Three games into the 2010-2011 Colorado Avalanche season, and all looks well.
After two wins against teams that went deep into the playoffs, with one coming against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and a close game against Philly, Colorado's season is looking bright.
One of the biggest positives has been early contributions from players from whom the Avs were expecting big things, guys like Johnny Liles, Brandon Yip, Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene.
Obviously, the key allowing them to flourish to this point has been, simply, staying healthy. The Avalanche battled injuries last season aplenty, and several guys who were expected to step up last season couldn’t.
Namely, David Jones, who’s easily been one of the better players early on this season. Jones had a whale of a night last night in Detroit, scoring two goals and adding an assist, and he was all over the ice showing the skill that made him so highly coveted by the Avs.
That style of play has been present all season, and the Avs need him to continue to play that way for the remainder of the season.
Looking at it, and drawing comparisons, David Jones has a chance to be a Johan Franzen-type player in Colorado. He has identical hands, almost the same speed and certainly the same vision on the ice.
If he can develop into that guy, the Avs will take a large step forward this season, especially on the power play, as Franzen is a catalyst for Detroit's power play.
Which leads me to the Avs' power play. To this point, the power play has been their biggest issue—at a dreadful 10 percent, it's been extremely ineffective.
The Avs have had 10 opportunities and have only netted one goal. In addition, the Avs have allowed two short-handed goals while on the power play, which is a cardinal sin of the power play.
The Avalanche seemingly have been lost in the offensive zone while on the power play, and that will need to change, and dramatically, if the Avs hope to be successful this season.
Avs head coach Joe Sacco, who answered numerous questions in the press conference afterward, stated, “The power play has been our crutch this season. It’s been horrible, and we’ll have to work hard on making that a positive moving forward.”
He went on to say, “The power play is a pivotal aspect of a successful team's makeup. The chance to play against another team short-handed should always benefit your team. Even if no goal is scored, you should at least dominate the time of possession.”
Clearly, this is a source of concern for the Avs and Coach Sacco.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the struggle has been simply that there are some new faces, and being a new season, guys are still becoming acclimated to playing with one another.
Which isn’t an excuse, rather, an explanation.
While it’s too early to jump to any conclusions about what and who the Avs will be on the power play, it’s certainly an issue that’s reared its ugly head and needs to be addressed.
The fact remains, though, that through the first three games, the Avs seem to be getting the better of their opponents in several facets of the game, thus leading to two wins in three games.
Perhaps the Avs’ greatest asset this season has been their speed.
The Avalanche have been skating circles around their competition, creating a lot of really good scoring chances down low and, to this point, they’ve been taking advantage of them.
In the NHL, speed kills, and the Avs have plenty of it with guys like Matt Duchene, Johnny Liles, Brandon Yip and Davey Jones, among others. Continuing to use that speed will be huge for them as this season goes on.
They’ve been tenacious in the neutral zone and have outworked their opponents in the corners and the slot, both defensively and offensively.
In the end, if the Avalanche can continue to play the brand of hockey they’ve played to this point, the chances are good that they’ll work their way back into the playoffs.
And while that’s 79 games away, it’s still something to think about and set your sights on. I can promise you, with all the negative banter about the Avs, they’ve probably set their sights there and they’re going to work to fulfill that goal.
So, stay tuned, support the young group of guys suiting up for YOUR Avs and enjoy the ride—it should be a good one!