The Importance of a Good Start for the Avalanche


It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Colorado Avalanche surely will have had this thought cross their mind after last season. The Avs stormed out of the gate to an impressive NHL best 12-1-0 record, and carried that momentum throughout the season. Then against the Wild in the playoffs, the Avs jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, before eventually losing 4 of their final 5 games, and bowing out in the first round. Not the finish they were hoping for.

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The Avs certainly have their sights set on making some noise in the playoffs this year, and while a stronger finish is desired, the pressure is on the Avalanche to start the season off strong. While a new regime is in place, this is still a team with a young core, and a team that has had the wheels come off on many seasons in recent years. A strong start allows the Avs to build on their success last year, and build momentum towards what this team ultimately is aiming to accomplish – success in the playoffs.

For the Avs, the start is what is going to allow them to finish. The West is absolutely loaded this season. Last year, the playoff cutoff was 91 points. The team claiming that final wildcard spot was the Dallas Stars. A 91 point pace means Dallas secured 55% of points possible throughout the season. The Avalanche won the Central Division with 112 points, good for a 68% point conversion rate. Pretty big gap, right?

Well, the Avs hot start gave them a really nice cushion to work with throughout the season. The Avs secured 24 out of 26 points possible through the first 13 games last season, good for a 92% conversion rate on possible points. In the final 69 games of the season, the Avs point conversion rate was 64%. Still a very good number, which would earn them 105 points if they matched that pace this season.

Feb 8, 2014; Uniondale, NY, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) celebrates his empty-net goal against the New York Islanders with left wing Jamie McGinn (11) during the third period of a game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Avalanche defeated the Islanders 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The hot start accounted for 7 extra points in the standings. While the percentages seem close, 7 points is a monumental number over the course of the season.  The Dallas Stars acquired Jason Spezza, and their top line houses the rapidly improving Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. The Minnesota Wild always seem to be in the hunt, and boosted their line-up with Tomas Vanek. Chicago and St. Louis are both still stacked, and figure to push for the Western Conference crown this season.

You have to figure, earning a playoff birth, and earning home-ice advantage in the playoffs is going to be an even more difficult task this season. A strong start will give the Avalanche a few extra points early in the season, so they won’t have to chase them later on. It will also quickly get the dreaded R word that has been thrown around all off-season out of everybody’s minds. Regression.

I’m not saying the Avs couldn’t overcome the adversity of stumbling out of the gate. It is after all the wild wild west, where anything can happen. Just seems like the best strategy would be to keep your friends close, and your enemies behind you in the standings, right from the get go.

The Avs open with 5 of their first 6 games on the road, including pit stops in Minnesota, Boston, and Montreal. A tough road trip for sure, but if the Avs can pick up 9 or 10 points through those first six games, it will really set them up nicely for the stretch of 7 out of 9 at home that follows. Putting another strong start together will go a long way towards giving the Avalanche players validation that last season wasn’t a fluke. Once they have that confidence, they should be able to ride it to the playoffs, where anything can happen.