2013-14 was a dream season for the Colorado Avalanche.
After a draft lottery season, the team revamped on the fly, using their selection of Nathan Mackinnon as a springboard. Patrick Roy stepped behind the bench, and the team was instantly competitive, rolling to the Western Conference's #1 seed.
Behind the scenes, however, the team had obvious flaws. A lack of depth on defence, and at the bottom of their forwards corps, left them overly reliant on goaltending a few stand-out skaters. Saves and star power are finite resources, and eventually, they ran out.
The Montreal Canadiens are starting to find themselves in much the same situation, but with an overriding sense of denial. For more than 100 regular season games, the Habs have been dependent on their goaltender to Carey them most nights, and if hasn't been goaltending, it's been the magic of players like P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty.
The near impossible feat of taking only a single point from two matches with the Sabres is a microcosm of a problem that has existed for quite some time. One need only check the Avalanche's current standing to know what will happen if they don't.
How to Watch
Start time: 9:00 PM ET
In Eastern Canada: Sportsnet East
In Eastern Canada (French): RDS
In Colorado and surrounding states: Altitude
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|50.36||Fenwick % (Within 1)
|1.07||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.89|
Know Your Enemy
The cracks in last year's squad are now more than apparent. Semyon Varlamov's save percentage at even strength has gone from the calibre of Patrick Roy at his finest (.942) to the quality of day-to-day David Aebischer (.917).
The absence of a safety blanket has exacerbated the struggles of many of the Avs skaters, whose impaired performances relative to last year range from slightly worse to rock bottom bad.
Fortunately for the Avalanche, their brand of hockey may lend itself to success against Montreal. Matt Duchene put up an impressive ten shots when these two teams played in October, and probably deserved four goals instead of the one he ended up with.
Look no further than this weekend's games against Buffalo for evidence that the Habs are susceptible to giving up chances where none is deserved. With the firepower of the Avalanche, the Canadiens could find themselves paying for those mistakes much more frequently.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens may only have one recipe for success, but when these two teams last met, they were able to take advantage of it.
The Avalanche, led by Matt Duchene, generated several top quality chances, but CP31 was up to the challenge. At the other end, three players unleashed high skill plays to get goals for Montreal.
Whether it's P.K. Subban pulling the trigger from his favoured post on the left point, or Alex Galchenyuk dangling in tight, or best of all, Subban in full-flight against a hapless defender, the Canadiens best put their talent on display to foil the efforts of Calvin Pickard.
The Habs may not put together a highlight package more fun to watch than the four minutes below. Continue to play like they have, however, and this type of impressive display may become more prerequisite than perk.