One, one and one. That’s the record so far on this long, long homestand for the Avalanche, one that isn’t sitting so well with the impatient fan base.
The Avs are getting close to the midpoint of this shortened regular season. The record is 13-8-2, a mark that would have been cause for a parade down Colfax had it been three or four years ago. But, as veteran Matt Calvert put it recently, “Our standards have just gotten much higher.”
And so this season retains a tinge of frustration for Avs fans, who want to know why they can’t beat the last-place Anaheim Ducks (Saturday night) or the average Arizona Coyotes (tonight) at Ball Arena lately? The answers almost assuredly have a tight bond with the fact that two of the NHL’s very best players – Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar – have missed the last few games. Add in the fact that the Avs essentially are playing with one bona-fide NHL goalie, and you have a template for potential problems.
The one big worry I have right now remains with the backup goalie position. I’m not too worried about a close loss on a Monday night to the Coyotes or the overall record. When MacKinnon and Makar come back, a lot of current problems will be solved – namely, a sagging power play. If the Avs have to wear out Philipp Grubauer just to secure a playoff spot, that’s likely not going to end well. Maybe Hunter Miska deserves one more start to show something, but that’s it. Otherwise, it’s time for Joe Sakic to go get someone in here who can stop a puck.
Of course, the other worry I have is: this team is never healthy. The injuries just continue to be stacked up like cordwood at the start of a Vermont winter. Conor Timmins joined the team infirmary this morning, with an upper-body injury. The Avs are playing right now with three defensemen who weren’t with the team at the start of the year. Their backup/1A goalie, Pavel Francouz, has been hurt all year. Fans are as frustrated by this as anything. The “fire the training staff/strength coach” tweets and DMs continue to populate my Twitter feed.
I don’t really know what to say about the injury thing, other than it just keeps happening, for whatever reason. But the continuous injuries are doing nothing to dispel critics who say the Avs are a little, well, soft.
As I said, I’m not too hot and bothered by the loss and overtime loss the last two games. Things are still looking rosy for his organization with the talent on hand and on the way. I’ve learned to be a little more patient as I’ve gotten older. Don’t let the chin sag too much right now. Things are still good.
But, yeah, things could be better.
“I’m not disappointed in the effort. I’m disappointed in the result,” Jared Bednar said. “We’re not looking for moral victories. We’re a good hockey team and we’ve got to find a way to win.”
NOTEBOOK: Sigh, Bednar said after the game that “Nate’s the only guy I see coming back anytime soon,” about Nathan MacKinnon and the injury situation. I’ve been told by good sources that Makar’s return shouldn’t be too far off, and Bednar said just this morning that Makar has skated a lot the last two days. Whether some setback happened, I don’t know, but Bednar’s Zoom call ended before I could ask anything about it. Bednar doesn’t seem all that great at getting injury info. from his staff, although maybe he’s just being a bit cagey with the media. But if Makar is out longer term, that’s definitely not a good thing. You can ratchet it up a bit more on the worry meter. … Andre Burakovsky, who broke a scoring slump with a goal, chalked up the loss partially to a “couple of lucky bounces” for the Coyotes. … Gabe Landeskog waved off criticism that his team got out to another slow start on the homestand. “I disagree that we came out slow,” Landeskog said. Well, I’m pretty sure the Avs only had two shots on net in the first 12 minutes, but. … Said Bednar, losing despite the huge shot advantage: “Right now we’re making every goalie that we play look like an All-Star We can’t continue with that.”… Dan Renouf’s one-handed weak pass that was broken up by Phil Kessel kept the puck in the Avs’ zone just prior to the Coyotes’ game-winning goal in the third, one of only seven shots in the period and 14 for the game for Arizona. The Avs had 35. … Colorado held the Coyotes to 14 shots on goal, the fewest shots the Avs have allowed this season. It was the 13th consecutive contest the Avs have held their opponent to less than 30 shots, tied for the second-longest stretch in franchise history without allowing 30 shots.
14 games Feb. 21-March 22, 2001
13 games Feb. 2, 2021 – present
13 games Oct. 26-Nov.21, 1998