As the Colorado Avalanche secured their 4-1 victory over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night, they officially wrapped up their 21st game of the regular season. Many analysts and fans use Thanksgiving as a solid measurement of who will be playoff contenders and who will be busts hoping to win the NHL draft lottery at the end of the season. While the last week of Avalanche hockey has seen its share of ups and downs, it appears the team has found their groove on ice and are settling in for the long haul.
Nathan MacKinnon recently has a seven-game streak in which he was unable to find the back of the net for a goal, but accumulated a total of ten (10) assists in that same period of time. Many wondered if he was dealing with an injury, or was being too focused, or simply trying to not carry as much responsibility for the team scoring altogether. Whatever the reason, MacKinnon and company have been sharing the puck and have opened the scoring potential of other teammates. Valeri Nichuskin: nine goals & five assists for the month of November and Jonathan Drouin: five points in the month of November compared to one point for October.
The Avs NEED secondary scoring to be prominent in order to be at their absolute best in competition. The Avalanche attempted to be a top-two-line team during the early years of Bednar’s tenure, and while the results were playoff-caliber wildcard team worthy, they weren’t Central Division, Stanley Cup Champions worthy. There are many big names on this version of the Avs, but the focus needs to be on what happens to be on the front of the jersey, and that is the team. The change in focus is noticeable, and the fans are seemingly happy with what they are seeing on the ice night after night.
With one final game in the month of November, the Colorado Avalanche will start to push toward the Christmas break. With 15 games on the schedule in December, and with one of their two longest homestands of the season coming up, the Avs are looking to carry momentum into the New Year. Gabriel Landeskog is rumored to be returning to the Avs briefly during the upcoming stretch of home games but is not expected to be on ice in any format whatsoever. The captain will be there for support and leadership and perhaps provide a clearer update on his ongoing recovery from a transplant surgery he had this past offseason.
With many stories and potential headlines heading into the month of December, one thing remains certain in Denver: The Colorado Avalanche are a clear threat to challenge for their 2nd Stanley Cup Title in three years. Leaderless, no, just sharing the responsibilities among the group. Nathan MacKinnon not scoring goals, sure, but he’s setting up others and ensuring the team gets the win. Early nasty losses? Yes, but some hard truths have brought this team some clarity with a “less is more” approach. All of the above is true, and for fans, it means the panic button should be put away.