Colorado Avalanche returning to relevancy with hot start

Patrick Smith

Surprisingly, the Colorado Avalanche are 8-1-0 and claim ownership to first place in the Central Division.

No, a team can't qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first 10 games of the regular season, but they sure can excite us about the prospects of it. The Colorado Avalanche managed just that after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins during a nationally televised contest on Monday night, 1-0.

Colorado entered the season as a club that was going to have a "Stanley Cup attitude" with a projected point total better suited for the draft lottery. While nine games does not a season make, the Avalanche have excelled in the limited showing by winning eight games over that span, including shutout performances against two of the Eastern Conference's best teams.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere is the netminder credited with both blackouts, managing a combined total of 73-saves against the Boston Bruins and Penguins. Against Pittsburgh, Giguere was credited with 34-saves, which ultimately proved to be the difference in a contest where offense was difficult to come by. This was especially true for Colorado as the club only generated 14 registered shots on goal.

Giguere certainly was the bright spot in Monday's game, despite all the attention the "Battle of Cole Harbour" received with Sidney Crosby facing Nathan MacKinnon for the first time. With both players earning the honor of being No. 1 overall selections in the NHL Draft and being products of the same Nova Scotia suburb, the focus of the hockey world turned to the matchup. It also didn't hurt that both clubs carried identical 7-1-0 records into the contest.

Yet, with all the attention coming into play, it was Giguere and the upstart Avalanche that stole the show. Even when Crosby and Chris Kunitz -- one of the league's deadliest duos -- had a quality opportunity to tie the game late in the third, it was Giguere who made a crucial save to maintain Colorado's lead.

While the Avalanche's 8-1-0 start might not matter a month from now, it's been enjoyable to watch the team generate some buzz after several years of struggle. Falling far from their perch atop the hockey world in the late-90s, the Avalanche are still a ways away from reliving their glory years. But the team's fast-start in 2013-14 is an encouraging sign none the less.

At the very least, Monday's win might loosen the room up when it comes time to planning those trips to Las Vegas during the Olympic Break ... maybe.

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