Surprising Avs can pass Hawks with win tonight

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The surprising Avalanche have an opportunity to overtake the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks tonight in Denver.

As of this morning, Colorado sits one point back of second-place Chicago in the Central Division. With St. Louis fairly comfortably in first, there’s a good chance these two teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs. If that happens, tonight’s game could help determine which one gets home-ice advantage.

Goaltending and opportunistic scoring have continued to be the strengths of Colorado, which has been outshot by an average margin of 32.5 to 29.3 this season. That’s the 25th-most shots allowed in the NHL, and the 20th-fewest taken. Typically, that’s not a path to success, but it has been for Patrick Roy’s troops.

The Avs have won three of four versus the Hawks this season, including a 4-2 victory last Tuesday at the United Center that, yes, saw Colorado outshot, and by a convincing 38-21 margin.

“I think we outchanced and outplayed them,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said afterward.

But the Avs have a 28-6-3 record when being outshot this season. Not surprisingly, they also have a .920 team save percentage, the third-highest mark in the NHL, with starting goalie Semyon Varlamov (32-12-5, .925) being responsible for much of those two stats.

Also responsible for the winning record? Colorado’s talented cadre of young forwards. The Avs have scored on an impressive 10.3 percent of their shots, tied with Pittsburgh for the second-highest rate in the league.

Are Colorado’s winning ways sustainable? Well, that’s been the question all season for the Avs, and they keep sustaining them.