Apr 23, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) makes a save on a shot by St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) during the first period at the Scottrade Center. The Blues defeated the Avalanche 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Surprising Avalanche roll into Scottrade Center for a key Central Division showdown


When the NHL season began in October, the Colorado Avalanche were a team looking to press the reset button.

After all, the Avs were coming off an abysmal 2013 where they finished dead last in the Western Conference. For their efforts, Colorado received the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft after winning the lottery.

With that pick, they selected prized center Nathan MacKinnon with hopes of filling a void up the middle that has been empty since Joe Sakic retired in 2009.

On paper, the Avalanche looked like a team that could compete in the Western Conference and maybe even push for one of the final playoff spots.

Few saw this coming.

Under the leadership of Sakic (now executive vice president) and Patrick Roy as head coach, the Avalanche are the surprise team in the NHL, tied with the Chicago Blackhawks atop the Central Division almost a quarter of the way through the season.

Colorado is lead by winger Matt Duchene (11 G, 8 A) and St. Louis product Paul Stastny (7 G, 7A), who is having a bounce back season in the final year of his contract. Maybe most impressive is the play of goalie Semyon Varlamov, who is currently 3rd in the Western Conference among qualifying goalies in GAA (2.01) and save percentage (.936).

Varlamov continues to play well despite impending legal issues. He is currently out of jail on bond after turning himself in to police on Oct. 30th when a warrant was issued for second–degree kidnapping and assault charges.

However, Varlamov won’t be in between the pipes when the Avalanche face-off against the Blues on Thursday. Instead, veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the nod. However, the Blues aren’t exactly catching a break. Giguere is 5-0 on the season and boasts an absurd .970 save percentage and 1.00 GAA.

For the Blues, Thursday will be a chance to finish off a tough three-game stretch on a high note. After beating the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the Blues fell to Mike Smith and the red hot Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday.

However, if the Blues can manage two points on Thursday, they will have gathered five out of a possible six points against three of the best teams in the league. Additionally, a win would move the Blues within two points of the Avalanche and the Central Division lead.

It may only be November, but a playoff type intensity should be expected at the Scottrade Center as two division foes clash in a pivotal early-season matchup.

STARTING LINEUPS:

BLUES:

Forwards

Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie

Brenden Morrow-Vladimir Sobotka-Chris Stewart

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-Vladimir Tarasenko

Derek Roy-Maxim Lapierre-Ryan Reaves

Defensemen

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Barret Jackman-Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Cole-Roman Polak

Goalie

Jaroslav Halak

AVALANCHE:

Forward

Ryan O’Reilly-Matt Duchene-PA Parenteau

Gabriel Landeskog-Paul Stastny-Nathan MacKinnon

Jamie McGinnJohn Mitchell-Maxime Talbot

Cody McLeod-Marc-Andre Cliche-Patrick Bordeleau

Defensemen

Jan Hejda-Erik Johnson

Nick Holden-Nate Guenin

Cory Sarich-Andre Benoit

Goalie

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

 

 

Tags: NHL St. Louis Blues