Overtime victory over the Blackhawks shows how well Colorado can play.
chicago» The Avalanche enters the NHL’s three-day Christmas break coming off what might have been its best game of the season. If nothing else, Friday’s 2-1 overtime victory over the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks was a character win and impressive on multiple fronts:
• Colorado started strong, had significant scoring opportunities and didn’t have any major defensive breakdowns.
• The effort came one night after a 6-0 drubbing at home by the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs, with the Avs settling in at their Chicago hotel at 3 a.m. Friday.
But it doesn’t change the fact that Colorado is the first NHL team to lose 20 games this season and is last in nearly every major statistical team category. Through 33 games of the 82-game season, the Avs appear destined to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year and eighth time in 11 seasons.
“Heck of a long way to go,” Avs center Matt Duchene said at the United Center. “Gutsy effort by us (Friday), and we showed a lot of character. We’re going to enjoy this one over Christmas break, but we’re nowhere near where we want to be.”
The Avs have won only three games in December — each on the road. They are 0-5 at home this month and haven’t won at the Pepsi Center since Nov. 15. One of the worst losses in club history unfolded Dec. 10 in a 10-1 drubbing at Montreal. The next night, Colorado won 3-1 at Toronto.
“If you look at the last two or three weeks, the only wins we’ve had is after we’ve been blown out,” said Avs captain Gabe Landeskog. “That’s not good enough. We can’t be like that. I think (Friday) we proved that when we play the way we know we can play, when we’re clicking — and there’s no excuse for us not to play like that on a daily basis — we’re a good team.”
The Avs’ season resets Tuesday against the visiting Calgary Flames. Landeskog isn’t suggesting a miracle turnaround, but he still believes the Avs can still vie for a playoff berth.
“Obviously, we can’t do anything about what’s happened up to this point, and what we’ve not produced,” Landeskog said. “But from this point on, we have to set (Friday) as a new standard. We have to play up to this.”
He added: “When you keep it tight, make good decisions with the puck and everybody competes like it’s the last game in the playoffs, we can succeed like we did (in Chicago).”