So far this season, the Colorado Avalanche have had their rhythm hampered by an incredibly irregular schedule. Through the first two months of the season, the team has already had four different breaks of four full days off. Part of the slow pace of games has to do with the trip to Sweden, but you’d think the schedule maker would try to even it out other places knowing the team would need time off to travel.
Things are about to change.
The Avalanche are about to start a run of nine games over 16 days - including a trip through Pittsburgh and Washington, as well as a home and home series with the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
All told, the team will play 15 games in the month of December - the most in the league. Of those 15 games, the Avs play only three teams with a losing record - Buffalo, Arizona and Florida.
|New Jersey Devils
|@ Tampa Bay Lightning
|@ Florida Panthers
|@ Pittsburgh Penguins
|@ Washington Capitals
|Tampa Bay Lightning
|@ Los Angeles Kings
|@ Arizona Coyotes
|Toronto Maple Leafs
|New York Islanders
The good news is that nine of the 15 games will be at home. The Avalanche have been a completely different team at the Pepsi Centre than they have on the road. Colorado has 67% of their total wins this season in Denver, a home/road split that puts them second behind only Dallas in the Western Conference. So while the schedule is going to be tough, at least they have the advantage of staying at home and playing at altitude most of the month.
The month of December is going to be a make or break one for an Avalanche team that have surprised many onlookers so far this season.
Currently sitting at 12-9-2, the Avs are trying to fight through the logjam that is the Central. Colorado sits 6th in the most competitive division in hockey, but they are a single point behind the first Wildcard position in the West and have at least one game in hand on every team ahead of them.
It's still early, but at the end of the year, we will likely look back and point to December as the month that determined what kind of season the Avs had. A strong month could propel the team into legitimate playoff talks. On the flip side, if it goes the wrong way, the Avs could be heading into the new year as clear sellers, looking to get whatever assets they can for guys like Blake Comeau and Nail Yakupov.
There is some very tough competition, and the team is going to get worn down by all the games, but a winning record this month is entirely possible. If they can continue to be dominant at home and steal a game or two on the road - maybe Florida and Arizona - nine wins out of the 15 games is not out of the question.
One way or the other, the holiday season is going to be a very interesting - and fun - time for Avalanche fans.