Many Colorado Avalanche fans were not born the last time their team got their hands on the coveted Stanley Cup. June 9, 2001, a date some 21 years ago, is when the Avalanche beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 at the Pepsi Center to clinch the Stanley Cup 4-3. Incidentally, that was the last time the Avs reached the Stanley Cup finals. The best online sportsbooks price the Avalanche as the favorites for Stanley Cup glory this year thanks to the team’s impressive form, particularly at home. Is this the year the Avalanche return to the Stanley Cup?
There has been clear progress since Jared Bednar took over from Patrick Roy as head coach in time for the 2016-17 season. Bednar guided the Avalanche to seventh-place in the Western Central in his first season, which was insufficient for a playoff spot. Things improved in 2017-18 when the Avs finished in fourth, but they lost 2-4 to the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs.
The Avalanche reached the second round of the playoffs the following season after finishing fifth during the regular season. Unfortunately, the San Jose Sharks beat them 3-4. Bednar’s men finished second in 2019-20 and topped the division last season, but both times saw the Avs fall in the playoff’s second round.
An Incredible Run of Home Form
Something is different in 2021-22; the Avalanche players look like they believe they can beat anyone, and they are correct to think this way. Whatever the team is doing behind the scenes is working because they have turned the Ball Arena into a fortress.
The Avalanche’s 2-0 victory over the struggling Chicago Blackhawks on January 24 was the team’s 16th consecutive victory at home. You have to go back to October 26 to find the last time Avalanche did not claim all the spoils when they had home rink advantage. The Vegas Golden Knights won 3-1 that night, something no other team has managed since.
That 16th straight home win tied Colorado with the 1975-76 Boston Bruins for the fifth-longest home winning stream in the history of the NHL. It would take a brave person to best against the Avs at least matching the 2011-12 Detroit Red Wings’ NHL record of 23 home wins in a row. Bednar spoke about his team’s incredible home form shortly after their record-equally 16th win.
“It’s just a feather in our cap for the guys. They’re finding ways to win hockey games. We’ve set a pretty high standard in our room in the way we want to go about our daily basis how we want our guys to play. They haven’t been perfect, but a lot of games have been really good. They keep pushing that standard, and they recognize when it’s not great, but they’re happy to get the points. Guys understand that we have this streak at home, and they want to keep it going.”
Key Players Scoring For Fun
Everything seems to have come together, especially at the Ball Arena. Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen are racking up points for fun. Kadri has 52 points in 37 games, thanks to 16 goals and 36 assists. He already has more assists at this stage of the season than in both previous campaigns combined. Kadri only needs four more goals for his best goal-scoring season in an Avalanche jersey.
Rantanen is on course to at least match last season’s impressive tallies. The Finnish winger scored 30 goals and had 36 assists in 52 regular-season games in 2020-21. He is already on 22 goals and 27 assists from 37 regular-season games.
At the other end of the ice, competition for the goaltender spot is heating up, which spells good news for the defensive side of the team. Darcy Kuemper has been the first choice goalie this season, starting 28 games, but Pavel Francouz has stepped up to the plate when called upon and is averaging only 2.03 goals against per game. Furthermore, his shutout against the Blackhawks, which came after making 34 saves, follows a shutout against the Anaheim Ducks. This made Francouz the first Avalance goaltender to have back-to-back shutouts since late January 2003.
It is an exciting time for Avalanche fans who are long overdue some Stanley Cup magic. This just could be the season the team realizes its full potential.