Thursday morning, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said the night’s tilt against Minnesota would be a “good measuring stick for our hockey team to see where we stand.”
It’s becoming much clearer as to where the Avalanche stand—or, rather, where they want to go—after Thursday’s win against the Wild.
With a fifth-straight win and now a pretty impressive 18-8-2 record, the Avs moved into second place in the West Division, leapfrogging the very same Minnesota team they danced with at Ball Arena on Thursday night.
It was a good measuring stick, indeed. The Avs have been great of late, but have no doubt had their inconsistency issues all year. The Wild came in, winners of their last five, as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Armed with exciting Russian rookie Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota had shutout their opponent in three of its last five games. The Avalanche, however, seemed to care very little about the Wild’s recent history. And they clearly cared very little about their own troubles in recent past.
The Avs came out hot, in what Gabe Landeskog called what “might have been one of our better periods of the season.”
“Our team came out hungry and in attack mode,” Bednar added.
After outshooting the Wild 25-6 in the opening frame—which is, by the way, the largest shot differential the Avs have put up in one period since 1997—it was clear the tone the Avalanche wanted to set.
It’s a familiar one. It felt like the Avalanche of old, the ones from the past couple of years, and the ones dubbed the favorites, or whatever. It’s something we haven’t seen all too often this season.
There was extended zone time, vintage Nathan MacKinnon, top-line production; the team defense was stout; Forechecking and backchecking, relentless. The Avs looked deep, and all four lines were firing on all cylinders for the first time in a long time.
“We had no passengers,” Landeskog said after the game. “Everybody was going and all four lines were rolling.”
Oh, and this is the healthiest the Avs roster had been since opening night. If this is what they can accomplish with a mostly healthy roster, then lookout Lord Stanley.
The biggest takeaway: the Avalanche didn’t take their foot off the gas. And when they got punched, they punched back.
Even when the Wild cut Colorado’s lead in half midway through the game, there was no woe-is-me or slumped shoulders. They punched back. Figuratively and literally, as Bowen Byram went after the hulking 6-foot-6 Jordan Greenway in front of his net, stood up for himself, and drew an Avs powerplay that would regain Colorado’s two-goal lead. It was a microcosm of the team’s effort on Thursday night.
There was team spirit, an air of confidence on the bench, and a hustle and work ethic that felt championship-caliber. They’ve gone 18 straight games without allowing their opponent more than 30 shots. And there are certainly other key performance indicators that might suggest that this Avalanche team really might have it after all.
“We’ve played some really good hockey games here recently,” Bednar added. “We’re playing the right way and we’re starting to get some results.”
And like Bednar said Thursday morning, it was a good measuring stick by which the Avs can judge themselves by.
And if this Avalanche team can consistently show up, their measuring stick could very well be 35-and-one-quarter inches tall…and weigh roughly 37 pounds.