Two teams on a roll will meet Wednesday when the Colorado Avalanche visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Colorado will look to remain undefeated — the league’s only unbeaten team — as it heads into its sixth game.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of his team’s unblemished record. “We’ve been throwing a lot at them lately, and playing the right way, and the habits that we want to build (are) the most important thing. To me, the results … take care of themselves.
“We haven’t been perfect, but we’ve improved in the areas that we’ve shown them (what to do).”
Bednar isn’t the only one who believes it’s still a work in progress for Colorado, despite the record.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best yet. I don’t think we’ve played 60 minutes yet. We’ve got to clean some stuff up,” Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer said, although he wasn’t arguing with the 5-0 start. “Now it’s on to Pittsburgh. (We’ll) try to keep it going and play the right way.”
In a 6-3 win Monday at Washington, winger Mikko Rantanen had a goal and two assists, center Nathan MacKinnon a goal and an assist, and defenseman Cale Makar an assist. Each of them has at least a point in each of Colorado’s first five games.
The Avalanche, who scored their first three shots in Washington, will be playing the second game of their first road trip, and the longest of the season at six games.
Pittsburgh has won three straight games by a combined 16-7.
The Penguins’ recent style of play has been born of necessity. With key forwards Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Bjugstad and Bryan Rust out because of injuries — and Jared McCann now day-to-day — Pittsburgh has produced strong two-way play, with few costly mistakes or penalties. The team is preaching it as a simplified approach.
“We’re starting to really form an identity that I think is a whole lot of fun,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “When everybody contributes (to) the way this team has come together over the last week, it’s a real rewarding experience for everybody involved.
“The energy on the bench has been terrific. The guys are sincerely invested and rooting for one another. They’re sticking up for each other out there. If mistakes are made, they’re usually mistakes of enthusiasm, and we move by them and keep playing the game. That resilience, that attitude, I think, is so critically important to our team moving forward.”
The Penguins seem to be feeding off each other’s sense of urgency.
“The way we play right now, it means a lot of energy,” defenseman Kris Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “So every time they go over the boards, guys are putting in the work and get rewarded.”
Pittsburgh has gotten a recent infusion of extra energy — and offense — from a few forwards called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League because of the injuries.
Rookie Sam Lafferty (three goals, five points in four games), Adam Johnson (one goal, one assist in three games) and Joseph Blandisi (one goal, one assist in two games) have provided a spark playing in the bottom six.
They have complemented the Penguins’ healthy big guns. Center Sidney Crosby (three goals, 10 points) and Letang (two goals, eight points) have at least one point in each of the team’s six games. Winger Jake Guentzel, who scored 40 goals last season, leads the team with four goals.
–Field Level Media