After the inspiring playoff run they went on last season, the Avalanche entered the 2019-20 season as arguably the most hyped team in the league. The only two primary reservations we had about them realizing those sky-high expectations were their ability to produce enough secondary scoring behind the Nathan MacKinnon-Gabriel Landeskog-Mikko Rantanen line, and how their unproven goaltending would be able to hold up behind that high-octane offense. So far, so good on both fronts.
The “New Guy” line of Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi has been terrific in the early going, outscoring the opposition 6-3 at 5-on-5 and providing the Avalanche with the second forward unit they can confidently throw out there when their stars require a breather. They’ve already squeezed 10 combined goalies out of those three, and there should be plenty more to come. The third line hasn’t really gotten going yet because of J.T. Compher’s brief absence, but Tyson Jost’s hat trick on the road against the Lightning was an encouraging sign that better days are ahead for that group as well. After what appeared to be a gruesome looking lower-body injury for Rantanen, the Avalanche will need that supporting cast to step up even more than was initially expected.
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The goaltending wasn’t necessarily a concern as much as it was a question mark. Philipp Grubauer was terrific down the stretch last season and has performed well whenever he’s gotten the opportunity, but this is also uncharted waters for him because he’s never entered a season as the goalie who would start the majority of his team’s games. After starting seven of Colorado’s first nine games, he’s on pace for 64 starts, which would nearly double his previous high of 33 (last season). If he does sputter at any point, his backup looks awfully interesting as a candidate for more action.