Recently the Colorado Avalanche have been plagued by injuries. Paul Stastny, PA Parenteau, Cory Sarich, and Nate Guenin, not to mention Alex Tanguay who has miss the last couple of months. All of which very important players in the Avalanche line up.
Despite all of this the injuries the Avalanche have suffered, they are still third in the Central Division and only 8 points behind Chicago and 4 behind St. Louis.
What has kept the Avalanche in this position? A couple of players have stepped up their games and given the Avalanche a boost, especially Ryan O'Reilly and Semyon Varlamov.
Lets start with O'Reilly. He, as of the Avalanches' last game, had taken the team lead in goals with 18. In the past 3 games he has clearly been the teams best player, lifting them on his back and taking on a lot of the offensive load. This is not to say the other Avalanche players have been doing nothing in recent games, Matt Duchene for example has had the game winning assist in the last two games, and Tyson Barrie has had 2 of the last 3 game winning goals, O'Reilly has the other. But O'Reilly has simple been flying out there. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He has also been showing his prowess of getting takeaways and turning those in to scoring opportunities.
All of the offensive heroics of O'Reilly would be for nothing if it wasn't for the Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov has been fantastic this season. To date, he has racked up a 2.29 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. Also, he has given the Avalanche points in every game he has started since the Christmas break. He has been making impossible saves look easy, and nothing seems to rattle him. If Varlamov can keep up this level of play, the Avalanche are in great shape for the rest of the season.
So what does this all mean? It means that even though the Avalanche have some very important players on the injured list, there are others that will step up and take up the slack. It also means that when these players return there will be even more for opposing teams to have to find an answer for in order to defeat the Avs. When the injured players return to the Avalanche (And some will soon, as Tanguay has been upgraded to day to day and Stastny may be back as early as the next game Saturday January 18), the team could potentially catch up with St. Louis and potentially even Chicago, who has been struggling a bit as of late.
There have also been a lot of rumors that Ryan O'Reilly is being sought after by a number teams if the Avalanche were willing to make a trade. This would be a mistake. He is a leader on the team, has good chemistry with his team mates especially Matt Duchene, and it would be crazy for the Avalanche to make such a drastic move given what the team has accomplished. The truth is that the Avalanche will need to fill in some pieces at the trade deadline but O'Reilly should not be on the trading block. He just plays too many important roles for the club.
The Avalanche certainly have a lot to be thankful for since the Christmas break and their success should continue with the stellar play of O'Reilly and Varlamov and the return of some key players from injury.
On a side note, congratulations to Matt Duchene, Gab Landeskog, and Semyon Varlamov on join Paul Stastny at the Olympics representing their respective countries. Avs Nation is sure to be proud of what their boys in Denver have accomplished.