The Colorado Avalanche might be the most underrated team in the NHL right now

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Pop quiz for you puckheads out there (and answer this question without looking up the answer, cheaters): which team leads the NHL in goals scored at this point in the season?

Without looking, I would guess that most people would point to the usual suspects: maybe the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks?

Nope, the highest scoring team in the NHL is the burgundy-attired Colorado Avalanche. As of Sunday night, Matt Duchene & Co. scored 121 goals (four more than second place Philly) and lead the league in goals per game to boot (3.61, compared to Philly’s 3.41).

While they are far from the stingiest team in the NHL with 105 goals allowed (Pittsburgh and Florida hold the league’s best mark of 78), a +16 goals differential is still impressive. Especially when you consider the fact that the Avs faced plenty of adversity to start the season, from a couple injuries for Craig Anderson to Chris Stewart breaking his hand and now Kyle Quincey, who is preparing to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

So what drives this explosive Avs offense? Variety and speed, with five players who scored at least 10 goals, three players with 30 points and 13 with 10 or more.

Sure, there is certainly a hierarchy to their offense. Duchene has 34 points, Paul Stastny provided 32, Milan Hejduk is having an unexpected resurgence with 31 and John Michael-Lilies is quietly putting up an outstanding season for a defenseman, with 28 points already. Yet the team seems to have the brand of offensive versatility that seems reminiscent of the Chris Drury/Daniel Briere Buffalo Sabres.

The Avalanche extended their winning streak to six games tonight by edging the Montreal Canadiens.

Colorado 3, Montreal 2

The Habs earned two leads (1-0 via Michael Cammalleri, 2-1 thanks to Alexander Picard), but Colorado wore them down with two goals in the third period. Ryan Wilson, Kevin Porter and T.J. Galiardi scored the Avs’ goals.

Craig Anderson made 27 out of 29 saves and earned a rare assist to best Carey Price, who allowed three goals on 28 shots.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.