Offensive production from the blueline helped catapult the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup a year ago. And after another six-point showing in Monday’s 5-1 victory in Anaheim, the Avs’ blueline opened a nine-point lead on second place as the most productive defensive core in the NHL this season.

Jack Johnson, Bowen Byram and Samuel Girard all scored against the Ducks, giving Colorado its third straight victory and ninth in 10 games. The Avs trail the Minnesota Wild by a point for first place in the Central Division but have a game in hand. The two teams will battle at Ball Arena Wednesday.

Superstar defenseman Cale Makar had two assists Monday and Byram had one. The Avs’ blueline has 195 points, leading the NHL’s best team, the Boston Bruins, who are second with 186. What makes it even more impressive is how the Avs rebounded from a slow start to the season.

Ever since the calendar flipped to 2023, the Avs’ defensemen have upped their game offensively. Makar leads the NHL in points per game in that stretch, compiling 32 points in just 23 games. Girard has also been a revelation of sorts, putting up 25 points in 38 games. He started the season with just seven in his first 29 games. Monday’s power-play goal was his sixth of the season, setting a new career-high.

Since Jan. 1, Colorado’s defensemen have a combined 112 points in 38 games. It’s a massive increase in output from the 83 points the defense had in the first 35 games leading up to the new year.

Playing alongside Girard, Byram has been on fire in recent weeks. His goal against Anaheim was his fourth in his last nine games. While Byram has played just 35 games this year, his nine goals put him among the best in the NHL in goals per game among defensemen. Byram is fifth in the NHL (.26 goals/game) and second on the Avs — trailing Makar, who is second in the league with 17 goals in 58 games (.29 goals/game).

Jack Johnson’s tally was his first of the season. It was also his first since scoring an impressive breakaway goal against Marc-Andre Fleury in last season’s home opener a mere 156 games ago. Johnson was re-acquired by the Avs ahead of the trade deadline and has recently been reunited with Erik Johnson on the third pair.

With Jack’s return and a healthy Erik, Colorado has a more stable blueline than it’s had since the first month of the season. And that’s with usual second-pair defenseman Josh Manson still on the shelf with an injury.

Wednesday’s battle against Minnesota will go a long way in securing the top seed in the Central Division. If the Avs could find a way to pass Minnesota and stay there, they’ll face a wildcard team in the first round — likely the Seattle Kraken — and let the Wild and Dallas Stars duke it out in the other Central matchup.

Colorado has the second-best defense in the Western Conference behind the Minnesota Wild. The team has allowed just 201 goals in 73 games. Any kind of playoff success will start with the Avalanche’s ability to keep the puck out of their own net.

But consistent offensive production from the blueline will help elevate their chances at another long Stanley Cup run.