It’s been five weeks and 16 games since the Avs started the 2013-14 season by manhandling the Ducks (and, for coach Patrick Roy, the glass at the Pepsi Center). Since then, the Avalanche have been absolutely red hot, with a shiny 14-2 record, good for second place in a league that still awards points to losers (I’m looking at you, Anaheim).
The Avalanche have outscored opponents 54-28 for a league-best +28 goal differential, and are a perfect 6-0 on the road so far. They’ve killed 88.5% of penalties so far this season, third-best in the league behind Washington (88.7%) and Vancouver (89.4%), and have been scoring in heaps, with 54 goals in 16 games (3.38 per game). Strong play from goaltenders Semyon Varlamov (9-2-0, .936 SV%, 2.00 G.A.A.) and J.S. Giguere (5-0, .970 SV%, 1.00 G.A.A.) have kept the Avs competitive on rough nights and games they had no business playing.
So what’s in going to take for the Avs to prove that they’re the real deal? Just about every power ranking article has at least one team above the Avs: Bleacher Report and NHL.com both have them ranked at #4 overall, and Sports Illustrated has them at #2. Not saying power rankings are any concrete indicator of how good a team is, but #4 overall — behind St. Louis, Chicago, and, most infuriatingly, San Jose (who just lost their fifth game in a row against the Winnipeg Jets) — seems insulting given the Avs record.
These are good teams, for sure. The Sharks have been playing well despite their record this week, peppering opposing goalies with 50 shots or more in their last two games. The Blackhawks and Blues have both won four of their last five, but Chicago is facing some injury problems and St. Louis has some serious issues on the penalty kill to contend with.
So that begs the familiar mantra in the Avalanche dressing room that we’ve all heard so much about: why not us?
The Avs are the hottest team in the league right now, and are off to one of their best starts in franchise history. Sure, it’s still early in the season, and the team’s advanced statistics aren’t the most impressive or encouraging, but in the grand scheme of things, all that matters is the final score at the end of the third period, and the Avs have produced wins more consistently than any other team. If not for the ‘loser point’ awarded for dropping games in overtime, Colorado would be two points behind Anaheim for the league’s number one spot, with three fewer games played.
The bottom line is this: the Avalanche are easily the most consistently successful team in the league right now. Sure, there are some lingering questions over advanced statistics and long-term potential, but the Avs have played great games against strong teams (Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toronto, etc). All it’s going to take is a great showing against the strongest teams in the Western Conference (aka St. Louis & Chicago) for the Avs to prove that this season isn’t just a fluke, and with the way they’ve been playing, it’s not unlikely that we’ll be seeing the Avs at the top of at least one ranking list by the holidays.
After all, why not us?