CraiganderssonAs the Denver Broncos did earlier this week, now the Colorado Avalanche is winning some respect on the national level, which would have been a given two years ago, with the team at or near the top of the Western Conference every year.

But this season started with enough skepticism to fill the Pepsi Center.

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The Avs are overcoming the negative predictions and now sit at the top of the Western Conference, according to, after a 4-1 domination of the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night (recap via Mile High Hockey).

An ESPN profile of the team points out contributions from the Avs’ two 18-year-old centers, the youngest to ever play for the Avalanche. First-round pick Matt Duchene hasn’t disappointed after being picked third-overall in the draft earlier this year. ESPN also notes that the Avs are the fourth-youngest team in the NHL, with eight players aged 25 and younger.

New goalie Craig Anderson (pictured, playing for the Florida Panthers) has surprised a lot of people, with his teammates saying his confidence bleeds into the play of the rest of the team. Everything seems rosy right now, but there is a slight blemish. Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles suffered a bruised shoulder Tuesday and will miss the next two weeks, reports The Denver Post.

Rookie Ryan Wilson will step in for Liles tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.