What goes along with getting more shots on goal? Allowing the opponent to get fewer shots on goal. The Colorado Avalanche needs some defensive stability.
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A lot of that is going to come from the defensive corps, naturally. And here’s where the coaching staff has to get things figured out. The Avalanche have been lucky in that they haven’t had any significant members of their d-corps go down with injury. Patrik Nemeth can’t seem to stay healthy, but they can find stability without him. Ditto Anton Lindholm and his broken jaw.
Top-pairing defenseman Erik Johnson needs a reliable partner. Whether the staff puts Nikita Zadorov in that place and finds a way to make it work, or they choose one of the other youngsters, Johnson plays better when he goes into each game knowing with whom he’s going to be defending.
It’s hard to say what to do with our best offensive defenseman, Tyson Barrie. Bednar had him paired with newbie Samuel Girard. While Girard did very well in his two games against the Ottawa Senators, it’s hard to say that’s a good pairing. Considering Girard is an up-and-coming offensive defenseman, that pairing is a whole lot of defense not happening.
At the time of writing, the Avalanche had the following defensemen on the roster besides Johnson and Barrie:
I like either Bigras or Barberio to play with Barrie, though neither had a stellar road trip, especially against the Senators. Since Nemeth is out with an undisclosed injury and Lindholm is out with his jaw, I think one of those players complements Barrie better.
There was talk of putting Girard on the top pairing with Johnson. The youngster can certainly learn a lot from the veteran, and he would be able keep up. Johnson has already resigned himself to playing more of a defensive role this season, so that’s not bad at all.
Another option, if the coaches insist on Barrie and Girard together, is to put more two-way forwards on the ice, especially when they roll that pairing. Blake Comeau, J.T. Compher, A.J. Greer, Matthew Nieto, Carl Soderberg, and Colin Wilson are good forwards to put on the ice in that situation. Otherwise, you’ve got your goalie getting peppered with shots again.
The current inception of the Colorado Avalanche has been in this situation before. They had a three-game losing streak through mid-October. Rather than let it slide into a major losing streak like they would have last season, they tightened up and started playing better hockey. Here’s hoping the Avs do that again.