“You hear me, baby? Hold together.”
Hunted and pursued, this ragtag group of heroes faced brutal attacks and unrelenting pressure on their bruised bodies and psyches. They overcame insurmountable odds — just as the shaky ground underneath them wobbled and cracked.
They became legends.
Not just the Colorado Avalanche in its late season swoon. But Han Solo and Princess Leia too, I guess.
Much like the cobbled-together, junk-pile Millennium Falcon, the Avs of the past week and a half have not looked like much.
Pipes bursting, lights dimming and a hyperdrive that needs a good smack with a hydrospanner.
The garbage will do
The Western Conference kings are playing their worst hockey at the worst possible time.
Colorado’s online sportsbooks are on alert.
After rattling off nine wins in a row, the Avs did the unthinkable and dropped four straight in nine days.
It was the worst losing streak of the season for the Stanley Cup favorites.
And a blaring klaxon of alarm — especially for Avalanche bettors in Colorado.
Key injuries have sidelined captain Gabriel Lankeskog.
Meanwhile, teammates Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen have been bouncing between the bench and the lineup.
Colorado’s recent swoon included three straight road setbacks. The trip started with a mind-numbing, lifeless loss to the seafloor-dwelling Seattle Kraken.
In that contest, the Avs fell into a 3-0 hole early in the first as backup goaltender Pavel Francouz was porous against one of the worst teams in the league.
His cohort between the pipes, Darcy Kuemper (whom we lauded just last week), was ripped for five goals (and an empty-netter) on 26 shots two nights later against the Edmonton Oilers.
From a certain point of view
Part of the problem has been a lack of scoring.
The Avs scored one, two, two and three goals in the losses, allowing easy “under” bets to cash.
Colorado has been a 55 percent “over” team this season, so this weak offense is (hopefully) an aberration.
No Gabe, still. Kadri slowly getting back to form. And Mikko on the mend with an illness.
But what has gone right?
Well, faceoffs and the penalty-kill are improving.
We’ve talked previously about puck control and PK being glaring weak spots for this exceptional roster.
The Avs split the faceoff battle in the losses and only allowed a single power play goal in the four losses.
It’s smarter hockey, too, with no more than eight minutes a game in the box during the streak.
Another happy landing
The get-right 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday is much more of the Avs team we expect to see.
A deep talent pool took the pressure off main-line stars. And Alex Newhook, Val Nichushkin and J.T. Compher each had multi-point nights in the wild win.
It was 4-1 after Artturi Lehkonen’s incredible goal nine seconds into the third period.
Colorado led in faceoffs, hits and shots.
And the Avs also kept the Blues’ second-ranked power play team scoreless when down a man.
Always two there are
The victory over St. Louis enabled the Avs to match the highest points total as a franchise history with 118.
They can make more history — and maybe win a second straight Presidents’ Trophy — with victories against the Nashville Predators (Thursday) and Minnesota Wild (Friday) to close the regular season.
These two playoff teams will be excellent competitive barometers and tune-ups for Colorado.
But will it be the old trope of rest versus rust for the Avs?
The malaise of coasting to the postseason cost them four games in a row.
So punch it, Chewie.
It’s playoff time.