It was a pretty miserable week to be an Avalanche fan. We saw two losses at the hands of the detroit red wings Presented by Amway, starting on Monday with a nationally televised 3-2 defeat. The team traveled to Nashville the next night and treated us to two periods of soporific skating and 7:22 of time in the lead before falling 3-1. Friday the wings came to Denver and the Avs gave us a reason to care with probably the best game to watch in a long time, then gave up a heart-wrenching goal with seconds remaining in overtime and everything fell to pieces. The next night, the guys found themselves in Arizona with fantastic seats to a 4-0 cringer at the hands of the Coyotes, a game so dull at least 5 members of the audience died of internal hemorrhaging.
It was a beat-down that was entirely too predictable.
The constant refrain all season has been how "frail" this team is, how quickly the wind seems to be sucked out of their cliched sails as soon as something doesn't go their way. That's problematic when the team has only scored first in the first period six times all year. That's problematic when the team spends most of its time trailing. That's problematic when they had just played about as well as they have all season only to lose heartbreakingly on an overwhelming team defense breakdown the night before. Add that deflation to a team in 30th playing a team still fighting for a playoff spot, and add that to the Avalanche's recent spat of failure against Dave Tippet's crushing defensive system, and you get a complete disaster from top to bottom. You get a team playing for something kicking the snot out of a team that can't figure out how to break itself out of the cycle of "we lose."
Well that and the whole The Avalanche Can't Win A Road Game thing, and the fact that this one was in Glendale. Can't forget that fun little bite-sized factsnack.
The fact meal here is that something is horribly wrong with this team that goes beyond who is on it. They're less than the sum of their parts and that's completely clear when something goes wrong. It's in the air. It looked maybe on Friday like they were going to take a step toward moving beyond that, when detroit got an early softy and then scored :13 after Mark Olver tied the game, two great opportunities for the Avs to fall apart that they took neither of. They kept fighting hard and ultimately fell in overtime, but after actually playing a full 60, looking like the semi-competent 7-10th in the West we mostly expected from them, only to fail, we saw the frailty again the next night. We saw zero fucks given. Why bother? When we put it all out there we lose anyway. Sacco even looked in that direction post-game in his comments about lack of effort level, which is a huge departure from his normal overtures of how much well the team sure tried hard gee whiz!
The Avalanche should have the talent level to be at least mediocre. But to get there, they've got to buck up and shake the "we lose" feeling. That's an attitude that many feel reflects leadership, and it's not the most mature of attitudes either. It reflects youth. Inexperience. It's something you might expect from a team whose 20-year old first-year captain has a hard time yet not taking losses personally. As I wrote this a really nice piece from Chambers including quotes from Joe Sakic went live about this very issue. It took Sakic himself a while to learn how to win, and when he did, win he did (sorry). It's too bad Gabe Landeskog doesn't have more in the way of veteran leadership to learn from, with the only older guys being late-bloomer P.A. Parenteau, injured Milan Hejduk, and goalie J.S. Giguere, which is partially on management (and partially on past management for letting it reach this point) and partially just kinda the way it goes. But the team has to find a way to rally around itself, as a unit, stand up, turn around, and tell their opponents, "We are going to play our way, and you are going to lose."
Not taking teams lightly would be a fantastic start.
Let's see how predictable this team is exactly. Calgary comes to town tonight (7:00 MT), the Avs play like trash (engaged, angry, but trash) but because Calgary also is trash it's a close game. On Wednesday the Avs travel to Anaheim (8:00 MT), and get a road win! Yes. A road win. THAT'S A THING. That's the first half of the Avs' final back to back of the season, as they go on Thursday up the highway to Los Angeles for one of those later than late games that imo shouldn't be allowed to exist (8:30 MT). Since it's a super-late start it will go into a shootout, where the Avs will lose due to lack of practice this year. On Saturday the Vancouver Canucks come to Denver for a nationally-televised matinee (1:00 MT, NHL Network) and probably blow the Avs out.
I want very badly to be wrong. I want very very badly for this team to not be this predictable because hockey is a game of short-term chaos. But.........