Home sweet home. The Central Division is what the Avs will call home once again. It does not have the same power as it once had a few years ago, but it doesn’t mean the competition is far from fierce.
The Avalanche is the favorite once again to top the division, but below them is where the chaos will ensue. Second through fifth will be a blood bath this season while Colorado hopefully looks down on it all unfolding. But how they’d do last time out against their division rivals and how have they fared this offseason?
In last year’s regular-season finale for the Avs, it was a throw-away game as their seed in the playoffs was set and they were just looking ahead to the postseason. The Wild were still playing for seeding against the Blues and took advantage of the opportunity, winning 4-1 back on April 29.
Those pesky Wild still have their eyes set on the playoffs and even on the top spot in the Central Division. While it’s a lot easier said than done, they did retain goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury who will look to lead Minnesota from the back.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, they only play three times this season. They’ll be at Xcel Energy Center on October 17 and February 15, while Colorado plays host towards the end of the season on March 29.
Colorado Avalanche vs. St. Louis Blues
This matchup is arguably the one to watch in the Central Division as a whole. Blood boiled over in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the whole Jordan Binnington and Nazem Kadri conundrum. The Avs got the last laugh in the end, winning 3-2 in Game 6 to advance thanks to Darren Helm’s spectacular winner in the dying seconds.
In the regular season, Colorado won out as well at the end of the season back on April 26, 5-3. While Kadri is no longer a member of the Avalanche, the Blues are still upset about how it all went down. While the Blues have lost some firepower in both the offseason and to the IR, they’ll look to bounce back.
They will have to go through Colorado both in the regular season and playoffs if they get there. Whenever these two play this season, it will be one to watch and see how they react to one another. They get four chances at it, twice in Denver on November 14 and January 28, and in St. Louis on December 11 and February 18.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars
While facing off in the preseason a couple of times, the Stars did get the better of the Avs back in the regular season. They handed the champs a hurtful 4-1 loss back on February 15 which left the Avalanche scratching their heads about how they faltered.
Dallas is in a unique spot to once again challenge for a Wild Card spot even with a new coach in Pete Deboer. With Deboer’s former team - the Vegas Golden Knights - looking to get back to the postseason along with the Vancouver Canucks, it will be a challenge.
Re-signing Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger will be key to their success. Now how they put it all together in a run to make it back to the playoffs is to be determined. Of course, they’ll face Colorado four times - November 21 and March 4 in Texas, and November 26 and April 1 in Denver.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators
Last time out, Nashville was swept away by the Avs in Game 4 of Round One in a 5-3 final. In Colorado’s final regular season home game, the Preds did get the better of the Avalanche 5-4 in a shootout but it would not translate over to the playoffs.
The Preds will be in a very similar spot as the previously mentioned Stars. In the thick of the wild card race is where they’ll find themselves. Perhaps a healthy Juuse Saros will be useful as the time comes, along with acquisitions such as Nino Niederreiter and Ryan McDonough to lead the way.
The Preds got an early start to their season with a couple of overseas games against the San Jose Sharks in Prague and look to get a jumpstart from there. They’ll be in Denver on November 10 and December 17, and host the Avs on November 25 and December 23.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Winnipeg Jets
Another loss the Avs suffered was back on April 24 on 4-1 in Winnipeg. Again, it was when the Avalanche was just riding it out to the playoffs and limiting time on their usual starters.
The Jets are in all sorts of trouble but yet still could compete for a wild card spot. They still have one of the best goaltenders in Connor Hellebuyck. They need more though, especially in terms of staying healthy and getting performances from Pierre Luc-Dubois and Mark Scheifele.
The Jets have a few gaps in their schedule from facing the Avs at least, where they’ll be hosting on November 29 and February 24. They do face them early in the season at Ball Arena on October 19 and are the regular season finale for the Avs on April 13.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado fought off a hard-charging Blackhawks team back on January 28 in a 6-4 win at the United Center. Gabriel Landeskog recorded two goals and an assist in the win, while J.T. Compher got a goal and assist himself in this wild game.
The Blackhawks are not what they used to be and have accepted a full-on rebuild. They let go of Kirby Dach and Patrick Kane wants out of Chicago as well. Having a lot of young guns and veteran defensemen including former Avs defender Jack Johnson will make this season a long one.
Luckily for the Hawks, they only have to play the Avs three times this season. One of them is in the coming days for the Avalanche’s Opening Night on October 12 and later on March 20, while hosting the Avs in the Windy City on January 12.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Arizona Coyotes
Finally, the Avalanche was beaten out by the Coyotes in their final visit to Gila River Resort Arena 2-1 back on March 3. The Avs simply did not show up to play against this subpar side but luckily did not harm the Avs’s chances at the top of the West much at all.
Arizona is in for a long season, similarly to the Blackhawks. Having to play in a 5,000-seat college arena at Arizona State University’s campus will be hard for some, and the vibe will not be the same as it would be for a usual NHL team. When one of your goalies who will be playing is former Colorado netminder Jonas Johansson, it should tell you everything you need to know.
The Coyotes won’t see the Avalanche towards the second half of the season which is probably a good thing for them. The Avs visit the new Mullet Arena on December 17 and March 26, while they host the Coyotes within the span of a couple of weeks on March 11 and 24.