Colorado Avalanche: Key Strategies for the October Game Break

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24: Samuel Girard #49 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning with teammates Matt Calvert #11 and Carl Soderberg #34 at the Pepsi Center on October 24, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24: Samuel Girard #49 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning with teammates Matt Calvert #11 and Carl Soderberg #34 at the Pepsi Center on October 24, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche have a four-game break to finish October, which should give them time to work on some key strategies.

The Colorado Avalanche schedule is wonky as usual. They played a dizzying four games last week

and are now in the middle of a four-day break. The team doesn’t play again until November 1.

This break is good for the team. Naturally, after their frenetic schedule last week, they needed some rest. Well, they will be back at work tomorrow in practice. There hasn’t been an official announcement, but I believe the plan should be to practice Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Canada.

That said, the two games in Canada are back to back, first Calgary then the Canucks. So, they might take Wednesday off just for traveling.

In any case, however it plays out, here are three strategies the team should work on before heading to Canada.

Getting Healthy

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Oh, boy, this is the big one. The injury bug has decided to chomp most cruelly on the Colorado Avalanche. Three of their youngsters are currently out with “head injuries.”

As we noted, prospect Conor Timmins has been battling concussion symptoms since suffering an injury in the Robertson Cup Finals last spring. He was making progress then suffered a setback. There has been no timetable for his return.

As best I can tell, the team isn’t calling the injuries to their other youngsters, JT Compher and Tyson Jost, concussion, just “head injuries.” That sounds way scarier to me for some reason, but there it is.

Compher sustained his injury in the last game against the Flames, at Pepsi Center. He completed the game, but he hasn’t played since, which is seven games.

Jost sustained his injury in the game against the Ottawa Senators. I didn’t see where it could have happened, but I did notice he stopped taking shifts late in the second. He didn’t play in the game against the Wild in Minnesota.

Head injuries are by their nature unpredictable. There is no timetable for either of their returns. The Colorado Avalanche take these injuries very seriously and will never rush a player back no matter what.

Healing rays to all our young guys. Luckily, after the back-to-back in Canada, the Avalanche have another weird four-day break before hosting the Nashville Predators. That will give Jost and Compher some time to heal — also Nikita Zadorov. He was nursing his hand in the game against the Wild.

Tightening up Defense

Saying the Colorado Avalanche have a problem with defense is getting to be a cliche. Now, they have a really good roster of their preferred style of defensemen — speedy puck movers who can jump into the play — as well as some big players who can shut down opponents. Unfortunately, they’ve gone loosey-goosey again.

By all counts, the best duo is the top pairing of Erik Johnson and Samuel Girard. They do a great job of complementing each other. Unfortunately, the other pairings haven’t gelled quite as much, and it shows.

Zadorov bounces between having Mark Barberio or Patrick Nemeth as a partner. They’re both very different styles of defensemen (puck mover vs shutdown), so it makes sense that Big Z can’t always figure out what he should do.

Tyson Barrie has been paired with Ian Cole. I will say this — Barrie has started playing more defense. It has come at the expense of his offensive production, though. That’s weird because Cole is a shutdown guy, so Barrie should feel comfortable roving around. I haven’t seen him jumping into the play as much this season as previous.

Special Teams

I have a hot take — or an unpopular opinion, anyway. I liked the YOLO goalie pull. With 2:49 left in the period, the Avalanche went on a power play thanks to Matt Dumba tripping Matt Calvert. At the time, Colorado was down 2-1.

Old coach Jared Bednar surprised pretty much everyone by pulling Semyon Varlamov to put the Avalanche on a 6-on-4:

That’s more eggs than I would have ever given him credit for, and it’s very reminiscent of you-know-who (Patrick Roy). It really could have worked beautifully, and Bednar would have been praised for his daring.

Unfortunately, left wing Gabriel Landeskog — who, to be fair, is one of our best faceoff guys — lost the faceoff. The Wild took possession of the puck, and for some reason all the Avalanche bodies couldn’t keep the puck in the zone. Empty-net goal.

Anyway, I’m sure Bednar will never try that again. And the Avalnche certainly aren’t bad at special teams all of a sudden. It’s been a strong point for their game all season. (They’re still #12 in the NHL for the power play and an impressive #3 for penalty kill.)

However, when you let in a power play goal and a shortie but don’t score any power play goals in five tries… well, that’s a tough way to win a game. It wouldn’t hurt to brush up a little on those skills.

I’m also going to venture that the Avalanche should brush up on the three-on-three overtime, just a little. I know it’s a small part of the game — but it’s an intense part of the game that can spell the difference between one point and two.

dark. Next. Grubi Finding his Footing

The Avalanche play in Calgary on Thursday and in Vancouver on Friday. The team hasn’t said, however, I imagine neither Jost or Compher will travel to Canada unless they’re markedly improved tomorrow at practice. So, I imagine we’ll see a similar lineup to Saturday’s game against the Wild.