Saturday, December 24, 2011
Of all the great teams the Colorado Avalanche have had throughout the years, none of them ever won 8 consecutive home games...until now! The youngest team in the NHL, whose best players cannot even drink yet (Duchene, O'Reilly, Landeskog, Elliott), accomplished that feat last night, capped off with a Matt Duchene overtime goal. Early in the season, the Avs could not buy a home win and were unstoppable on the road. Fast forward to December, the Avs have won 8 straight at home, but have lost the last 9 in a row on the road. If you could take the Avs' road play from October and their home play from December, they'd be virtually unstoppable! Just got to put all the pieces together. The Avs have also been phenomenal against the Eastern Conference, winning 9 games and losing only to the Penguins on the road. Unfortunately, the new realignment doesn't have the Avs moving to an Eastern Conference.
Stastny and Johnson have picked up their play of late. In their mid 20s and donning "A"s, they are somewhat "veteran" leaders on the team and the Avs need them to be good to be a successful team. Both guys have huge expectations placed on their shoulders and their play has been good, despite the criticism that both players have faced.
While the Avs have dominated against the East, they have been abysmal in their own division. Winning only once thus far and losing 9, this obviously has to change if the Avs want to be playing more than 82 games. They'll get a chance to improve their division record right after Christmas against the Christmas-colored and division-leading Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.
Going into the Christmas break on a 4-game winning streak means that Joe Sacco's job is certainly not in immediate jeopardy, but some of his recent decisions are questionable. The past 2 games, he's gone with the same lineup that won the previous 2. Makes sense except that he has benched his supposed #1 goalie for all 4 games and the team's top-scoring defenseman, Kyle Quincey, is now healthy after missing 2 games with a groin injury, but has been a healthy scratch in the team's most recent pair of games. Granted, Jean-Sebastien Giguere has played some fantastic hockey in his last 4 games, but Semyon Varlamov is supposed to be the guy, and at 23, he needs to have his confidence. I have no problem with Jiggy getting starts when he's playing well like he is, but Sacco, McLean, or even Giguere needs to keep Varly's confidence up! Remember how quickly Craig Anderson's stint in Colorado went south? The difference between Andy and Varly is that the Avs did not give up 2 draft picks to get Andy. As far as Kyle Quincey is concerned, are his days in Denver numbered? He's been the Avs' best defenseman so far this season, but with the emergence of Stefan Elliott, have the Avs coaches and management deemed him expendable? With his play, he should be able to garner a decent return, and I've been saying all year that the Avs could use some more help at wing. Or even if they can get a 2012 first round pick back...
Finally, here are my Christmas wishes/New Year's Resolutions for the Avs:
-A healthy Peter Mueller. The Avs have been fairly lucky thus far regarding injuries. They have not lost any key players for an extended amount of time with the exception of Mueller. It would be sad to see a player with his potential forced out of the league so young, but if he can finally shake his concussion issues, he can still be a player.
-Wins in the division. Like I said, if the Avs hope to make the playoffs, they have to be good within the division!