GDHQNHL15_2pg-Colorado Avalanche 2

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quality defenseman” shortly after signing the 34-year-old. If Stuart can regain the form that he had with the Red Wings, this could provide a huge boost along the blue line. There were a couple of breakout players that surfaced last season. These surprises took the forms of Tyson Barrie and Nick Holden. Barrie put up impressive offensive numbers for a defenseman in 2013-14 by scoring 13 goals and helping out on 25 others. His goal-scoring prowess was aided by a nearly 13 percent (12.9) successful shooting rate. While he may not replicate that number this season, he is expected to still aid in creating offense. Nick Holden made a name for himself in Colorado and earned a three-year deal for his efforts. In 54 games, the 27-year-old scored 10 goals and had a hand in 15 others. The late-bloomer could find himself on either the second or third pairing. While the players are promising, the team will need to allow fewer pucks to the net as they allowed 32.7 points per game, second most in the Western Conference. Goaltending With a former Vezina-winning goaltender as the coach, the Avalanche developed a Vezina finalist in Semyon Varlamov. After years of promise, the former Washington Capital put it all together in his first season under Patrick Roy and goalie coach Francois Allaire. He had a career year as he won 41 games, had a goals-against average of 2.41 supported by an outstanding .927 save percentage. Varlamov will come in to the season as the undisputed starter. If he could somehow replicate those numbers, he will again be involved in the Vezina Trophy conversation, talked about for the Hart Trophy for the league’s MVP and bring the Avalanche back to the playoffs for the second year in a row. Varlamov will be backed up by Reto Berra. Berra was acquired from the Flames at the trade-deadline last season. He will need to improve this season if he wants to stick with the big club. Power Play The Colorado Avalanche’s power-play unit was as dangerous as any team in the league last season and will almost certainly be as good this year. With a conversion rate of 19.8 percent, the Avalanche placed tied for fifth in the league last season. The unit was paced by an offensively gifted group of forwards. Ryan O’Reilly was the big point-producer last season on the manadvantage. He registered 22 power-play points (9 goals, 13 assists) over the course of the year, well enough for 25th in the NHL. While O’Reilly led the team in this area, he’s not the only one that produces as star center Matt Duchene (17 points) and gifted phenom Nathan MacKinnon (17 points) displayed their offensive talents as well. Penalty Kill If there is one area that the Avalanche can improve upon, it would definitely have to be the success of their penalty killing unit. The team ranked near the bottom of the league (24th) in the penalty kill with a success rate of 80.7 percent. Not only that, but they finished last season with the second-fewest shorthanded goals scored in the NHL. The team will rely heavily on their goaltender Varlamov to make up for the holes in the team’s penalty kill. The addition of Brad Stuart should help the defense gain possession more while shorthanded. Improvements in this area will go a long way towards success in the playoffs. Prediction After a surprising season with the team coming away as the Central Division champions, the Avalanche are now the team everyone is gunning for. A return to the playoffs is a strong possibility, but the team will have to show they learned from their playoff experience last season in order to advance further. Scoreboard 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12 2010-11 2009-10 PLAYOFF FINISH Conf QF DNQ DNQ DNQ Conf QF REGULAR SEASON RECORD 52-22-8 16-25-7 41-35-6 30-44-8 43-30-9 POINT TOTAL 112 39 88 68 95 SHOOTOUT RECORD 5-4 2-2 9-2 6-1 7-5 GOALS SCORED 250 116 177 227 244 GOALS ALLOWED 220 152 226 288 233 POWER PLAY % 19.8 15.0 18.4 18.5 18.1 PENALTY KILL % 80.7 80.3 83.0 76.1 80.2 Penalty Kill % 80.7 80.3 83.0 76.1 80.2 Matt Duchene, Brad Malone Karl Gehring/Denver Post/Getty Images


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