The Colorado Avalanche are off to a hot start to the season, with their 6-2 record and a Western Conference leading 12 points in the standings. The team has thrived with a road-heavy schedule early on, winning all six road games on the strength of a balanced offense. 10 different Avalanche players have scored goals on the road, led by David Jones' team-leading five goals. Unfortunately, that early success has not manifested itself at Pepsi Center, as the team has been shut out for five of six home periods (and only scoring a total of one goal in two home games).
This next week's schedule sees the Avalanche begin divisional play, as they have two games against Northwest Divisional opponents.
Wednesday, October 26 at Calgary Flames -- The Flames have had an extremely disappointing start to their season, gaining only five points in seven games. Calgary has allowed only two goals in their two victories -- and allowing 18 goals in their five losses. They have received some nice scoring depth across the board (10 different goal scorers on the season) but that has simply not translated into points in the standings. With an aging and expensive core, the Flames need to start winning soon or players like Rene Bourque may be on the trading block.
Friday, October 28 vs Edmonton Oilers -- Last season, the Oilers were absolutely brutal to watch as they finished with the league's worst record for the second straight year. This season, they are surprisingly competitive due to a stout defense and some quality goaltending from the tandem of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devyn Dubnyk. After seven games, Edmonton has only allowed 12 goals.
The real question will be the status of 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The phenom has certainly showed he belongs in the NHL skill-wise, with five goals and seven points, but he still has plenty of physical development left before playing a full NHL season. With the nine game audition rule under the current CBA, Edmonton may choose to send him back to WHL Red Deer instead of burning through the first year of his entry level contract. With their 10th game of the season against Colorado, Avalanche fans may not get a chance to see the first two picks of this last year's draft face off this season. Gabriel Landeskog will certainly be on the ice, Nugent-Hopkins likely won't.
Sunday, October 30 vs Los Angeles Kings -- After trading for Mike Richards this offseason, the Kings entered the season as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They have not disappointed. Anze Kopitar is healthy and Simon Gagne has been a great free agent signing -- the two forwards have combined for seven of the team's 17 total goals.
The real story has been the emergence of Jonathan Quick as an elite NHL goaltender. After a breakout campaign during the first round of last year's playoffs, Quick has been even better this season. The Connecticut-born goalie has recorded three straight shutout victories, the first for a goalie since Steve Mason in 2008. This isn't news to Avalanche fans; Quick has a career 7-0 record against Colorado in eight games.