Colorado Avalanche Four-On-Four Struggles


For some reason the Colorado Avalanche aren’t good in overtime and four-on-four situations. The Avs are 1-5 in overtime this season and have been outscored 8-2 in four-on-four situations. The eight four-on-four goals given up in tops in the league by three goals. Dallas has given up five four-on-four goals, but they’ve scored four.

The Avs should be thriving in overtime and four-on-four situations.

Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon are two of the fastest and most skilled players in the league. The extra ice should allow them to use that speed and skill to put the defense on its heels and work their magic. Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie are two highly skilled and smooth skating offensive defensemen who can jump up into the play and be a threat. Those four guys should be able to create offensively four-on-four, but it’s just not happening.

The Avs employ a man-to-man defense in five-on-five situations. When things go to four-on-four, it’s something the team should be comfortable with. Every team uses man-to-man when there are four skaters aside. The forwards cover the defensemen and the defensemen cover the forwards. If you’re not used to playing man-to-man, it can be easy to get confused or lost when you only have to do it for a maximum time of two to five minutes. This is something that the Avs should be able to take advantage of, but right now just aren’t.

I’d love to say that I have the answers for the Avs four-on-four struggles, but I don’t. Four-on-four is a time that should favor skill players and I’ll take the Avs top six forwards against any other top six combo in the league and feel pretty good about things. I’ll also take Barrie and Johnson against any two offensive defensemen and feel pretty good about things as well. Duchene should be able to use his speed and power to throw off defenders and create chances. MacKinnon should be able to use his speed to blow by defenders and get a quality shot. Jarome Iginla should be able to use his hockey IQ and goal-scoring ability to get to an open space. Alex Tanguay should be able to use his vision to free up or set up his teammates.

Why isn’t it happening? I don’t know. It’s not for a lack of trying because it’s clear to see that the players love the open ice and look to take advantage of it. Barrie and Johnson are up in the zone any chance they get and you can see the eyes of Duchene light up whenever he has the puck in open space.

The Avs four-on-four struggles are really a microcosm of this entire season. Last year the Avs were 28-4-8 in one goal games. This year they are 7-6-7. Last year they were holding onto leads and getting timely goals. It’s just not happening this season. The puck seems to be finding the post instead of the net when the Avs need a goal and Patrick Roy’s early goalie pull just isn’t working like it did last year.

Obviously this season isn’t as magical as it was last year and things haven’t exactly gone as planned. The Avs have plenty of areas where they can improve and four-on-four seems like one of those little areas that is easy to improve upon and could lead to bigger and better things for the team.

Just imagine if they could actually win a few of these OT games. The feeling of scoring that OT goal is something that lifts the entire team and builds momentum going forward. There’s just a different impact of winning a shootout and winning in OT. The Avs are playing hard, but confidence is something they seem to be lacking right now. They see the puck hit the post on an empty net and think nothing they do will work.

It’s the same thing in overtime.

They miss the net on a chance and see that turn into a chance that goes in the other way. It’s demoralizing to a team and something they’re always thinking about when they are on the ice. If the puck finally goes in, just think what they could do for their confidence moving forward. Not only four-on-four, but five-on-five and on the power play as well. When one thing goes wrong for a team, everything seems to go wrong. When one thing goes right, everything else seems to go right.

Overtime scoring is something that the Avs can easily fix. They have the talent to always create chances with the extra ice. If the Avs can get their four-on-four game together, it could lead to everything else falling into place and the team making a run in the second half of the season.