Yes, if you cannot believe it, we are halfway through the Colorado Avalanche season.
Monday night’s 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins in the shootout marked the halfway point in the season. It seems as though it has gone by quickly, with plenty of disparities and different looks for the team.
We’ve seen very different looks and wins for the team - even in the last 10 games - showing the disparity of the team. Throughout all the changes and differences in the team, one thing remains the same: the dominance of Nathan MacKinnon.
Particularly in December, he’s been on a tear, and changing the history books. His 29 points in 15 games in the final month of 2023 was a new franchise record between the Avalanche and Quebec Nordiques. He has been the stalwart leader of the team, no doubt.
⭐ Nathan MacKinnon, who found the score sheet in all but one outing, paced the NHL with 18 assists and 29 points and set a franchise record for points in a single calendar month, besting Peter Stastny in Feb. 1981 (12-16—28 in 12 GP w/ QUE).#NHLStats: https://t.co/fjH18wJX9g pic.twitter.com/3A8613MQCg— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 2, 2024
Besides him, Jonathan Drouin has come into his own after a slow start himself. He now has 21 points and is easily on track to get at least 40 points and maybe more if he keeps playing with a streaking MacKinnon centering him. At only $825K, he is one of the steals of the offseason so far with some already wanting him to be re-signed longer term.
In defense, there may have been the biggest questions thus far. Particularly from Alexandar Georgiev, who has struggled at points with only a .894 save percentage and 2.98 goals against average. However, a deeper dive into his stats shows he has a -7.9 in goals saved above average, ranking towards the bottom of the league.
He should be saving more shots than he has been, hurting the Avalanche when they may need a save. With the trade deadline upcoming, perhaps the Avs may be in the market not only for more forward depth but also as a netminder. But at least he made this crazy sequence happen and is okay from it!
The team will be getting reinforcements soon. All of Miles Wood, Josh Manson, and Bowen Byram are all listed as day-to-day with illness and lower body injuries respectively. Meanwhile, Artturi Lehkonen who has still been hurt with his neck injury dating back to October, is practicing in a regular sweater. He still has some time before getting back into game action, but his return will be welcomed greatly.
Also forgotten in the shadows is the imminent arrival of Nikolai Kovalenko at the end of the KHL season in March. He has been good in Russia while battling injury himself, with 29 points in 27 games. He will slot in nicely in the middle six of the Avalanche gasping for help in point producing.
Nikolai Kovalenko with a nice shorthanded goal a few minutes ago. pic.twitter.com/xQN7470cUy— Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) September 24, 2023
And finally, it wouldn't be a season check-in without seeing how Gabriel Landeskog is doing. Now back in Colorado, he is preparing to start skating for the first time after having surgery. He was always going to miss the entire 2023-24 season, and the timeline has always been eyeing a return to the team for the playoffs in April.
His recovery has gone “well,” but it may even be a stretch to see him appear in the playoffs. He would need to start skating soon and get to an acceptable level in a matter of months to get to that point. The next few months are crucial to see how he is skating if he is joining the team in skates, and much more - not just for this season, but his career. Hopefully, we get to see something like this again though.
Compared to this point last season, the Avalanche are in a much better spot. As I said last time in this series, the fanbase is spoiled after winning the Stanley Cup in 2022. Controlling, dominant wins are in the Avalanche’s DNA and are the expectation. When it doesn’t happen, there can be calls for changes.
Regardless, at this time last season, the Avs were much more injured and out of a playoff spot. A streak of wins with an “easier” schedule propelled them to the top of the Central Division at season’s end. This season, the Avs are better as a whole but have a much tougher schedule to end the season. It does not get any easier from here.
7-1-1 in last 9 games, 10-3-1 in last 14— Brendan McNicholas (@bmcnich) January 9, 2024
8-1-0 in last 9 home games & continue to lead @NHL w/ 17 home wins (17-5-0)
8-4-0 vs. East, 7-2-0 at home. 5-1-0 last 6 home GP vs. BOS
13th comeback win of season, tied for 2nd in NHL
85-48 (.639) all-time in shootouts, best in NHL
There are certainly lessons to take from games in the first half of the season, and plenty to learn from as well. As the first half is left in the rear-view mirror, the Avs have their attention on a tough second half looking for a fourth straight division title.
With eight more games to go until the NHL All-Star Break, the Avs have it all in front of them and can continue to go up. How they do it, if they do it, is up to them. We just have to get on the Avalanche and see where it takes us.