The Colorado Avalanche have been one of the early surprises of the 2013-14 season, as they are off to a 3-0 start following one of their worst seasons in franchise history. New head coach Patrick Roy has helped turn the team around, and the Avalanche boast the best goals-against average in the league (1.00) and have not allowed a goal while on the penalty kill. They face their biggest test yet on Thursday night when they travel to face a Boston Bruins team that is tied with them for the league lead in both of those categories. In a game that could very well end up being a goaltending showdown, the Avalanche will find out if Semyon Varlamov is capable of shutting down one of the most potent offenses in the Eastern Conference as he matches up against Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
The Avalanche had trouble scoring at times last season, but thanks to big early contributions from P.A. Parenteau, Nathan MacKinnon and Jamie McGinn that issue has not yet repeated itself. MacKinnon has four assists in three games, and is showing why Avalanche management made the choice to draft him first overall this summer instead of Seth Jones. Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly have each chipped in a goal, and Thursday would be a great time for captain Gabriel Landeskog to start chipping in offensively. Varlamov will be tested by a Bruins offense that features Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, and two dangerous defensemen in Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. The Bruins connected on two of their four power play chances against the Detroit Red Wings in a 4-1 win on Saturday, and will test Colorado’s penalty kill if given the chance. The Avalanche will need to get to Rask early and often and stay out of the penalty box if they want to win this game and stay unbeaten.