Colorado Avalanche: Five Must-See Games for 2016

The Colorado Avalanche have some important games that are must-see in the first half of the season.

Colorado Avalanche free agency, trade rumors and general expansion talk have engulfed hockey fans throughout the country these last few weeks but I think it is time to dig in to next season’s schedule. Below are my top five, must-see games during the first half of the season.

5. Monday, October 17th- at Pittsburgh (Record against the Penguins: 38-37-7)

The Colorado Avalanche will be tested very early in the 2016 – 2017 season when they go to Pittsburgh to face off against the Stanley Cup Champions. MVP Sidney Crosby and company showed how dominant of a hockey team they were during the playoffs in May and June, and I look forward to this early test for the Avalanche.

The Penguins’ projected lineup for the 17th will look very similar to the team that lifted the Cup in June. One of the only questions that Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan will have to answer is whether or not he will be starting Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray in goal.

Avs’ GM Joe Sakic and Penguin’s GM Jim Rutherford will be in a similar situation during the 2016 – 2017 season when it comes to their goaltenders. Both Semyon Varlamov and Marc-Andre Fleury may be on their way out the door for the respective organizations next season but both goalies will PROBABLY start on October 17th in Pittsburgh. The Penguins treated hockey fans to a great Stanley Cup Finals this past season, and I very much look forward to the Avs second game of the season.

Prediction – Avalanche 4, Penguins 3

4. Sunday, December 11th- at Toronto (Record against the Maple Leafs: 38-29-9)

There are three main reasons to look forward to this game… Auston Matthews, Auston Matthews, and Auston Matthews.

Much like Connor McDavid last season, hockey fans all across the United States and Canada are eagerly awaiting Matthews’ rookie season in the NHL. If his season plays out like McDavid’s did last year, we will not have the pleasure to see Matthews on the 11th. But hopefully Matthews can avoid a major mid-season injury.

Most predictions I have seen for next season have the Maple Leafs at the bottom of the standings once again, but as a fan of American hockey players, I can’t wait to see how Matthews will do in the NHL. Not only does Matthews have potential to be a stud in the NHL, he also has Mike Babcock as his head coach. Throughout his tenure in Detroit, Babcock played a major role in developing Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, and Toronto is hoping he can repeat this magic with Matthews.

Outside of Matthews, the December 11th affair with the Maple Leafs will be just another game for the Avalanche and probably another loss against Canada’s worst team. Sorry for the pessimistic prediction here… but last season the Maple Leafs outscored the Colorado Avalanche by a whopping 12 to 5. My prediction will not be that lopsided but sadly, I think this game will end with a L.

Prediction – Avalanche 2, Maple Leafs 4

3. Tuesday, November 1st- vs Nashville (Record against the Predators: 31-33-5)

Hallelujah, Shea Weber is out of the Central but in walks… P. K. Subban. During the off season, Montreal and Nashville stunned hockey fans everywhere and swapped their All-Star defensemen. In my opinion, it is hard to say which team got the better end of this trade.

Weber and Subban play completely different styles of hockey, and both players will provide a boost for their new teams. But luckily for the Colorado Avalanche, Subban is not the leader that Shea Weber is. I am not saying that P.K. will not turn into a great leader for the Predators down the road, but on November 1st when the Predators roll into the Pepsi Center, the Avalanche should be able to exploit the Predators D pairings.

Nashville will still be extremely fast and talented, but watch for the Avs’ six million dollar forwards to have a big game.

Prediction – Predators 2, Avalanche 5

2. Saturday, October 15th- vs Dallas (Record against the Stars: 76-63-12)

Hockey will finally return for Colorado Avalanche fans on the 15th of October when the reigning Central Division champs roll into the Pepsi Center. Most importantly, I am looking forward to this game for the sole reason that hockey will finally be back, but also because it should be a treat of an opener.

Last season, the Stars were an offensive powerhouse. Both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin had MVP-caliber seasons and were both studs when it came to daily fantasy leagues. But I do not expect the Stars to retain their Central Division title next season. The Stars lost same big names through free agency… Vern Fiddler, Colton Sceviour, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Kris Russell (Russell is currently a free agent), and they did not do much when it came to new signings.

Their goalie situation is still completely up in the air as both Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi struggled to maintain any consistency last season. Look for the Avs to take advantage of either Lehtonen or Niemi during the 2016 – 2017 opener.

Prediction – Stars 1, Avalanche 3

1.  Saturday, November 5th- vs Minnesota (Record against the Wild: 51-55-3)

Maybe I am being too optimistic about next season, but I believe that the Colorado Avalanche will finally be able to turn the page against Minnesota and take it to their Central Division rivals.

This game will have everything: Bruce Boudreau vs Patrick Roy, Gabriel Landeskog vs the Wild’s Finnish forwards (Mikko Koivu and/or Mikael Granlund), Chris Stewart vs Cody McLeod, the Wild fan base vs Semyon Varlamov, and probably another argument between my wife (who is a die-hard Wild fan) and I. Even if this game features only one of the above story lines, I will be an extremely happy camper (outside of a fight between my wife and I).

But the bottom line is, if the Colorado Avalanche want to have a shot at making the playoffs next year, they must get past the Minnesota Wild. Let’s just hope that Patrick Roy and company can figure out how to beat Minnesota and start this new trend on the 5th of November.

Prediction – Wild 3, Avalanche 4


Which games are you most looking forward to?