Will the real Colorado Avalanche please stand up?
Is it the aggressive, uptempo team that pressures opponents in the neutral zone to generate transition opportunities? That team has won 7 out of the last 10, including a 4-1 victory last night against Dallas. Or is it the listless team version such as the team that gave up 4 third period goals to Anaheim while being outshot 42-17.
The Avalanche got another big game out of their top line of Wojtek Wolski, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart and if this keeps up, we're going to need to come up with a nickname for this line. The trio had 13 of the Avs' 33 shots and 4 points (to give them 41 in the last 12 games). Chris Stewart had a key third period goal to effectively seal the win (the Avs took a 2-0 lead into the 3rd period, but after Dallas cut the lead to 2-1. Until Stewart scored, the fear of a repeat of Tuesday's meltdown was hanging in the air of the sold out Pepsi Center).
It wasn't just a one-line effort, though. Matt Duchene, T.J. Galiardi and Milan Hejduk contributed a goal and Chris Durno scored his first NHL goal as the 4th line contributed both energy and a little offense.
And none of those players was the star of the game. That honor would go to Peter Budaj, getting a rare start for an under-the-weather Craig Anderson. Budaj was simply brilliant. Again. He looks like a completely different goalie this year; he still has that rock-solid technical base but he seems greatly improved in his reaction time this year. His GAA in 7 December appearances is 1.32 and his save percentage is .957, head and shoulders better than Anderson's 3.09 / .900 month. Clearly, Anderson is Joe Sacco's man, as Budaj has just 2 starts this year when Anderson was healthy. If the two keep playing as they have been, though, how long before Sacco stops being so damn stubborn about this. I mean, he eventually stopped playing David Koci every night, right?
Of all the areas the Avalanche could stand to improve (powerplay, shots against, faceoffs), the biggest may be the "c" word. No, not that one. I mean consistency. The Avalanche have shown they can compete with any team in the NHL. Now they need to prove that they are willing to do so on a regular basis. If they can pull that off, we might just start using the "p" word when talking about the team. And, yeah, I mean playoffs.