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Why can’t the Colorado Avalanche win on the road?

The Avalanche have been like a different team away from the Pepsi Center

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Following Saturday’s road loss to Nashville, the Avalanche fell to a 3-7-0 record on the road. If the team were bad all the time this wouldn’t be a concern (Arizona’s road-trip game plan is the least of their worries), but given that Colorado is 6-1-1 at home, the bar has been set reasonably high.

Home ice advantage is certainly a reality (line matching is a significant benefit) but only the Rangers have worse gap between home wins and road wins than the Avs, so it’s the team’s job to figure out how everyone else is managing to squeeze out points on the road.


Let’s start with goal production:

At home: 4.6 goals per game (on average). That would put them 1st in the league if they could pack that onto their flights.

On the road: 2.2 goals per game.

So clearly the offense is having a better time when the matchups go their way. Let’s check in on the top forwards and see who the main offenders are in this regard:

Home/Away splits

Player Home points-per-game Away points-per-game
Player Home points-per-game Away points-per-game
MacKinnon 1.6 0.7
Rantanen 1.6 0.4
Kerfoot 0.9 0.8
Landeskog 1.4 0.3
Andrighetto 0.8 0.4
Duchene (pre-trade) 0.7 0.8

It would be easy to point at MacKinnon’s discrepancy between home and away production and pin some of the responsibility on him, except that regardless of how different those numbers are, 0.7 points-per-game on the road is still pretty darn good. We should be applauding his scoring at home rather than wondering about the road.

And while we’re patting certain players on the back, kudos to Kerfoot who has actually his the scoresheet more often as a visitor. That’s impressive for a veteran let alone a rookie.

Back to the problem - the out-of-town output from Rantanen, Landeskog, and Andrighetto is not at the level expected from top-six wingers. Part of this is the fact that the opponents’ shut-down defensemen can target the top players more frequently, but part of what makes a player top-six-caliber is their ability to be better than what the opponent can throw at them. Maybe Landy and Sven just aren’t at that level right now, maybe coaching needs to adjust. But the Avs HAVE to get their top wingers going, especially after trading one of their more successful road players.


Let’s also look at goal allowance:

At home: 2.9 goals-against per game

On the road: 3.9 goals-against per game

Part of this is obviously carried by the defensemen, who are responsible for taking away opposing forwards’ ability to score almost 4 goals a game. Plus-minus is a flawed stat, but it does give us a glimpse into even-strength matchup effectiveness:

Home/Road +/-

Player Home +/- Away +/-
Player Home +/- Away +/-
Barrie -1 -4
Johnson 7 -4
Zadorov 0 -2
Nemeth 2 4
Barberio 3 -4

Everyone is going to have it a little bit tougher when the matchups get harder, so I’m not concerned about Barrie or Zadorov taking a small hit. Nemeth seems to thrive in both situations, meaning the Avs have found themselves a nice bottom-pairing guy they can rely on to fill his role.

Erik Johnson is clearly struggling. He is still used as a top d-man at home, so it’s not that he can’t handle tough opponents, but his utilization must need tweaking. I could (and probably will) write an entire piece on this one day, but safe to say the coaching staff need to translate his successful home usage to some better utilization elsewhere.

Finally, let’s look at the goalies:

Home/Road sv%

Players Home Save % Away Save %
Players Home Save % Away Save %
Varlamov 0.918 0.89
Bernier 0.909 0.869

These numbers are absolutely influenced by the numbers seen in the defense and forward sections above, but c’mon guys you can’t be under .900 under any circumstances and expect to be competitive.


How would you adjust the Avs to be better on the road? Should the goalies get more flak? Should d-man usage be changed? Or should we give new wingers a try in the top spots and see if they can get more creative?