R. Aaron Houde | June 7th, 2019
Once again, the Colorado Avalanche found themselves in the playoffs. And once again, they took the second Wildcard spot in the Western Conference. And, once again, it came down to the wire. Finishing with a record of 38 wins, 30 losses, and 14 overtime losses, for a total of 90 points, they finished four points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes, clinching their second playoff berth in so many seasons. In our Season Reviews, we take a look back at the Avalanche’s season.
The Avalanche shocked the hockey nation by eliminating the Calgary Flames, the Western Conference Regular Season Champions, in five games, outscoring the Flames 17-11 in the series. They were eliminated in the second round by the San Jose Sharks in seven games.
The Avalanche had a very successful start to the season, with a record of 13 wins, 4 losses, and 5 overtime losses, for a total of 31 points during the months of October and November. The Avalanche made the playoffs for the second consecutive year, a feat not accomplished since the 2003-2004 year*. With 90 points in the Regular Season, the Franchise achieved this 4th highest point total in the last 10 years, tied with their record from the 2014-2015 season. The Avalanche “Top Line,” consisting of Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, and Alternate Captain Nathan MacKinnon, combined for a total of 106 goals (41% of the teams total goals scored), 155 assists, and 261 points, career highs for all of them. The team was backstopped by Goaltenders Seymon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer, who played his first season with the Avalanche, played a new personal high of 37 games (with 33 starts), leading the final surge into the playoffs. Stopping 982 out of 1,071 shots against for a 0.917 Save Percentage and a 2.64 Goals Against Average, he proved to be an asset in the Avalanche’s success this year. As far as special teams, the Avalanche finished the season with 63 power play goals in 286 opportunities, for a 22% average; 4th highest in the league. This average was no change from last year, as the Avalanche power play continues to work effectively.
After their strong start, the Avalanche’s season turned quickly. From December 21st, 2018 – February 16th, 2019, a stretch of 23 games, the Avalanche had 4 wins, 14 losses, and 5 overtime losses, for a total of 13 points. Snapping this losing streak enabled a playoff berth, with a clinch being secured by a 3-2 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets on April 4th. While 90 points were enough to secure a postseason for the Avalanche, it was lower than the previous seasons by five points. Both Grubauer and Varlamov posted lower stats than the previous season, and the team ultimately gave up 2,619 shots over the year, 12th most in the league. The Avalanche penalty killing was not as impressive as their power play. 772 penalty minutes (5th most in the league), resulting in a 78.7% penalty kill rate (25th in the league) was not helpful to them. The team needs to tighten up their penalty kill if they want to prove they’re a true competitor for Lord Stanley.
What to Expect in the Offseason
Depending on how the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks pick in the 2019 Draft (respectively), expect the Avalanche to use the draft they acquired from the Ottawa Senators (from the Matt Duchene trade) to secure Alex Turcotte or Dylan Cozens. Bowen Byram is a tempting draft, but the Avalanche defense has already been bolstered with the addition of Cale Makar to the active lineup during the playoffs. The Avalanche also have the number 16 selection, which will most likely be used to secure another forward. The Avalanche only have two forwards who are right-handed shots, MacKinnon and J.T. Compher, which may play a factor in who they choose. The likes of Raphaël Lavoie or Cole Caufield would be a good fit.
The biggest question to be answered will be in the free agent market. Acquiring Matt Calvert, Ian Cole, and Grubauer, while adding assets during the year like Derek Brassard, securing Pavel Francouz, Cale Makar, and Patrik Nemeth have shown the office is serious about looking to the future. The Avalanche are young, fast, and hungry to prove their worth. In addition to Francouz, Grubauer has signed a 3-year deal, and Varlamov is a pending free agent. It is likely the Avalanche will not re-sign the 31-year-old goaltender, and use his $5.9 million dollar contract to sign another, more desirable player.
*2004-2005 Season was canceled due to Season Lockout. Avalanche did make the playoffs in the 2005-2006 season.
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