After spending a little over a week on the road, the Colorado Avalanche are headed back to Denver for some much need rest. In addition, their next two games will be at the Pepsi Center, as well as having a few days rest before and after they play San Jose on Thursday.
Although the Avs are sitting atop the Northwest Division with eight points and four wins, there are still areas of play that the Avs need to work on in order to continue their winning ways.
The biggest areas of anxiety are the power-play and the penalty-kill. Prior to last night’s game against the New York Rangers, the Avs were sitting amongst the bottom of the litter for power-play efficiency. That was until Chris Stewart lit the lamp twice on two out of the three power-plays for the Avs, which propelled the team to sit 10th in the NHL on the power-play.
On the other hand, even with the jump to 10th, the Avs still have a long way to go to improve their power-play. This is due to the fact that the Avs are leading the NHL in goals-against while on the power-play, with three. For the first four games, it seemed as if the Avs were giving up a short-handed goal each game.
The resolution to fixing the power-play and keep the efficiency high among the NHL teams? Be smart with the puck while in all three zones, but more importantly the offensive zone. All three of the short-handed goals were scored while the Avs were pressing inappropriately in the offensive zone, and lead to the break-away or 2-1. The Avs need to be patient and smart with the puck and the goals will start to come in the masses, because this young team knows how to score.
However, this young team is also struggling to keep the puck out of their own net, whether it is five-on-five or on the penalty-kill. The Avs have given up just as many goals as they have scored this season – 19 – another area of play that is preventing the Avs from excelling even further.
While a little bit of the blame can be focused of goalie Craig Anderson, who has let a couple soft ones slip by, most of the blame is on the horrific play in the defensive zone. This of course transpires to the penalty-kill, were the Avs are ranked 20th in the NHL.
In just six games, the Avs have been short-handed 27 times and have given up five goals. Now, that may not seem like a lot, but the Avs are averaging four and a half penalties per game. Committing four or five penalties per game gives the opposition too many chances to get the puck into the Avs net.
How to remedy the sub-par penalty-kill and prevent the puck from ending up in the net? Again, the Avs need to be patient and keep it simple. A huge problem the Avs face is they are spending way too much time running around in their own zone. Be patient, keep sticks in the passing lanes, and wait for the right time to poke the puck or attack the player in control of the puck.
Also, keep opposing players out of Anderson’s crease, which will allow him to see the puck coming from all different angles. A couple of the goals-against have been because Anderson was screened and didn’t see the puck coming at all.
All of the areas that need to be improved sound simple, but it takes time and practice to get everyone on the same page. Something that the Avs didn’t have a lot of while they were on the road for the first five out of six games played thus far. However, with a few days off and between games, the Avs can practice on improving their special teams, which in turn will hopefully keep the wins coming.