The Colorado Avalanche face the Vancouver Canucks tonight for the third and final time this season. Colorado needs the win for their playoff race.
The Colorado Avalanche have been unable to beat the Vancouver Canucks this season in two tries. They struggled against Vancouver last season, too, but we’re more concerned with right now.
Colorado is essentially in a fight to the death with the Minnesota Wild for the final Western Conference wild card berth. They can’t afford to lose to a team well out of the playoff race. (That didn’tt stop them in Winnipeg, but let’s not focus on that.)
So, what do the Colorado Avalanche need to do against Vancouver to earn those all-important two points?
The Vancouver Canucks are not a particularly physical team. What’s more, they don’t really have a lot to fight for. True, they’re professional athletes, and they have their pride. However, that’s a long way from inspiration to play a physically gritty game.
Colorado, on the other hand, is built to play a physically gritty game. I mean, this is a team that has “energy player ” Cody McLeod as an alternate captain. And let’s not even talk about captain Gabriel Landeskog‘s suspension — no one’s proud of that, least of all the man himself.
The point is, the Avalanche players need to “finish their checks,” as head coach Patrick Roy would say. That means hitting hard and hitting often. The Canucks are unlikely to have the stomach for that kind of game this late in the season,and Colorado needs to exploit that.
Drive the Net
Let me start with a caveat: I’m not going to suggest the Colorado Avalanche do anything dirty. However, goalie Ryan Miller gets rattled when players make contact with him:
Again, I’m not saying Colorado should Milan Lucic Miller. However, it certainly wouldn’t hurt for them to be a little enthusiastic about whacking at pucks around him. And if it’s Jakob Markstrom is in net instead, try him, too.
Beyond that, the Colorado Avalanche simply need to drive the net and take up residence there. As coach Roy’s gospel says, good things happen in front of the net.
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The Vancouver Canucks aren’t a particularly physical team, and they’re not overly fast either. They’re pretty much an aging team.
The Colorado Avalanche are the exact opposite. They’re young, and they’re fast.
Keep Mentally Strong
There is no question that the Colorado Avalanche have the skill and the grit to compete with any team in the league. What’s lacking sometimes is the mental discipline.
That’s part of what happened against Vancouver the last time. Miller got hot, and Colorado collapsed.
That’s what happened against the Winnipeg Jets in the last game, too. The Avalanche made mental errors at key moments, and they blew a third period lead to go on and lose.
These mental errors cannot dominate the game tonight. Colorado players have to maintain their focus.
If the Avalanche score first, they can’t take their foot off the gas. If Vancouver scores first, they can’t freak out. If Miller or Markstrom is hot, they have to drive the net harder. If Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov is looking weak, they have to tighten up their defense.
Victory is the only option for the Colorado Avalanche tonight — no matter what it takes.