Colorado Avalanche: When Players Listen to the Coach

Feb 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy yells at his players during a timeout in the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy yells at his players during a timeout in the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche beat the Montreal Canadiens after going down in the game twice. Their most important goals came by driving to and putting pucks on the net.

The Colorado Avalanche maybe shouldn’t have beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Once again, the team didn’t exactly play a full 60-minute game. Even defenseman Erik Johnson admits the players weren’t doing well in the first period. He explains during a post-game presser:

"“Had a really, really rough start to the game. We didn’t play very well to start the game, so Patrick [Roy] came in and said ‘We’ve got to simplify, we’ve got to play better. If we want to make the playoffs, we’ve got to be a better, simpler team’.”"

Guess what — that’s what the players did, and the  Colorado Avalanche won the game.

Gospel According to Patrick Roy

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Patrick Roy has reached legendary status, first as a goalie now as a coach. No, he doesn’t have any Stanley Cups yet, but all I have to do is say “partition push” or “referee yell” for you to be able to conjure up images of his most memorable coaching moments.

His legend is cult-like really.

In any case, the gospel according to Patrick Roy isn’t exactly revolutionary. However, if you’ve listened to many of his interviews, you could chant the mantra along with me:

Drive the net. Good things happen around the net.

Keep it simple.

Put pucks on net. Good things happen around the net.

Stay even keel.

Patrick Roy says a lot more naturally. But his gospel pretty much distills down to the above advice. And you can’t tell me a single idea in that mantra is bad.

Especially when the players win by following it.

Keep It Simple

The Colorado Avalanche, even by Patrick Roy’s admission, is comprised of skilled players who like to make plays. Centers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon along with Tyson Barrie are prime examples, though you could add center Mikhail Grigorenko to that list.

Likewise, the players to a man like to make games fun for the home fans. If not, they would have requested trades to the Minnesota Wild by now.

However, pretty plays are how you make the highlight reel. They’re not necessarily how you win hockey games. The Colorado Avalanche showed what happened when they keep it simple:

That’s the game-tying goal by

Jarome Iginla

. It’s a power play goal. While it’s true that Duchene and Barrie pass it amongst themselves before getting the puck to Jarome Iginla, Iginla’s bomb of a one-timer is a pretty simple play.

Related Story: Avs Must Win for Roy and Themselves

Drive the Net

Good things happen around opponents’ net. First of all, it means you’re not around your own net. Plus, you’re facing the right way to make a goal of your own.

The Colorado Avalanche are a rush team, so driving the net might not be the hardest gospel for them to follow. However, when they do, good things like short-handed goals happen:

This is a favorite Avalanche play. They corral a turnover. They rush up the ice. The defenseman, in this case Erik Johnson, pinches in.

And they score.

Even though there was no scrum in front of the net, good things happened because the players drove the net. They didn’t just clear the puck on the penalty kill — they actually turned it into a scoring chance.

The goal was the first of the game for Colorado.

Of course, driving the net isn’t without its drawbacks…

Even Keel

Coach Roy initially implemented the policy of staying even keel as pertaining to games. The players should be neither too high after a win or too low after a loss.

The Colorado Avalanche are a mental team, though. The players need to maintain an even keel throughout the game. By their own admission they’ve gotten upset when things don’t go their way, and it’s cost them games.

Anyone else remember opening night when their upset allowed the Minnesota Wild to score four goals in five minutes and seven seconds? I still get nightmares.

Well, the players had all the reason in the world to be upset late in the second period. Montreal goalie Ben Scrivens sold Jarome Iginla’s light contact so convincingly, the officials not only brushed off his subsequent goal, they gave Iginla a goalie interference penalty:

Iginla brushes Scrivens, no question. However, I’ve been jostled much harder trying to get on the light rail, and I didn’t go sprawling like Ben Scrivens did. That should have been a good goal. At the very least, it shouldn’t have been a penalty.

Well, it wasn’t and it was. The Avalanche players could have been upset and lost their minds — and the game. Instead, they maintained an even keel, and Jarome Iginla tied the game — again — on a power play goal just a little later in the period.

Put Pucks on the Net

As with all the rest of Patrick Roy’s gospel, this one is obvious and simple. If you don’t put pucks on net, they won’t go in.

If you do put pucks on net, they can go in. You can win hockey games that way. See, simple, right?

Late in the third period, the Colorado Avalanche players showed just how that works:

Now, ironically, Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien blames Montreal defenseman PK Subban for this play because he pinches in and drives the net. Colorado’s Grigorenko exploits his falling down, and the Avalanche go on the rush.

Again, take a moment to remember the simplicity and drive of not giving up, of not just clearing the puck.

The beauty in this goal comes in the players throwing the puck at the net. Again, there’s a little passing beforehand, but just enough to allow Jarome Iginla to get into position.

This particular goal is the game-winner. Good things happen around the net.

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None of this happens because of Patrick Roy’s good advice. His gospel is nothing new or revolutionary. Most likely every coach has some version of most of those points.

The Colorado Avalanche won the game because the players actually listened and implemented said advice. As GM Joe Sakic would say, the Avalanche played hockey the right way.