Avalanche Learning Curve After 4-3 Florida Loss

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“You can’t win playing 40 minutes or 35 minutes a game. We have to play a full 60.” – Alex Tanguay

The Colorado Avalanche hosted the Florida Panthers in the first of a two-game mini home stand. The Avs battled back from a first period 2-0 deficit. However, they fell to the Panthers in overtime, eventually losing 4-3. Tyson Barrie, Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay all recorded goals for the Avs.

Apparently the beginning of this year at least is going to be about learning. Here are the takeaways from the Avalanche’s seventh game of the season.

#1: Worried About Nate

When I posted the Avalanche poll earlier this week about whether Nate MacKinnon was slumping, I thought I was being facetious. The whole team was slumping — MacKinnon was just a microcosm of their troubles. However, after a seven-shot night against the Ottawa Senators, he’s become Captain Invisible. In the game against the Florida Panthers, he had one shot, was minus-one and won only six of his 14 faceoffs. It was easy to forget he was even out there.

He’s been shuffled around on lines. For awhile he was playing with Tanguay on a third line. However, he’s up with captain Gabe Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly in the top-six. He’s just not making an impact. My sincere hope is that the other first-rounders — especially the other top-three picks — are pulling him aside and talking to him. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson, Brad Stuart — these are the guys who need to talk to him about everyone’s having such high expectations and what to do about it.

#2: Lingering Berra Questions Resolved

Remember how last season the refrain was, “Varlamov kept the Avalanche in the game.” The same is true of  Reto Berra in the two games he’s backstopped. He got peppered early, 14 shots in the first and an additional 14 in the second. He let in only two. In the third period, he made some huge saves without which the Avs would have had a regulation loss.

This is the Berra I remember seeing at the Olympics, facing the offensively-gifted Team Sweden. The Avalanche’s offense has gotten going. I’m not going the jump on the bandwagon and blame the defense, however… allowing 30+ shots on goal per game is not a sustainable model.

#3: The Offense is Finally Going

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  • Besides Berra’s strong performance, the other positive takeaway from the 4-3 loss to the Panthers is that the Avs’s shooters seem to have their mojo back. (Minus Nate, of course — I really am worried about him.)

    The Avalanche finally scored on the power play — twice, actually. Halfway through the second period, Florida skater Brad Boyes got called for high-sticking. Just a minute later, Florida’s Erik Gudbranson earned a penalty for delay of game by shooting the puck over the glass. The Avs had a 5-on-3 for a minute.

    And they capitalized. Avalanche rover Tyson Barrie earned his first of the year at 10:51. Just 31 seconds later captain Gabe Landeskog finished his shot for his second of the season. Alex Tanguay scored later in the second — he now leads all Avalanche players with three goals.

    #4: 60 Minutes, Please

    The Avalanche came out flat in the first period. After all the sweet rhetoric they gave about playing well in front of the home crowd and showing desperation, they came out flat. The Avs Nation across social media displayed outrage. The Avs came back with far more solid effort in the second and third periods, plus the overtime. However, that first period cost them two goals on 14 shots.

    As Roy put it, Berra played well. He was proud that the team battled back. The caveat: “Until we play 60 minutes, [losses] are going to happen.” True that.

    #5: Luck Has Run Out

    The Avs are kind of infamous for not playing 60 minutes. In fact, last season they earned the moniker “Cardiac Kids” because of their habit of just swooping in last minute. Well, that type of hockey takes a fair amount of luck to be successful. For Colorado, that luck has run out.

    Even before the overtime loss to the Panthers, Landeskog acknowledged the reality of this situation:

    "“Last year we were 11-1 [at the beginning of the year], where we probably shouldn’t have been. A lot of the games we didn’t play our best, and we didn’t deserve to win, but we still managed to squeeze out a win.”"

    Landeskog went on to remark that the game results of this year felt “more fair.” He added, “So these games where we would have won last year by one goal, we’re losing by one goal.”

    Tonight’s game was a case in point. Last year, when Lady Luck was smiling upon the Avs, they probably wouldn’t have taken a penalty in overtime — or they would have killed it and come back to score. That’s not the paradigm for this year.

    Captain Gabe said it best — the Avs just need to squeeze out that bit more of effort.  “We owe it to ourselves and owe it to the fans – and certainly to the logo.” Colorado has a supremely talented team that now has ample leadership — it’s just a matter of getting on the positive side of that learning curve.