When Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog went down with an upper body injury in a game against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, March, 7 and was expected be miss the next four to six weeks. The majority of Avalanche fans were ready to pack it in and hope that next season will be better.
In fact, some were even encouraging their team to lose so that they get a higher pick in this year’s draft. On top of Landeskog’s injury, fast forward a week to Friday, March 15, the Avalanche were sitting five points out of a playoff spot after a 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Despite all of the doubts and roadblocks, the Avalanche have miraculously been able to light a fire in their engines, come together as a team, and win games. Although their most recent game was a 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night at United Center, the Avalanche have gone 4-0-1 in their last five contests. During these past seven days, the Avalanche have beaten the New Jersey Devils 3-0, the Minnesota Wild 3-1, the Stars 3-1, and the Blackhawks 4-2.
This recent surge in wins has propelled the Avalanche to a 34-29-13 record, 81 points in 76 games played, and back into the final wild card spot. They currently sit two points ahead of both the Wild and Arizona Coyotes who have 79 points in the same amount of games played.
An impressive part about this latest stint is that the team has not only been without Landeskog. They’ve also had to play with the absence of right-winger Mikko Rantanen during these past two games after he suffered an injury during the victory against the Stars. According to Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, he is currently listed as day-to-day and should be back within the next game or two.
The formula for success for the Avalanche has surprisingly not come from forward Nathan MacKinnon carrying the team night in and night out. In fact, the 23-year-old superstar only has one point in his last four games.
The winning recipe has actually come from depth players who have stepped up when the opportunity presents itself. Defenseman Tyson Barrie has four goals and five points in his last five games, forward Alexander Kerfoot has three points in his last two games, and defenseman Samuel Girard has three assists in his last three games.
“I think it throws off all of the other teams because they’re used to only worrying about the Avalanche’s top line,” said Avalanche announcer Peter McNab during the Sunday evening radio broadcast of the Avalanche and Blackhawks . “Now that Gabe and Mikko are out, they focus so much of their attention on MacKinnon which leaves everyone else on the ice open to do the scoring.”
However, the most important contributor to the Avalanche’s success has been the stellar performances from goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Throughout these past five contests, the 27-year-old hasn’t let in more than two goals a game and has stopped 171 out of 177 shots he’s faced.
After two days off, the Avalanche’s next game will be at home versus the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night. The Avalanche have faced off against the Golden Knights twice before this season. The first meeting ended in a 2-1 loss while the second resulted in a 3-0 victory.