Colorado Avalanche off to flying start

The Colorado Avalanche have gone 7-1-1 to start the new NHL season and shared the league lead with the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres as of October 21st with a game in hand on both teams. Like last season, the Avalanche is relying on their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog to handle the majority of the scoring and they haven’t disappointed. MacKinnon had four goals and seven assists after eight outings while Rantanen had chipped in with five goals and six helpers and Landeskog had posted three goals and four assists.

However, Colorado is no longer regarded as a “one-line team” since the squad is getting some much-appreciated secondary scoring from several players early on. This may be a surprise to some fans since general manager Joe Sakic made several player moves during the offseason. He traded Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes as well as Alexander Kerfoot and high-scoring defenseman Tyson Barrie to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sakic received centre Nazem Kadri and blue line prospect Calle Rosen from Toronto and signed forwards Joonas Donskoi and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare as free agents. He also added Valeri Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky to the roster.

The 29-year-old Kadri was the most well known of the newcomers and he’s registered three goals and five points in eight games. He adds grit, experience and skill to the lineup and can also be useful on the power-play if needed. Burakovsky may be the most pleasant surprise though as the 24-year-old Austrian winger had four goals and eight points after eight contests. Donskoi had helped out with three goals and six points while defensive forwards Bellemare and Nichushkin had combined for four points in 13 games. The team was also getting offensive help from the blue line as 20-year-old rookie Cale Makar had seven points in eight games, and Ian Cole had four points in four.

Other players pulling their weight include Tyson Jost and Matt Calvert with five points each in eight games and J.T. Compher with four points in five encounters. Of course, the big question for the Avalanche right now is when will the bubble burst? Will the team continue to roll for most of the season or will the offensive production tail off? After eight games the club was leading the NHL in scoring with an 4.38 goals per game while the league average was 2.99. Their power-play was ranked 15th in the league at 20 per cent while the penalty-killing was sixth best at 87 per cent.

Defensively, the squad had the tenth-best goals-against average at 2.63. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer had five wins with a 2.79 GAA and 91.9 save percentage while new backup Pavel Francouz had won both of his games with a 1.95 GAA and owned the second-best save percentage in the league at 95.1 per cent. Overall, the Avalanche have gotten off to an excellent start in 2019/20 as the top line is getting help from the rest of the lineup and rearguard Makar has shown he can replace the departed Tyson Barrie’s offensive output.

Like all teams though, the Avalanche will have to endure some rough spots this season. But if they can rack up as many points as possible before the road gets rocky they should have an excellent chance of returning to the playoffs next April. And once there, they could end up being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender due to their fine mixture of youth and experience along with their knack for scoring goals and efficient defensive play.

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