That was one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a long time by the Avalanche. Or, maybe not all that long.
Looking like the squad that coughed up late leads in the second round of the playoffs last spring, the Avs found a way to lose a game Saturday night to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-2.
The Avs led 2-1 with just under seven minutes left, playing a good, solid hockey game to that point. But all of a sudden, they just got loosey-goosey with the puck, Darcy Kuemper couldn’t make a save on a chip shot from the right circle, and when the clock hit all zeroes, the Avs left the ice losers.
They go into something of a “bye week” now with a highly unsatisfactory 4-5-1 record, not even a playoff team if the season ended tonight. This, for the team that is supposed to still be the favorites, or whatever, to win the next Stanley Cup.
Mikko Rantanen, for one, was furious about the loss.
“It shouldn’t ever happen. Sometimes, it seems like we’re kind of effortless. I don’t know, maybe it’s just mental. I don’t think it’s physical,” Rantanen said. “That’s two games in a row we lose after having a lead in the third period. This is not how you play hockey. Time to look in the mirror here.
“We just have to look in the mirror and, defensively, not give up so much. It’s just effort.”
Although he wasn’t much helped by a slow defense back, Kuemper allowed a terrible goal, by Alexandre Texier, with 6:33 left. Texier got to a loose puck in the right circle, after a strange bounce off the boards, and put a shot to the far post on Kuemper. Then, Kuemper was beat on a somewhat screened shot with 1:02 left. Empty-netter after that.
Just a terrible loss, really, and one that sends the Avs reeling into the break.
“Tonight, for me, it was all turnovers. We mismanaged the puck. Their forecheck was really good, but I’d say 80 percent of their scoring chances were off turnovers,” a peeved Jared Bednar said.
To that point in the game, Kuemper had been very good. But suddenly, he couldn’t stop anything. And, the play in front of him was brutal. Turnovers, soft on pucks, soft on sticks. Just, losing hockey when it mattered most.
“I thought he was outstanding for large portions of the game. Last two, couple of tough plays,” Bednar said. “It comes down to the guy with the puck making the right decision, not trying to do everything yourself. Be more firm with the puck, to be honest with you.”
The Avs also lost the game because they got zero points from the top line of Rantanen, Landeskog and MacKinnon. When it comes to the “not trying to do everything yourself” observation of Bednar, he was probably thinking of MacKinnon a lot there.
MacKinnon has been caught trying to dangle too much, trying to stickhandle through two guys too much. The elite centerman has only one goal on the season.
There’s a long way to go, but after 10 games, the Colorado Avalanche is a losing hockey club.
That’s the bottom line.
OTHER NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
- MacKinnon had two shots on net, and lost 6-of-7 faceoffs. He had a shot blocked by Boone Jenner late that would have otherwise given the Avs a 3-1 lead I think.
- I thought Devon Toews looked excellent in his first game back.
- J.T. Compher – no points, minus-2, 3-of-12 on faceoffs. A bad game.
- Tyson Jost, two points in first 10 games. Not good enough.
- Andre Burakovsky’s second goal, off the backhand, was a beauty.
- Avs don’t play again until Thursday against Vancouver at home.
- Kuemper just has to make that save that tied it 2-2. He really did play well otherwise before that. It ruined the entire night, though.