Colorado Avalanche, What We’ve Learned

Jan 26, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy watches the game against the San Jose Sharks in the 3rd period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports. The Sharks won 6-1.
Jan 26, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy watches the game against the San Jose Sharks in the 3rd period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports. The Sharks won 6-1. /

The Colorado Avalanche are heading into the All Star break holding a tenuous playoff position. A little over halfway through the year, what have we learned?

Being a sports spectator is almost always an emotional roller coaster ride (unless you’re the Maple Leafs, who just ride the kiddie train). Yet the Avs fandom seems like it’s on the most exciting/awesome/heartbreaking ride in the NHL. A little over halfway through the year has gone now. It’s time to recap what we’ve witnessed from the Colorado Avalanche and what to expect going forward.

The Highs

Colorado Avalanche
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

We’ve seen just recently a return of the 2013-2014 late game Avalanche. From Nathan MacKinnon‘s game-tying goal against the Blues to the great comeback against the King’s Wednesday night the Avalanche have seem to have found their late game heroics again. Obviously, I would prefer they would go unneeded, but those 4 points are all that’s holding them in a play off spot right now, so we’ll take them!

More from Mile High Sticking

At the same time we’ve seen Semyon Varlamov have a return to form after struggling the beginning of the year. He pretty much won the game against Dallas on his own, making 42 saves on 43 shots (not to mention they were against the second top scoring duo in the NHL). And the only reason MacKinnon was able to tie up the Blues game was because Varly held them in it with a fantastic 33 save performance.

At the same time the Colorado Avalanche managed to hold their own in the 9 game stretch without their number one defenseman in Erik Johnson. This was largely due to other players coming to the plate in absence. The defensive corps did alright with Bigras still playing with EJ back, and Nikita Zadorov looking like an improved player already.

Lastly, the Avalanche (besides their last three games) are finally managing to get some decent shot total numbers. They put 41 shots up on a very solid two way team in the St. Loius Blues, 35 shots against the Buffalo Sabres, and 34 shots up against the Jets. From a team that’s often last in the league in shot differential that’s awesome to see!

The Lows

Colorado Avalanche
Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports. /

Despite beating some of the league’s best teams, the Avalanche have still proven to be wildly (frustratingly) inconsistent. There are still way too many games where the Avs aren’t there to play and look like an AHL team. And even though this was also in the “highs” section, the Stars game would have been a rout if Varlamov hadn’t stood on his head.

Relatedly, the Colorado Avalanche defensive systems have gotten better, but are still prone to complete and utter collapse at any moment. For example this goal from the game against the Kings was just awful.

For those of you who don’t like counting, that’s two Kings players in the zone scoring against all five Colorado Avalanche skaters. The Avs players manage to ignore the most dangerous part of the ice: the front of the net.

Lastly, scoring has been streaky from nearly all sources. In fact the only player who’s been truly consistent is Matt Duchene (the irony). Carl Soderberg had a good month, but it’s been touch and go with who’s going to be able to score a goal on any given night.

And let’s not forget that, though the Avalanche are one point up on Nashville and two up on the Wild, they have 2 and 3 games in hand against each team respectively. So the Colorado Avalanche’s grasp on the playoff spot is still tenuous at best.

What Have We Learned

Personally I would like to say I have learned nothing. I still start buying Stanley Cup memorabilia when the Avs win more then two games in a row, and go into a spiraling depression every time they lose. But I’m supposed to write about the team, so anyways.

The Colorado Avalanche can learn what we’ve learned! They’ve fixed some of the most gaping D zone system problems and implemented a nifty neutral zone trap. They have also stopped relying solely on rushes and began possessing the puck more consistently in the offensive zone. Our little guys are growing up and playing NHL hockey (most nights)!

Next: Colorado Avalanche Stepping Up

In the end I’m by no means claiming the Colorado Avalanche will make the playoffs this year. I think they have the potential to, that’s been shown by their record against the best division in hockey. But if they want to make a run at the Cup, they need to stop taking nights off.

In addition the easy goals, such as the one early in the post, need to be reduced to zero. The Avs have taken those kind of goals from 1 or 2 a game to 1 every couple of games. But they’re easily preventable goals, and the Avalanche are lucky it didn’t cost them the game.

In the end I’ve learned that the Colorado Avalanche have the potential to make a run this year, and it’s going to be one hell of a ride.