After a white-hot start, the Colorado Avalanche are beginning to look human again. Having started the season 6-1-2, the Avs have started to slip, going 1-2-0 in their last three contests. However disheartening that record may seem, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looks.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The last three games started with a loss to Tampa Bay at home. Losing at home is never good, especially with how tight the Avs have played in Pepsi Center over the last twelve months – but there is good news here. Holding last year’s league leader in goals scored to one is a good sign that this young core can truly contend with the best teams in the league. The fact that the only goal came with a man advantage makes it truly exciting. A newfound physicality is surely to thank, as Ian Cole and Matt Calvert continue to make it uncomfortable for opposing teams. This team is rock solid, and the Bolt’s captain Steven Stamkos agreed. “That’s a really good hockey team over there” he said during his postgame interview.
Game two, the first of a two day back-to-back set, was a win at home over Ottawa. It also marked Matt Duchene‘s return to Denver. In his first game back since being traded away last November, Duchene found paydirt twice early, giving the Senators a 2-0 and 3-1 leads respectively. After Duchene’s second goal around halfway through the second period, the Avalanche roared back, scoring five unanswered goals for a final score of 6-3. The team now has three of the top six point scorers in the league with Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon scoring a combined ten points against the Sens. Samuel Girard also found the back of the net, scoring the first goal from a defenseman this season. After what may be the ugliest period of hockey they’ve played the season, seeing them turn it around is a huge test of mental toughness for such a young team.
Then, there’s game three. The second day of the back-to-back saw Colorado flying to Minnesota to face the Wild on less than 24 hours rest. Call it a trap game, call it a scheduled loss, call it whatever you’d like, but keeping it close is fantastic. Mark Barberio found the back of the net in his return and Gabe Landeskog scored late with an extra attacker to keep it close, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the Wild, who won by a final score of 3-2.
Don’t start hitting the panic button just yet – It’s a long season, they’re going to lose some games, and that’s okay. The Avalanche are still in second in the Central division, Mikko still leads the league in points, and they still have the best line in all of hockey. On top of all of that, the team gets a chance to rest. After playing seven games in twelve days, Colorado doesn’t play again until Thursday night, when they head to Calgary to face the Flames.
They’re going to be okay. Really.