There’s one storyline that has surrounded the Colorado Avalanche for the entirety of their season up until this point: the lack of forward depth. An apt description to say the least. As of their game against the St. Louis Blues, the entire bottom nine of the Avs forward group has only accounted for 35 points. Over half of those points have come from the injured Valeri Nichushkin and Evan Rodrigues, so it’s safe to say the Avs depth is a problem.
Despite the lack of production one line has shined in their time together. The Avs' third line of Andrew Cogliano, Logan O’Connor, and J.T. Compher has been the Avs most consistent line since this massive stretch of injuries hit. This comes as a major surprise considering that most consider O’Connor and Cogliano to be hard fourth-line guys. Not only that but none of them are regarded as good play drivers, which might explain the group's lack of production.
If we take a look at the lines underlying numbers, we can see that they match up with the eye test. While not utterly dominant, this line still controls the puck for most of their time together. This group of three has played 105 minutes together at 5-on-5 and is positive in every major underlying category. So far, they have a 54% Corsi For, 51% SOG For, 56% HD Chances For, and, most importantly, a 100% Goals For rate with four goals for and zero against.
Four goals in about 10 games of consistently playing together aren’t spectacular, especially when you consider two of them came from O’Connor in one game against the Nashville Predators. Given the fact that Cogliano and O’Connor are playing in over their heads, you’ll take it.
The real selling point of this line is shown in their underlying numbers. They possess the puck at a good rate and keep the other team off the scoreboard. The latter is a big reason we’re okay with the lack of production from that line, but the former is important too. That line consistently hems teams in their zone for minutes at a time. All three players on that line have smart hockey minds and are proficient at cycling the puck.
This doesn’t often lead to high-danger chances, but they keep the puck out of the other team’s hands and generate momentum. It has become clear that this has given Jared Bednar a lot of trust in the line. They often get minutes in crunch time and rarely fail to make life hard on the other team.
The third line hasn’t been the Avs' best line, but they’ve been the most consistent. Consistency is invaluable when you’re dealing with the injury problems and turmoil the Avalanche has been in.