Now this is the Colorado Avalanche team we all know and love. In less than 24 hours, the Avs have been able to grab four points in the standings with wins over Central Division rivals.
After beating the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night, the Avalanche went in to Nashville and beat the Predators in what might be their most impressive win of the season. Philipp Grubauer was a huge reason for the win as the Avs didn’t just beat Nashville, they embarrassed them on the scoreboard as the game ended 5-0.
With the win, the Avalanche are now tied with the Dallas Stars for the first Wild Card playoff spot in the Western Conference.
It didn’t take long for the Avalanche to get on the board as Nathan MacKinnon scored his 31st of the season a little more than three minutes into the game. The goal came on a beautiful one timer as MacKinnon took a perfect pass from Nikita Zadorov and wired the puck top shelf over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne.
Though they got out to the early lead, the Avalanche did look sluggish at times through the first getting out shot 10-5 in the first frame. Thanks to some very solid play from Philipp Grubauer, Colorado was able to hold the lead at 1-0 going into the first intermission.
Though the Avalanche looked better in the second, they weren’t able to get out to the quick start we saw at the start of the game. Eventually, the Avs were forced to kill off a few penalties, but on the back of their netminder, they were able to hold on long enough to get a powerplay of their own. With Dan Hamhuis in the penalty box, Alex Kerfoot scored his 11th of the season when he put the puck into a wide open net after a nice play by Mikko Rantanen.
Colorado wasn’t content to sit on the 2-0 lead. A little more than three minutes later, it was the captain who was able to push the lead even further. Playing 4-on-4, Gabriel Landeskog finished off a beautiful give-and-go play with Samuel Girard to make the game 3-0 after 40 minutes.
The second intermission seemed to light a fire under the home team as the Predators came out flying for the final period. That said, a ton of pressure, a lopsided shot count and an early powerplay wasn’t enough to get a puck past the red hot Grubauer. Colorado’s goaltending has been their downfall for most of the season, but if ever there were a 5-0 game that a goalie stole, this was it.
Grubauer held Nashville off the score board long enough for Nathan MacKinnon to draw a boarding penalty on Mattias Ekholm with about 12 minutes left in the game. After Tyson Barrie gave a text book clinic on quarterbacking a powerplay, he eventually got the puck to MacKinnon who was waiting on his favorite spot on the ice. MacKinnon blasted home his 32nd goal of the season to put the Avalanche up 4-0 and all but seal the victory.
Nikita Zadorov was able to add a little bit of garbage-time insurance as he unloaded a rocket from the blue line that got past Rinne with only three minutes left in the game. It was Zadorov’s 10th point of the season and the goal would make the final 5-0 in favor of the Avalanche.
That is four wins in a row, and five in Colorado’s last six games. A season that once seemed lost is looking promising once again as the Avs push their way back into the playoff picture.
After a very long rough stretch for the Avalanche goaltenders, the netminding duo has stepped up in a huge way over the last 10 days.
Now it looks like we’ve got ourselves a good ol’ fashioned goaltending controversy. Who starts Monday night against Florida? Philipp Grubauer; the man coming off his first shutout as a member of the Avalanche or Semyon Varlamov; the long time starter that has stopped 161 of the last 168 shots he’s faced?
This is a good problem to have.