Typically, when a team finishes a season in dead last, with their only real victory of the year coming in the form of a first overall pick in the NHL Draft, they usually just flutter around the following season while they attempt to rebuild.
Someone forgot to tell that to the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs, run by first-time coach and former legend Patrick Roy, just won their fourth game in a row. They’ve started the season 4-0, and aren’t exactly just scratching by. Colorado opened the season with a 6-1 beatdown of the Anaheim Ducks, who were coming off yet another playoff appearance. They then proceeded to tally wins against the Nashville Predators and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the latter of the two being undefeated to that point. One of the consistent components of each of those games was the fact that goalie Semyon Varlamov only gave up a single goal in all three contests.
Varlamov took the night off last night as the Avalanche headed to New England to take on the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Boston Bruins. Surely this fun story would come to a close when facing such prime talent. Clearly backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, at 36 years of age, would put a halt to the winning streak.
Turns out Giguere did one better than Varlamov, shutting out the Bruins on the way to a 2-0 victory and keeping another zero in Colorado’s loss column.
So, sitting atop the Central Conference standings almost two weeks into the season, are the Avs legit? Is this an early season flare-up that will eventually die down by February? Or has Roy lit a fire under this team in his first year behind the bench?
Obviously, the answer isn’t readily available right now. But make no mistake, there is a ton of young talent on this team. When you only make the playoffs one time since 2008, you get yourself a few early round draft picks, and the Avalanche have really cashed in on a lot of them. Young stars Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog – the team’s 20-year-old captain – provide plenty of scoring. The club also has veterans who are just reaching their prime, such as Paul Stastny and the recently acquired Steve Downie. Add in recent first overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon, and you have a team that could be a thorn in the side of many clubs this year.
On the flip side, though, the Avs are relatively thin on the blue line. Though Varlamov is off to a stunning start to the year, and backup Giguere looked more than capable last night, the question remains as to whether or not either netminder can withstand an 82 game season.
Speaking of which, let’s not forget about the fact that we’re back to a full schedule this year, as opposed to last year’s lockout-shortened campaign. The Avs weren’t a team that benefited from last year’s compacted schedule to earn a playoff berth, but at the same time 82 games should put a little more perspective on a hot start. Let’s face it, a four game winning streak in a 48 game season means a lot more.
Still, that’s not to say Colorado can’t keep this up. The aforementioned talent has clearly shown the league it can keep the Avs in every game they play. A remarkable turnaround for a goalie is hardly a twist ending. Did anyone peg Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to win the Vezina Trophy last season after he left the Philadelphia Flyers as a failed prospect?
Only time will tell if Roy and the young guns of the Avalanche are the real deal. They certainly look legit at the moment, but check back in at the Olympic break. If they are indeed overnight contenders, they certainly have enough talent to surprise a few playoff mainstays come April.