AVALANCHE

ESPN praises Avalanche in grading team’s strong start

Nov 28, 2023, 12:51 PM

The Colorado Avalanche lead the NHL in wins and top the Western Conference in the standings; seeking a second Stanely Cup in three seasons, the Avs have officially had a great start.

Now at the quarter pole of the 2023-24 season, ESPN’s hockey experts are recognizing the Avs play. Pointing out the team’s health, depth and penalty kill the four-letter network gave Colorado an A grade for their first quarter of the season. Only the Boston Bruins, the lone team on pace for more points than the Avs, were placed above Colorado in the story.

The Avalanche remain in a championship window. Being healthy has allowed them to have dominant performances; 10 of their 14 wins have been by a margin of three or more goals. Their defeats have also been definitive, a bit of a surprise since they are in the top three in terms of allowing the fewest shots, and among the top 10 in allowing the fewest scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes.

Cale Makar’s contributions see him pacing the NHL in the all-encompassing metric point shares, just ahead of current Norris Trophy favorite Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes. The Canaucks and Avs are the only teams that boast three players in the top 18 of the NHL’s scoring leaderboard, Hughes and J.T. Miller are tied for second at 33 points behind Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov at 36. Vancouver also has Elias Pettersson at seventh on the ranks with 29 points. The Avs have Makar at fourth with 32 points, Nathan MacKinnon ninth with 28 points and Mikko Rantanen 11th with 27 points.

As ESPN pointed out, the difference from last season to this has been a healthier group and depth. Moose played all 82 last year but MacKinnon missed over 10 games and Makar 20. Health had a huge impact on Valeri Nichushkin, who missed nearly 30 games and is on track for a career year at nearly a point per game. Defensemen Bowen Byram missed half of last season and Josh Manson has just about played more games this season than last. Of course, the biggest injury to the Avs in captain Gabriel Landeskog’s absence is still an ongoing issue.

And then this offseason Colorado added some key pieces to fill around those bigger names. As of Tuesday, first-year Avs Ryan Johansen, Ross Colton, Tomas Tatar and Miles Wood are sixth, seventh, ninth and tenth in point production for the team respectively.

The Avs are about to go on the road for a three-game trip, which includes a SoCal back-to-back. Then Colorado can build during a season-high five-game homestand.

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