With a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, the Colorado Avalanche stretched their home winning streak to 16 games. It’s another win when the Avalanche weren’t at their best, but they did enough to get the job done – which they’ve done a lot recently. Goals from Nazem Kadri in the second period and Mikko Rantanen in the third were enough to lift the Avs to the top of the NHL standings.
Here are our three takeaways from Monday’s game.
Colorado’s Home-Ice Advantage
No team seems capable of beating the Avalanche in Denver right now. They either blow teams away, or they start poorly before finding a way to grind out a win; either way, Ball Arena has been a fortress this season, and the team’s 16 consecutive home wins are setting them up perfectly to defend their Presidents’ Trophy win in 2020-21 and would give them home ice throughout the playoffs.
The second round has been Colorado’s downfall, even with home-ice advantage as they last season when they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights. Fans expect more from the team this season, which should be easier with the home-ice, as they’ve shown us. Eventually, this streak will come to an end, but I’m confident they have a few wins left in them before that happens.
Avalanche Winning Without the Top Line
Not to take away from the top line, but the Avs deserve credit for continuing to win games despite not because of their top line. It’s been a while since we saw Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Rantanen have a great game on the same night. We’ve seen either one player stand out or two combine for a goal, but we haven’t seen the kind of dominance we are used to from the trio. It’s fine while the team is winning, but they will need to step up.
Right now, the Avalanche are getting by without it. Kadri is heading for a career-best season, Valeri Nichushkin is contributing at both ends of the ice, Alex Newhook is carving out a third-line role, and defense has stepped up and scored. The top line will dominate again, but Colorado is winning games thanks to their depth and defense.
Reliable Francouz Gains Another Shutout
Since the bizarre loss in Nashville Predators before the holidays, Pavel Francouz has started six games, winning them all. His last two wins were both shutouts, and Francouz is giving the Avalanche everything they need from their backup netminder right now.
Of course, should anything happen to Francouz the Avalanche will be back to square one, which they should address at the trade deadline. But, for now, above-average backup netminding should please everyone. If the team decides not to strengthen their goaltending position, it will free up funds and trade pieces for elsewhere, so we can’t underestimate the timing of his breakout.
The two-year deal signed in 2020, with a cap hit of $2 million, is up at the end of the season and most expected him to move on. However, given how he is playing, if he stays healthy until the end of the season, we should see Francouz return as backup in 2022-23.
What’s Up Next for Colorado?
The Avalanche will have a chance to extend their home win streak on Wednesday when the Boston Bruins visit Ball Arena. After that, they face the Blackhawks on the road on Friday, before a home game against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Craig Jones is a freelance NHL writer from the UK, covering the Colorado Avalanche. Watching the NHL from afar, Craig has followed the Avs for more than two decades, and wrote about them for almost one. To get the UK perspective of the NHL and everything Colorado, follow Craig on Twitter @craigjones29.