With a 3-6-1 record over their last 10, it’s going to be hard to quantify their current situation as anything other than a slump.
The top line may still be scoring but the goaltending has gone south with Philipp Grubauer the latest victim of the GAA bug. Grubi gave up four goals on 16 shots through a period-and-a-half to spot the Arizona Coyotes a big lead that the Avalanche couldn’t recover from despite three third period goals.
It doesn’t all fall to the goaltenders, Colorado had 8 giveaways and gave up an absurd 39 shots for the game. If the Avs have designs on a playoff run they are going to have to get right at the blue line. 39 shots is a number that will lose far more hockey games than it wins. The top-six defenders has stayed fairly consistent but the production has been unsteady, at best.
The other deficiency the Avalanche deal with is scoring outside their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. Good news on that front Saturday night in Phoenix as Alexander Kerfoot tallied his fifth and sixth goals for Colorado. Kerfoot, just getting back to game speed after a short injury stint was a welcome sight for the Avalanche.
The top line did their part as Landy added his 24th and Mac his 22nd goal but after them and Kerfoot there was little to celebrate offensively for a tired-looking Avalanche team. Fortunately, the Avs are off until Thursday, December 27th when they make the short trip to Las Vegas to take on the Golden Knights, last year’s Cinderella darling. The Knights are continuing their fantastic Franchise beginning, keeping pace in the West this season as well.
There are no easy games for an Avalanche team that can be very two-dimensional but a rested and ready Avalanche squad should be able to compete with anyone. Ultimately it falls to the goaltenders.
I used to have a running argument with my father regarding goalies. As an aside, I played goalie in beer leagues for years, I have rudimentary understanding of the position. The point of contention was that I wouldn’t concede shots where the ‘tender had “no chance”. One-timers or redirects, things like that. While it’s a valid argument that you can’t expect your netminder to stop the unstoppable, my argument has always been that the guys that separate themselves, the best-of-the-best, guys like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek were the guys that stopped the ones you weren’t supposed to stop.
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In my time between the pipes, I discovered that it’s not that prolific to stop the ones that are shot right into your chest. What separates is when you make the impossible (or at least unlikely) save. It elevates your team it gives you a nice adrenaline boost. It wins games.
The Avs could use some of those theatrics from their top-two and quick. it’s likely that these next ten games will set the tone for the Avalanche entering the playoffs.