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Game 67 Preview: Panthers at Avalanche

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Florida Panthers
7 MT / 9 ET / 2 GMT
Colorado Avalanche
27-28-10 March 10th
37-23-6
64 pts Pepsi Center
80 pts
12th in East
Denver, CO
6th in West

 

The Colorado Avalanche host the Florida Panthers tonight, the last time the Avalanche will face an Eastern Conference team this year...until the Stanley Cup Finals, of course. The Panthers have won three in a row since breaking out of a 7-game losing streak. Although they are 12th in their conference, they are just 6 points behind the final playoff spot, so they have plenty of incentive to come out fighting tonight.

Last night, Paul gave you a look at what the Avalanche are looking at the rest of the way. And I have absolutely no desire to rehash what happened with our Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players on Tuesday night. Instead, I thought we could look at what happened in the 66th game last season.

Last year, the Avalanche got a surprising 5-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win snapped a 6-game losing streak  - all regulation losses - over which the Avs were outscored 26-10. The relief would be short-lived, however, as the Avs would be shutout by Atlanta in their next game (the 8th out of 12 shutouts on the season) and Colorado would manage just 3 wins over the rest of the season. (Speaking of last year's team, according to our friends at BalticReports.com, the Riga Dinamo are in the playoffs without the services of old friend Tyler Arnason. Arnason has reportedly been demoted to the Dinamo's farm club.)

In that 2009 game, Milan Hejduk scored his 25th goal on the way to a team-leading 27th. In the same game, Chris Stewart scored his 10th goal. On Tuesday, Stewart notched his 25th and Matt Duchene potted his 22nd and 23rd. In game 66 last year, Marek Svatos scored his 14th, and final, goal of the season. He finished 4th on the team in goals. Four Avs have already topped the 14-mark this year, and 2 more are just two behind that pace. On Tuesday, Paul Stastny had an assist to give him 62 points on the season. That point total already tops the 59 put in by Hejduk and Ryan Smyth last year to lead the team.

The 2009-2010 Avalanche have already scored more goals in 66 games than the 2008-2009 Avalanche did all of last season. This year's team needs just 4 PP goals to top last-year's kitten-killing output. The Avs have cut their goals allowed per game by about a half a goal. And, of course, they've already topped last seasons totals in wins and points. Last year, the hapless Avs had an 8-game losing streak, a 6-game losing streak, a 5-game losing streak and 3 4-game losing streaks. The Avs' longest losing streak this year is 3-games.

In other words, the Avalanche have made monumental strides this year. Despite some missteps, they are a team that is substantially better in every facet of the game. While we've seen that they may not quite be ready to hang in there with the upper echelon teams in the league yet, the key word in that phrase is "yet". The Avalanche have improved so quickly and dramatically that I think we're guilty of perhaps taking them for granted at times. This is still a team in the middle of a rebuild. We can get down when the team gets their lumps...just as long as we remember to shower these Young Guns with praise when they are kicking the hell out of our expectations.

I've got the recap tonight. Go Avs!

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