Youthful Avs Showing Age

With nine more games remaining in the 2009-10 season, the
Colorado Avalanche have a lot of work to do to ensure their spot in the
playoffs. This includes overcoming a sudden slump in play and passing up
chances to gain some ground in the standings.

In the past four games, the Avs are 1-2-1, only earning
three points out of a possible eight. One of the losses came on the road, as well
as the overtime loss, with a loss and a shootout victory at The Pepsi Center.

In addition to the losses on the road, the Avs head to Phoenix and San Jose in the next two games before returning home for the last game March against Anaheim. Both Phoenix and Anaheim are playing very well, and
have recently defeated the Avs. San Jose is slumping, but is still a difficult team
to play at the “Shark Tank.”

The sudden slump in play can be attributed to many different
factors that the Avs are currently facing.

However, the biggest issue the Avs are running into lately is their terrible
decision making in their own zone. They are coughing up the puck, which is
leading to scoring chances and more time spent in their zone. In the past four
games, Avs opponents are averaging 30 plus shots on net, while the Avs are
averaging 28.5 or fewer. On top of that, the Avs are only
managing four to five shots on net in certain periods.

Inconsistent play is another factor that is hindering the
Avs play, a theme that has been haunting this young team all year long. Both
players and coaches have said that they need to play a full 60 minutes in
order to win a game. The Avs have not been playing a full sixty minutes and
have allowed opponents to get back into the game.

Last night’s game against Los Angeles is an example where
the Avs played an excellent 20 minutes, and then fell back and allowed the
Kings to send the game to a shootout. The only difference between two points
and one point was former Avs winger Ryan Smyth hitting the post for the final shootout
shot.

Another factor that is showing the team’s age is their age.
With so many rookies and young players on this team, the Avs are having a hard
time stepping up their game to make a push to the playoffs. Only three players
on the Avs roster have won a Stanley Cup (Adam Foote, Milan Hejduk, Stephane
Yelle), with only a few other players making a playoff push.

During a stretch run, many teams play as if a loss means
being kicked out of the playoffs, and it is showing. The Avs are playing as if
they do not know what to do once they make it to the playoffs. Coach Joe Sacco and veteran players can educate and try very
hard to prepare this youthful squad to make the playoffs, but the only thing
that is going to help team is the experience.

For the Avs to get back to their winning ways, they need to
do a few things.

The first thing they need to do is to make smart decisions
with the puck. Get the puck out of the defensive zone and get it down low into
the offensive zone. If they can do this and continue to keep pressure down low
in the offensive zone, then they will be playing their style of hockey, which
has led to many of their victories. Last, but not least, is for the Avs to play
a full 60 minutes.

If the Avs can turn things around and play this type of
hockey game, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have success.

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