Right now, after three straight losses, I'm wondering a little bit about the Colorado Avalanche. As I type, the Avs still lead the Northwest Division, albeit by a single point over the Calgary Flames, who have two games in hand. That order could change Tuesday night when the two clubs face off in Calgary.
So my question is this: Will the Avalanche begin to fade as the season moves into the second quarter?
I think the answer falls squarely against the pads of goalie Craig Anderson. If Anderson can continue to perform at a high level, the surprising Avalanche will remain in the thick of the Western Conference race. If Anderson, who hasn't played more than 31 games in any of his previous five NHL seasons, can't maintain the high standard that he set for himself in the first quarter of the season, Colorado will have a tough time staying in the playoff hunt.
I really like what I've seen from Anderson. I believe this guy is a legit talent and not a flash in the pads. Still, I don't think anyone knows if the skinny stopper (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) will wear down under the weight of 60 or more NHL starts. Time will tell. I'm rooting for him, though. He has probably been the biggest story of the first quarter. And, no doubt, he's getting serious consideration for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Now, here are a few of your questions.
Hey E.J., do you think Dany Heatley is the answer the San Jose Sharks need to get over their playoff woes? -- Ryan B., San Carlos, Calif.
Ryan, I think Heatley has been a nice addition to their lineup. Last season, in their last 20 games, the San Jose Sharks had trouble scoring. That should be much less of a problem with a natural goal-scorer like Heatley, who's currently on pace for his third 50-goal season.
Still, I don't think his addition alone will be a difference maker for the Sharks in the spring. I think they need to add another quality second-pair defenseman. That's not so easy to do, especially considering their salary cap status.
I think Heatley can help the Sharks (and their fans) get to where they want to go, but he's not the last piece in the puzzle.
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