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Colorado Avalanche: Where team stands during coronavirus break

The Avalanche were looking like clear-cut Cup contenders before the coronavirus pandemic suspended play. We take a look at how the Avs stack up.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard celebrates with left wing Andre Burakovsky and defenseman Erik Johnson and right wing Mikko Rantanen and center Nathan MacKinnon after his goal in the second period against the Los Angeles Kings during a Stadium Series hockey game at U.S. Air Force Academy Falcon Stadium. Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche season has been a wild ride. The team sits 4th overall in the NHL standings as we sit here without hockey due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Avalanche had high hopes entering 2019-20 after a busy offseason.

Colorado added Nazem Kadri via trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs and picked up Joonas Donskoi, Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin along the way. The forward group is still young, led by captain Gabriel Landeskog and Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon.

The blue line lost Tyson Barrie but has since added Cale Makar for a full season, the rookie defenseman looking like a shoe-in for the Calder Trophy. The goaltending play of Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz has held up, employing a bend-but-not-break mentality. Coach Jared Bednar has a deep group that, I imagine, wants to get back on the ice as soon as possible. Let’s take a look at where the Avalanche stand.

Where do the Tampa Bay Lightning stand during the break?

Record: 42-20-8
Points: 92 (preseason over/under: 95.5)
Place: 2nd in Central (No. 2 overall seed in conference)
Stanley Cup odds (March 10): +1000

The Avalanche sit in second place in the Central Division behind the defending champion St. Louis Blues. Colorado is only two points off of the Blues for first and have a 10-point lead on the Dallas Stars for third place. The Avs closed the break by going 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and are positioned well if the playoffs were to start today. They’d get the Stars in the first round with home ice. They’d then have to face either the Blues or Nashville Predators in the second round. The Avs have been waiting a long time to break through in the postseason and this could be the season if/when it resumes.

It’s also important to remember that the Avalanche entered the break with a ton of injures. MacKinnon was banged up due to a lower-body injury. Burakovsky had an upper-body injury, Cale Makar was day-to-day with something. Mikko Rantanen (upper body) was placed on IR, though he was reportedly skating at practice back in early March. All of those players will have ample time to recover and get 100% healthy before the season resumes. It doesn’t appear that hockey will return until maybe June at the earliest, but even that seems like a stretch. Evening the playing field a bit with teams getting healthy only strengthens the Avs case for the Cup. Colorado had been doing pretty OK without a lot of key players.

The Avalanche have gotten by through winning close games this season. Out of their 70 games, almost half of them have been decided by one goal (27). The Avs play a tight style and boast one of the top offenses in the NHL. They are solid on special teams, ranking in the top 10 on the power play and top 15 on the kill. It’s not like the Avalanche lack experience like teams of the past. They’ve made the playoffs in two straight seasons and nearly reached the Western Conference Final last season, taking the San Jose Sharks to seven games. Given the odds, I like Colorado to win the Stanley Cup when things get going again.

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