Colorado Avalanche: New-Look Avalanche Getting the Job Done Early

Kevin Goff@@BrgBrigadeKevinContributor IOctober 13, 2011

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche is congratulated by teammates Jan Hejda #8 and Shane O'Brien #5 after the shutout against the Boston Bruins on October 10, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Boston Bruins 1-0.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Yes, the regular season is only three games old, and it would be absurd to draw large conclusions with 79 more hockey games to be played for the Avalanche.

That being said, these three games for the Colorado Avalanche have already shown that this year's version of the Colorado Avalanche is going to be a team to be reckoned with.

Opening night didn't go as everybody had hoped in Denver as the Avalanche were shut out after the retirement of Peter Forsberg's jersey at Pepsi Center, but it really wasn't as if the Avalanche played terribly.

They got off to a hot start and got tons of chances throughout the first period and kept a decent amount of that momentum going into the second. The third period was all Detroit, but the play of Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was so spectacular, and the feistiness of a team that was so used to being just dominated a season ago gave fans a lot to look forward to.

Fast-forward a couple of days and the Colorado Avalanche were playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions in their barn.

Not only did the Avalanche start the game on time, but they played one of their most complete games all year, outshooting Boston throughout the entirety of the game.

Once again Varlamov took center stage as he shut out the Bruins.

Then tonight, the Avalanche trailed the Columbus Blue Jackets early in the third period and turned in an inspired effort, putting 16 shots on goal (which was more than their total from the previous two periods combined) and tied the game, which the Avalanche later won in a shootout.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche heads for the net as Benoit Pouliot #67 of the Boston Bruins defends on October 10, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Again, the games are very early in the season, and there is still no way that we can tell what all is going to happen throughout the rest of the year. But right now the Avalanche are improved in all of the areas that killed them last year.

First of all, the Avalanche are finally a healthy team. The insane amount of injuries they suffered last season definitely held them down as the season wore on.

Second, these are very close games that the Avalanche have played in and they are finding ways to win. Last season the goalie let in softies, and the defense looked completely inept and soft.

This season, the defense is strong and edgy, and opponents are getting chances but hardly any second chances from point-blank range.

Third, rather than the goaltending holding the team back, Semyon Varlamov has been the best player for the Avalanche out on the ice and the team is responding.

All of these areas were the big problem areas for the Avalanche last season.

Right now, the biggest issue is that the big guns for the team just aren't burying the puck. Hejduk scored the first goal of the season for the Avalanche, but three goals in three games for a team that was very high scoring for much of last season will have to change.

Once the likes of Duchene, Stastny and David Jones really get going and scoring, this team is going to be a very tough one to beat.

Another huge positive for this team has been the play of rookie sensation Gabriel Landeskog, who just tallied his first ever NHL goal against the Blue Jackets tonight.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche clears the puck against the Boston Bruins on October 10, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

He has found a great chemistry with Ryan O'Reilly and Daniel Winnik on the third line for the Avalanche and has been one of the best players for the first three games of the season.

He is playing smart with the puck, hitting people left and right, making very savvy and responsible plays in his own end and is really helping to provide his team with very energetic shifts that are momentum swingers. Landeskog is going to have a good year.

The Avalanche still have a long way to go this season, but one thing is certainly clear about this team: They have regained their pride in themselves and their teams, and it has shown in their play.

The Avalanche are ready to surprise everybody again.