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Colorado Avalanche

Short-handed Avalanche just keep piling up impressive numbers anyway



CALGARY, Alberta – Bobby Orr had 15 points in his first 21 career NHL games. Cale Makar has 23 points in his first 21 NHL games.

Andre Burakovsky had 12 goals in 76 games last season. He’s got 10 goals in 21 games this season.

Those are just some of the eye-popping personal statistics for some Colorado Avalanche players through 21 games, but the most important one of all: Thirteen, as in the number of victories so far.’

Thirteen victories, despite roughly 40 percent of their opening-night roster currently sidelined to injury. The latest victory came here Thursday night, a 3-2 triumph over the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome. That brings the record on their current five-game road trip to 3-1-0, despite one that has been without two-thirds of their top line, and most of the first three games with third- and fourth-string goaltenders.

How are they doing it? With just good, hard-working, opportunistic hockey, that’s how. Oh, and it helps to have guys like Makar and Nathan MacKinnon around, too.

MacKinnon had two assists, Makar one and Burakovsky scored twice in the victory, while Philipp Grubauer made 31 saves after a five-game injury absence. Hey, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog – who needs you?

Just kidding.

So, what does Makar think about that Bobby Orr comparison? I asked him, or told him at least, about the numbers to the start of his career compared to Orr’s. Makar, whose cheeks are always naturally flushed as it is after games, seemed to blush a little more.

“Well, uh…” Makar said with a laugh. “I mean, it doesn’t come without teammates, obviously. We have a lot of guys who have stepped us. It’s a big testament to why we’ve been successful so far.”

This was a win that didn’t feel as close as the final score – or shot total (33-26 Calgary) – would indicate. The Avs raced out to a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 34 minutes and mostly just kept the Flames to the perimeter all night. Calgary, which has lost five in a row now, even earned a few boos from the home crowd after the first and second periods. Frankly, it was an easy game for the Avs to play physically, or so it seemed.

That had to be fine with them, as they continue to play without significant personnel that started the season.

Getting Grubauer (and Pavel Francouz, who served as the backup) was important, though. Hard to keep winning with your top two goalies, and Grubauer looked solid in his return.

“I felt good. Kept it simple,” Grubauer said. “Anytime you miss any time as a goalie, your timing is off. Maybe not reading the game as well as you’re used to. But guys made it really simple for me.”

Burakovsky’s two goals came in the first period, the second a bar-down job past David Rittich. MacKinnon set up both, giving him a team-leading 31 points. Vladislav Kamenev, who has played very well of late, scored the game-winner, a tap-in down the left side following some nice passing by J.T. Compher and Valeri Nichushkin.

The Avs soldier on to Minnesota to conclude the road trip Thursday. At this point, with all the fun they’re having, they might be asking themselves: Do we have to go home?


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