Colorado Avalanche: Analyzing Defensive Mistakes


The Colorado Avalanche lost the 2015-16 season opener 5-4 against the Minnesota Wild. It’s one out of 82, but it hurts nonetheless. Especially when you look at the goals against and realize — last season’s defensive issues are still there.

As a whole, the Avalanche only played hockey for 40 minutes. In the third period, it looked like a different team was playing. None of the things that worked in the first to periods would work in the final 20 minutes, and even more importantly, it looked like the players simply stopped working. The short answer is that that’s the reason why Colorado lost. The long answer looks like this.

Related: 7 Takeaways from Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

At the score of 3-0, Matt Duchene gets the puck in the neutral zone. He has a Wild player in his back and one on each side, both of his line mates (Blake Comeau, Jarome Iginla) are covered. However, defensemen Nate Guenin and Tyson Barrie are open right in front of him. Instead of passing the puck there, Duchene opts for a no-look pass against the boards.

Unfortunately, both Comeau and Iginla are on the backcheck — which is normally a good thing — expecting to get time to retool and start another attack. Neither one of them expects a pass way out of their way, which is why it gets intercepted by Jared Spurgeon. It wouldn’t be Duchene’s only terrible turnover that led to a goal, but that’s a different story.

Spurgeon wastes no time and forwards the puck to right winger Jason Pominville, who will then cut into the slot and drop the puck to Mikael Granlund. Granlund then forwards it to Zach Parise who gets a nice scoring chance. When Pominville first gets the puck at the boards, Duchene is all the way on the other side of the ice, doing, er, Duchene vs. Wild things.

What happens next is typical for Guenin. Basically, it’s a perfect impersonation of a traffic pylon — which is what our No. 5 does best. It’s a 3-on-2 situation, which isn’t an easy situation to solve for the two defending players. However, at least the positioning shouldn’t be the issue for NHL defensemen.

Guenin has two tasks in this situation. First of all, he needs to cover the passing lane between the puck-carrying player (Parise) and the open forward on his side (Pominville). Therefore, he shouldn’t be skating right in front of Varlamov. Secondly, he should attempt to block a potential shot, which is kind of what he did, but not really. In the image below, you can see where Guenin is and where he should be (blue arrow). If he went down where the blue arrow is pointing at, he would take away Parise’s shooting lane, while being in position to intercept a potential pass over to Pominville.

Barrie is doing a better job in this situation. He is skating towards the middle, between the puck-carrying player and the open forward on his side. That way, he could intercept a potential pass or block a shot if the puck-carrier cuts further into the slot. With Guenin out of position, though, Parise can basically pick a corner to shoot the puck at.

The Colorado Avalanche’s positioning did not exactly work better before the second goal against. At the score of 4-1, Guenin and Barrie are back out on the ice, with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Tanguay on offense. This time, it’s defenseman Matt Dumba who has the puck at the blue line. With Barrie trying to block the shot right in front of him, MacKinnon is the player who would have to fill in in front of the net and cover one of the forwards that are screening Varlamov. Landeskog should also see that nobody is behind him, but two forwards are open in front of the net.

As expected, Dumba gets a shot of. It is blocked by MacKinnon, but gets loose again shortly after. At that point, Guenin is the only Colorado Avalanche player covering two forwards, one of which gets the puck (Parise). Landeskog is still skating right beside MacKinnon, far away from the puck-carrying forward. Again, Parise is all alone in front of the net and gets an easy goal.

Neither one of those goals had to happen. Combined with the game-tying goal, we have at least three that were created through Avalanche mistakes.

The Dallas Stars are up next, with a forward group that includes Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp. Patrick Roy said he didn’t change the lineup for that game, but something hopefully did change. Benching two thirds of your third line for the entire last period can’t become a regular action and the defensive issues must be fixed somehow. Let’s hope for the best tonight.

Next: Avalanche Defense: Everyone Look at the Puck!

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