The Colorado Avalanche still sit firmly in a playoff spot in the horrendous Western Conference, but needless to say, there’s a lot they need to clean up down the stretch.
Against the Los Angeles Kings, they looked like a team stuck in mud. They had the puck a decent amount, but nothing dangerous ever seemed to come from it. And when the Kings got the puck in the Avalanche end, it was too easy for them to get to the front of the net.
As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in the game against the Kings.
– Top Four Defensemen Struggle
Yeah, sure, Josh Manson isn’t there, but whether people agree with it or not, the top four defensemen the Avalanche are rolling with are likely to be their top four in terms of minutes played when everyone is actually healthy. There’s no real excuse for those guys to be struggling. The talent is there. And against the Kings, the execution was not.
On the opening goal, Cale Makar got caught pinching with no forward help. After the game, his coach called it a “bad pinch.” He’s not wrong. Devon Toews was back, but Kopitar got him to bite hard on a potential shot, leaving the passing lane wide open for an easy goal.
On the second goal, Byram gave Vilardi a little too much room, and that’s all he needed.
On the third goal, Toews had the puck on his stick in the corner, and gave it away on a bad pass. Seconds later, he got outworked in front of the net by Kempe for the goal. And on the fourth goal, Fiala got his stick loose from Byram after the face-off to get it to the point. Cogliano didn’t bump Danault off the face-off, so the Kings forward was able to freely get to the net before Girard had time to get there.
But it wasn’t just the goals against. Byram beat the puck up all night long, and looked a little frustrated. Toews, who was Mr. Consistent last year, has been all over the place of late. The Kings really held Makar in check offensively. Girard was the only one who was passable, but even then, not his best game. A very talented group, and between the four of them, no one really played well.
– The Powerplay
The Avalanche scored a powerplay goal in the third period, because it took them almost five minutes of powerplay time to realize the Kings weren’t going to give them easy zone entries.
In the second period, the man advantage for Colorado was really ugly, and killed any momentum the team had going. With a 2-1 lead, the Avalanche had a powerplay chance to tie things up. Instead, the top unit couldn’t get into the zone, and even gave up a breakaway shorthanded.
At the end of the night, the stats will show they went 33% with an extra skater, but anyone watching the game knows that makes the powerplay look better than it really was.
+ The Penalty Kill
The PK, on the other hand, was great. They took away the time for the Kings, and gave up no real dangerous chances. Logan O’Connor took the puck away from Drew Doughty twice at the center point to kill zone time for the Kings.
One of the few bright spots the team had.
– Net-Front Defending
The Kings lived in front of the Avalanche net. Here’s the heat map of the game, via Natural Stat Trick.
That big blue blob in front for the Kings? That’s where the Kings got most of their chances, and two of their goals. Even the two other goals they scored weren’t far from there. The Avalanche gave up the front of the net too easily, and the Kings took advantage.
– The Passing
This is a talented Avalanche team, but some nights, they lack a lot of cohesion. This was one of those nights. Bowen Byram struggled hitting players cleanly with passes all night long. The same can be said for Artturi Lehkonen. Andrew Cogliano took a penalty moments after he threw a pass into Lars Eller’s feet on a breakout.
– J. T. Compher Since the Trade Deadline
The Avalanche did not make a move for a second line center at the trade deadline. By the time the deadline came around, there wasn’t much out there, and the team seems content with Compher in that spot.
Since the deadline? Compher has zero points in four games, and only five shots on net. Compher has always been a streaky guy in his career, but this year he seemed to be a little better after a slow start. It’s no surprise that in those four games, the Avalanche have won only one game.
– Lars Eller
The last two games, it seemed like Eller was figuring it out a little bit. Against the Kings, it was another step back. He was a team low 23.32% in terms of expected goals for percentage, and no one else was particularly close to him. He was brought in for face-offs, but lost the face-off on the fourth goal pretty cleanly to a winger.
I still think it’s a little early to declare him a bust, but this game didn’t make anyone feel good.
+ Evan Rodrigues
Maybe that meaningless goal against Dallas really did have meaning after all. Since then, Rodrigues has looked a little better, and has points in two of the last three games. He finished with the best possession numbers on the team, and was second to MacKinnon in shot attempts and shots on net.