Continuing on the home stand the Colorado Avalanche hosted the Chicago Blackhawks for the final time this season and walked away with a 2-0 victory. While the slow starts are becoming an alarming theme the Avalanche just keep finding ways to win on the back of Pavel Francouz’s second straight shutout and 16th consecutive win on home ice at Ball Arena.
It was another slow start for the Avalanche as they fought the puck the entire first period and gave up a bunch of odd-man rushes off of turnovers. Luckily Pavel Francouz was up to the task and did not allow a puck past him which gave the Avalanche time to regroup.
In the second period the Avalanche started finding their offensive game and peppered Chicago goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 15 shots on goal in the frame. It was a fairly innocent shot on the power play from Nazem Kadri which trickled through and finally got the Avalanche on the board at 11:24.
An insurance goal is what the Avalanche needed and finally received at 6:41 in the third period. Gabe Landeskog sent a fantastic pass to a wide open Mikko Rantanen who knew he had the time to pick his spot with Fleury already down and did not miss on a filthy backhand shot.
The goal allowed the Avalanche to really settle into their game and structure in order to shut the door and bring home the victory. For a team which began the game so discombobulated they brought a maturity to the ice when it was time to take care of business. Francouz made 24 saves in a 2-0 final as the Avalanche become just the sixth team in NHL history to win 16 consecutive games at home.
On a night where the top players still looked mentally fatigued it was Samuel Girard who stepped up particularly in the first period with several key defensive stops and plays in the offensive zone. He has been able to elevate his game lately while the other defensemen have had their struggles. The fourth line of Mikhail Maltsev, Tyson Jost and Nicolas Aube-Kubel had some nice hard forechecking shifts and scoring chances early on when the rest of the team didn’t have a lot to give as well.
Now the Avalanche sit at the top of the league tied at 61 points with the Florida Panthers with two games in hand or outright if their points percentage of .762 is taken into consideration. It feels like the Avalanche are hitting their stride in a similar fashion to last season when they won the Presidents’ Trophy. The only problem is they still have 42 regular season games to go before getting to the playoffs.
Devon Toews and Cale Makar were clearly not at their best in this contest, and haven’t been for a little while, but Makar still played nearly 27 minutes. The upcoming All-Star break will provide respite for those logging heavy minutes but the schedule picks right back up again in March and April. Managing the roster properly will become critical as the team moves into the second half of the season.
An Eastern Conference foe comes to town in the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, January 26th at 8pm MT as the game will be televised nationally on TNT.