The Colorado Avalanche had a closer in Matt Duchene during the 2014-15 campaign. Duchene registered four game-winning goals and tied Alex Tanguay for the team lead in the category, which included one score on April 3 at the Anaheim Ducks that kept the Avs in a tight Western Conference playoff race.
As a top-line producer, the Haliburton, Ontario, native said he felt that the team showed a lot of character and professionalism in the final weeks of the season, despite the Avs ending up missing the postseason.
"We just played the last few games like we were going to the playoffs," Duchene said after the final contest of the year. "It just shows the group that we have and how focused we are. We know we can be a good team, and that is what we're taking into the summer."
After a career season the year prior for both Duchene and the Avs, the center noted that 2014-15 was one of those times where you have to "take a step back before you can jump forward."
"We had a lot of adversity this year," Duchene said in April. "We played the same as we did last year and did the same things, but it just doesn't pay off. We learned a lot, and it's a great learning experience for us.
"I honestly believe we are closer to a Stanley Cup now then we were [in 2013-14]."
For the first time in his NHL career, the six-year veteran center appeared in all 82 games. He finished with 55 points and ranked fourth on the team in goals (21) and assists (34).
It was Duchene's fourth career 20-goal season, and he was one of four players on the team to reach that mark.
"When we get rolling, we all love to play offense and score, make plays and produce offensively," Duchene said of his teammates. "When we get on the right side of that, it’s great to see us get going."
A vital component of the Avs' young core, the 24-year-old was the team’s leading scorer in the month of October with nine points (three goals and six assists) in 11 games and continued firing on all cylinders with five goals and seven points in November. Duchene led the club with 10 points (three goals and seven assists) in January, shared the team lead with 10 points (three goals and seven assists) in February and had two three-point outings during the season.
Duchene also finished second on the team with 207 shots, which included setting a new career high with 10 on Oct. 18 at the Montreal Canadiens. It was the most shots fired by an Avalanche player in a single contest since Ryan Smyth (11) during the 2007-08 season.
This offseason began as a memorable one for Duchene, who alongside three of his Colorado teammates led Canada to a 6-1 victory over Russia to claim the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. In his fourth world championship appearance, Duchene finished tied for third overall in the tournament in both scoring (12 points) and assists (eight).
As a player with speed and unique stick-handling abilities, Duchene is no stranger to the tough demands of the league and will look to help the burgundy and blue get back to its successes next season.
"Chapter two of the new era wasn’t as nice as chapter one," Duchene said, "but we are going to make chapter three really good."