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.

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.