“I like the fact that we’re playing good hockey throughout our lineup. I think there were no weak spots in our lineup, and I think that [we’re] committed on both sides of the puck and were starting to put real strong performances here over the course of this homestand,” said head coach Jared Bednar. “I don’t think there was a game I didn’t like. There might have been a period or two, but I think every game of the homestand we played pretty well.”
In the recent two-game set against Minnesota, Colorado finished ahead with an 11-1 margin in goals and a 97-51 edge in shots, going 42-31 in the category on Saturday. During their winning streak, the Avs have doubled their opposition’s total with a combined 266 shots for and only 133 against.
“Happy with the way we played. We showed up and we were trying to really pick up where we left off the other night and have the same kind of start, which we did,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog after the most recent performance. “Scored a couple in the first and were able to keep rolling in the second. I thought our commitment defensively was really good, our PK was great, [goalie Philipp Grubauer] made the saves he needed to and we were playing free in the O-zone, which definitely gave us a spark and created a lot of scoring chances down there.”
This was only the Avs’ second nine-game homestand in their history and the team established a new best record for a homestand of that length. They went 6-2-1 in their previous nine-gamer from Feb. 9 to March 9, 2002, but that stay was broken up by the Olympic Break as well.
Overall, Colorado earned 15 of a possible 18 points over the past two-plus weeks, and its .833 point percentage during that time tied the 1981-82 Edmonton Oilers (7-1-1) for the second-best mark in NHL history for homestands of nine or more games. Only the 1973-74 Los Angeles Kings (7-0-2, .889) had a better points percentage in such a stretch.
The Avs also seemed to get better as their contests at Ball Arena progressed. After starting with a 1-1-1 record, Colorado didn’t lose another game as it posted two shutouts and only allowed the opposition to tally more than one goal once during its win streak.
“This entire homestand really, I think we’ve been real competitive and worked real hard and really paid attention to the little things that we talk about all the time… I think as a group, we’ve done a good job of stepping up and realizing how big this homestand and what an opportunity it was for us to make a push here in the standings,” said Landeskog. “Now we’re just past the halfway point (of the season), there is a lot of hockey left and we’re going to keep playing.”
Colorado is in a stretch where it is playing 15-of–17 games at Ball Arena, with the only time away coming in a back-to-back set at the Arizona Coyotes on Monday and Tuesday. The squad begins a six-game homestand on Thursday versus the Vegas Golden Knights.
Taking advantage of this time at their friendly confines was especially key for the Avs given their schedule the rest of the way. The club will spend most of the final five weeks on the road, as it will have 14 of the final 19 games away from Ball Arena starting on April 5.
The Avalanche has done what it’s had to do so far on the ice sheet off Chopper Circle, as the club’s 12 home wins are currently tied for first in the NHL and its 25 points (12-4-1) are tied for the second-most behind only the New York Islanders (26).
Colorado became the ninth team to reach the 40-point mark (19-8-2) this season and is just six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the league lead and three behind Vegas for first in the West Division.
GRUBAUER SHUTS THE DOOR
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped all 31 shots he faced to record his fifth shutout of the season, setting a new personal high for his most in a single campaign. His five clean sheets currently lead the league while his 18 wins on the year are second behind Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (20).
Grubauer’s five shutouts are tied for the fourth-most in a season in Avs history and are the most by a Colorado goalie since Semyon Varlamov also had five in 2014-15. Grubauer’s 10 career shutouts with the Avalanche (16 total) puts him in sole possession of fourth place in franchise history, surpassing Peter Budaj (9).
The keeper was especially strong during the penalty kill but also credited the skaters in front of him. Twelve of Minnesota’s 31 shots in the contest came on its four power-play chances.
“Without my teammates, this wouldn’t be possible,” Grubauer said. “Everybody is working hard back, everybody’s doing the right thing in the D-zone, blocking shots. Mac, Jacob MacDonald, had a huge block there on their power play, it could have easily been a goal. So incredible work from everyone back there and sacrificing their own body to blocking shots and doing the right things.”
Overall, the Rosenheim, Germany, native has won six straight games, matching his career long (Nov. 25, 2016-Jan. 15, 2017), while his 18 victories tie his personal best in the NHL that he previously accomplished in each of the past two seasons with Colorado.
