The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs ended a wee-and-a-half ago for the Colorado Avalanche. Here are a few ways to look at the present and future for the Avs.
Whoof. Well, that wasn’t exactly the ending to the season many fans imagined. The majority of fans and media experts alike predicted the Nashville Predators would be too much for the Avalanche. It was still a shock to see the Avs get blanked in an elimination game at home, especially because they were so good at home this season.
At the end of the day, the season is over. But now, with a little distance, we have some takeaways to consider for the team.
1. Faceoffs Are Going To Bury This Team.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but this team cannot win a faceoff. During the third period of game 3, after the Predators scored to make it 4-2, the Avs spent a LOT of time in their own zone. They couldn’t win a faceoff and the Predators had continued pressure in the defensive end. They kept icing the puck or barely getting to center so they could change.
I’ve mentioned this in a previous article, prior to the trade deadline. The most successful Av in the faceoff circle in the 3rd period of game three was Gabriel Landeskog. That’s not nearly good enough. Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino for the Predators were winning virtually every draw, and winning them cleanly.
I’m not sure how they fix this, but they need to work on faceoffs in practice. Of course faceoffs aren’t the be-all and end-all of a team’s success, but it was a phase of the game I noticed Nashville dominated.
2. Mix Up the Top Powerplay Unit.
To be clear, I don’t mean change the personnel. The top unit this season has scored some great goals, and they haven’t all come from Nathan MacKinnon. The problem I see is they’re running the umbrella powerplay, but only Barrie, MacKinnon and Rantanen are consistently handling the puck. They just move the puck in that little triangle from the point and slots/half-wall.
Nashville has an aggressive penalty kill, and they’ve exploited the Avs PP a few times. Landeskog has good hands in tight spaces and Jost in the middle is no slouch either. Hopefully they try out some different looks. The Predators take a lot of penalties too, so the chances to exploit the PK are there.
Also, I’d like to see Rantanen shoot a little more. Just a thought.
3. Nashville is a cross-check first team.
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This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dirty. They’ve certainly taken some questionable penalties, but the playoffs are a different breed of hockey. Plays that are supposed to be penalties are overlooked. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how these games are called.
The Predators have played in a lot of playoff games over the past few years. They’ve learned that in the playoffs you can get away with a lot of cross-checks. Any one-on-one battle in the corners, front of the net, or any other high traffic area, the Avs are getting at least a little cross-check from a Predator.
The Avalanche have to keep their composure. It is going to be hard enough trying to beat Nashville without the Avs beating themselves. They cannot take stupid, retaliation penalties. Let teams like Nashville beat themselves!
The Colorado Avalanche got some good playoff experience in their series against the Nashville Predators. Hopefully they can keep that knowledge moving forward.