It was two months ago the Avalanche traded Matt Duchene, ending a long saga and, to many, signaling Colorado's first step in moving forward as a franchise.
In the weeks since, the Avs have taken a few more steps than most expected them to.
Colorado defeated the New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday, the club's ninth straight win — the longest streak in the NHL this season to date.
Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and an assist Saturday and has recorded a point in every game of the Avalanche's winning streak, with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) over that span. He scored the eventual game-winner against the Rangers minutes into the second period when he snuck a wrist shot through traffic and past Henrik Lundqvist.
With 59 points this season, MacKinnon now trails Nikita Kucherov by two in the Art Ross race, while over 32 percent of his points this season have come during this streak.
The victory also ensures Colorado will enter Sunday in a playoff position, an unexpected reality for a franchise that traded Duchene in November and finished with 48 points a season ago, at the bottom of the league standings. The Avalanche have already surpassed their point total from a season ago, with 55, after securing two points against the Rangers on Saturday.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 20, 2018
It's been an unexpected and remarkable turnaround for Colorado, which last qualified for the postseason in 2014 under first-year head coach Patrick Roy, finishing atop the Central Division. The "Saved By Roy" Avs were short-lived, though, dropping 22 points in the standings the following season, eight the next, and ultimately to the bottom of the NHL last year, with some of the worst puck possession numbers in the NHL.
But this 2017-18 team stabilized its Corsi-for rating to a passable 49.2 percent (score-adjusted) entering play Saturday. Led by MacKinnon, who will get plenty of Hart Trophy consideration if Colorado manages to stay in the playoff race, the Avalanche are miles ahead of where many pegged them to be such a short while after trading Duchene for a package of future assets.