The Colorado Avalanche recorded a narrow 4-3 win over the Seattle Kraken on Monday night, taking their win streak to five. This wasn’t as sexy as previous wins, the game wasn’t as good as we have seen recently, but two points are in the bag, and the Avalanche continue their march to try and takeover the Central Division standings.
Two goals from Nicolas Aube-Kubel, one from Devon Toews and the game winners from Nazem Kadri saw the Avs over the line in this one, despite being 3-1 down during the second period. Here are our three main takeaways from the contest.
Avalanche Need to Get Fired Up for Lesser Games
The big games are easy to get up for, as a fan or a player, but when it comes to the lesser games on the schedule, it is much harder to be ready, and we saw exactly that from the team in this game.
Although falling behind against both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets in recent games, the Avalanche came out and played well. Those were two big games, ones that they needed to win, and the team came out to do exactly that. The victory over the Maple Leafs was worth exactly the same as the victory over the Kraken, two points.
In this one, things felt a little flat, and during the first and second periods especially, there were moments when they team seemingly floated through the game. It’s not easy, and many other good NHL clubs will face the same problem, but the Avalanche have to sort this out before they begin to drop points in these games.
Avalanche Have A Skilled Third Line That Can Score
Over the past few seasons, Colorado have been very strong, and their bottom six depth has been a big part of that. However, on many occasions, it has lacked scoring, and has been used in a shutdown, grinding role.
Things are changing, and this is being led by a third line put together that has a little bit of everything. Aube-Kubel, a waiver claim from Philadelphia, Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor are incredibly difficult to play against, they work hard, forecheck at every opportunity, and give the opposition a very hard time.
The cherry on top with these three is their ability to score goals too, so they can force mistakes and then punish them. Aube-Kubel scored twice in the win over Seattle, he now has four goals and 11 points from 27 games. O’Connor has six goals and 14 points, while Newhook has scored seven goals and 12 points so far this season, from just 23 games played after he was sent to the American Hockey League (AHL) to rediscover his confidence earlier in the year.
Between the three of them, they have scored 17 goals — an excellent return for third-line players, and one that head coach Jared Bednar would love to see continue over the next few months. For the past couple of seasons now, the question has been asked, who will score goals for the Avalanche if the top line is shut down? Given the emergence of this line, quality on the second line, and defensemen chipping in with goals, it seems like we have an answer.
I’m not ready to declare the Avalanche as Stanley Cup winners in waiting yet, but over the past three games, they’ve certainly given me championship winning vibes. Down 3-1 last night in the second period, down 3-0 and 4-1 against Toronto and down 1-0 against Winnipeg, this team came back and took the maximum available six points from those three games. That is what championship winning teams do.
We have seen star players dragging the team forward, and depth players providing timely goals, such as the two from Aube-Kubel. Yes, the Avalanche have their stars who are paid to score, but it is hard to say where the next goal is coming from, because there are many potential candidates. That is what we see from championship winning teams.
Defensively, this team has so much talent that they have a second pairing that would probably be the top pairing for some NHL teams, and in Devon Toews and Cale Makar, they have the best defensive pairing in the league. These two are constantly scoring points and jumping into the play, offering a threat regardless of which forwards are on the ice with them. Makar is on pace to challenge Paul Coffey’s scoring record for a single season, showing the kind of year he is currently having.
As the old saying goes, defense wins championships. It’s a long way to the playoffs, but perhaps now, more so than any other time over the past few years, the championship vibes from the Avalanche are very strong.
What’s Next for the Avalanche?
No rest for the Avalanche, they are back in action on Tuesday, with a road game in Nashville against the Predators, the second game of a back-to-back. This coming weekend, they face another back-to-back test with two games against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday and Saturday.
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.