The 2011-2012 Colorado Avalanche did what no other Avs team has done: they won 8 straight at home. Of course, ties had a lot to do with past teams not accomplishing this same feat, but it’s a source of pride for the team and rightly so. After having a dismal start at home, the young team has found a way to make it hard for other teams to play in the Avalanche house. This is also the first year since 2000-2001 that an Avalanche team has had two separate 5-game winning streaks in one season. The Avs have won 6 of the last 7 games.
Ryan O’Reilly did the unexpected in 2009 when the second-round pick made the Avalanche squad straight out of training camp. He garnered attention with his solid defensive play, something most rookies struggle to master. In his third season, O’Reilly’s offense is catching up with his strong work in his own end. With his goal and assist in the Avalanche’s 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday, December 26, 2011, the young center matched his point totals for each of his previous two seasons at 26. The big difference? We’re only 37 games into the season. At the rate he’s going, he’s set to hit the 60-point mark by April. However, the offense should not out-shine his continued defensive presence. Currently, Ryan O’Reilly leads the league in takeaways, having registered 51, which is 2 ahead of 3-time Selke winner Pavel Datsyuk. O’Reilly is seeing some hard-time minutes, as well, facing the top lines of the opposition and taking a lot of defensive-zone face offs. Speaking of face offs, 20-year-old O’Reilly is rocking them at 53.5%, sitting 7th in the league in number of face offs won (355). Ryan O’Reilly centers what’s often considered the Avs’ top line, with veteran Milan Hejduk and rookie Gabriel Landeskog flanking him on the wings.
Returning to Form
After injuries forced Jean-Sebastien Giguere into the back seat, he’s found his game again in Colorado. Giguere was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week last week, which is no surprise as he’s sporting a .934 save percentage and a 1.79 GAA. His goals-against average is good for second in the league. Don’t think there’s a goalie controversy brewing in Denver, though. Semyon Varlamov is still the goalie of the Avalanche future, but having Jiggy there to guide him and carry the team when needed is a big part of the team’s resurgence of late.
Kyle Quincey and Brandon Yip are both healthy but have been healthy scratches the past couple of games. Ryan Wilson has begun skating again, but he is not engaging in full practices. Semyon Varlamov returned to the line up in a big way, stopping 20 of 22 shots in the Avs’ win over the Wild. Chuck Kobasew, David Jones and Peter Mueller remain out indefinitely.
The Avalanche returned home for a game against the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday, December 27, 2011. The game is the second of a back-to-back. They face the Phoenix Coyotes at home on Thursday, December 29, 2011, before heading to California for a New Year’s Eve game against the Anaheim Ducks and their first game of 2012 against the Los Angeles Kings on January 2.