“Where does he get those wonderful toys?”
It’s an iconic line from an iconic performance by Jack Nicholson in his chaotic scene-chomping portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis Joker in the 1989 film classic.
It’s probably also what every general manager in the National Hockey League says about the Colorado Avalanche’s deep roster.
But what do you do when some of the toys are broken in half and stuck between some couch cushions?
You keep on winning.
The Avs have faced some challenges with this league-leading lineup. And, as Colorado’s NHL bettors have no doubt noticed, they have had to dig into the toybox to fill some holes when the name-brand stars are on the mend.
Oui, mon capitane!
Avs captain Gabe Landeskog has missed 30 or so games so far this season and will likely be out for a few more.
Coach Jared Bednar said he hoped to have Landy back for a tune-up in the last few games of the regular season. He also added that the captain should be fine for the playoffs.
Losing the heartbeat of your team at the critical crunch time is usually a death knell for many teams.
But the Avs’ record without Landeskog says otherwise.
They are 13-4-2 this year without the captain in the lineup. That includes six of the last seven as he’s been recovering from a knee injury and surgery.
The last three have been against sure-fire playoff teams as well, including two bouts with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pacific Division-leading Calgary Flames.
Online sportsbooks in Colorado aren’t taking the bait, either.
They have the Avs as solid favorites for the overall points lead with the President’s Trophy, and a laughable to win the Central Division.
Cadre for Kadri
Center Nazem Kadri has also been away from the team while he nurses a nasty upper-body injury he suffered April 3.
When he’s not in the penalty box, Kadri has been a points machine for the Avs, ranking 13th in the league as of Friday with 83.
Without his firepower, Colorado has relied on a combination of scorers, from stalwart Mikko Rantenan and of course, superstar Nathan MacKinnon. Mac is coming off a two-goal game Tuesday against the Penguins.
Kadri’s aggressive play and knack for key assists has made him a clutch player and fan favorite.
But when he’s been out, some spark has been missing in the playoffs.
His suspension in the first round against the St. Louis Blues last year sent the Avs into a scoring desert. Colorado was then bounced in the ensuing round partially because of it.
Others will need to bring some heat if Kadri can’t make it back for a first-round return.
Defensive dominance coming?
One way you bring some heat is to splash ice water on the opposing team.
And the Avalanche are poised to do just that.
Newly-acquired defenseman Josh Manson made an immediate impact earlier in the week, slapping a goal against Pittsburgh and causing havoc with more than 30 hits.
Two-way abilities have been a hallmark of the Avs’ back line. Manson’s a great addition to Cale Makar’s all-world skills.
As we’ve talked about before, the Avs still struggle with faceoffs, ranking in the middle of the league.
It’s a rare blind spot, and it puts the team in a defensive posture more often than anyone likes.
Which makes the current injury news even better.
Bednar expects defenseman Sam Girard to be back in action this weekend for the Canadian road trip. Rookie defender Bo Byram is also expected back after missing three months.
It’s an embarrassment of riches with a young defensive core that needs to stay strong while gearing up for a Stanley Cup run.
This Avalanche team is already one of the best in franchise history.
They have a chance to outscore the vaunted 2001 Cup champions.
When the expectations are Lord Stanley or bust, though, the Avs better put down the toys and get down to business.