Colorado Avalanche: Has Their Fire Been Snuffed Out After a Great Start?

Eric LaForgeCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2009

ST. LOUIS - DECEMBER 7: Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche is congratulated after shutting out the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on December 7, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Avalanche beat the Blues 4-0.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

One of the biggest stories at the beginning of the season was the resurgent Colorado Avalanche.

Like many others, I made the mistake of predicting the rest of the season from the month of October.

I'm not going to do that again.

The majority of the hockey world assumed that the good play was going to continue for the rest of the season. But now, the Avalanche are struggling.

I don't want to take anything away from their start. At the beginning of the season, they were playing solid hockey and deserved to be at the top. They were making the plays that no other team could, and goalie Craig Anderson was within the top five in the NHL.

Now, Anderson is struggling, but not nearly as much as the rest of the team. He is still 11th in the NHL in save percentage (tied with Martin Brodeur) but is 20th in GAA. This big of a difference tells me that he's not getting help from his defense anymore.

During their recent skid, Colorado's biggest problem has been their defense. They are letting too many shots get in to Anderson. Once again, Anderson has been great, the defense has not. Anderson has had to face the most shots out of any goalie in the NHL, and that's mostly because the defense isn't doing its job.

The Avs did a great job at the beginning of the season of making their goalie's job easier. However, they haven't been doing nearly as well during the past month and a half. They are giving the other team too many opportunities to score goals, and their opponents are capitalizing on them.

I agree that the Avs have played some great games defensively. A recent shutout against St. Louis and a 1-0 loss against Minnesota have shown the gains the Avs have made on D.

Scoring insn't the biggest problem the Avs have been facing, but it has dropped from the beginning of the season. They still have great scoring games, but they can't expect their offense to be there on a nightly basis. It's really started to become inconsistent.

For example, the defense played well against Minnesota, but the offense couldn't generate the amount of quality scoring chances that they needed to win.

The Avs have improved a lot from last year. They are no longer a cellar dweller.

However, they are not a top contender in the NHL. I think that there is a good chance that they'll make the playoffs this year, but it won't be with a division win. It will also be in a lower part of the standings.

Right now, they're in fifth place. I think they may sink to sixth or seventh, but probably not farther than that.

I'm anxious to see what the future holds for this team, because they have a lot of young, undiscovered talent. I don't think that Anderson will be the next Patrick Roy, but he is a worthy replacement. Although I expect to see the Avs in a powerful position in the next few seasons, this year they should just be happy returning to the postseason.

See more of my opinions at Tips for Hockey