Deen’s List: Historic offensive surge continues for Avalanche in victorious debut for goalie Justus Annunen

Dec 6, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Justin Braun (61) battle for position during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche have been flexing their goal-scoring muscles ever since their goaltending issues began — which coincides with the start of their five-game road trip. In the fourth leg of the trip, Colorado turned to rookie goalie Justus Annunen and was victorious against a reeling Philadelphia Flyers.

The 21-year-old stopped just 27-of-32 shots but the Avs were the better team, defeating Philadelphia 7-4 on Monday at Wells Fargo Center.

Colorado has scored 19 goals and surrendered 20 over the past four games (2-1-1), all of which have been split between third-string goalie Jonas Johansson and Annunen, who is fourth on the depth chart despite being a highly touted prospect and perhaps the goalie of the future

In any sense, you’d like to see the defense pick up its game — especially considering they’ve not faired that much better in front of starting goalie Darcy Kuemper. But when you’re playing four games on the road without Kuemper or your true backup Pavel Francouz, your priorities change. And for the Avs, winning games and racking up points on this long road trip takes priority over limiting goals against. Just as long as you find a way to score more than the other team, which they’ve managed to do twice along with salvaging a point in Ottawa.

Goals came from Erik Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog, Alex Newhook, Cale Makar, Valeri Nichushkin, Nazem Kadri and Tyson Jost.

Not bad.

Next up, the lethal New York Rangers, who are also suddenly dealing with goaltending issues of their own.

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Deen’s List:

Offensive defense

It’s hard to ignore the Avalanche’s offensive surge from the blueline. Not only is Makar running away with the goal-scoring title among defensemen in the NHL (11 goals in 19 games), but Colorado has also gotten at least a goal from a defenseman in 12 consecutive games.

Makar leads the charge with 22 points. Trailing behind him is his less offensively gifted but also lethal defense partner Devon Toews, who has four goals and 15 points in just 13 games. Then there is Samuel Girard who quietly has 13 points in 20 games. Rookie Bowen Byram, who is currently out, has four goals and nine points in 13 games.

The 25 goals from the Avs’ blueline are just one less than what they had in a 56-game season last year.

Kadri’s consistency

Kadri went on a heater during his 10-game point streak. But ever since it was halted by the Dallas Stars 10 days ago, he has continued to produce. Kadri has points in his last four games since, scoring three goals and recording six points. His tally against Philadelphia was the game-winner.

This means he has points in 14-of-15 games (nine goals, 27 points).

MacKinnon and the club’s goal-scoring

Still sitting on a single goal all season, MacKinnon once again pitched in with an assist to climb to 16 assists and 17 points in 12 games. He has at least a point in all but one game this year.

I don’t suspect MacKinnon is going to score on two percent of his shots all season.

The purpose of this is not to question his scoring capabilities. Rather it’s to show that we are nearly two months into the season, MacKinnon has missed 10 games and only has a goal in the games he’s played, yet Colorado still leads the NHL with a whopping 4.14 goals per game. To put that into perspective, that pace equates to 340 goals over 82 games.

Since the Avalanche’s inaugural season, the only team to surpass 340 goals is the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins (362). Coincidentally, the second-highest since that season is the Avs’ inaugural team that very same year. They had 326 goals.

It’s hard to imagine Colorado keeps this pace for 82 games. But who saw this coming after an offseason where the Avs lost a number of offensive weapons?

Half a century shots

The Avalanche peppered Philadelphia for 50 shots. Any time you can get that many on goal, you’re probably going to win games — especially when it comes against a backup goalie with as many high-danger opportunities as the Avs had on Monday.

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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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