Entering Tuesday’s match at the Nashville Predators, Colorado had scored 19 goals in the last five games, going 4-1-0 in that span, and it would appear that the tallies are going to keep coming.
Points flowing from all areas, including the talented forward core, makes the Avalanche dangerous down the stretch.
“It’s great to see throughout the lineup, and great to see different guys making good plays. It makes us dangerous as a group,” said center Matt Duchene. “That’s the key to good teams. You look at any team that’s won the cup the last few years, and all three lines are chipping in and contributing. Look at the Rangers last year. Their fourth line was so big for them. They got into the Final.”
Those kinds of contributions—from up and down the roster—help take some collective pressure off a team that struggled to find twine earlier this year, opening the door for more to come.
“It’s big when we can get a goal or two early, and kind of get the offense going. Last [game], we had Nate going. We had a couple guys going. It’s nice,” said rear guard Tyson Barrie. “If we can get everybody going, we’re a dangerous team. It’s looking like guys are starting to go a little bit, and we’re a confident team in here. I think guys are starting to feel confident and play confident.”
The kind of high-potency, confident game that Colorado is exhibiting now is reminiscent of last season, which saw great success for many of the young forwards on the club.
“We’re excited about the way we’re playing right now. For us that were here last year, it kind of reminds us of the way we were going about our business all last year,” said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog. “Just coming to work and… trying to play as hard as [we] can and finding ways to win hockey games. Really, that’s what we’ve been doing lately. Even the game we didn’t win against L.A., we had 43 shots or whatever. We want to come in tonight firing on all cylinders.
“We have to create some excitement, and we have to create our own luck or whatever you want to call it. But we’ve been working hard and it’s good to see the hard work paying off.”
With pucks going in, passes connecting, goaltending staying strong and wins starting to come, it’s easy to see the aplomb in the Avalanche dressing room.
“I think we’re feeling really confident here. We’ve been playing good hockey as of late, and we know the position we’re in,” said Barrie. “We’re a desperate hockey club, and we’ve been playing like that and we’ve been playing good. We’re going to look to continue that tonight.”
More recently, Colorado has been keeping its focus on the now, the controllable aspects of the game and the race to the postseason. Sure the club needs help in the standings, but the players can only worry about what they bring to the rink on any given evening. There is no looking ahead to the coming games and weeks, only preparation for the day-to-day.
“We’ve done a good job up to this point, but we’ve got a lot of games left to win. So it’s going to be a focus on this one tonight,” said Barrie. “That’s all the focus is right now.”
“That’s our mindset. It’s one day at a time, one game at a time right now. We’ve been doing a good job of that lately, and we’ve just got to keep that mindset,” added Duchene. “We’ve been playing well of late, and we just want to keep even keel and humble and just keep hungry. Every win is big right now.”
The only thing on the horizon then is a big game against the best-in-the-west Predators, one that means much more for the Avs than it does for Nashville.
“I think anytime you’re successful as a team or individually, that’s kind of how you’re approaching things. Every game right now is exciting, and tonight’s no different,” said Duchene. “We just want to keep that rolling. We’re all confident in here that if we keep that going, we’re going to put ourselves in a good position.”
“It will be an exciting one,” Landeskog added. “We saw them just after the All-Star break. They’ve been playing well. I think they only have four… losses at home. We’re looking to give them a fifth one.”
Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog has been a key part of Colorado’s recent offensive output, leading by example during a recent five-game goal streak that ended when he failed to tally against the Tampa Bay Lightning last Sunday.
Left Wing - COL
Goals: 15 | Assists: 23 | Pts: 38
Shots: 167 | +/-: -5
While the goalscoring stretch may have concluded, Landeskog managed to convert the run into a point streak with an assist on the first of Nathan MacKinnon
’s three goals. His six game series (five goals, two assists) ties veteran Alex Tanguay
for the longest spell of the campaign.
For Landeskog, the outpouring of points is a welcome reward for the hard work spent trying to recapture some of the magic of last season.
“I think even in September and October this season, we were trying to find that feeling and we were trying to get back to it, but for some reason it just doesn’t happen by itself,” Landeskog said of the process.
MacKinnon, meanwhile, has been coming on as of late as well. The 19-year-old forward has accrued three goals and four assists in his last six contests, which includes the hat trick against the Bolts. There’s a little extra jump to his step now that things are rolling, and he’ll certainly be a player for opposing defenders to focus on.
Other players running hot at the moment include Tyson Barrie, who has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last two games, and Ryan O'Reilly, who has five points in his last five games (five assists).
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is expected to make his 17th consecutive start in net. The 26-year-old Russian is 8-6-2 during this time with a 2.37 goals-against average and .916 save percentage (935 minutes played, 441 shots faced, 37 goals allowed).