The Colorado Avalanche recorded their fifth straight victory with a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers in Denver. The Avs controlled most of this game, though they did have to withstand late pressure from the Rangers when they pulled their netminder.
The Avalanche keep rolling, and despite injuries, this team is trending in the right direction at the moment, and this victory gave them a sweep over the Rangers this season, winning both games in less than a week.
Here are the main takeaways from this win.
Strong Home Form
Playing at altitude is an advantage for the Avs, which has led to strong home form for the past few seasons. At the start of this season, a strong home form was missing, but now the team is really rolling, and that is turning Denver into a place where opposing teams don’t want to come anymore.
This was Colorado’s eighth home win in a row, you have to go back to the beginning of November when Columbus beat the Avs to find the last loss on home ice for this team. Not every visitor to Denver has been the strongest in the league, but Florida on Sunday and the Rangers in this one, have seen two of the best teams in the East come to town and leave with nothing.
The Avalanche has another strong team visiting on Saturday when current back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay are in town, another victory would be another statement made by this team.
Nichushkin Continues to Roll
In a contract year, Valeri Nichushkin is on pace to have a career year, and once again, last night, he was excellent with two goals. Last season, the big Russian scored 21 points, and in his first year with the Avalanche, he had 27 points.
So far this season, he’s played just 17 games after missing time due to an arm injury, and he’s scored 15 points in those games. Of course, this won’t last, but given the pace he is on right now, there has to be an expectation of 40+ from Nichushkin, and it would not be a huge surprise if he hit 50, given how well he is playing right now.
The expanded role he has been in this season has certainly helped, but this has all come while Nichushkin has still managed to play his very effective defensive role too. When Nichushkin was placed on the second line at the start of the season, many questioned how long he would last there. Talk of that has quickly disappeared, he is now firmly a middle-six option, rather than the third line option many people thought he was.
Solid Debut from Barron
With Devon Toews placed on the COVID-19 list, the Avalanche called up Justin Barron from the Colorado Eagles. The 2021 first-round draft pick was given a long look in the preseason, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the Avs called him up to play.
On the eye, he was very impressive, showing his skating ability and not showing up as making any mistakes, which is all you can ask for from a rookie playing in his first NHL game. He almost had an assist, where he made a great play on the first goal for Nichushkin, but both Nazem Kadri and J.T. Compher touched the puck after him to get the assists.
Not only this, but when you dive into the underlying numbers, Barron had an excellent game. At 5-on-5, he played just under 10 minutes and was on the ice for 16 Avalanche chances and just three against. Shots followed this pattern too, the Avs had eight shots while Barron was on the ice and allowed just one.
He wasn’t sheltered either, he was given a chance to play with everyone on the team and wasn’t held back to play with the big stars only. Of the defenseman, Barron spent over four minutes of his ice time with Kurtis MacDermid. In terms of forwards, Barron spent most of his time with Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Darren Helm, Logan O’Connor, and Mikhail Maltsev.
There was no assistance for Barron where Jared Bednar looked after the rookie in this game. He was given the full experience, trusted to deliver, and certainly did that. If this was a sign of things to come, we could see Barron in the line-up for longer than expected.
The Avs hit the road for one game in Nashville on Thursday, followed by a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they will look to make it nine home wins in a row.
With Devon Toews ruled out until after Christmas, Barron is expected to remain with the team for these two games and more, as the Avs continue to have problems staying healthy.
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.