Avs Stepping Up Without Duchene
The Colorado Avalanche haven’t seen much of one of their star centers this season.
Matt Duchene has only played 48 games for the Avs in his third year in Denver and is likely out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. On his second stint in physical therapy, Duchene has been announced out for 3-4 weeks. Considering he received the same term for his knee injury just a few months back, the odds of a playoff appearance are slim – if the Avalanche even make it in.
Still, with just 13 goals and 13 assists in that span, Duchene hasn’t exactly been carrying his team through the games. A middle of the pack player Duchene is not, under normal circumstances, as evidenced by both his team leading 27 goals and 67 points last season. A finalist for the Calder Trophy during his rookie campaign, Duchene’s self proclaimed slow starts seemed to have lingered a bit recently. Duchene saw time on the fourth line and was even relocated to wing for a few successful games during the year.
The good news for the Avalanche is that contributions from other areas have helped the club succeed in his absence. The relentlessly hardworking Ryan O’Reilly has all but stolen Duchene’s spotlight this season, centering the top line with rookie sensation and likely Calder finalist Gabriel Landeskog. O’Reilly is first on the team with 34 helpers and with 51 total points and is one of the most consistent players on the ice.
Teemed with the budding center, who deserves some Selke Trophy consideration for his two-way game, is Landeskog, who is keeping stride with his third year line mate as best he can. Landeskog leads the team with 19 goals and is second with 44 points overall. He leads the team in plus/minus with a nice plus-20 and exhibits intangible aspects of a well honed, veteran forward despite his age. Rookie of the year talk aside, Landeskog is a keystone in Colorado’s offense and scored the OT game winner last night against the Anaheim Ducks, bringing his team an important two points.
Looking off of the top line, which includes newcomer Steve Downie, who has immediately made himself irreplaceable in the Avalanche lineup, you’ll see contributions coming from all around the roster. Another new face, Jamie McGinn, has been quite successful since donning the burgundy and white, tallying seven points in seven games with his new club. Matt Hunwick, who is having in incredible, phoenix like rebirth this season, has been chipping in offensively as well, including a huge assist on Landeskog’s game winning shot last night.
Resident fourth liner Cody McLeod has jumped up and grabbed himself a handful of goals recently and the often-benched Kevin Porter nabbed a goal on his birthday to power his team to an important victory.
That’s not to say that goaltending hasn’t been above and beyond phenomenal. According to the Denver Post, young superstar Semyon Varlamov is 7-2 in his last nine games and boasts an unthinkable 1.32 goals against average and a hefty .955 save percentage over that time. Oh and Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been good too, powering through some tough times for Varlamov and helping the Russian hone mental and physical aspects of his game.
It finally appears that the potent Colorado offense that everyone expected to see is slowly waking up from a hefty slumber, hungry for the deliciously innocent back of the net. This is a team that scored seven goals from seven different players against the wayward Minnesota Wild in a slaughter of epic proportions the other night. If the team continues to click, with goals coming from defensemen, forwards, and even from Lady Luck herself, the Colorado Avalanche are poised to surprise a few teams both on their way to, and during a Cinderella playoff run.
What do you think?