The Colorado Avalanche host the Dallas Stars Tuesday night in Denver looking to become the first team in franchise history since the 1985-86 Quebec Nordiques to start the season 6-0. That team started the season 7-0 and outscored opponents 28-11. This season’s Avalanche team has a new coach and a new identity, but why is last season's 2nd-worst team winning this season?
ANGLE #1: GOALTENDING
Hall of Famer goaltender Patrick Roy is now behind the bench, and he has 2 goalies who could start. Semyon Varlamov has started 4 of 5 games with a save percentage of .970, which leads the NHL. Varlamov is a quick starter in October, amassing a .778 winning percentage (14-4). Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the No. 2 goalie, but his lone performance of the season says otherwise. The former Conn Smythe Award winner made 39 saves on Thursday night against the Bruins to gain a shutout and a 2-0 win.
ANGLE #2: NATHAN MacKINNON
No one really expects to see an 18-year-old to come into the league and turn heads right away, but Nathan MacKinnon has done just that in Colorado. MacKinnon was the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s NHL draft, and was put on a line with Jamie McGinn and P.A. Parenteau. Through 5 games, MacKinnon is tied for 2nd in rookie scoring with 6 points (1 G, 5 A). McGinn and Parenteau have reaped the benefits of MacKinnon’s passing ability, as both have 3 goals this season. MacKinnon has 2 primary assists and 3 secondary assists on those goals. McGinn and MacKinnon are tied for 2nd in team goals scored where both players recorded a point.
Most Team Goals Scored, Two Players Receive Points
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom 6
Nathan MacKinnon-Jamie McGinn 5
Alex Galchenyuk-Brendan Gallagher 5
Martin St. Louis-Steven Stamkos 5
Phil Kessel-James van Riemsdyk 5
Henrik Sedin-Daniel Sedin 5
ANGLE #3: EARLY GOAL SCORING
Last season, the Avalanche had the 2nd worst winning percentage (.563) when scoring the first goal and were tied for second worst with 21 losses when allowing the first goal. Under Patrick Roy, the goals are coming first and they’re holding up on the scoreboard. The Avalanche have scored first in 4 of their 5 games, and have not relinquished a lead when they scored. The Avalanche have trailed for 24 minutes, 7 seconds this season when they allowed the first goal to the Maple Leafs, on Oct. 8. After a Cory Sarich goal to tie the game in the 2nd, the Parenteau-McGinn-MacKinnon connection found the net in the 3rd to win 2-1. In the 1st period, they are outscoring opponents 5-0, the only team not to allow a first period goal.
ANGLE #4: SPECIAL TEAMS
Goaltending and defense have contributed to the league’s best penalty kill as opponents are 0 for 12 against the Avalanche when on the power play. Every other team in the league has allowed at least 1 goal on the power play this season. That is a stark contrast to last season when the Avalanche allowed 36 power play goals, tied for 3rd most in the NHL. The Avalanche have also been the more disciplined team in each of their 1st 5 games, committing 12 penalties to opponents 19. That has led to 7 more power-play opportunities, resulting in 4 power-play goals.