The Colorado Avalanche stepped out of Bye Week against an equally rested Vancouver Canucks squad and promptly blew it. The Avs lost 5-1, dropping them to 52 points in 51 games, two fewer than Vancouver’s 54 in 52 games. As a result, the Canucks have leaped over the Avalanche in the standings, taking over eight spot in the Western Conference.
If there is any sliver of positivity that Avalanche fans can cling onto — other than the team getting back on the ice after the All-Star break and bye week — is the calendar changing from January to February. January was rough, and a chance to take a step back and assess some things was definitely needed. The first thing the coaching staff looked at was that the team needed to change up the lines. They gave Carl Soderberg a go with the top guys, and moved Nathan MacKinnon down a line to add some depth for this game. It didn’t work.
This might have been the first game back from the break, and most teams tend to come out of the gate sluggish, but this game was too important for that. The Avs faced a Canucks team tied with them for the last spot in the Wild Card race although the Avs have a game in hand. Getting a regulation win here would add some nice breathing room between the two teams.
This is the start of an important month for some players on the Avalanche roster. The trade deadline is coming up, and if the team doesn’t perform, more than just a few spare parts could be in the last month of wearing a blue and burgundy jersey. To me, the man with the target squarely on his back in that regard so far would be goalie Semyon Varlamov. He needed to get back on track quick and start producing like the starting goalie he has the ability to be. Unfortunately in this game, he stopped only 21 of 26 shots, so not a good start.
It seemed like it was taking the Avalanche more time than the Canucks to get their game-pace back again. A minute and a half into the game the Canucks found themselves with a 2-on-1 break, and a nice pass from Antoine Roussel to Jake Virtanen found its way past Varlamov. Avs fans have seen so many times this season. Their team has given up the first goal of the game 30 times this season, and out of all those games, they’ve only managed to win seven. This game followed the rule, not the exception.
6:04 into the first, Brock Boeser picked up the loose puck off a won faceoff in the Avs zone, took a step towards the middle of the ice, and fired the puck right over the shoulder of Varlamov. The seats in the arena hadn’t even gotten warm yet and the Avs found themselves down 2-0 early.
The Avs just seemed like they could get nothing going early on. You can expect some growing pains and adjust time for the new lines, but doing that after falling down 2-0 early generally makes it all the more difficult. The Avs did get chances, their best one coming when Sheldon Dries took a long pass in the neutral zone and got ahead of the defense, but couldn’t find the net. Another came when Gabriel Landeskog came up with a big hit in the corner, causing the puck to slide right to Mikko Rantanen. He got a shot on goal but couldn’t find an angle to score. Rantanen also saw one later in the period go off the post.
As the period wore on, the wheels on the Avalanche started to come to life. They were getting those chances, but still nothing to show for it. Coach Jared Bednar started to get antsy, so he put the Big Three back together with three minutes left to try and spark something. Any kind of chemistry. A late penalty by Vancouver with 11 seconds left at least gave the Avalanche a power play to start the second period.
Hope after the first quickly turned into disappointment to start the second. The Avs saw their power play come and go with a single shot on goal. Coach Bednar promptly reverted back to Soderberg with Landeskog and Rantanen.
Colorado would get another power play chance, Colin Wilson drawing another Alex Edler interference penalty, but that too would end unsuccessfully. Only one shot on goal for that power play once again. During the power play, there was a moment where the puck was about to clear the zone. Tyson Barrie dove to prevent the puck from leaving the zone, but in the process he knocked it right to Loui Eriksson. He skated off for a breakaway and almost scored on the technicality that Varlamov slid back into his goal after making the save. After review, he clearly did not slide back past the goal line and the Avs survived a shorthanded scare.
Alas, Vancouver would find success yet again 7:30 into the period when Roussel found a pass come from behind the net by Bo Horvat and easily placed it over the shoulder of Varlamov. It was 3-0 at this point.
Colorado would finally crack the Jacob Markstrom code when Matt Calvert redirected a Zadorov one timer into the back of the net, getting the Avs on the board and cutting the lead to 3-1. good work by Matt Nieto to retrieve the puck in the corner and set up Zadorov for the shot. He’s really been the engine of that line.
Colorado seemed inspired after the goal, and got a few decent chances to try and get within one, but it would be Vancouver who struck again, extending their lead to back to three goals. Tyler Motte copied the Avs from barely a few minutes previous and tipped in his own point shot, this one from Troy Stetcher.
Colin Wilson would draw another penalty with 1:07 remaining, and the Avs would get a good scoring chance out of Landeskog, but Markstrom would get his right pad down to deny the Captain of a goal. Just like the second period, the Avs got a power play that could carry over into the third.
But again, the Avalanche had a little less than a minute in the power play to start the third. It wasn’t enough and they came up empty for the third time.
Colorado needed to be the aggressors in the third period and they were. They controlled the puck, took chances, and saw several opportunities, but still could not get through. As the team pushed and became more aggressive, they began to take penalties. Two, in fact. The Avs would kill the first, but were not as lucky on the second. With a little over six minutes left in the game, Anton Goldobin put the final nail in the coffin. There simply wasn’t enough time left on the clock.
Once again, this was a period filled with some decent Avalanche chances, and with them being down as much as they were, they better have. We saw almost a full 20 minutes of better Avalanche pressure but Markstrom was really on his game all night long and Vancouver would eventually roll to a 5-1 victory.
This game was not how the Avalanche drew it up after an extended break. They were sloppy at times, uninspired in others, and for two periods seemed to find their stride when it was too late to gain any momentum. Give credit to Vancouver who got off to a hot start with two early goals. They never had to look back from there.
Colorado might have out shot Vancouver 35-26, but the way Markstrom was playing, you never got the feeling he was letting much get behind him.
The camp calling for the franchise to cut ties with Semyon Varlamov can point to this effort right here as to why. Sure, the Avs defense has its holes, but Varlamov is not making those ‘wow’ type saves and shots he normally would save have been getting through with realtive ease. The front office cannot be happy with this aspect of their team and the more it goes on the more a move could likely be made.
Not many people thought the Avs would lay this type of egg after the bye, but that is exactly what the Avs gave a raucous Pepsi Arena. Coach Bednar shuffled up with lines to get some production, by the end of the month we might have to shuffle the roster if the Avs keep playing like this.
Next game is Tuesday night at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets. See you there!