The year 2013 was, perhaps more literally than for most of their NHL brethren, a tale of two seasons for the Colorado Avalanche. The 2012-13 squad that took the ice at the Pepsi Center was a laughingstock; the 2013-14 team is a playoff contender with strong goaltending and a fiery leader in Patrick Roy.
As such, you’ll be hard-pressed to find moments on this list that have anything to do with 2012-13. Perhaps the team’s only great moment was selecting Nathan MacKinnon first overall in the 2013 NHL draft, and even for him, what he’s done on the ice for Colorado has been far more significant.
As the year 2013 draws to a close, we take a look back at some of the biggest highlight plays for Colorado’s top players.
Forget being drafted first overall. Forget the trick-shot video with Sidney Crosby. It's not about either of those things—it's about putting that first puck in the net and proving, to everyone who didn't know how good you were already, that you're going to be a difference-maker in the big leagues.
Varlamov is a Vezina Trophy candidate for his work between the pipes in Colorado, having played with great intensity and focus to the tune of a 9-2-0 start to the season. He’s also proved that he can make the clutch save, as he did with this Jason Pominville shootout attempt on November 30 to defeat the Minnesota Wild.
For the first couple of months of the season, the Avalanche were unbeatable in overtime. O’Reilly made his contribution to that streak by scoring this goal on a give-and-go to P.A. Parenteau, beating Mike Smith to secure a 4-3 win over the Coyotes on November 21.
Alexander Ovechkin is a beloved star for his willingness to play physically when he’s not scoring goals, but Gabriel Landeskog doesn’t care how hard you hit or how big your paycheck is. The 21-year-old Avalanche captain blew by the Capitals captain to score his sixth goal of the season, adding to his earlier assist, as Colorado came out on top 4-1 on November 10.
If this one looks easy, it's because it was probably the greatest gift goal of Stastny's career. A poor play by Brent Seabrook sent the puck bouncing off the boards directly to the center, who couldn't help but victimize Corey Crawford. Colorado would score almost at will in the November 19 victory, defeating the defending champions 5-1 to snap a three-game losing streak and improve to 15-5-0.
We couldn’t fill out this list with just on-ice highlights—there’s plenty of fun to be had off the ice, too. Ryan Wilson will be more careful not to sit near Erik Johnson when a bench reporter approaches him for an interview in the future. This is a contender for funniest in-game moment of the year for the Avs.
Johnson is the most prominent defenseman on the Avalanche in terms of name recognition, both because of his Team USA experience and his ability to make plays on both sides of the ice. This goal on the Stars’ Dan Ellis, scored in a December 17 loss, proved that he can be relied on to put the puck in the net when the play calls for it.
The start of Giguere’s season saw him playing as if he had stepped out of a time machine from a decade ago; each of his first seven games resulted in a victory. The Penguins were the third set of victims on that list, and this big stop on Chris Kunitz played a big part in what would become a shutout victory.
Beating the perennial Stanley Cup contenders was the first inkling of proof for many that this year's Colorado squad might just be for real—and a great departure from last season's bottom-feeder.
Oh, how much changes in a year.
Chris Leone has written for Bleacher Report since 2008 in multiple capacities. Follow him on Twitter @christopherlion.