Three games. Three losses. No points.
The Avalanche are on the outside of the playoffs, and, in falling 2-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks, lost the best chance to improve their *ahem* standing in the standings for the next week or so. It's not going to be getting any easier for the team: they host the Red Wings on Monday before visiting the Ducks on Wednesday and the Coyotes on Friday. And then the divisional games kick in; of the remaining 23 games on the schedule, 14 are against teams in our division (and all but one of those divisional rivals are currently above us in the standings).
What did us in today? The powerplay. The team spent 11:40 on seven different powerplays - almost a fifth of the game - and couldn't convert once. That dismal performance includes over a minute of 5 on 3 "action" as well as almost two minutes of 6 on 4 late in the game. In the seven powerplays, the Avalanche managed a total of 9 shots - about one shot for every 1:16 on the ice. Only once this year have the Avalanche had more failed opportunities - when they went 0-8 and had 15:31 of PP time in a Thanksgiving game against the Oilers. Considering that we won that game 3-2, I'm going to unofficially designate the Chicago game as the 2007-2008 Shining Moment in Powerplay Futility. Congratulations.
It's fairly obvious that coach Quenneville really doesn't know how to solve the riddle that is our PP. He used 13 different people for at least one shift (I'm not counting Cody McLeod's 12 seconds) and, of course, not one of them could find the back of the net...or, in many cases, the front of the net. Quenneville used a variety of different lineups and combinations. Nothing worked. In fact, if the changes did one thing, it was to cause confusion; a couple of times Liles seemed to be on a different page as his forwards (and once with Finger) leading to turnovers or clear outs. At least it didn't lead to a shorthanded goal this time.
To date, the Avalanche have 10 1-goal regulation losses, 5 of which have come in the last 6 weeks. In those 10 losses, the Avalanche have a whopping 4 PP goals (and none since December 5th). Those 4 PP goals came on 37 chances, a 10.8% conversion rate. If the Avs had converted on 21% (their 06-07 rate), they would have had 3 more goals...and, by extension, 3 more points. Three extremely critical points.
There's just so many things that are wrong. The Avs 3rd leading scorer on the PP is Joe Sakic who, you may recall, has missed the last 35 games. Milan Hejduk has one powerplay point in the last 24 games. Andrew Brunette has two in the last 23. Wojtek Wolski has none in the last 30. Jaroslav Hlinka has one point on the powerplay all season. With Brett Clark on the shelf, the Avs have two defensemen with PP points - John-Michael Liles with 15 and Jeff Finger with 2. I just can't fathom how terrible this squad is. And, even worse, I don't have the slightest idea how to fix it.
The report is up. Brad Richardson is back to Lake Erie, replaced by David Jones. Remember a week or so ago when the Guite / Richardson / Laperriere line was getting close to 20 minutes a game and facing the other team's top players? That was working tremendously well, but now with a different left wing - either McLeod or Brunette - the line is nowhere near as effective.
- Before Stastny's injury, the Avalanche were a barely tolerable 48.7% in the circle. In the 13 games he's missed, the Avs are a tepid 43.1% and have won the faceoff battle in just two games.
- The Avs are now 5-6-2 without Stastny.
- Colorado forwards managed just 14 shots.
- The +/- stuff normally included in the article is missing because at the beginning of the season I only created graphics for up to the early 20s, figuring that would be plenty. I guess I'll need to create some more. For the record, the team is 5 points ahead of last year, and have both scored and allowed 25 less goals.
The Avalanche host the Red Wings on Monday. It's the last home game before the trade deadline. So, for 18,007 of you who read this blog and have tickets to the game, it may be the last time to see some of these guys in person.