Colorado Avalanche Fans: The Home Stretch

Mar 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy talks to his players during a timeout out called in the third period against the Florida Panthers at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Panthers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy talks to his players during a timeout out called in the third period against the Florida Panthers at the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche defeated the Panthers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

With only 13 games left in the season, here are just a few things to keep an eye on as the Colorado Avalanche prepare for the stretch run.

Hold on Colorado Avalanche fans, there are only 13 games left in the regular season. And it might sound funny given where this team was after the first couple of months, but the Avs are in a playoff spot and control their own destiny in these final 13 games.

This is what you live for as fan. You want your team to be competitive throughout the season and give you hope of making the playoffs. Because once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.

This is why you sit through 70 games and overreact to every single one of them — for these final few weeks when overreaction is necessary because one slip up could cost your team a postseason berth. This is also what kills you as a fan — these final few weeks where you’re hanging on every play. A fortunate bounce and your team plays at least four more games. A terrible call and you’re stuck watching other teams play for the next month and you don’t even have a good draft pick as a consolation prize.

So what should we, as fans, be looking for in these final unlucky 13 games? Here’s a comprehensive list of everything your eyes should follow heading into the stretch run:

*Goalie Play: Ross Sellers correctly believes that Semyon Varlamov needs to get hot. I’ve already scribed my doubts surrounding Varly and his poor play in big games. Something must give. He’ll either get hot or he’ll shrink again. Or maybe he’ll play average and the offense will score 3-4 goals per game. Who knows. Goalies are weird.

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*Star Performances: Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon are the two best players on the team. Duchene is having a career year in goals, and MacKinnon has the ability to dominate anytime he’s on the ice. These two can be as good as any one-two punch in the league and they must play up to their ability if the Colorado Avalanche hope to hold on to the second wild card spot.

*Patrick Roy Faces: It’s bound to happen. It usually happens after the refs screw something up, and it’s always glorious. Whether he blows up and uses every banned word in the book, or he just rolls his eyes and shrugs, Patrick Roy Faces never fail to entertain.

*The Power Play: Specifically, Eric Gelinas on the power play. Gelinas wasn’t used on the power play against Minnesota, his first game as a member of the Avalanche, but he’s seen consistent PP time in each of his last two games. This is important because he has a booming shot that the penalty kill has to respect. If they don’t sacrifice to block or take it away, the puck either gets through and creates a rebound/havoc around the net or goes in. Or misses the net and rims around the boards and out of the zone.

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*Minnesota Wild: Yes, unfortunately we all have to keep our eyes on the Minnesota Wild for the next few weeks. It would be cool if the Colorado Avalanche could just go 13-0 and be done with things, but we all know that’s not going to happen. Chances are they’ll go 7-5-1 because God forbid they make things easy.

That means the Wild, who have 14 games remaining, need to play a little worse, which is totally possible. Your only Wild viewing experience this season might be them beating up on the Avs, but when they’re not playing our boys in burgundy and blue, they look like a rather average NHL team. Devan Dubnyk is proving to be the “meh” goalie he was before last season, and Darcy Kuemper isn’t much better.

The rest of the team ranges from “Hey, that guy is making a lot of money” to “Hey, that guy used to be good” and filled out with underdeveloped young talent and non-competitors, all of whom contributed to Mike Yeo getting fired. I can understand not wanting to watch a Minnesota game, so I give all Avs fans permission to just check their phone 3 hours after the game to see if they won or lost. That’s the least you can do during this crucial time.

*Overtime/Shootout: We only have 13 games that could potentially involve a skills competition deciding things. Either enjoy it while you can or continue to loathe it. Either way, get ready to prepare yourself to the most exciting, blood pressure inducing, moment in all of sports: Playoff Overtime. If you can barely keep your volume down during the unorganized breakaway contest or the organized breakaway contest, then there is no hope for your neighbors come playoff time.

*The Challenge Rule: Will they get it right in time for the playoffs? Probably not.

*Line Combinations: Roy loves to tinker with his lines, especially after a loss. With so few games remaining, it’s probably not a great idea to start mixing and matching, but Roy has never been one to conform to traditional NHL thoughts. Screw it. Don’t worry about the line combos in the final 13 games. Come playoffs, Nick Holden will be on offense, Jarome Iginla will be on defense, and Cody McLeod will be in goal.

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*Leadership: Gabriel Landeskog is the captain, and therefore the de facto team leader, but between his inconsistent stretches and untimely suspensions/hits/penalties, the Colorado Avalanche can’t solely rely on their captain. That’s why Duchene and MacKinnon need to step up as the star players of the team. That’s why Iginla, a 38-year-old searching for that elusive Stanley Cup, must step up. That’s why Francois Beauchemin, the only active player on the team with a ring, must step up. That’s why McLeod, the longest tenured Avs player, must step up.

Leaders show their true colors when the chips are down. In this case, the chips are gone. The leaders must show their true colors by, “putting their balls on the table.”