The Colorado Avalanche had a better first half to the NHL season then any one could have guessed. They currently sit third place in the Central Division and are only five points behind the Chicago Blackhawks, who lead the division.
Last season the Avalanche failed to make the playoffs and struggled just to compete with the rest of the NHL. This season has shown that the Avalanche can skate with the best the NHL has to offer getting key victories against many of the league's top clubs.
Matt Duchene has been the leader of the team. He has put up 16 goals and 37 points so far this season and is showing no signs of slowing down. Also boosting the Avs this season has been the play of the first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon. With 10 goals and 24 points he has been everything the Avs could have hoped for when they drafted him.
Now that the second half of the NHL season has begun, the question is can the Avalanche maintain their strong play? The team has been pretty consistent in their play so far and they never seem to give up in a game no matter the score. They have had moments of lackadaisical play but they are no worse then any other team in the league - every team has those moments.
The real issue for the Avalanche is the injury bug. Alex Tanguay has yet to return from his knee injury that he sustained on November 2nd. P.A. Parenteau suffered a MCL sprain on December 29th and is out for at least six weeks. These are big blows for the Avalanche as these are two of the teams top-six forwards. They have weathered the loss of Tanguay pretty well, but that was with Parenteau, and the question is can they make up for the loss of both players.
The hope is that Tanguay will return soon and Parenteau's injury will keep him out for just the predicted six weeks. If the Avalanche can keep the stealer play from Duchene and MacKinnon, and have the rest of the team continue to play at a high level the Avalanche can and should maintain their third place position in the central division and make a run in the playoffs.
Congratulations to Avs forward Paul Stastny on being named to the US Olympic team. The rest of the nations should be revealing their rosters in the very near future.