Avalanche trending as a playoff contender halfway through regular season

We've reached the a tiny bit past the halfway mark into the 2023-2024 NHL regular season and we take a look at the dark, dim, and brightest parts so far.
Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The Colorado Avalanche have completed 44 games of the NHL 2023-2024 regular season and currently sit second in the Central division behind the Winnipeg Jets, who have had solid goaltending from Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck.

The Avalanche have had their fair share of ups and downs during this season, and head coach Jared Bednar has had his hands full in managing a team with a blend of talent between his franchise regulars and the list of newcomers to wear the burgundy and blue. Let us take a look back on the first half of the regular season on this season.

The darkness within

Coming into the season the Avs knew they would be without their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, as he would be recovering from a knee cartilage replacement surgery he had as the 2022-2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs got underway. This was a heavy blow to the morale of not only members of the team but to an eager fanbase awaiting the return of the Swedish captain. All anyone could do was wait, and hope that good news would come.

Additional bad breaks would happen as one of the best backup goaltenders in the NHL would go down before the season would start with an undisclosed lower-body injury. While Pavel Francouz has had other injuries, it was nothing to this magnitude as the Avs would announce Pavel wouldn't be available at all this season, leading the Avs to claim Ivan Prosvetov off waivers from the Arizona Coyotes just days before the start of the NHL regular season.

A season removed from when he played 62 games and set career marks for wins and shutouts in a season, Alexandar Georgiev has struggled at times as the clear starter in net for the Colorado Avalanche. Many worried about the amount of playing time being an issue. While Georgiev still leads the league in wins for goaltenders, his save percentage (.897) and Goals against average (2.92) rank 59th and 43rd respectively among goaltenders this season.

The light at the end of the tunnel

It isn't all doom and gloom for the Avalanche, as they were listed as preseason co-favorites with the Carolina Hurricanes to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.....no, not that cup, the ACTUAL Stanley Cup.... Hockey's holy grail.

The additions of Miles Wood, Jonathan Drouin, Ross Colton, Ryan Johansen, and the return of Valeri Nichuskin were all reasons to be excited as we approached the regular season. Slow starts for many raised concerns, but Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and Devon Toews have shown their leadership skills in bringing this team up to speed as we approach the back half of the season.

The Avs have been winning games at a steady pace, and have found themselves consistently in contention for the Central Division crown all season long. With solid play at home, the Avs have found themselves in possession of one of the best records at home in the NHL this season at 18-5-0.

The Avs best record at home in franchise history happened two years ago when they lifted the Stanley Cup in Tampa. They finished that season 32-5-4 at home, a feat any team would be hard-pressed to duplicate. But with Nathan MacKinnon's current home point streak of 23 games dating back to the start of this season, and his drive to push his team to win every single game, anything is possible.

Shining bright

The Avs have had their fair share of brilliant moments this season as well. Nathan MacKinnon is putting on a scoring clinic like we haven't seen since his rookie year when he made his mark on Avalanche fans across the world. His 23 goals and 47 assists on the season have him sitting second behind Nikita Kucherov (72 points) and has solidified his name as an early candidate to win the Hart Trophy this season.

Valeri Nichuskin has been on a tear as well with 42 points. His presence in front of the net has been a nightmare for opposing goalies as he leads the league in high-danger chances this season. While it is difficult to see Nichuskin stepping aside and receiving help from the NHL Player's Assistance Program, it is better to see him getting the help he needs now than postponing.

Others such as Jonathan Drouin and Sam Malinski are making their mark on a more regular basis for the Avs as the season progresses as inexpensive additions to the roster, and may very well earn regular roles on the Avalanche roster beyond this season, creating the potential for an even brighter future.

What to expect

The Colorado Avalanche will continue to build upon the growth that we are starting to see among some of the newer additions to the roster as they begin to buy in and comprehend the style of play the head coach Jared Bednar is implementing.

It's been a growing pain for many, and injuries and personal well-being have been a factor for the Avs. Artturi Lehkonen and Miles Wood are returning to the lineup soon, Sam Girard was reinstated to the active roster recently, and Gabriel Landeskog has begun minor skating exercises as part of his hopeful return to the lineup in the future. Rumors are he may be available for the playoffs, but let's play that one close to the chest for now.

This is a team built to compete, with Justus Annunen getting called up, the evaluation process begins as the trade deadline looms in the distance. The Avalanche brass is aware of what needs they have to push themselves into a clearer contention status for the playoffs.

While Bednar pushes this team toward the end of the season, Sakic and MacFarland are busy pushing this team toward playoff success. Expect the Avs to fight for the central division title up until the final day of the regular season. With only one regular season game remaining against the Winnipeg Jets, the Avs will have to dig deep to gain momentum against the other six division opponents to pressure the Jets.