When the Colorado Avalanche reached the playoffs in 2014, it was supposed to be the start of a run of postseason appearances for the young team.
Things didn't work out that way. A slow start over the next couple of years derailed any perennial playoff talk, and it took four years to get back to the postseason. Colorado has reached the postseason two straight years now, and it knew a fast start to this year would be vital to make it back again.
So far the unbeaten Avalanche have come through. They will look to complete a sweep of their four-game, season-opening homestand when they host the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.
"Just look at what we are doing: we're blocking shots, we're battling in front of our own net, we're making it hard for them," forward Andre Burakovsky said after the Avalanche's 4-2 win over the Bruins on Thursday night. "That's what we want to do. A lot of teams get tired in the third and can't keep up the pace, and that's something that we can take advantage of.
"We are a young team, a lot of good skaters here that can make it tough for the other teams."
The Coyotes come to town after earning their first win, 4-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night. Arizona lost its first two games of the season, but both setbacks were by a goal, including a 1-0 loss to Boston on Oct. 5.
In fact, the Coyotes have outscored their opponents 5-4 in the three games.
"Nobody was panicking after two games, and we liked the way we played and the guys worked hard in practice," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said after the Thursday victory.
The Coyotes have been out of the playoffs for the past seven seasons and have been picking high in the annual amateur draft. They're starting to see some of those picks develop into NHL-level players. Barrett Hayton, taken fifth overall in the 2018 draft, made his debut against Vegas and had an assist for his first NHL point.
"It's something you dream of for a long time," the 19-year-old center said after the game. "Played a little longer than I would have thought. Overall, I thought it was a good game."
Arizona has played tight defense and received good goaltending to start the season, but it will be tested against the speedy Avalanche lineup. Colorado has received production from its top line and some bonus scoring from other lines, an element that was missing for much of last season.
With a tough six-game road trip starting at the Washington Capitals on Monday, a sweep of the homestand would give the Avalanche a boost, as would getting forward J.T. Compher back in the lineup. Compher was scratched against the Bruins with a lower-body injury but was able to practice Friday.
--Field Level Media