Issues all over the ice
Colorado Avalanche Blogger •Avalanche Insider • RSS
Yes, the Avalanche are a mess.
No, I'm not smart enough to know how to clean it up.
They’ve lost three games in a row – all at home – 13 of the past 16 (3-11-2) and have fallen out of a playoff position with 31 games to play.
The goaltending, which was expected to be a strength, has been mediocre at best and too often worse.
Semyon Varlamov and Philippe Grubauer don’t make enough big saves and they’re frequently left to their own devices because the play in front of them is so poor; and I’m not just talking about the defensemen.
Coach Jared Bednar, who surely is frustrated and feeling some pressure, talked about defensive breakdowns, poor decisions and the failure to throw some good ol’ fashioned body checks following the 5-1 loss to Vancouver on Saturday.
"It starts with your commitment to check," he said. "There is a certain level of commitment you need in order to check, and that has to be throughout your lineup. If one guy doesn't commit to checking the right way, then the puck can end up in the back of your net.”
Biggest game of the season to date and it took the Canucks 92 seconds to score the first goal.
"The two things we have talked about recently is our defending commitment and how hard we have to work, how hard we have to compete in those battles, how aware we have to be in those structural situations,” Bednar said. “Then the other one is the puck decisions that can get you in trouble, and we weren't good at either one of them."
Bednar changed the defense pairings and Erik Johnson returned after missing two games before the NHL All-Star break with a concussion. It made no difference.
Bednar gave Varlamov a pass, though the struggling goalie allowed two goals on the first three shots and all five goals on 26 shots overall.
“That game’s not on him,” Bednar said.
Varlamov did turn aside a couple of early breakaways, one after defenseman Samuel Girard lost the puck on a spin move that every opponent has gotten familiar with.
The Avalanche just haven’t been a hard team to play against, and the Canucks seemed to fly into the Colorado end with the greatest of ease.
“What we’re tending to do as a team right now is we’re hoping for offense,” Bednar said. “We’re down one, so we have to make something happen and we force the puck into the wrong areas and it goes the other way, so we’re compounding our problem.
“Last year we were perfectly willing to win games 1-0 and it felt like our team had to become more committed to a 1-0 win. I don’t think we’re there. We have to buy in and believe that we can do that because goals are getting hard to come by.”
Asked if Varlamov is capable of winning a 1-0 game, Bednar said: “Yeah, he is for sure.”
As for that offense, it’s disappeared. In the most recent five losses, the Avalanche combined for six goals. They’ve scored two goals or fewer in 11 of the past 18 games while posting a 4-12-2 record.
Bednar broke up the Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen line to start the game Saturday in yet another attempt to create a more balanced attack. They were reunited before the first period ended, though he also tried MacKinnon with a few other forwards.
“We’ve tried every line combination on the planet in the last two months,” Bednar said. “We’re not getting results.”
Please, just keep the big guys together and take your chances.
These were the lines and pairings at practice Sunday:
Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen
Matt Nieto – Carl Soderberg – Matt Calvert
Alexander Kerfoot – J.T. Compher – Colin Wilson
Sven Andrighetto – Sheldon Dries -- Gabriel Bourque
Ian Cole -- Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov -- Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth -- Samuel Girard