Latest Avalanche Win Cements Hold On Northwest, For Now

The Colorado Avalanche dominated the Edmonton Oilers last night, out-skating, out-shooting, and out-scoring them.  Craig Anderson tallied his second shutout of the season (and the month of October), stopping all 25 shots he faced.  The top "Royalty" line of Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski is back to its old scoring ways, too.

Without a doubt, 9-1-2 is far and beyond what anyone expected out of the Avalanche.  In fact, it's so unexpected, it's pretty much unbelievable.  It's astonishing.  The Colorado Avalanche, deep in a rebuilding transition and relying heavily on young prospects, is the best team in the entire NHL after 12 games (15% of the season).  With a new coach, a new number one goalie, a new GM, and a new lease on life, the Avs are dominant.

Last night's win against the Oilers moved the Avalanche to 20 points total.  That's five full points ahead of Calgary, the second place team in the Northwest Division.  Calgary is also the Avs' opponent tonight.  If the Avs win in regulation, they'll be seven points ahead of the next best team.  If they lose in overtime, they'll still be four points ahead.  And even if they lose in regulation, they'll still have a significant three-point lead over their next best rival.  For the Flames to overtake Colorado in the standings, they would have to win tonight, then win their next two games (and Colorado will have to lose their next three), meaning that the earliest Calgary can move into first place is Wednesday, November 4th.  And that's only if they win every game until then and the Avs lose every game.

If the Avs win tonight, the earliest the Flames could overtake them in the division standings would be November 7th, and that's only if they win their next four games (Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, Rangers) and the Avs lose all of their next four.  The odds are not in the Flame-Outs' favor.

Slogging through this little mental exercise illustrates the fact that the strong early run by the Avalanche has put them in an extremely good position.  Though they still have 70 games to play, each early win gives them more wiggle room later in the year.  They can lose a couple of games now and it not be the end of the world.  Last year, they didn't have that luxury.  Hovering around .500 through the first half of 2008-09 meant the Avs couldn't fall apart without losing their playoff spot.  They did fall apart and we know how that went. 

So far it looks like we might not have to endure that kind of agony again.

Notes from last night's game:

  • Ryan O'Reilly's point-scoring streak ended at seven games.  He still played well, however, and remains second in scoring among NHL rookies.  He's also +10. 
  • Paul Stastny has four points in his last two games and five in his last four.  He seems to have overcome his first brief scoring drought of the year. 
  • Wojtek Wolski is on pace to score 48 goals, 34 assists and 82 points.  That would be almost four times the number of goals he scored last season, and nearly twice as many total points.
  • Craig Anderson has extended the franchise record for wins by a goalie in the month of October to nine.
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