With just one game left for the Colorado Avalanche before the All-Star break, they have already exceeded expectations as they remain in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs.
Going into the season they were ranked No. 21 by ESPN.com, saying that Seymon Varlamov would be a big risk and that if they can stay healthy and get a productive season from Erik Johnson, they could surprise people. So far, they have lived up to most of that deal.
Varlamov has started majority of the games for Colorado, saving 89.9 percent of shots and allowing three goals per game. The bigger surprise has been Jean-Sebastian Giguere who has played in 22 of the 52 games thus far. He has compiled a 92.2 save percentage while only allowing just over two goals per game, putting him in the top 10 in both categories.
There have been some tough stretches this season and the Avs haven't stayed as healthy as they may have liked. A key player in Matt Duchene suffered a knee injury in late December and has yet to resume skating activities since. A concussion sidelined Peter Mueller for several weeks and he has been great since returning just a few days ago.
Erik Johnson was the last point made by ESPN going into the season, and he has played well so far. Averaging over 21 minutes of ice time per game, EJ has 19 points and 10 power-play assists.
Two other Avs have stepped up their games throughout the season and they are Ryan O'Reilly, who leads the team in points with 39, and the rookie Gabriel Landeskog, who is a strong candidate for the Calder Memorial Trophy given to the top rookie in the league.
Colorado currently sits second in the Northwest Division behind the reigning Western Conference champions. They are right on the edge of a playoff spot with 54 points, one ahead of the Minnesota Wild, against whom they play tonight.
If Duchene can come back strong within the next few weeks, a playoff run is not out of reach for the Avalanche.