Out in the Western Conference this season we see the usual suspects like the Chicago Blackhawks, the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues among the leaders in the standings. But through five games there's one surprise team that's right there with them, and it's the Colorado Avalanche. After struggling the last few seasons this kind of 5-0-0 start is unexpected, but I think they're for real.
If you look at their goaltending, Semyon Varlamov's numbers have been fantastic, but even when he gets a night off Jean-Sebastien Giguere comes in to play one game and is awesome. The Avalanche have a backup goaltender that's won the Conn Smythe Trophy. Not many teams have that in hockey. Then you look at their defense. This was supposed to be their weakest link, but it's been very good so far. Everyone knew Colorado's forwards would score, but the defense and goaltending were expected to be weaknesses and they've actually been their strengths. Add that to their sheer talent up front after all the high draft picks they've had, and throw in what Patrick Roy has brought to the team as coach, and you've got a 5-0-0 record.
The Avalanche can score, but if it's a low-scoring game, they've now got the goaltending to compete and defensively they're committed. When you've drafted as high as the Avs have for as long as they have, you know you've got talent on your team. Next to the Edmonton Oilers, the Avs have had the highest picks in the NHL over the past five years and now that roster has Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog on it, and don't forget Erik Johnson was a No. 1 pick by St. Louis. This team was always going to be talented, but it takes someone to bring that talent out. That's where Roy has come in. Roy has done a great job and you've got to give him the credit for this turnaround. When you look at this team vs. who was on the roster a year ago, the only real difference aside from drafting Nathan MacKinnon is Roy. He's come in and demanded work ethic, he's demanded preparation, he's demanded commitment to winning and he's getting all those things.