New Year, New Coach, New Beginning

Last year, they were the worst team in the NHL’s Western Conference.

Through the end of the month of October, they are the Best in the West.

The Colorado Avalanche have played some extremely sound hockey in the opening month of the 2009-10 NHL season. They have a 9-1-2 record and have taken the overall points lead in the NHL after a 3-0 shutout win over the Edmonton Oilers last night. With new head coach Joe Sacco keeping the team focused, they started out with wins over last year’s President’s Trophy winner, the San Jose Sharks, and the Vancouver Canucks with one of the best goaltenders in the game in Roberto Luongo. With those two early wins, set the tone in the Avs locker room that they can beat and hang in with the best, which was apparently missing from the days of former head coach Tony Granato.

Some factors in the success of the Avalanche are the play of Wojtek Wolski, and Paul Stasny, who lead the team with 12 pts., Wolski has seven goals, and Stasny with eight assists. Another surprise contribution are the play of their first two draft picks, Matt Duchene (3rd overall pick) and Ryan O’Reilly (33rd overall pick), who have made positive impact, especially for two 18 year-old players. They are not Sidney Crosby type numbers, but they are helping the team win. The major factor has been in between the pipes, as Craig Anderson has been a wall for the month of October, with a 9-1-2 record, and a goals against average of 1.97 and with the Oilers’ victory, gave him his second shutout of the season. It is too early to talk Vezina Trophy for the best goaltender, but the great start will have to be consistent in the following months leading to the playoff races in April.

Can the Avalanche make it through the winter and stay at the top of the standings, or will they falter down the stretch. With the successes of all the other Denver franchises, it is good to see the Avalanche off to their best start since the 2000-01 season. That year, they won the Stanley Cup.

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