With a win Tuesday night against the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets, the Colorado Avalanche are now on a three-game winning streak and have won four of their last five games. All told, the Avs have points in nine of their last twelve and are playing some of their best hockey in years.
With a record of 20-16-3, the Avalanche now have more wins than losses for the first time since early November. They are out of the basement of the Central and are now sporting a positive goal differential - the number one indicator in projecting playoff vs non-playoff teams.
It's only the start of January, and the Avalanche aren’t even at the mid-way point of the season yet, so looking at the standings has to be done with a huge grain of salt. That said, the team now sits only three points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the second wildcard playoff position - with two games in hand.
At 19-14-8, the Ducks are being buoyed by the extra point for overtime losses. The Avalanche have both more wins and a better goal differential than Anaheim.
The next bunch of games are going to go a long way in any sort of excitement we might see going forward. After tomorrow’s game against the Blue Jackets, the next four are against the Wild, Stars, Ducks and Sharks - the four teams directly above Colorado in the standings. If the Avs can come away from the next five games with six or seven points, things are going to get very interesting as we approach February.
The team has been playing incredibly well lately, but there are still a number of obstacles to overcome. The offence is nearly non-existent from anyone outside of the top line. Add to that, the fact that the team has been getting goaltending that is well below average and it’s a little amazing that the team has been winning as often as they have.
The Avalanche currently sit 9th in the Western Conference in 5v5 goal differential and in the bottom third of the NHL in CF% - so calling the Avs ‘good’ might be getting ahead of ourselves. Though, when you take out the month of October, the Avs look a lot better in comparison to the rest of the league.
Since the start of November, the Avs 5th in the entire NHL in goals scored per game - thank you Nathan MacKinnon. They also sit in the top-10 for both powerplay (10th) and penalty kill (6th).
This team is getting better than it’s only going to continue to trend upwards.
The Avalanche sit tied for second in the NHL this season for points from players 22-years of age and younger. Outside of Erik Johnson (who isn’t even 30 yet), the core of this team is incredibly young. And this doesn’t include high-end youngsters like Vladislav Kamenev, Cale Makar and Conor Timmins that should start making an impact over the next two seasons.
It might be early to worry about the standings, but as we move into the second half of the season the ‘P word’ isn’t going to be as taboo as it would have seemed back in September.
The Avalanche have been drastically outperforming expectations so far this season, and more importantly, they are very young and very fun to watch. The playoffs are still unlikely - unless Varlamov can stay healthy and improve his play drastically - but the future is very bright in Denver.