Short Season Not Stopping Avalanche From Chasing Career Bests

A shortened NHL season doesn’t have to mean that there is a shortage of statistics. The Colorado Avalanche has a few players that are poised to have the best statistical seasons of their careers, despite having just 56 games on the schedule (or less, depending on how COVID shakes out).

The grind of the tight schedule might play a role in wearing players out, but that remains to be seen. It could also keep hot streaks burning hotter and longer with fewer days to cool down. Or it will lead to more injuries, and those hot streaks could all go up in flames.

The Avalanche do not have consecutive days off for the rest of the season, so we won’t have to wait long to find out if these players can do it.

Philipp Grubauer

Colorado’s goaltender has probably been the team’s most valuable player through the first 20 games of the season, and he’s on pace for his best season by almost every metric.  

Through 17 starts, Grubauer is 11-6 with a 2.07 goals-against average (GAA) and a .920 save percentage (SV%). He also has three shutouts — including one in their last game. The three shutouts have already tied a career-high, which he’s reached in three other seasons.

Colorado Avalanche Philipp Grubauer
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer has already tied his career high for shutouts in a season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

His career-high for wins is 18, which he has reached in each of the last two years — his first two seasons with the Avalanche. But both of those 18-win seasons needed at least 36 appearances.

Grubauer’s best season was in 2016-17 with the Washington Capitals, where he went 13-6-2 with a 2.04 GAA and .926 SV%. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy that year. He’s right near both of those numbers this year, and the Avalanche are leaning on him heavily. Even with the condensed schedule, Colorado has only rested him for three games.

Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights are the runaway leaders for the Vezina Trophy right now, but Grubauer is at least in the conversation.

Grubauer’s three shutouts are tied for the NHL lead, and he is in the top four in the league in wins and GAA.

Samuel Girard

The defenseman is only in his fourth season, but this is going to be his best offensive campaign in a runaway.

Through 18 games, Girard has four goals and 15 points — the goals already tie his career-high. He scored four goals in each of his first three seasons, but he looks to blow that lid off this season.

Colorado Avalanche's Samuel Girard
Colorado Avalanche’s Samuel Girard has four goals on the season, tying a career high. (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

Girard’s best season was last year when he racked up 34 points in 70 games. He’s almost halfway there this season in just 18 games, and his 30 assists last season were also a career-high.

Girard missed two games due to COVID protocol but has three goals and three assists in the seven games since the hiatus. He also has scored goals in back-to-back games, and that’s the only time that’s happened in his career.

But it’s not just the goals. Girard’s 11 assists are fourth on the team, trailing stalwarts Nathan MacKinnon (17), Cale Makar (13) and Mikko Rantanen (12).

The Avs have welcomed Girard’s scoring boom, especially since injuries have hammered them at the blue line. Colorado has used 12 defensemen this season, tied for most in the NHL. The missing defenders have resulted in 22:33 of average ice time for him, which is also a career-high. But he has delivered on those minutes, and that number should only go up as the Avs lean on him more.

Mikko Rantanen

This one could be close.

More than a third of the way through the season, Rantanen leads the Avalanche with 10 goals. His most in a season are 31, which he hit in 74 games in 2018-19.

He’s streaky. Rantanen had a six-game goal-scoring streak earlier this season, so when he catches fire, it can burn for a while. And he’s streaking right now. He is coming off a four-point game in his last outing and has three goals in his last four games.

Mikko Rantanen Colorado Avalanche
Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen leads the team with 10 goals this season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’ll take a push to get another 21 goals in the next 36 games, but he has already scored at least one goal against every opponent the Avalanche will face this season, except for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Rantanen has clearly emerged as an elite goal scorer and probably would have crushed his career-high in goals last season, if not for injury and COVID cutting it short (he had 19 goals in 42 games in 2019-20).

Joonas Donskoi

Donskoi is on pace to threaten some career highs, but he’s definitely a long shot to reach them unless things pick back up.

He has six goals and six assists on the season. His best effort of 16 goals came last season, his first with the Avalanche. His career-high in assists is 25, which came in his rookie campaign in 2015-16 with the San Jose Sharks. Donskoi also has an outside chance to reach his career-high in points of 37 — he hit that mark in 2018-19, his last season in San Jose.

Donskoi was on fire at the beginning of the season and looked like he was going to crush his career-high of 16 goals. He lit the lamp five times through the first 10 games but has disappeared since the calendar flipped to February.

Colorado Avalanche Joonas Donskoi Boston Bruins Jaroslav Halak
Colorado Avalanche Joonas Donskoi is stopped by Boston Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak last season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Donskoi has just one goal in Colorado’s last 10 games, and that one came in Colorado’s 6-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes. That ended a seven-game stretch without a goal, and he managed just three assists over that span, as well.

The condensed schedule will probably hinder Donskoi the most from surpassing these individual marks, but it will be interesting to keep tabs on all of the Avs chasing career campaigns. Of course, a variety of circumstances will determine if any of these players get there, but hitting career highs in anything during a season shortened by 26 games will be quite the accomplishment.

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