Nine months ago, after a late surge of clutch goal-scoring and top-tier goaltending, the Colorado Avalanche found themselves atop the Central division; as well as possessors of the number two seed overall heading into the Western Conference Playoffs at the end of the 2013-2014 regular season. Many of the franchise’s faithful had expected the club to carry the momentum and success of the prior year with them into the start of a new one …
But with an assortment of different cast members added to the mix during the offseason, the hockey gods sent a clear message to the front office and coaching staff; revealing that team chemistry is something that is worked on through countless hours of practice, hard work, and (ultimately) trial and error. Colorado’s slow start to the new season produced just 3 victories through the team’s first 14 games, leading many critics to quickly declare that the team was headed back to the basement in the division standings.
The team’s chessmaster and head coach, Patrick Roy, began experimenting with different defensive pairings, as well as making small tweaks and adjustments to the lineup. Yet the team continued to experience a number of 3 and 4 game skids along the way. This led to Captain Gabriel Landeskog calling for a players only meeting in early December. Asked by the Denver sports media about the nature of the meeting, Landeskog was quoted saying, “We know we have the leadership in here and the experience in here to get back in the picture, back in the hunt and start playing well again, all it takes is to get hot and have a good month and all of a sudden you’re in the thick of things.”
Perhaps the meeting was just what the players needed, as they’ve secured at least one point in eight of their last ten games, having won five of those contests. Then again, maybe the recent raised level of competitiveness is just a result of the team having had more time to work with one another on the ice; yielding a boost in the team chemistry that was blatantly lacking at season’s dawn.
To give you a better picture of the team’s slow but steady climb up the ladder, here is a look at where the team stood just over a month and a half ago, compared to where they reside now:
December 1, 2014:
Record: 9-10-5, 13th out of 14 in the Western Conference.
January 24, 2015:
Record: 20-18-10, 10th out of 14 in the Western Conference.
So that’s an 11-8-5 record over the course of the last 24 games. Sure, on paper the progress looks as if the team is getting more cohesive at about a snail’s pace. But it’s watching the transformation of how the team plays each game that has many avid followers of the Avalanche getting more and more excited about this last stretch of the season. Indecisiveness and sloppy turnovers that were the norm weeks ago are now being replaced with each player’s confidence in knowing exactly where teammates are going to be, and what they are going to do if the puck finds itself at the end of their stick. The 0-5 blowout losses are turning into 3-2 final scores … and Colorado has been finding themselves on the winning side of those tallies as of late.
With 34 regular season games remaining, Colorado is now just 3 points back from a postseason slot. You read that correctly … The Avs are only 3 points back from a return ticket to the postseason. In a league where 2 and 4 point swings between two seeds can happen on any given night, there is still an eternity of hockey left to be played before the playoff picture truly begins to reveal itself.
Throughout the course of the next couple of months, the speculators are going to speculate, the predictors are going to predict, and the guaranteers are undoubtedly going to guarantee. But the bottom line is this: if the Colorado Avalanche continue their ascend up the mountain of teams within the Western Conference, the boys that have donned the label “Avs New Age” will still be standing come April 12th. And while the thirst for Lord Stanley grows with each passing game in seasoned veterans like Jarome Iginla, Danny Briere, and Alex Tanguay, you’ve got to like their chances.
In Denver, the mountains sit silent. Heavy with the accumulation of the season.
How much more snow can the peaks hold before it must fall?
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