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Central Division Gauntlet Week

The Avs will look to improve their record against division rivals this week

Courtesy of Getty Images
Getty Images

This week is going to be interesting, and will be absolutely vital if the Avs hope to make the playoffs this season and have a successful strong start to this season. At the moment the Avs are 4-3-0 and are sitting in the second wildcard spot behind the Calgary Flames. Obviously, none of this matters know but early starts are extremely important in the Central division.

As a hockey fan, we have to absolutely love this week of games.

Tuesday, November 1st vs Nashville Predators

After acquiring PK Subban from the Montreal Canadians in the blockbuster trade of the offseason, the Predators have struggled to begin this season as they are 2-5-1 and seventh in the Western Conference standings ahead of the Arizona Coyotes. Subban has not contributed as much as people thought he would with 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 8 games with a -7 rating compared to Shea Weber who has been able to produce offensively for the Canadians with ten points ( 4 goals, 6 assists) with a plus 12 rating.

The Predators are 0-4-0 on the road so far this season, which should give fans hope for an Avalanche victory tomorrow night. However, of course mostly depends on what Avalanche squad comes out to play, if it is the one who we have seen be able to out hustle and outshoot their opponents then the night will go well. If it is the team that comes out slow, and allow the first period to belong to the Predators, it could be a rough night.

Now, what do the Avs have to do to win?

1. They have to get off to a strong start. If the Avs can come out of the gate flying and being able to find the back of the net early, I see the victory going in the Avs favor. Against a team who is struggling like the Predators are, they will be hungry to get their first road victory of the season. So to shut that down right off the bat, the Avs have to come out with a lot of energy and be disciplined.

2. Have to play smart. The Avs have to not allow themselves to take stupid penalties early into the game, as that often sets the tempo. The penalty kill has been doing fantastic as of late, but if any opponent has enough chances on the powerplay they will eventually find the back of the net. Let the Predators get frustrated and take undisciplined penalties, and capitalize on those opportunities.

3. Core players have to lead the charge. Matt Duchene is on fire right now, as he has been able to produce 7 points in the last four games. The rest of the players should look to him to start the scoring for the boys tomorrow night. Nathan MacKinnon has had a successful early season after a wonderful World Cup of Hockey stint, producing 6 points in seven games. However, something that I would love to see from MacKinnon is for him to find the back of the net more often with one goal in the past seven games.

Prediction for the game: 3-1 Avalanche victory

Thursday, November 3rd at Chicago Blackhawks

This is where things should really heat up.

The Blackhawks are off to another impressive start this season as they are 3rd in the Central division with a record of 5-3-1, coming off of a 3-0 shutout against the LA Kings. Visiting the Blackhawks is never an easy game, but the Avalanche usually have their best games against them. That is why I really am not all that nervous when it comes to this game, especially considering how well the Avs have been playing.

To come away with the victory, the Avs will practically do the same things that were listed off for the Predators game. Against a team like the Blackhawks you cannot come out with zero energy, and no jump in your step. The Avalanche will have to come out on fire and play a full sixty minute game if they hope to defeat the Blackhawks.

It is another division rival and things will get heated, but the Avalanche will have to compose themselves and stay out of the penalty box. This season the Blackhawks are ranked tenth with a 23.7 powerplay percentage, which may not be a large number but against an elite team such as the Blackhawks being undisciplined will make for a quick defeat.

Prediction: 2-1 Avs (Possibly in overtime or shootout)

Saturday, November 5th vs the Minnesota Wild

This is the game that everyone has had circled on their calendars when the schedule was first released, I sure as hell did.

Apart from the preseason games we had against the Wild, this will be the first regular season game against the Central division leaders in this early season as the Wild hold a 6-2-1 record with a 2nd place standing in goal differential with +13, only being behind the Canadians.

As always, this will be a rough game. The Wild have had the Avs number the past few seasons, and we all absolutely hate it. The Avs will have to play a nearly perfect full game if they want to win this game against their rivals; meaning the Avs have to come out strong each and every period and play a full sixty minutes. Being disciplined cannot be emphasized enough against the Wild, as in the past we have tried to bruise them up and have been demolished.

Fact of the matter is this; if the Avs can come out and play the way we know they can against the Wild, we can expect another playoff atmosphere showdown.

Prediction: 3-1 Avs