Hey, look: the Avs are red-hot now

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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.

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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.

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

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Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per the screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.

Erik Cole retires as a member of the Hurricanes

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Erik Cole has officially retired.

The Carolina Hurricanes made the announcement on Wednesday, stating that Cole signed a ceremonial contract with the NHL team and retired as a member of the Hurricanes.

Now 38 years old, Cole played 892 regular season games in the NHL, scoring 265 goals and 532 points. A number of his best seasons occurred while he was with the Hurricanes, reaching 30 goals with the 2005-06 Stanley Cup winning team.

His best season came with the Montreal Canadiens in 2011-12, as he scored 35 goals and 61 points.

His last season was in 2014-15. He began the year in Dallas and was moved to Detroit at the trade deadline, but a spinal cord contusion essentially meant an end to his playing career.

From the Detroit Free Press in April, 2015:

Cole revealed Wednesday that he has a spinal cord contusion severe enough doctors have cautioned him not to play again this spring.

“It stems back from my neck injury in 2006,” Cole said. “When I ran into the player in the Arizona game, I bruised my spinal cord. A spinal contusion is something that you have to let heal and obviously, it’s a pretty serious occurrence. Doctors feel I need to look out for my well-being as a person, not just as a hockey player.”

Cole is now a team ambassador for the Hurricanes.