Colorado Avalanche: Keys to Preseason Success Carryover

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche are currently 4-0 this preseason, and everybody and their mother wants to know if that success will carryover to the regular season.

After dismembering the Minnesota Wild for the second time this preseason on Tuesday night, the Colorado Avalanche improved to 4-0 on the preseason. Now, the only question that remains is whether or not this preseason success will carryover to the regular season.

That’s what everyone wants to know right? How plausible is it to use the preseason as a gauge for regular season success? Better yet, is there any reason to be excited about an undefeated preseason start?

There are only two teams undefeated in the preseason, San Jose and Colorado. Didn’t San Jose make it to The Cup last year? Eh, maybe I’m taking that connection too far.

Anyway, the game against the Kings on October 8 should be pretty telling as to whether or not the Avs success will carryover. Both teams should be sporting a lineup close to the opening night lineup — both teams will be playing in their final preseason game.

And, and, and that game will be televised! Only half of it though… The classic joined in progress nonsense. Maybe they’ll re-run the entire game.

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Anyway, the rub with this whole “will the successful preseason carryover to the regular season” is that there is no way to know.

However, there are some key developments that could contribute to that success carrying over.

Jared Bednar’s Systems Need to be Down Pat

Obviously the players are learning his systems quickly, and Bednar seems to be clearly expressing his message, but his systems need to be second nature when the season begins.

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After Tuesday night’s game against the Wild, Bednar mentioned in his post game presser that the Avalanche “did a good job in the shooting lanes,” but that he “thought at times when [the Wild] were coming” they “created up some rebounds in front of the net” and that “part of that was because [the Avs] were standing in there instead of out skating and defending the way [they] should be.”

Standing around and not pressuring the puck is quite literally the exact opposite of what Bednar wants his players to do. That can’t happen when the season starts.

I do recognize that the Avs will have off nights, but a system needs to be adhered to. And, I imagine that Bednar is not going to be very tolerant of players standing around in his system.

Luckily — in Tuesday night’s game — Semyon Varlamov was fantastic and helped the Avalanche overcome their defensive mishaps. Speaking of Varly, he’ll be another key to a successful carryover.

Semyon Varlamov Needs to Return to Form

The past two seasons for Varly were not good. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that the 2013-14 season he had for the Colorado Avalanche was a complete anomaly.

Since the 2011-12 season — when Varly became a starting goaltender — he has only posted one 30 win season. All Avalanche fans know what season that was.

That’s a general mark of a starting goalie’s success. For example — and I’m by no means comparing Varly to The King — Henrik Lundqvist has only missed 30 wins once in his entire career.

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There are plenty of other examples too. Essentially, if you’re going to be a starting goaltender in this league you need to reach 30 wins consistently.

Fortunately for the Avalanche, Varly looks real good this preseason. He’s stopped 63 of the 64 shots he’s faced, and the new systems seem to be doing him a favor.

With a more effective defensive structure in front of him, Varly should be able to focus more on his positioning and the save.

However, the defensemen within that structure need to play within that system, and defend the right way within that system.

Colorado Avalanche Defense Will Play Large Role in Success

Jared Bednar has made it very clear that all roles, positions and ice time are up for grabs. That’s important for the Avalanche defense, as there are nine players fighting for six spots on the blue:

  • Erik Johnson
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Francois Beauchemin
  • Patrick Wiercioch
  • Fedor Tyutin
  • Nikita Zadorov
  • Chris Bigras
  • Eric Gelinas
  • Duncan Siemens

Obviously, six of those players are on one-way contracts (Bigras, Siemens and Zadorov on the two-ways), so that throws a wrench in the competition theory.

However — as I said earlier — Bednar has made it clear that this entire preseason is about evaluation and determining what players should be in what roles.

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And, and, and Bigras and Zadorov will not be scratched on the big club. They need to develop, so if they aren’t going to play minutes with the big club then they’ll play a ton of minutes with San Antonio.

That would lead you to believe that Bednar will carry seven defensemen and 14 forwards. That would be a change from Patrick Roy’s tendency to carry 13 forwards and eight defensemen.

However, this is all banal filler — un-related nonsense — what matters is how those pairings will shake-out. And, as AVS96-01 — a steady commenter on MHS — eloquently laid out — and I’m paraphrasing here — this is how it’s looking right now:

"I have been getting the impression that Barrie and Beauchemin, along with Zadorov and Wiercioch have been [good pairings]. Which leaves a battle between Gelinas, Tyutin and Bigras for EJ’s partner."

I would not be opposed to those pairings, but I want Wiercioch with Barrie, it just seems meant to be. Anyway, if either of Zadorov, Bigras or Siemens makes the big club then it likely means a demotion for the other two.

No matter what, the Avalanche will need to ensure a constant attention to detail in the defensive zone because they don’t have the best defensive team.

Concluding with Mindset

In finality folks, the Avalanche need to have the mindset to win every single night in order to carryover this success from the preseason. Or, as Jared Bednar said in his post-game presser after Tuesday night’s Wild game:

"We want to win every game we play, exhibition or not. That has to be our mindset. We got to believe that we can do it, and we have to have that mindset that we’re going into the game with a purpose, and that is winning the game. Even though we’re sprinkling guys in the lineup and seeing how guys react in certain situations, our goal is still to win the game. That is how you become a winning team. You got to strive to do that every night."

And, that’s how this success carries over from the preseason to the regular season. This isn’t about exhibition games, it’s about a mindset to win each and every night.

“That is how you become a winning team,” something that I’ve emphasized in my career here at MHS.

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In other words, winning is not just about systems, structure and proper coaching. A team must also cultivate a winning attitude, a desire to win at all costs.

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So, even though the systems, the play of the goalie and the defensive structure will contribute to the success of the Avalanche, the ultimate necessity is a winning mindset.

That’s all for today folks, thanks for stopping by!