J.T. Compher was back in the Avs’ lineup after being out for the previous seven games. Compher missed the first six with an upper-body injury and was medically available for the last contest on Thursday versus Minnesota, but head coach Jared Bednar wanted to give the forward some more conditioning time to get back up to speed.
Compher started the game on the fourth line with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert. He replaced Logan O’Connor, who was coming off an outing where he had a career-high six shots on goal.
Bednar said it was a tough decision to take out O’Connor in favor of Compher.
“I feel J.T. is an important piece to this team, and he’s been out with an injury and we gave him an extra couple of days because of the way our forward group was playing,” Bednar said before the Saturday’s contest. “We really want to get him back in the lineup. We know we need all of these guys. It was a difficult decision to take out O’Connor though because he was a puck-hound. I mean he’s on pucks, he’s creating turnovers and scoring chances for both himself and the line. He’s a big penalty killer.”
Compher finished with 19 shits and 11:54 of ice time.
ADDING GOALTENDING DEPTH
Roughly two hours before game time, the Avalanche announced that it had made a trade with the Buffalo Sabres for goaltender Jonas Johansson in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft.
Johansson, who is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, has appeared in 13 career NHL contest–all with Buffalo–including seven this season in a backup role with the Sabres, who currently own the worst record in the NHL at 6-19-4 (16 points) and are on a 13-game losing streak.
From Gavle, Sweden, the 25-year-old was named to the American Hockey League All-Star Game last season. He finished the 2019-20 campaign with a 14-4-3 record, 2.28 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
“From all the things that we’ve heard, our guys have scouted him–mostly in the American League in years past–and he’s been on a steady progression and getting better and on a good development path… We’re looking to getting him in the fold. Anytime you can get a goalie that is on the rise and developing properly, and he’s 6-foot-5, those are the types of guys that we’re excited to get. So we’ll get him in here and see what he can do and get him a couple practices and then make a plan for him.”
Adam Werner was the backup goalie on Saturday to Grubauer, as Hunter Miska was reassigned to the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League on Friday.
“We get Miska down there to sort of get some confidence, get in some games, get doing what he does best and sort of finding his game again, and we’ll just see where it goes from there,” Bednar said prior to the contest.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
Colorado’s six-game winning streak is the second-longest active winning streak in the NHL (Washington has won seven straight).
The Avs scored six or more goals in a game for the fifth time this season. Only the Edmonton Oilers have as many contests with six or more tallies for (also five).
Mikko Rantanen‘s goal 46 seconds into the second period was Colorado’s fastest goal to start a period this season.
The Avalanche held Minnesota scoreless on four power-play opportunities and is 19-for-20 over its last six contests (95 percent). Colorado’s penalty kill ranks second in the NHL, going 78-for-89 (87.6 percent).
Gabriel Landeskog recorded his fifth multi-point game of the season and second in as many games. Landeskog has points in a season-best four-straight contests, tallying eight points (two goals, six assists) in that span.
Devon Toews scored his fifth goal of the season and is now tied with Samuel Girard for the team lead in markers among defensemen. His 17 points rank second on the club’s blue line(Girard, 22). Toews also finished with a plus-3 rating and is now a team-best plus-17 this season, which is presently tied for second among NHL blueliners (Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse).
Cale Makar registered his third multi-point game of the season and scored his first power-play goal of the campaign. His marker was the game-winner, his first game-deciding goal of the season and fifth of his career.
Nathan MacKinnon extended his point streak to five games, tying his season best (Jan. 24-31). He has recorded three points in consecutive outings and has nine points (four goals, five assists) over the five-game stretch.
Mikko Rantanen notched a goal to extend his point streak to five games. He has totaled 10 points (five goals, five assists) in that span. Rantanen’s nine goals in the month of March lead the NHL, while his 17 points are tied for third.
Joonas Donskoi recorded two assists to extend his point streak to four contests (two goals, four assists).
With Minnesota recording 31 shots on goal, it ended Colorado’s 18-game run of not allowing an opponent to reach the 30-shot mark. It was the longest such stretch in franchise history.