9 different players had a point) was able to survive the late onslaught due to the early lead they built.

Just look at this shot chart for the 3rd period courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

That is a true illustration of “shot disparity”, the last 1:30+ was spent in the Avalanche zone with St. Louis just beating on Dubnyk. The defense was up to the task with 18 total blocked shots, and Dubnyk ended up stopping 31-34 SOG. This Avalanche team is not going to simply beat you into submission physically. They break you mentally, no matter how much effort, how many many on the ice, what defense you play, how you switch, or how hard you hit them. They simply get back up, fly down the ice, then sound the horn. Over, and over, and over again. I’ve never been tortured, nor tortured anyone, but I imagine this has to be how the opposition feels on a nightly basis, pure torturous pain. Avs win 4-3 on their first night without Gru.

Up Next:

Vs L.A. Kings Friday, April 16 at 7:00 PM MST

Where to Watch:

Denver Market: Altitude TV

L.A. Market: Fox Sports West