The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup last year after clinching the Western Conference and beating Nashville, St. Louis and Edmonton before facing Tampa Bay in the finals. The Lightning was looking for a third straight triumph but Colorado took the title in six games. But can it win back-to-back championships?
Colorado was predicted by many before the start of the new season to go all the way again in 2023. Many of the NHL best bets backed the Avs to repeat. But can they really do it? With around a quarter of the regular season already in the books, we profile the season so far, the main challengers to the throne, and answer that all-important question.
The Season So Far
Last year Colorado won the Central Division for only the second time ever and went on to win the Stanley Cup. At the time of writing there is a very long way to go, but the Avs are definitely in with a shout of winning it again. A good recent record of 8-2 was cruelly halted by Winnipeg in that 5-0 shutout. But coach Jared Bednar should be pretty pleased right now.
That was not a great way to finish off November, but there is a good stretch of games at home in December before Christmas and the division could get a lot closer by the end of the year. Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantenen are just about the entire league’s best power-play unit, while Alexander Georgiev has looked very impressive in net.
Rivals in the West
Dallas and Winnipeg hold slender leads in the Central, while Vegas, Seattle and Los Angeles all possess better points totals going into December. But there should be little to fear for the Avs – and they are definitely not worse than all of those teams mentioned.
The Jets may just have recorded that crushing win, but this is a team that looks ready for a fall. Even a good goaltender will have a downturn in form and Winnipeg seems heavily reliant on Josh Morrissey to score goals. Colorado should be confident of overtaking the Jets as the season goes on.
Dallas has also experienced a decrease in goals scored and looks to be feeling the pressure at the top of the Central. The Stars’ power play is impressive but surely that is leaving too much pressure on the rest of the game for Dallas. The Vegas Golden Knights have cooled off a little in recent weeks but could be the team to look out for as far as the Western Conference finals go.
We should mention a possible sleeper team in Seattle here. The Kraken are taking advantage of a weak Pacific Division and could make it to the postseason in just their second year of operating. We would be very surprised if Seattle causes Colorado a problem in the playoffs though.
Colorado could dominate in the NHL for the next few years.
Eastern Conference Race
If the West looks just about there for the taking for Colorado, it is the East that could cause a problem. Luckily the team will obviously only face one opponent in the playoffs and that is to the Avalanche’s advantage, as the eventual representative will already have faced two or three of the other best teams in the league.
At the moment it looks like it could be either New Jersey or Boston that make it to the Stanley Cup finals. Both teams lead their respective divisions and have been impressive on the ice in recent weeks.
The Devils have looked to an exciting young roster of players to power in front of the Islanders and Hurricanes in the Metropolitan, thanks to a huge goal differential and win percentage. Big wins at this point of the season will get the fans going but we will see if these players can keep it going deep into the postseason.
Boston looks even stronger, if anything. An incredible home record has been boosted by some excellent performances on the road and David Pastrnak has benefited from the return of David Krejci after the Czech national played a season in his homeland. The Bruins haven’t won a Stanley Cup for 11 years now and look just about the best in the East right now.
Can the Avs Repeat?
The short answer is ‘yes’. Losing some very good players in the offseason and some long-term injuries have not slowed Colorado down. As we regularly witness, anything can happen in the playoffs. But the Avs have more than enough talent to make it that far – and should be confident of joining Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh as recent back-to-back champions.