Updated Nov. 22
If there is anything surprising about the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche, it might be that their early season success is still something of a surprise.
|Rookie Kevin Shattenkirk gets some credit for helping the Avs climb atop the Northwest Division. (Getty Images)|
No one is playing better hockey right now than Phoenix, which has won six games in a row, including four on the road and five by one goal. Obviously it hasn't been about offense in the desert, where the team has allowed two more goals than it has scored and no one on the roster has a double-digit goal total. But the key to success has been tight defense and great goaltending by Ilya Bryzgalov, and the formula really hasn't changed much.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, the Avs have taken over the Northwest Division lead with a four-game winning streak that sparked by one of the most explosive offenses in the conference. The Avs are young and very fast, their defensemen have been sparking attacks by moving pucks quickly and jumping into plays, and they are getting the kind of goaltending that gives them chances to win.
Rookie defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has been particularly impressive, along with streaking forwards Chris Stewart and Matt Duchene. But as a group, the Avs get some extra brownie points for hanging tough while starting goalie Craig Anderson was gone for 10 games with a leg injury. Peter Budaj, the once and possibly future No. 1 goalie in Colorado, stepped in and did a very credible job, going 6-3-1 and giving the Avs chances to win every time out. "We're a year older, and confidence is kicking in," Stewart said.
No surprise there. The rankings through Sunday's games: