Colorado Avalanche v Boston Bruins

Hey, look: the Avs are red-hot now


To some extent, it makes perfect sense that the Colorado Avalanche have become one of the NHL’s streakiest teams in the last few years.

They hold the pulse-quickening blueprint of an up-an-down team as they boast an unusually aggressive scheme, unpredictable goaltending and a young but raw core of talent.

Still, the Avs have a way of sneaking up on you, so it might be a surprise that their 4-0 triumph against the Chicago Blackhawks was their fourth victory in a row and ninth “W” in 10 games. If the playoffs began right now, they’d grab the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

For those of you who haven’t been following those cardiac Colorado kids, I thought I’d examine that 10-game streak to figure out what elements are working so well.

Extra time excellence: Four of those 10 wins came in extra time, with three of those bonus points coming via shootout successes.

Great goaltending: At first, it seemed like Jean-Sebastien Giguere might steal the team’s starting job after he won four games in a row. Semyon Varlamov opened the door back up when Jiggy stumbled once, so now they’re both on the top of their games.

Limiting shots: That goaltending duo has enjoyed some better defense, especially in the last six games. The Avs have allowed less than 30 shots in five out of those six contests, which I’d say is a pretty good goal in the post-lockout era.

Excellent penalty killing: Colorado’s only allowed three power-play goals in that 10-game run and the PK has been perfect during their current four-game winning streak.

Consistent scoring: As you can see from the previous points, it’s been almost all about defense. That being said, they’ve scored at least two goals in all but one game – their only loss.

So can they keep this up?

I’d hate to rain on their parade, but it won’t be easy. The Avalanche will end this four-game road trip with what should be a tough visit to face the Blues in St. Louis. They’ll only have three home games in all of January. The toughest stretch comes from Jan. 12 to Jan. 22:

Jan. 12: at Nashville
Jan. 14: at Dallas
Jan. 16: at Phoenix
Jan. 18: vs. Florida
Jan 21. at Los Angeles
Jan. 22: at Anaheim

Still, the Avs are succeeding in surprising ways already. Few expected them to handle the Chicago by the tune of 4-0 tonight, for one thing.


OK, so you’ve endured my skeptical schedule analysis, but what do you think about the Avalanche’s chances? Should they aim a solid playoff seed, merely settle for any spot at all or will they come crashing back down to earth? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Canucks say Markstrom (hamstring) out another week — could it be longer?

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Bit of uncertainty out of Vancouver regarding the health of backup goalie Jacob Markstrom.

Markstrom, a late drop from the Canucks’ 5-1 opening-night win over Calgary, has suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for another week, the club announced on Thursday.

With Markstrom out, backup duties will stay with AHL call-up Richard Bachman, who served as Ryan Miller‘s No. 2 on Wednesday.

Now, the focus turns to how long Bachman keeps those duties.

Per a Sportsnet report, Markstrom could miss up to three weeks of action with his injury. If that’s the case, Bachman will almost certainly be called into action; the Canucks will play eight games in 17 nights starting with Saturday’s home-opener against the Flames, which includes back-to-backs in Los Angeles and Anaheim on Oct. 12 and 13.

It would be asking a lot of the No. 1, 35-year-old Ryan Miller, to shoulder that entire load.

Bachman does have some NHL experience, with nearly 50 games to his credit. That includes a 3-2-0 record with the Oilers last year, in which he posted a 2.84 GAA and .911 save percentage.

McDavid will center Hall and Slepyshev

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid said he didn’t have any trouble falling asleep on the eve of his professional debut.

But when he woke up on Thursday he said it finally hit him.

“In the days leading up I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” McDavid said. “Kind of when I woke up this morning, I guess that’s kind of when it hit me that I’ll be playing in my first NHL game. I think that’s when I first realized.”

When the Oilers play at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the 18-year-old McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most hyped player to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby of the Penguins made his debut a decade ago.

Speaking in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday following his team’s morning skate, the soft-spoken rookie admitted to having some butterflies but said he felt pretty good and was excited to get going.

“It’s just special,” McDavid said of his NHL debut. “I’m living out my dream, so there’s nothing better than that. I’m just really looking forward to tonight.”

McDavid will be centering the Oilers’ second line against the Blues with Taylor Hall on the left wing and Anton Slepyshev on the right. Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, while Slepyshev will also be making his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“We all see what he can do in practice and the games,” Hall said of McDavid. “It’s important to remember he’s 18. I’m 23 and I still have bad games. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world and still has bad games. There’s going to be some trials and some errors, but I think that he’s in a position to succeed and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan, hired in May after spending seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, has already gotten accustomed to receiving questions about McDavid.

The first few questions McLellan was asked on Thursday were about the NHL’s most popular newcomer.

“What I’ve found with him is he’s working really hard to just be himself and fit in,” the coach said. “He doesn’t want to be special, he doesn’t want to be treated any differently but he obviously is. He’s trying to adapt to that and he’s doing a very good job of it personally and collectively I think our team has done a good job around him.”

McLellan said there are three levels of pressure surrounding him.

The first is McDavid’s individual expectations, which he is sure are extremely high. The second comes from the rookie’s teammates, coaching staff, organization and city of Edmonton.

“But where it really changes is the national, international and world-wide eyes being on him,” McLellan said. “How does that compare to some of the other players I’ve been around? I haven’t been around an 18-year-old who has had to deal with that. It’s new to all of us.

“I did spend some time talking to Sid (Sidney Crosby) about his experience and even since then the world’s really changed as far as media and social media and that type of stuff. This is a new adventure for everybody involved. I know Connor has the tools to handle the pressure and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”