While the 82-game season is full of ups and downs, there is a tremendous amount of panic amongst Avalanche fans early in the season. After a memorable season last year, many hoped they would build on that and at least compete for a playoff spot. Fifteen games in and a 4-6-5 record has brought on serious anxiety.
Whether it is the coaches, players or fans, this four-game eastern swing coming up has the feeling of a crucial trip. Meetings against the Flyers (Saturday), Islanders (Tuesday), Rangers (Thursday) and Devils (next Saturday) could define the opening part of the season, one way or another.
The panic comes from the fact that the Avs have won just four of their 15 games so far this season. What's keeping the team afloat are the loser points the team managed to collect and the impressive penalty kill. Other than that things look pretty grim.
During last seasons' sensational run, the Avs owned the road. Their 26-11-4 mark away from Denver was the best in the NHL. So far in 2014-2015, the group is 1-3-3.
The Avs are 2-2-5 in one-goal games, (2-3-5 if you count the Ottawa game) and it's probably fair to say they've been slightly unfortunate they haven't picked up a couple more points. No one believed the team would be able to sustain their 28-4-8 mark in one-goal contests from last year, but if this team wants to compete for a playoff spot their current trend
But back to the road trip and the even more harsh reality. Which of those four teams are the Avs better than right now?
Philadelphia Flyers (6-5-2)
I’lll keep these short, not to step on the preview for each game. The Flyers are in the midst of the softest four-game homestand you will ever see, and are taking care of business (ack-to-back 4-1 win over Edmonton and Florida) After some bizarre early season losses Philadelphia appears to have righted the ship. Seventh-year winger Jakub Voracek is tied for the NHL lead with 19 points, and linemate Claude Giroux is right behind him with 15.
Brooklyn New York Islanders: (8-5)
Oops, kind of jumped the gun there. General manager Garth Snow has gotten a lot of flack in New York in his tenure, but he pulled off two brilliant trades on the eve of the NHL season. It's one thing to bring in players like Leddy and Boychuk (yea that guy again), it's another to bring them in and have them fill in the exact role you envisioned. Boychuk is a beast on the power play (seven power play points in 13 games) and Leddy has logged 20 minutes per game while not being a complete dumpster fire on the back end.
The Islanders have jumped out to a great start despite the abysmal goaltending duo of Jaraslav Halak and Chad Johnson. If that area can improve – you'd imagine so with the Slovakian wall back there – New York could be an Eastern Conference sleeper.
Of course the Avalanche torched the Isles 5-0 in Denver, but Varly was forced to make 40 saves, including a game-high six from Boychuk. Another improved team awaits on the trip.
New York Rangers (6-4-2)
The Eastern Conference champions have sort of slept-walked through their opening stretch, alternating good performances with not so good ones. The team's matchup at MSG last year was probably the worst game Colorado played all season, and I was lucky to take that one in person.
New Jersey Devils (6-5-2)
The team that finished third last year in Corsi For percentage yet missed the playoffs completely currently sits on 14 points from 13 games. Like most of the teams in the league, it’s been a bit of an up-and-down stretch for the Devils. They are coming off a pair of losses to St. Louis, so there is that. After waiting virtually his entire career to get a fulltime starting gig in net, goalie Corey Schneider has been, well, average.
Of course no four-game stretch is vital; picking one out of 82 seems absurd. Last season, the Avs were 2-2 on this trip (and only really played well against the Islanders) and the rest of the season worked out just fine. It just feels there is more on the line this time around, because an 0-3-1 stretch or something similar may bury the team for the season.
What say you #Avsfam? How important do you think this trip is? How many points are we looking for here?