When the Colorado Avalanche released their schedule, it was obvious that the first 10 games of the season were going to be a huge challenge, mostly because of their first road trip that has taken them to Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Florida. Adding in an opening night game with the high-flying Dallas Stars and the Avalanche were staring at a real possibility of another slow start. Instead, the Avalanche have come out of the gate with a great deal of confidence and have found success.
Jared Bednar’s Impact
There can be no denying that the Avalanche look much hungrier and far more structured as a team through the first portion of the season. There is plenty of room for improvement, but the early signs are positive. The team feels it, too. After winning the first two games of the season, Nathan MacKinnon seemed more happy with the fact that the Avalanche outshot their opponents than anything else, certainly revealing some feelings about the previous system in place from Patrick Roy.
The two most noticeable differences that I have seen from the Avalanche to this point of the season are the forecheck and the breakout. The Avalanche forecheck looks relentless and has been creating turnovers that are leading to quality scoring chances. This was present only in spurts a season ago, but it seems that Coach Bednar has instilled in the team the fact that they need to earn the quality scoring chances, they won’t just come to you. The same can be said of the breakout; there is still work to be done, but the Avalanche seem to have a plan on how to get out of their zone now that doesn’t involve just chipping the puck off the boards and hoping your guy can chase it down first. There’s still a long way to go, but Bednar has done good things for the Avalanche thus far.
New Names Contributing
The Avalanche didn’t add a lot of big names in the offseason but they did make many additions. To this point of the season, the new faces on the Avalanche are making a difference. The most notable of these was Joe Colborne’s hat trick on opening night, but he is definitely not the only one. Patrick Wierchioch has four points in the first four games, Rene Bourque has a couple of assists, Fedor Tyutin also has a couple points and has played well on the blue line. Perhaps the best part of all of this is that none of these guys are the ones that the Avalanche are counting on to put up points on a nightly basis, but they are still getting it done. Scoring depth is necessary on playoff teams, and the Avalanche are getting it right now.
Big Guns Firing
As important as it has been for the team to get contributions from new guys in depth positions, it’s always important for your best players to be your best players and this has also been true for the Avalanche. Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and MacKinnon have all made positive offensive contributions for the team. Add in contributions both offensively and defensively from Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie and those big core players are doing the job for the team.
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Yes, there are a lot of positive things working for the Avalanche right now. A coach that clearly has the ear of his team cannot be understated; nor can you understate the importance of scoring coming from a variety of places. Make no mistake, the Avalanche have a lot of growth to do. The areas where the Avalanche need to improve are well-known, but it finally feels like most of the pieces are in place for the Avalanche to progress the way they really need to. If they keep playing the way they have through the first five games, this will be a team to watch.