Colorado Avalanche: Can They Win vs the Jets?

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The Colorado Avalanche face the Winnipeg Jets tonight in the final game of their monster seven-game road trip.

This is the first time the Avalanche and Jets are meeting this season, and only the third time Colorado is facing a Central Division rival.

Remember how everyone says the Central Division is the toughest? The Colorado Avalanche are dead last with 15 points. The Winnipeg Jets are just above them in the standings. They have 22 points. In other words, it’s a huge four points on the line tonight.

So, can the Avalanche manage to pull out a win tonight? What’s going to be necessary for that to happen?

Colorado Avalanche Fatigue

Not only is this the final game of their seven-game road trip, it’s the only one located in the west. Well, west-ish — Winnipeg is almost dead north of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Avalanche spent the previous six games on the east coast.

The team has been on the road since they left November 9, for their game against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 10.

The Winnipeg Jets, on the other hand, have been sitting pretty at home since November 17. They’ve played just two games since then, both wins (vs the San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes).

The Colorado Avalanche are young and in premier shape, as all professional athletes are. They’re also relatively healthy, with the only significant roster player out being Alex Tanguay. John Mitchell is day to day with an oblique injury. They need to find just that little bit more of gas in their tanks for tonight.

Goalie Battle

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The Winnipeg Jets lost their starting goalie, Ondrej Pavelec, to injury in the game against the Arizona Coyotes. Backup goalie Michael Hutchinson is supposed to start.

Not that they would anyway, but the Avalanche are unlikely to have any sympathy for the Jets. For the first 20 games of the season there’s been something of a goalie controversy in Colorado. Starter Semyon Varlamov has been average at best. He went down with injury, and Reto Berra swept in with a strong start. That went south, Calvin Pickard seemed unable to help…

And now we have Semyon Varlamov back. Colorado needs 2014 Varlamov back tonight — they player who stopped everything with laser focus.

Speaking of laser focus…

Colorado Embarrassment Factor

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time bashing the team, but this has to be said. The game against the Washington Capitals was an embarrassment. For most of the game the Colorado Avalanche didn’t even look like an NHL team.

Never mind even keel — the players need to feel that embarrassment burning deep in their guts. If they’re the type of athletes who deserve to be professionals making millions, that hot embarrassment should make them angry enough to play with fire tonight.

Colorado Avalanche Game Management

Bottom line, the Colorado Avalanche are an NHL team, and they’ve got a lot of talent. They have strong work ethic, too. For some reason the players lose mental focus at the worst possible time and get themselves behind the eight-ball.

Last season, Colorado went 2-2-1 against Winnipeg. Most of the games were close, low-scoring affairs. Both the Avalanche’s wins came in the shootout.

If tonight’s game follows that pattern, the Colorado Avalanche are going to need to stay mentally sharp for the full 60 minutes, and maybe beyond. They certainly can’t afford to take a whole period off — they can’t even take a shift off. Whatever it takes to keep every single player skating with an Avalanche logo on his chest focused — it just needs to happen.

Because when the Colorado Avalanche are playing on top of their game, they’re the equal of any team in the NHL.

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What about you, Avs Nation? Do you think the Colorado Avalanche can pull a win out of the final game of the road trip?