It was only two games, but the Avalanche woke up and put the NHL on notice
Now that’s how you rebound from rock bottom.
After the Avalanche lost to the pitiful Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday night, things looked bleak. Colorado was 1-6-1 over its last eight games and 11th in the Western Conference. It’s certainly not where the defending Stanley Cup champions pictured they’d be in mid-January.
So, on Friday, the Avs showed up about 20 minutes late to practice. While the national media was ripping them, it appeared Jared Bednar’s squad was having a team meeting. Bednar later said practice was moved back a half hour, but the reality is it doesn’t matter. Whatever they did that day worked.
The Avalanche smacked Ottawa 7-0 on Saturday night followed by a 6-3 beatdown of Detroit on Monday afternoon. At one point, Colorado scored 12 straight goals before their opponent tallied one. The Senators and Red Wings aren’t the NHL’s best, but there’s a reason the Avs remain among the league’s elite.
Colorado woke up and put the NHL on notice, as they still have two of the three best players in the world, and perhaps three of the best eight. Against Detroit, both Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar scored two goals. With Ottawa in town, Mikko Rantanen found the back of the net twice.
As long as the Avs have those three healthy, they can beat anyone. And speaking of healthy, Valeri Nichushkin returned to the lineup on Monday after his second lengthy absence of the year. The big man looked spry and more comfortable; hopeful those foot / ankle problems have finally healed.
Defensemen Bo Byram and Josh Manson should join the team after the All-Star Break, which is fewer than two weeks away. That leaves captain Gabriel Landeskog as the biggest name without a timeline, but unfortunately he’s still a mystery. Bednar has been coy to say the least about Landeskog’s status.
And don’t look now, but backup goalie Pavel Francouz has tended the twine the last three games. The Avalanche rallied around him for the two at Ball Arena, and we might have a goaltender controversy on our hands. Alexandar Georgiev has been pretty solid this season, going 16-11-3 with a 2.75 GA/G, but Colorado needed to shake things up.
Just like Francouz gave the team a spark in the playoffs last year, it appears his presence the last two contests has done the same.
Again, it’s just two games, and the Avalanche are still on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. But if they make a run, which they almost assuredly will, we’ll remember this as the moment in time that everything turned around.