The Colorado Avalanche offense finally clicked on Tuesday against the Flyers, but there was more to it then bad bounces and a struggling Flyers team. The Avalanche forwards did two key things that they haven’t been doing most of the year that led to the plethora of shots and a good load of goals.
Avalanche Offense Moved As A Unit
One of the new focuses for teams has been having all 5 guys in the zone with the puck at all times. Superficially this means the defense has to hustle up into the play to provide support in the offensive zone, and the forwards need to work to get back in the defensive zone.
However there’s something more to it that the Avalanche haven’t done well in past games, and that’s keeping together when they controlled the puck. Often forwards would fly out of the D zone quickly looking for odd man rushes, leaving the less-then-stellar defenseman to try and beat players and make a stretch pass. This was the focus of my first post here such a longtime ago.
In the game against the Flyers, the Avalanche offense were staying low to support their D. Once a forward had the puck, they were moving up the ice together on their rushes. If you watched the game –or even the highlights embedded below — you’ll notice that the Avalanche had almost no 2-on-1’s or 1-on-1’s. Instead they had a bunch of 3-on-2’s and even 4-on-2’s with the D jumping in the zone,
That’s vital for the Avalanche because it’s no secret that:
A. The Avalanche offense has fast forwards the other team’s defense has to respect.
B. The Avalanche have some bad defense who, when left alone to make a play on their own, are going to turn it over more often then not.
In addition, this leads to better D-zone coverage, because when the defense do turn it over (hey it happens) they’re still in the zone to defend instead of looping through the neutral zone.
Sustained in Zone Pressure
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Looking back beyond the Flyers game this year, how many times have the Avalanche offense entered the zone with the puck, gotten a shot off, and then all turned to change immediately? Enough that I noticed and wrote a post on it. (Which means a lot.)
The other big thing I noticed offensively from the Avalanche is that they were possessing the puck well!!!!!!!
If players came down and didn’t see an opportunity, instead of taking a bad shot and calling it a shift, they were hanging on to the puck and waiting for support to arrive. This led to the most sustained offensive zone pressure the Avalanche have had all year.
And it ties to the first point — it’s a lot easier to hold onto that puck and look for the pass when you know you have 2 or more options coming into zone.
The Avalanche Need to Keep Playing That Way
Like I said before, everyone in the league knows how fast MacKinnon and Duchene are. There’s a reason they’ve had fewer breakaways this year already than in years past, and that’s because defenseman are respecting their speed.
But when defensemen respect speed, it leaves room to work with in between the puck carrying and the D. Instead of using that extra gap to take bad shots, the Avalanche need to continue to use it to find good passing lanes and establish possession.
The Avalanche offense have finally figured things out against the Flyers — let’s see if they can keep it up going forward.
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