Colorado Avalanche Mixing up Defensive Pairings

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 9: Anton Lindholm
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 9: Anton Lindholm /

The Colorado Avalanche played more than half the game against the Boston Bruins with inconsistent defensive pairings.

The Colorado Avalanche defensive pairings were all over the place in the game against the Boston Bruins. As color analyst Peter NcNab pointed out, it seemed like every defenseman played with every other d-man.

I take partial blame for that — midway through the first period I observed that the defensive pairings seemed to be finding chemistry. I noticed it especially with Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov.

Some time in the second period that all changed. I noticed that Nikita Zadorov (supposed to be top pairing with Johnson) was out there with Chris Bigras (supposed to be bottom pairing with Anton Lindholm.) I observed Bigras with Tyson Barrie, and then Barrie with Johnson. Patrik Nemeth also paired with Lindholm at one point.

Throughout the third period, these are the pairings I observed:





Bigras Barrie




Nikita Zadorov blocked a shot in the second period. It caught him just above the glove, and he took a while to shake it off. It was thought that that might have been the rationale for mixing up the pairings — to give him a break. However, he ended up with 17:52 of ice time, and some of that definitely came in the third period.

There were times that I noticed Chris Bigras had been taken out of the even-strength rotation, though he did play on the penalty kill. He had the second-lowest amount of ice time, second only to fellow bottom pairing partner Anton Lindholm.

These observations don’t include time on specialty teams or directly after.

The game obviously went well — Colorado won the game 4-0. And unlike the previous two games, the win didn’t come just because of the goalie. No question Semyon Varlamov played well — he recorded a shutout. However, he faced only 25 shots, so that was some decent defense by the Avalanche.

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I have no explanation for why Jared Bednar so systematically mixed up the defensive pairings. Conventional hockey wisdom goes that pairings need to develop chemistry, and that comes with keeping them consistent.

Like I said, that doesn’t change the fact that the Colorado Avalanche played a good game. All the players were good on the backcheck, and that certainly helped cut the scoring chances down.

Though not directly related to this topic, the penalty kill was also vastly improved. In the game against the New Jersey Devils, the PK allowed three goals on four chances. The PK rolled out four times against the Bruins. Obviously it was perfect — hence, the shutout — but it also looked really solid. The Avs confirmed they worked on the PK in yesterday’s practice.

Next: Varly Seems Back in Game Form

I’m not a fan of mixing the defensive pairings up. They need to find consistency, and the time for trying things out was in the preseason.

Which means one or both of the scratched players — Mark Barberio and Andrei Mironov — may be playing for the Colorado Avalanche’s home opener on Wednesday.