The season is finally here. Starting three months late and in circumstances the sports world never expected, the NHL will drop the puck tonight on the 2021 season in the hopes that things don’t get de-railed by a pandemic that is still wreaking havoc on North America. With an expanded roster, quarantine restrictions and a condensed schedule, this season is going to be a lot different - but should a heck of a lot of fun.
Despite being moved to the West Division, the Avalanche will kick off this season with a familiar foe. Colorado will begin their schedule with two games against the St. Louis Blues as they hope to set the tone for a season in which many expect the Avalanche to be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Colorado Avalanche: 0-0-0
The Opponent: St. Louis Blue (0-0-0)
Puck drop: 8:30 MT
Watch: NBCSN, Altitude,
Listen: Altitude 92.5, AM 950
RETURN TO GLORY #GoAvsGo— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) January 13, 2021
Tonight, the journey begins. pic.twitter.com/5XUo2zTGPb
After an overtime loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinal, the Avalanche come into this season as the betting favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
When the regular season was cut short last season, the Avalanche were sitting only two points out of first in the Western Conference, with a game in hand - and that’s while being ravaged by injuries. A team led by stars and loaded with depth, it’s hard to pinpoint any glaring weaknesses in the lineup.
No longer a “young, up and coming team”, the Avs are set to take the next step and prove that they belong in the conversation as the best in the NHL. A team already loaded with talent, the Avs added veterans Brendan Saad and Devon Toews in the offseason without making any significant subtractions from the lineup.
With the Hart Trophy favorite Nathan MacKinnon and Norris contender Cale Makar leading the way, this is a team that should not only win a lot of games but that will likely be very fun to watch all season.
Erik Johnson - who has missed all of camp after testing positive for COVID - will be available to return to the team on Saturday if all goes well.
Andre Burakovsky - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog - Nazem Kadri - Brandon Saad
Joonas Donskoi - J.T. Compher - Val Nichushkin
Matt Calvert - P-E Bellemare - Tyson Jost
Devon Toews - Cale Makar
Samuel Girard - Conor Timmins
Ryan Graves - Ian Cole
The Avalanche will start with Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers, Logan O’Connor, Kiefer Sherwood, Dennis Gilbert and Hunter Miska on the taxi squad
St. Louis Blues
For the first time in recent memory, the St. Louis Blues will begin the season without Alex Pietrangelo anchoring the blue line. The veteran all star decided to move on to Vegas this offseason, leaving the Blues without a captain. In order to fill the hole, the Blues spent a lot of money to bring in former Boston Bruin defender Torey Krug. While the assumption exists that the Blues blueline will not be as formidable this season, the downgrade from Pietrangelo to Krug isn’t as big as some think.
The cap savings also allowed the Blues to sign Mike Hoffman to a one year contract. He should help bolster the team’s top-6 and add an extra offensive punch that was missing last season.
The team will also be moving on from veterans Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Steen. The two members of the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions both decided to retire this offseason due to health concerns.
As long as he’s healthy, Philipp Gurbauer is going to be the starter for the Avalanche. Having a backup like Pavel Francouz to spell him frequently during the regular season is a huge bonus for the team but it’s Grubauer who will carry the lion’s share of the work. Before having his postseason cut short by an injury, Grubauer was playing some outstanding goaltending posting a .922 sv% through seven games.
Despite being the better of their two goalies last season, the Blues traded away Jake Allen in the offseason. The team is ready is ready to have Ville Husso backing up with Jordan Binnington acting as the undisputed number one. The 27-year old will enter his third NHL season hoping to bounce back from the step backwards he had last season.