Deen’s List: Avalanche score another seven goals but “we haven’t played our best hockey yet,” says Devon Toews

Dec 10, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) reacts with defenseman Devon Toews (7) and defenseman Jack Johnson (3) after his goal in the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER — After scoring seven goals against Philadelphia last week, the Avalanche climbed to a pace of more than four goals per game — a clip that hasn’t been achieved in a full season since 1995-96.

Could the Avs be the first team since Pittsburgh to finish an 82-game slate scoring at that pace? Maybe. Because they’ve since added 14 goals in two outings.

Colorado’s 7-3 drubbing of the Detroit Red Wings at Ball Arena was its third straight seven-goal performance and sixth in 14 games. Before this season, the Avalanche had never scored that many in consecutive games. But this year they have streaks of two and now three straight. Is seven goals now the expectation?

“No,” head coach Jared Bednar said. But what exactly has been working?

“Guys are moving well and shooting well and getting to the net quite a bit,” Bednar said. “Puck decisions in the offensive zone have been much better. There’s a lot of activity. It’s tough to cover. And to me, that starts with our back end, the movement on our back end.”

Colorado improved to 11-2-1 in its last 14 games and has found the back of the net 76 times. The next highest team (Minnesota) is 19 goals behind. But the Avs know they could still be better. Especially given the fact that they’ve surrendered 46 goals over that same stretch.

“The crazy thing is we haven’t played our best hockey yet,” said defenseman Devon Toews after tying a franchise record with his fourth straight multi-point effort. “We understand that and we see progress. It’s not gonna change in one day, it’s not gonna change in one game. Just a work in progress that we’re working through and the coaches are working through.”

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Deen’s List:

Offensively gifted

Toews had three assists, improving his season totals to four goals and 20 points in just 15 games. His 1.33 points per game are sixth-best in the entire NHL among players that have played at least 10 games. Two of the guys ahead of him are teammates Nathan MacKinnon (1.36) and Nazem Kadri (1.55).

Despite missing the first nine games of the season, Toews is 10th among defensemen in points and has played at least 12 fewer games than everyone ahead of him except for teammate Cale Makar, who has 25 points in 21 games.

“I think it’s a guy that’s more offensively gifted than what you thought,” Bednar said of Toews.

Team pace

Colorado is the first team this season to surpass the 100-goal mark. It entered play on Friday tied with both the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers with 98 goals despite playing three fewer games than either of them. The Panthers quickly followed suit with a three-goal performance of their own, but the Avs had already scored twice before Florida got its 99th goal.

Another outburst of offense gives the Avalanche 105 goals in 24 games, which equates to 4.38 per game. In order to finish the season with more than a 4.00 goals-per-game pace, Colorado needs to score 223 goals in its final 58 regular-season games. The Avs are four goals shy of being a third of the way through accomplishing that feat and still have three games before the season reaches the one-third mark.

Big moment for Helm

Darren Helm scored on a breakaway to make it 3-0 against his former team. It was his first game against Detroit, the city he called home for 13 years after being drafted by the Red Wings in 2005. Helm signed a one-year deal with the Avalanche as an unrestricted free agent after recording 251 points in 744 games with Detroit.

“It’s great,” forward Andre Burakovsky said of Helm’s first-period goal. “You want to see guys scoring goals of course, but doing it against your old team in the first game against them, it’s obviously huge and I’m really happy for him.”

Breakout for Burky

Burakovsky also pitched in on offense. He had two goals for the Avalanche after scoring just once in the previous nine games.

Playing mostly on Colorado’s second line, Burakovsky has spent the last two games on the Avalanche’s third line. He skated alongside J.T. Compher and Alex Newhook on Friday and the trio combined for three goals and four points.

MacKinnon finds twine

In past years, a goal from MacKinnon would not often be a highlight. But in a season where the superstar center has made his mark racking up assists and mired in a goal-scoring drought, it’s a far greater accomplishment.

MacKinnon scored what eventually was the game-winning goal for his third of the season and second in two games.

“He likes to score every night and it can start wearing on him if he doesn’t,” Bednar said. “He’s been steadily just chipping away and picked up a lot of assists. But to score now in back-to-back games, I think that’s important for his confidence and also for him to ramp up his shooting.”

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Aarif Deen
 is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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