1. Scoring surge
The Avalanche were 10th in the NHL in scoring last season (255 goals) after finishing last in 2016-17 (165). The improvement of 90 goals was an NHL high.
Colorado scored more because of equally notable improvements on the power play and in their shooting percentage. The Avalanche ranked last in the NHL on the power play (12.6 percent) and in shooting percentage (7.2) in 2016-17. Last season, they were eighth on the power play (21.9 percent) and third in shooting percentage (10.5).
Having led the NHL with a combined 322 points from players who were age 23 or under on Feb. 1, the Avalanche's offensive improvement may continue into 2018-19.
2. Goaltending gains
The Avalanche also improved considerably in their own end, reducing the number of goals they allowed from an NHL-high 276 in 2016-17 to 236 (tied for 17th) in 2017-18.
Goalies Jonathan Bernier, who signed with the Detroit Red Wings on July 1, and Semyon Varlamovdeserve a lot of credit for that improvement. Colorado's save percentage went from .894 in 2016-17 (29th in NHL) to .914 in 2017-18 (tied for sixth), the greatest improvement in the NHL.
Acquiring Philipp Grubauer in a trade from the Washington Capitals on June 22 could help improve Colorado's goaltending situation even more. The 26-year-old's .923 career save percentage is the best among the 55 active NHL goalies who have played at least 100 games, and he is the sixth-youngest player in that group.
3. There's no place like home
The Avalanche earned 58 points at Pepsi Center and 37 on the road last season. That difference of plus-21 ranked third in the NHL behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (plus-24) and Minnesota Wild (plus-23).
Colorado may have been better at home because the last line change allowed it to get the right matchups for its top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen. At home, MacKinnon had an NHL-leading 67 points (27 goals, 40 assists) in 39 games, and the three combined for 161 points (63 goals, 98 assists) and were plus-68. In away games, the three combined for 82 points (30 goals, 52 assists) and were minus-41, and Landeskog's plus/minus fell from plus-32 to minus-16.