At the start of December the Colorado Avalanche were off to one of the best starts in the NHL with a 15-6-5 record and looking like a sure-fire playoff team thanks to one of the best lines in the league.
They had their flaws, yes, but they had enough top-end talent playing at an incredibly high level and seemed to have given themselves plenty of cushion to allow for any sort of regression that might follow in the coming months.
On Dec. 1, they were 14 points ahead of what looked to be a bitterly disappointing St. Louis Blues team in the Western Conference standings. That Blues team, meanwhile, looked like its season was already over before it really even had a chance to start, was going through a change behind the bench, and rumors were swirling that major changes to the roster could be coming if things did not turn around.
Two-and-a-half months later, everything has changed for both teams and we saw it all playing out on Saturday afternoon when the two teams met in Denver.
It was there that Blues won their ninth game in a row with a 3-0 victory that improved their lead over the Avalanche in the standings to eight points. That means the two teams have experienced a 22-point swing in less than three months.
That is an absolutely shocking flip in that amount of time.
The big change for the Blues has been the fact that their goaltending has completely turned around with the arrival of Jordan Binnington who is now 11-1-1 with a .931 save percentage in his first 13 starts. On Saturday, Jake Allen — who had been a mess earlier this season — recorded his second shutout of the season to give the Blues back-to-back shutouts.
They’re also getting the type of performance they expected out of Vladimir Tarasenko.
After what was one of the worst starts of his career, Tarasenko extended his current point streak to 11 games on Saturday with his fourth consecutive multi-point game.
Since Jan. 1 he has 26 points (including 14 goals) in 19 games.
As for the Avalanche, well, their problems are plentiful.
They still don’t have enough scoring depth beyond their top players, and now they can’t keep anything out of their own net. The defense isn’t anything special, but the goaltending has been a massive disappointment. Put those two things together and they have now given up at least four goals in eight of their past 10 games, while neither goalie (Semyon Varlamov or big offseason acquisition Philipp Grubauer) has done anything to solidify the position.
They have lost nine out of their past 10 games and 24 out of their past 32 since Dec. 1.
As if that is not bad enough, their upcoming schedule is brutal with games against Vegas, Winnipeg, a white-hot Chicago team, and Nashville over their next four.
In short, this could continue to get worse for the Avalanche before it gets better.