SLAP SHOT

At the All-Star break, Avalanche have clawed to top of their division

Jan 30, 2024, 1:23 PM

The Colorado Avalanche have arrived at the All-Star break, and it’s time for some well-earned rest.

Well, for most of them.

Stars Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar will be in Toronto this weekend representing the team, as well as goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. It’d be nice to get those guys some time to relax, but it’s also a great honor and one they don’t take lightly. They’ll represent Colorado well.

And while the rest of their teammates watch the skills competition and 3-on-3 games on television, they might also take a peek at the standings. After some adversity during the beginning of the year, the Avalanche find themselves atop the Central Division at the break.

The Avs have played 49 games, and sit with 32-14-3 record, good for 67 points. That puts them one point ahead of the Dallas Stars and two ahead of the Winnipeg Jets. They only trail Vancouver (71 points) in the entire Western Conference.

Considering Colorado was 19-11-2 after a tough loss in Chicago right before Christmas, they’ve come on strong over the last 40 days. During that stretch the Avs are 13-3-1, and they wrapped up the first half on a three-game winning streak. Maybe defenseman Devon Toews ripping his teammates after the Blackhawks loss wasn’t such a bad thing?

It’s the usual suspects for the Avalanche doing the heavy lifting, although MacKinnon is on another level. The Hart Trophy favorite to win the NHL MVP is second in the league with 84 points. He keeps making history night after night, including his second four-goal game of the season and a very rare natural hat trick against the Capitals last week.

Mikko Rantanen, an All-Star snub, has 66 points. He’ll be hunting 100 or more once again this season, just like he did last year. Makar has 58 points and is right there to potentially win his second Norris Trophy. Valeri Nichushkin is also having a huge year, but it’s on pause as he hopefully gets the help he needs in the Player Assistance Program.

Last year, Colorado won the Central Division in the final days of the season, but seemed to run out of gas in doing so. They lost to the Kraken in Round 1 of the playoffs and failed to defend their Stanley Cup.

But this season feels different. The depth is better, the group seems closer, and the focus is back on winning another championship.

At the break, the team is in good position, but they’ll need to keep that momentum going when the second half starts on Feb. 5 in New York.

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