On Sunday, I went to my first Avs game of the year. At the game, I got see two things. The first was the first ever Blue Jackets fan I've ever seen (they do exist!), the other was just how bad the Avs are playing this year.
In between periods a pee wee team from Eagle played on the ice, and other than the size difference, it was hard to tell the NHL squad had left the ice. The Avs defensively are chasing the puck and leaving players like Ryan Johansen and Jakub Voracek wide open to score while some players stand around and get in the way for bad deflections (sorry to throw you under the bus there Borna). But even with the all those struggles defensively, it is on offense that the Avs have commited their greatest failures.
The Avs' talented core of forwards seems to be of the mind-set this season that they want to be the NHL's fanciest team and have been forgetting what made them so good last season. There was a small hint of it on Landeskog and McLeod's goals on Sunday. Getting to the net. The Avs need to get to the front of the net. Good teams go to where goals are scored. Fancy teams make too many passes and ultimately don't score because they don't take shots. The Avs on Sunday and for most of this season have tried to be a fancy team. I can recall one of the Avs' second period power plays specifically on Sunday where they made too many passes and ultimately let a number of good scoring chances go by the wayside. The Avs need to stop being fancy and start getting to the net. It's time to get ugly. It's time to score some goals.
A team that's not shy about scoring goals is the Avs opponent Tuesday night. The Avs will be taking the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that sits third in the league in goals for. Following a last minute loss at the Winter Classic, the Blackhawks returned home and to the indoors with a 5-4 overtime win against the Dallas Stars. Having worked their way back to a tie with the Predators for the Central Division lead, the Blackhawks seem to have regained their stride. With their center slot solidified with Brad Richards added this offseason, they should be a hard team to beat in the playoffs. That's why they continue to be my pick for Stanley Cup Champs. The Avs will have their work cut out for them Tuesday.
I expect Roy to continue to play with the lines a bit, but here's what they were for the most part Sunday:
- Bad news for the Avs' power play. The Hawks own the league's best penalty kill at 89%.
- Gabriel Landeskog's goal Sunday was his first since November 29th.
- The Trade Deadline is March 2nd. The Blackhawks likely won't be involved, but the Avs need to decide whether they are buyers, sellers, or something inbetween. My stance: the Avs need to set a time table for this team. If the team isn't within a point or two of a playoff spot by the All-Star break, it's time to start making some trades, calling up guys, and playing for next year. Does that mean that Ryan O'Reilly is out the door? Maybe. But it would certainly mean that UFA's like Jan Hejda and Danny Briere are traded for future assets.
Game time: 6:30pm, MT
TV: ALT, TVA, SN1, SNO