It’s been tough going for the Colorado Avalanche since the All-Star Break (you could even say since December), but it looks like they’ve begun to turn the tide around following a 3-0 shutout win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night. Tonight, the Avs face another top-tier team in the Western Conference in the Winnipeg Jets.
It’s been a while since the Avalanche got solid goaltending in a game. Not only did Semyon Varlamov stop everything he faced on Monday night, but imbued the confidence in his skaters to play their style, not worry about giving up shots to the outside, and take chances. As one of the best shot-differential teams in the league, the Avalanche are at their best when they take advantage of their offense.
Mikko Rantanen has slowed down lately — he just hasn’t looked like himself to me, he’s getting worked up and emotional more than I’m used to — but his linemates are finding ways to carry the offense, along with the dominant Soderberg line. Anything from the young second and fourth lines would be gravy at this point.
On defense, my only issue is the third pair. They’re prone to mistakes and I personally don’t think Zadorov’s style is congruent with the style of this team. Sure, every team needs toughness, but Zadorov hasn’t convinced me provides enough when it comes to creating offense and providing defense.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Andrew Agozzino - Alexander Kerfoot - J.T. Compher
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
A.J. Greer - Tyson Jost - Sven Andrighetto
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ryan Graves - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov
Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler share the team lead in points with 68 in 59 games. The big difference between the two is that one (Scheifele) has 30 goals, while the other (Wheeler) only has 12. No one in the league has ever scored 100 points without potting 20 goals in a season before. Wheeler has the best chance of that. This all feels very ironic since Wheeler was always known as a power forward scorer.
It’s crazy how drastically players can change their play style if they commit to it. The other example of this I can think of is that Steven Stamkos is now a premier passer in the league as a result of maturing in his role as a center. Also that dude who’s going to win the Hart sometimes on his left.
Kyle Connor - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Patrik Laine - Bryan Little - Jack Roslovic
Mathieu Perreault - Adam Lowry - Brandon Tanev
Brendan Lemieux - Andrew Copp - Mason Appleton
Josh Morrissey - Jacob Trouba
Dmitry Kulikov - Tyler Myers
Ben Chiarot - Sami Niku
We should have confirmation of who’ll be starting in the game after morning skates in Denver, but for now, I think it’s a safe bet that Semyon Varlamov gets the start for the Avalanche.
In 39 starts, Varlamov has a .909 save percentage on 1063 shots this season. Monday night was his second shutout of the season.
In Winnipeg, there’s a bit of a goalie controversy going on. Connor Hellebuyck has been the starter for the team, but his numbers haven’t been great. Laurent Broissoit’s .931 SV% is 20 points better than Hellebuyck’s .911. That’s all in only 15 games, so give those numbers a grain of salt. I think Hellebuyck still ends up being the guy; they trust him like no other in the playoffs, but it’ll be interesting to see who gets more starts down the stretch. It’s so nice to have a backup with good numbers who can keep the starter’s minutes down.