Colorado Avalanche | Hell in the mountains

For any team, playing in Denver this season is a bit like playing in hell. Especially in recent weeks, the Colorado Avalanche, the Canadian’s next opponent, seems invincible. Five things to know about this serious Stanley Cup contender.

A steamroller

The Avalanche hardly loses anymore. Here is the team with nine wins in a row, and 11 in 12 games. This is, unsurprisingly, a league high since January 27. The former Nordiques are particularly formidable at home, having won 28 of their 34 matches played at the Ball Arena since the start of the season. This is also a peak. Nothing to reassure the Habs: Nathan MacKinnon collected points in each of these matches. So here he is chasing the record of Wayne Gretzky, who put his name on the scoresheet 40 times in a row at home in 1988-1989. Since he has yet to miss an outing this season, we can assume that this mark is within his reach.

A first title for MacKinnon?


Nathan MacKinnon celebrates his goal scored against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 22.

Let’s Talk, by Nathan MacKinnon. After 71 games, the Nova Scotian has already established personal highs for goals (44), assists (78) and points (122). If the Maurice-Richard trophy seems inaccessible to him, he has a serious option for the scoring championship, while he is only one point behind Nikita Kucherov, of the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, he will have to look in his rearview mirror, because Connor McDavid, with 117 points, is arriving quickly. There is also something ungrateful about being the contemporary of these two star forwards, since MacKinnon’s 111 points last season would have earned him the Art Ross Trophy every year from 2011 to 2018. At 28 years old , this time he has a very real chance of winning it. If he succeeds, he could well add the Hart Trophy to his haul.

The other stars are having a blast

Part of the reason the Avalanche are so powerful is that MacKinnon doesn’t have to do all the work alone. The team is one of only two in the league, along with the Edmonton Oilers, to have four players producing at a rate of at least one point per game. We logically find Mikko Rantanen who, at 96 points, will probably reach the plateau of 100 for the second time in his career; Cale Makar, second in the league in scoring among defensemen, with 78 points in 66 games; but also Valeri Nichushkin who, although having missed part of the campaign due to medical problems and personal problems, nevertheless amassed 50 points in 47 games.

The rebirth of Drouin


Jonathan Drouin scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins

Does Jonathan Drouin miss Montreal? To find out, you’ll have to ask him. What we do know, however, is that the mountain air smiles upon him. With already 46 points, the Quebecer could equal or even exceed his personal high of 53, which he has reached twice to date, the last of which in 2018-2019 with the Canadian. He did not spend the entire season to the left of his old accomplice MacKinnon, but the combination he temporarily formed with Rantanen and him, notably last Sunday in Pittsburgh, was among the most dangerous in the league. In Pittsburgh, in fact, the Avalanche erased a 0-4 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime. Drouin first scored his team’s third goal before serving a clever pass to MacKinnon on the equalizing net. Then he scored a beautiful goal in overtime following a remarkable individual effort.

Paid acquisitions

The Avalanche have been among the most active organizations at the trade deadline and, thus far, their choices have paid off. We will quickly move on to the departure of Ryan Johansen, which constitutes something of an addition by subtraction. But the defender he got in return, Scott Walker, one of the most sought-after players on the market before March 8, had four points in seven games. On offense, Casey Mittelstadt, acquired from the Buffalo Sabers for Bowen Byram, had five points. And without filling the net, Brandon Duhaime and Yakov Trenin already form a dynamic duo on the fourth line. In the roughly 40 minutes they’ve spent together on the ice at five-on-five so far, the Avalanche have largely dominated in expected goals (70%), shots on target (66%) and goals scored (2 vs. 0), according to the Natural Stat Trick website. Knowing their profile, these two will not be pleasant to face in the playoffs…


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