An NHL-most 32 victories, 67 points, .779 winning percentage, plus-55 goals-differential and 10-game winning streak suggests the Avalanche is the league’s best team. There’s certainly no argument in the Western Conference, where Colorado leads the second-best team (Nashville) by nine points, with two games in hand.
The Avs, who are 26-3-2 in their last 31 games — the winningest stretch in club history after Sunday’s 4-1 triumph over the visiting Buffalo Sabres — are on pace for their second-consecutive President’s Trophy with the NHL’s best record and guaranteed home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Ah, but those postseason blues. Will they continue? The Stanley Cup champion needs 16 postseason victories. The Avs haven’t had more than seven in a normal postseason since collecting 11 in 2001-02.
Today’s Avs aren’t promising you anything. They’ll just promise to continue to build on what they’ve already accomplished. Which is a ton.
Colorado tied an NHL record with 15 wins in January, the most from any team in any month in league history. The Avs are 15-0-1 in January, a point streak that ties the Cup-winning team of 2000-01 for the longest in club history.
“Amazing month from our guys, really. It’s a lot of hockey, a lot of travel. Obviously, they enjoyed playing at home,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said.
The success at home is insane. Colorado is on an 18-game winning streak at Ball Arena — the fifth-longest NHL home winning streak ever, and longest since Detroit set the record of 23 in 2011-12. Bednar points to comeback victories over Toronto and Boston — both in overtime at Ball Arena — on Jan. 8 and last Wednesday, respectively, as examples of why these Avs have the ability to win 16 postseason games.
“Just guys not wanting to give up on the streak and what we have going on,” Bednar said of the comeback wins against the Maple Leafs and Bruins. “To be able to find a way to come back against two real good teams — and it wasn’t coming easy for us — I thought it showed a lot of character.”
The Avs have one game — Tuesday against the visiting Arizona Coyotes — before they take a nine-game break that begins with next week’s NHL All-Star Game. First-line center Nathan MacKinnon won’t play against the Coyotes and won’t attend the ASG because of the facial/head injuries he sustained last week. So he’ll rest up like the rest of the Avs, save for Bednar, the Central Division ASG coach, and Avs forward Nazem Kadri and defenseman Cale Makar, who will play in the 3-on-3 tournament in Las Vegas.
“I think we need a break, to be honest with you,” Bednar said after Sunday’s win. “I think is mental fatigue … It’s been a long hard month, lots of games and in order to be at our best coming out of that break, I think we need the break.”
So what’s the bottom line for the NHL’s most impressive team? Bednar points to resiliency.
“I learned that we’re a resilient group, pretty consistent,” he said of the Avs’ month-long play. “There were some games we weren’t perfect but found different ways to win, different guys chipping in which is what good teams do. Pretty good focus, knowing the things that we need to do to have success and learn that our guys were able to adapt and change a little bit.”
Footnotes. The Avs have scored a power-play goal in six straight games, going 8-for-18 (44.4%) in that stretch. Colorado is 16-for-53 (30.2%) in its last 16 games (each in January). Makar, who assisted on Mikko Rantanen’s power-play goal that gave the Avs a 3-1 lead against the Sabres, collected his 100th career assist in his 140th game. Only former NHL defensemen Sergei Zubov (127 games), Mark Howe (135) and Stefan Persson (135) reached 100 assists in fewer games. … Makar, who leads all NHL defensemen with 18 goals, had 18 points (five goals) in January. … Rantanen led the Avs with 23 points (nine goals) in January, the most points in club history since Peter Forsberg and Alex Tanguay each had 23 in the first month of the year in 2003-04.