If last season proved anything, it’s that Colorado knows how to win at home. However, it also left the team wondering what they’ll need to do to turn road games into points. On the team’s most recent roadtrip, the Avalanche appear to be figuring out how to play away from Pepsi Center – a trip that saw the Avs bring home 7 of a possible 8 points, with they’re only loss coming in a shootout against the New York Rangers this past Tuesday. New Jersey, Philadelphia and Carolina fans were all able to see what Colorado’s top line is capable of first hand.
As it stands, the Avalanche have the highest producing line in the NHL. Winger Mikko Rantanen is tied for the most points in the NHL and leads outright in the assists category. Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog, meanwhile, are tied for second in goals scored.
Before the road trip, it seemed like Landeskog may be surpassed by his linemates, having only tallied three points to Rantanen’s eight and MacKinnon’s seven. While on the road, however, the captain’s offensive production exploded – with nine points in four games, including a hat-trick in New Jersey. Every member of the top line has landed in the league’s top-20 points producers thus far.
Along with all of that scoring, all three of the top line are in the top five for goals created, along with Alex Ovechkin and Auston Matthews.
Beyond first line scoring, the Avalanche are also finding great success on the penalty kill. The good news being they have the third highest success rate on the PK, with 90.5%. The bad news is they have faced the most man advantages, and it isn’t close – the amount separating the Avalanche from the second-place Detroit Red Wings is the same amount separating the Red Wings from the Carolina Hurricanes, the team ranked eighth in PKs faced. The units defending the man advantage have done a tremendous job thus far, but the Avalanche need to cut down on the constant parade of players heading to the box.
The biggest hiccup in Colorado’s game so far is a lack of secondary scoring. The MacKinnon-Landeskog-Rantanen line has done a terrific job of getting the team out in front, while the rest of the forwards have fallen back.
Coach Jared Bednar switched his forward lines on Monday, leaving only his top line in tact. Gabriel Bourquestarted the year on the third line with Matt Nieto and Carl Soderberg was moved back to the fourth line, being replaced by Matt Calvert. Tyson Jost, who spent most of his early season on the second line with Alexander Kerfoot and Colin Wilson, is now at center on the fourth line to make room for a returning Sven Andrighetto. Rookies Vladislav Kamenev and Sheldon Dries did not play in the final game of the road trip.
Now, that’s a whole lot of names moving around, but what it really means is Bednar is open to new ideas. New looks, along with trading away Matt Duchene, are how this top line came to be in the first place.
In short, this Colorado team has all the pieces it could possibly need to make a deep run this season. The initial improvement on the road is incredibly exciting and, along with the continued strength of top line production and an unbelievable penalty kill, the Avalanche don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
The Colorado Avalanche will be home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, October 24th.