It is exciting to think about how the 2017-18 Avalanche will be remembered and especially if the season was truly the first step towards something great. The determination, belief and guts this team showed won’t be forgotten even if the details of how they got there might. Therefore, here are those 14 moments which defined the season that was the 2017-18 Colorado Avalanche.
1. October 5th: Opening Night
The downtrodden Avalanche arrived in the Big Apple for opening night and came away with a 4-2 victory against the NY Rangers to begin their fresh start. Matt Duchene scored the season’s first goal ironically enough. The win was part of a successful opening 2-1 road trip as the reminders of the previous season began to fade.
2. October 28th: A MVP Arrives
After getting embarrassed and beat up against Vegas in a 7-0 defeat, the Avalanche made a statement at home in a 6-3 drubbing of Chicago the following night. A first in many displays of resiliency, this Avalanche team showed they weren’t last year’s team. This was also the night Nathan MacKinnon broke out with three points and two goals after he only had five points on the season going into this game. MacKinnon would score nearly every game from here on out on the way to a possible Hart Trophy season.
3. November 5th: The Matt Duchene Trade
This will certainly go down as one of the defining moments in franchise history and will have long term impact. From the sight of Duchene leaving the ice in the middle of the game to the nerve wracking anticipation before learning the trade return to the relief and disbelief that the multi-year situation was finally over, Avalanche fans will never forget this night. A 6-4 loss at the NY Islanders in the least significant game of the season.
4. November 10th and 11th: Sweden
The trip to play two games against Ottawa in Sweden came at the perfect time to allow a young team to bond and perhaps decompress after getting over the big trade hurdle. Another fresh start is exactly what this team needed. Sam Girard made his debut in an Avalanche sweater and quickly turned the fans from curious to mesmerized at his potential and the player he has already become. The Avalanche would head back to the US with only one point in a pair of 4-3 defeats to Ottawa. The two teams departed Sweden going in opposite directions but looking at the scoreboard nobody could ever guess which was the one headed for turmoil.
5. November 29th: Overtime Comeback
A game that did not seem significant at the time but yet another subtle sign that the 48 point Avalanche were long gone. Coming back from behind to win this contest 3-2 in overtime against a suddenly juggernaut Winnipeg team was just another notch in the belt. Goals from Alexander Kerfoot and Nikita Zadorov set the stage for MacKinnon to be the hero in overtime all the while Gabe Landeskog was serving his four game suspension.
6. December 9th: Beat the Streak
Following that victory against Winnipeg, the Avs would drop four straight culminating with an embarrassing loss at home to Buffalo and then getting absolutely lit up in Tampa. The team fell off the cliff at this point of the year in 2016, was the same going to happen again many wondered. Not this time, said MacKinnon as he scored in this contest after the Avalanche had fallen behind and the team proceeded to equal their production over the entire losing streak in a 7-3 win in Florida. The team would not lose more than three in a row the rest of the season and the win put them at the .500 mark with a 13-13-2 record, which the Avalanche would not fall under going forward for the rest of the season.
7. December 23rd: The Sucker Punch
In what could have spelled doom for the team and their season when their youngest player and emerging star Sam Girard went down with a sucker punch to the face from Zac Rinaldo, it marked a turning point in the season where the Avalanche team stuck up and stood for one another. Thankfully Girard was uninjured and nothing came of the ensuing altercations Erik Johnson and MacKinnon were involved in. An ugly event which earned Rinaldo a six game suspension but a moment that meant so much more to the team than the 6-2 win in Arizona.
8. January 6th: Hejduk Night
The juxtaposition of honoring a member of the glory years in this special pregame ceremony when former Avalanche legend Milan Hejduk had his jersey retired with the new look Avalanche exorcising their demons against a Minnesota Wild team who had their number far too many times in recent years was a big moment for the team. The 7-2 dubbing was just icing on the cake and a statement to many in attendance who might have let their fandom slip in the dark years.
9. January 22nd: 10 Wins in a Row
Every special team has a magical run at some point where losing seems impossible and this Avalanche team did just that when they went on a ten game winning streak from December 29th with a 4-3 overtime win against Toronto to January 22nd where they’d secure their tenth win in Toronto of all places with a 4-2 victory. The Avalanche went on this run without Semyon Varlamov for nine out of the ten, Tyson Barrie for all of the contests and through a momentum killing bye week. Nonetheless, the Avalanche soldiered on and kept racking up wins.
10. February 28th: Eliminating Competition
The playoff push was finally on once the trade deadline passed and GM Joe Sakic gave his vote of confidence in the team without making any changes to the NHL roster. Now the team had to prove they belonged in the race. A 5-2 win against Calgary was revenge for the lackluster 5-1 loss at home to them just a few nights prior and the win pushed the Avalanche ahead of the Flames in the wild card standings, which turned out to be for good.
11. March 13th and 15th: Winning on the Road
Another important milestone in the playoff push was getting two key victories on the road, which had proved difficult for the club over the last couple of months. Both were decisive statement wins over Minnesota 5-1 and St. Louis 4-1, the latter of which turned out to be absolutely necessary for the Avalanche to eventually secure their playoff berth.
12. March 24th: Vegas Shootout
Perhaps just another win the Avalanche needed to pick up two critical points in their late season playoff push but there was something magical about Landeskog scoring the eventual shootout winner in this 2-1 win over Vegas. Maybe because it was on the heels of another crushing 7-1 defeat to a Kings team they were chasing in the game prior and the team was eager to show yet again that they weren’t going to give up and were very much still in the fight.
13. April 7th: Game 82
A game which will go down in Avalanche history. Essentially a play-in game in which the Avalanche needed to win in regulation over St. Louis. The culmination of the season began with a strong first period capped off with a laser of a goal and eruption of emotion from Girard. MacKinnon added the dagger in the second period and Gabe Landeskog put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal to seal the 5-2 victory over St. Louis. The ensuing dog pile celebration jump from Mikko Rantanen will be forever etched into the minds of Avalanche fans. It happened. The Colorado Avalanche were a playoff team again.
14. April 20th: Not Done Yet
After a respectable showing against the heavy Cup favorite Predators, it was understandable if the Avalanche bowed out in game five after falling behind in the third period of a tightly contested game. The Avalanche had one more night of magic left up their sleeve as they scored two goals in the final five minutes to take the game 2-1 in Nashville and the series back to a game six in Denver. The team made it further in the series and the season than even the brightest optimists expected. Even though they were eliminated in the next contest, the Avalanche leave the 2017-18 season behind with a glimpse of the future and road map of the hard work left ahead of them to reach their destination.