It was a lose-win situation last night. The Avalanche lost 2-1 to the Canucks, but got a point for the overtime loss. That point moved them ahead of the idle Wild (*me waves to the OutKast fans finding this site from that phrase*) into first place in the Northwest division. Colorado plays Minnesota this Sunday...and again next Sunday.
This is a key stretch for the Avalanche. They've been doing a terrific job of grabbing points against divisional opponents. But, they have to keep that up, and I'm a little bit worried. While the goaltending and defense have generally been pretty good, the Avs' offensive output has been surprisingly mediocre of late. The Avs PP is just 5 for its last 36 chances (13.8%) and the team is averaging just 3 goals a game in the last 10 games. This is from a team that scored 20 goals in their first 4 home games.
How can we fix the team? Well, here's my opinion of the 5 things we need to do:
Keep the Goalie Rotation
For now, it's working. Both goalies are playing well with the current method of alternating starts. Since Joel Quenneville started it, the Avs are 6-1-1. In the past, one bad game and the starter lost his job; with the new system, they goalies don't have to look over their shoulder as much. It's helped Theodore's game in particular.
Use Liles and Cumiskey More on Offense
Both defensemen showed last night that their skills can help the offense. It seems clear that they are being asked to take care of their own end first, and that's ok - Liles has been quietly terrific in his own zone this year. But, when you have two weapons like that, you've got to free them up a little more often. Take some chances. That's an emphasis on "some" - I don't want this team to regress into the old track meet method. Just a few more plays like Cumiskey's end-to-end rush last night will create more odd-man chances and, hopefully, boost scoring.
Tweak the Lines
With Andrew Brunette getting some 1st-line ice last night and with the team losing, it seems inevitable that Q will change up the lines on Sunday. As much as I like Svatos, I don't think he's working all that well on the Sakic line. Andrew Brunette really should be back up there. While were at it, I'm bringing Wolski back up there too. Sakic, Wolski and Brunette has been a very good line and I'd love to see them reunited. That moves Smyth to the 2nd line with Sastny and Hejduk. Those 3 didn't make a good line, they made a GREAT line. They played together for 4 games earlier this year (Game 3, 4, 5 and 7) before Hejduk was injured. They have 18 points in those 4 games...why are they not back together? On the 3rd line, I'm going with Arnason, Svatos and Laperriere. I thought about Hlinka over Lappy here, but Lappy has been playing well, and Hlinka & Svatos together just seems too small. Hlinka, Guite and Wyatt Smith would make a fine 4th line.
Shoot. The. Puck
This applies to the powerplay. I think it's established that the Avs don't have a great point-shooter with the man advantage. Fine. But if the opposing PK unit is going to stand back and give the point men room, take the shot. Get Smyth in front. Get Brunette or Stastny next to the net. Get Hejduk or Svatos into the slot. And then let Sakic and Liles let it fly from the point. Once a few of these start going in (like Liles' goal last night), teams will have to move a guy out to put some pressure on the point men, and that will free up the guys down low more.
Six Forwards on the PK
The Avs have taken two approaches to the kill this year. One is to rely heavily on Guite and Smith, with a 2nd rotation of forwards to spell them as necessary. The other is to use three pairs of forwards doing shorter shifts. The latter seems to be much more effective - the forwards have more energy and can focus more on the forecheck. The Avs have a lot of forwards who can kill penalties (Guite, Smith, Hlinka, Laperriere, Stastny, Hejduk, Smyth and Sakic). Spread the responsibility.
My notes on the game are here
Lines & Shift Charts
The report for the game is up. Jaroslav Hlinka returned to the lineup, bumping Scott Parker back to the box. Andrew Brunette started on the 3rd line, but spent a lot of time with Sakic and Smyth as the game wore on. I'm betting he'll be with Sakic tomorrow.
I had forgotten to upload the Edmonton report. That's done now too.
- Perhaps the cure for the faceoff woes is just to play NW teams. The Avs have won the faceoff battle in 4 of the last 6 games, 5 of which were against the NW
- Scott Hannan blocked 6 shots in the game. He was averaging 1.7 per game going into the contest
- Canucks coach Alain Vignault used his last change ability to get his Sedin line out against the Stastny line. While the line only scored 2 goals, they had pressure on Theodore throughout the game.
The Avalanche host the Wild on Sunday. The Avs keep sole possession of first with a win.