The Avs are 3-1-1 since I last posted. There was a lengthy break between the game against Anaheim and the next game against Phoenix. I don’t know if it really worked to the Avs advantage, given the fact that they lost the game against Phoenix in overtime. It was the first overtime contest this season for the Avs, and they lost after the puck took an unfortunate bounce off the referee. Two days later, they headed in to Minnesota. In the third period, the score started 2-1 Avs, but three more goals were scored, and the two teams went into overtime, tied at three. In the shootout, J.S. Giguere made two saves (by far his most impressive outing in the shootout as an Av-previously he’d made 1 save on 9 shots, and won a single shoot out because the Avs scored thrice, and the Flyers missed twice). Both Hejduk and Duchene scored against Backstrom, and the team won, maintaining their excellent record in the SO. A ridiculous game in Edmonton followed, as the Avs had two three goal leads and still managed to lose the game in regulation. Back at home, against Nashville, the puck continued to go in at an alarming rate, but this time the Avs were able to hold on for the win, 6-5. Last night, the St. Louis Blues came into town. The game remained scoreless until the final seconds of overtime, when David Jones scored his second goal of the season, and league-leading 6th overtime goal since January 2010.
3-1-1 is a pretty good record in five games. 4-3-1 is the record in February thus far, and it’s fairly solid, if not remarkable. Let’s be honest though: the Avs have had maybe one strong, 60 minute effort (last night). I know that they were outshot, and that they only had two shots in the first, but I don’t think the shot count reflected the game. Yes, there were some shaky moments, but for the most part, the Avs skated with the Blues, and they outskated them in the third and overtime. They had a few good shifts that were spent entirely in the zone, and eventually, they won a pretty even contest. However, the other games this month have been wildly unpredictable. They went from being shut out in one game, to scoring 10 goals in two games. The power play has scored, I think, four goals this month, which is more than in January, but isn’t exactly a percentage to write home about. Penalty killing at home finally let up, and the Avs are now second in that department, with two power play goals against. Unfortunately, the sloppiness on the road hasn’t improved by much when the team is a man down, and that has kept their overall kill percentage at a measly 78%.
Granted, injuries have, once more, affected the team. However, this is the National Hockey League. Unless you’re missing over half of the people who were on your starting roster at the beginning of the season, there shouldn’t be excuses. The Avs are expected to make the playoffs, and none of the fans are going to sit around and say “oh well, everyone’s injured, let me lower my expectations.” Or, if they are, they are seriously lacking in the competitive department. More players are going to need to step up and try and fill the hole where their injured teammates usually sit. Luckily, Gabriel Landeskog appears close to returning. His return could really help boost the team, and hopefully they can get a few wins over .500. Unfortunately, Milan Hejduk is out for an undisclosed amount of time. Hejduk might not be relied upon quite as much in the offensive department as he used to be, but it would be a mistake to underestimate his influence in the lockerroom.
It’s going to take 56 points to make the playoffs in the West. The Avs are at 15 points in 15 games. They need another 41 points, or in more simple terms, to go 20-12-1 in their final games. (This could be varied with 19-11-3, or other combinations, but I like to write with straightforward wins). This isn’t going to be easy, but it’s not impossible. It is time to step up. There is no “or” after the term playoffs this year. Playoffs is it.