Avalanche Danger Level for rest of NHL: Considerable


Current Avalanche Danger Level: Considerable

On a weekly basis, we put the current Avalanche team chemistry and morale up against the North American Avalanche Danger Level Scale.  This scale has five ratings: Extreme, High, Considerable, Moderate, Low.  The higher the “Danger Level”, the better the team chemistry and morale is right now.

This week, the Avs come across as a Considerable danger level for the rest of the NHL.

Last week we put the Avs at a Moderate level, and then they went on to win three games in a row.  If this would have been written on Friday, we may have even placed the Avalanche danger level at High, however they have lost two straight games to division rivals, so the level has been determined as Considerable.

The Avs are playing better hockey at the moment than they were earlier in the season, even though their top guns are not scoring a lot.  The basis of this week’s danger level rating is around the team’s ability to feed off of the play of their goaltenders, and the attitude after games and practices.

Great goaltending can give a team like the Avs a boost

Rookie goaltender Calvin Pickard stood tall in net while Semyon Varlamov was recovering from another groin injury in December and the team seemed to rally around him when he was in net.  The same can be said about Varly’s play last season and for a glimpse last Tuesday night vs. St. Louis.  This game was Varlamov’s first since reinjuring his groin in early December, and the team really came out to play.  Their third straight win was a 5-0 victory over St. Louis right before the Christmas break.

Calvin Pickard then got the next start in net against the Blackhawks on Saturday night, and the Avs appeared on their game early, grabbing a 2-1 lead after the first period.  However, the defensive effort was not good enough, and they let the Blackhawks storm by them the rest of the game; the final score was 5-2.  Pickard only allowed four of those goals, as Patrick Kane added an empty netter later in the game.  After this game, the Avs sent Pickard back down to Lake Erie (AHL) in hopes of getting him consistent playing time while Varly took back the reigns as the team’s number one goalie.

Although the Avs lost their next game, 3-0 on Monday in St. Louis, it appears that Varlamov is back in form.  He keeps the Avs in every game and is still making the spectacular saves we are used to seeing from him.  Now what needs to happen is, the rest of the team needs to get a boost from having Varlamov in net again.  Much like last season, this team needs to play hockey in front of their goaltender.  We have seen sparks of that kind of play at times this year, like when Pickard was on his run, and last Tuesday when Varly made his return to the crease, but nothing like the consistency they had last season.

The main point here is, you never know what Avalanche team you are going to get every night.  The team that rallies around their goaltender and gives him an early lead, or the team that lacks effort and allows lazy plays to lead to the opposing teams scoring easy goals.  The Avalanche danger level would have been at high if they wouldn’t have played so sloppy these last two games.  But these games remind us of who the Avalanche are at this point in time when compared to great teams like the Blackhawks and Blues.

Patrick Roy is confusing us, or he might be confused

It seems like every day there is something new coming out of Patrick Roy’s mouth, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.  For instance, after last night’s loss to the Blues, Roy stated that the defense has been playing bad, and that was not a good effort defensively in that game.  Then, Roy says this morning that he likes the way the team is playing on defense and does not view that as a problem right now:

This just does not make any sense.  I get trying to protect your players and you don’t want to single anybody out, but to say almost the complete opposite thing of what you said last night, just sounds crazy.

Coach Roy is right about a few things though.  The team needs to find their rhythm again.  The top scorers are not scoring, and that will pose a serious problem for any hockey team.  Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay have been the Avs best players this season so far.  It’s great that they are having great seasons, but they is not their role on this team.  It’s the role of the younger “supposed to be ” stars on this team like Duchene, MacKinnon, Landeskog and O’Reilly.

The team is in desperate mode right now, and the players know they have to play better:

Erik Johnson playing like an All-Star

On a brighter side of things, the best Avalanche player going right now has got to be defenseman Erik Johnson.  Before last night’s shutout to the Blues, Johnson had a streak of five games with a goal!

He is truly playing with all of the confidence in the world right now, and it seems to be coming from his hot play and the praise from his coach:

If Johnson keeps up his play, there is no doubt in our minds that he will be selected to the All-Star Game next month.  He is proving that sometimes big time defensemen take a little while to develop into their full potential in the NHL.  Erik is as the perfect age of 26, playing at the top of his game, and it is so sweet to see him play so well against his former team, the St. Louis Blues.

The Avs may not be at their peak level of this season yet, but they are taking baby steps and learning from every game.  It would not surprise me at all to see the Avs come out and dominate the Blues and Blackhawks they next time they face those teams.  But looking forward right now, the Avs will host two hopefully easier opponents in the Flyers and Oilers this week.  Hopefully the Avs can play well in front of their goaltending, and play at the level their coach expects from them, and the level they expect from themselves.  Because those are the keys to this weeks Avalanche Danger Level being at Considerable and not High.