Despite missing four of their top-five scorers, the Colorado Avalanche have been on a tear of late. Since the Stadium Series cataclysm, the Avs have earned points in each game since, earning 16-of-18 points dating back to the Air Force Academy.
Scoring has been tough to come by for Colorado, however. In missing four-fifths of the offense, that is to be expected. Nine of the last 11 games — and the last seven in a row — have been decided by just one goal in favor the Avs.
After a very successful February that’s now bled into March, Colorado has surged to within two points (with a game in hand) of the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues, and has extended its cushion on third-place Dallas by a healthy six points.
Vancouver, on the other hand, is welcoming the Avalanche after losing four in a row, while barely hanging on to the final wild card spot in what has become a four-way tie for that final spot.
There’s not too much to not like or nitpick about the Avs’ game recently. Again — and full disclosure, I’m going to mention it a lot because it’s quite an impressive feat — the Avalanche is missing four of their top-five guys and their No. 1 goaltender and are still managing to look like a very strong team. In missing it’s offense, Colorado has become one of the NHL’s best defenses since February.
Since Feb. 1, the Avs are tied with Boston for the most points (26) with a record of 12-3-2, while allowed the second-fewest goals (34-tied) in that span and the lowest average per game (2.00). At nearly 88 percent, the Avs penalty kill has ranked the fourth-best since Feb. 1.
To be expected, however, the offense has stumbled. Since the start of last month, the Avalanche has scored the 15th-most goals while ranking 20th in average goals scored per game and icing a 14th-ranked power play.
With Cale Makar still day-to-day with an injury, fans won’t get to see round two of the “Battle for the Calder Trophy” against Vancouver’s rookie D-man Quinn Hughes. Last time out, Makar and the Avs got the better of Hughes and his Canucks. Makar set a career high in assists and points in a single game (4), including the primary assist on Nathan MacKinnon’s OT winner. Hughes on the other hand notched two helpers and edged Makar in ice time with 23:51.
Gabe Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Vladislav Namestnikov
Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Joonas Donskoi
Vlad Kamenev - Tyson Jost - Val Nichushkin
Sheldon Dries - P-E Bellemare - Logan O’Connor
Ryan Graves - Sam Girard
Erik Johnson - Ian Cole
Mark Barberio - Kevin Connauton
On an exact opposite trend as the Avalanche, the Vancouver Canucks welcome Colorado as the second-worst team in the NHL since Feb. 1.
The Canucks have struggled mightily, donning a record of 5-8-2 for 12 points in their last 15 games. Goal scoring has been just as much of an issue for Vancouver as it has been for the Avs. The Canucks have scored the same amount of goals over the last 15 games as has Colorado. But unlike the Avalanche, Quinn Hughes and the rest of the Canucks’ team defense has struggled, allowing the fourth-most goals in the league (54) over the last month and the third-highest average per game at 3.60.
Despite Vancouver’s offensive struggles, the team owns the third-best power-play unit since Feb. 1, and are the league’s second-best face-off team over that span (54.6 percent).
Tanner Pearson - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen
J.T. Miller - Elias Pettersson - Tyler Toffoli
Antoine Roussel - Adam Gaudette - Zack Macewen
Loui Eriksson - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Motte
Alex Edler - Troy Stecher
Quinn Hughes - Chris Tanev
Oscar Fantenberg - Tyler Myers
With Philipp Grubauer still ailing from an undisclosed lower-body injury, the Avs will continue rolling with Pavel Francouz, who has been forcing the Colorado coaching staff into a difficult conversation to have for when Grubauer returns.
Since Frankie took over the net in the third period the Stadium Series, he’s been the NHL’s best goaltender with a record of 6-0-2. His .934 save percentage and 1.95 goals-against average in that span ranks second and third, respectively, among goalies with at least six starts over the last month.
In the blue paint for the Canucks this evening will likely be Thatcher Demko, who, like the rest of the Canucks, has struggled lately. Demko is 1-4 in his last five starts, carrying an .887 Sv% and a 3.60 GAA. Overall, Demko is 11-9-2 this year with a .904 and a 3.08.
Storylines to Follow
- The Avs are riding a nine-game win streak on the road, a franchise record and tied for the NHL season-high this year.
- Martin Kaut was sent down to the Colorado Eagles on Thursday, a move that was to be expected. Despite his solid performance, to avoid his entry-level contract kicking in, he was sent down before his nine games were used up to save a year on his contract. Kaut tallied two goals and three points in his first eight NHL games, averaging nearly nine minutes per game.
- With Kaut being sent down, the Eagles leading goal scorer, Sheldon Dries, was called up. Expect him to slot in on the fourth line.
- Gabe Landeskog is riding a six-game points streak, recording three goals and four assists in that span.
- Since the Stadium Series, MacKinnon has recorded “just” two goals and eight points over his last 10 games. MacK scored four goals in the entire month of February.
- The Avs’ oldest player is a year older today. Bellemare is celebrating his 35th birthday. Happy birthday, Belly!