Colorado Avalanche Facing a Goal Tending Issue

The Colorado Avalanche don’t have a backup-cum-starting goalie who’s adequate to the job. Philipp Grubaeur doesn’t appear to be panning out.

The Colorado Avalanche over-rely on their goalies. That’s a facet of Avs hockey that doesn’t seem to ever change. When you’re a Colorado goalie, you’re going to face 30+ shots a night on average  and get hung out to dry at least a couple times.

Is it fair? Sure it is. This is the NHL, baby — if you’re a hockey player, getting a job in the NHL is the #1, perfect job. You can’t expect it to also be easy.

The thing is, when you’re an Avs goalie, you’ve got a team built for high-octane offense in front of you. So, scoring typically won’t be a problem. Teams that are built so that puck-moving defensemen are valued over shutdown ones are, by design, going to be a little sketchy defensively.

You can yammer all you want about playing the 200-foot game or being responsible defensively. However, on a team like the Avs, defenemen who jump into the play are praised far more than forwards who backcheck well.

So, when you’re a Colorado Avalanche goalie, you can count on a lot of offense, but you can’t count on a stellar defense in front of you. Instead, you have to be the kind of goalie who makes stellar saves — and can even steal the game on occasion.

I’m beginning to think Philipp Grubauer isn’t a Colorado Avalanche goalie.

Make no mistake, Grubauer is a goalie for whom the Avs traded. And he’s a goalie they signed to a three-year contract. But I can’t see him being the future starter of this team. Not unless the team completely redesigns its style of play.

And I don’t see the Avs doing that. Nor should they. You only have to look at the big talents coming up the pipeline — Cale Makar, Conor Timmins, Martin Kaut — to know Colorado will continue to value offense over defense.

I don’t want to just throw shade at Grubauer. I want him to be the one, not least because, hey, we traded for the guy and signed him with the intent to be Semyon Varlamov‘s heir apparent. However, Varlamov is an Avalanche goalie — he can cost you games, but when he’s on, he can steal them, too.

So far, we’ve only seen Grubauer do the former. Case in point, last night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. The Colorado Avalanche actually had a decent defensive game… ok, that defensive breakdown by Ian Cole and Patrik Nemeth and the WTF moment by Mikko Rantanen just flashed into my head.

Defensive breakdown:

WTF?!:

So, to amend my previous sentence, the Avalanche were playing semi-ok defensively and putting on a solid performance offensively. Yet at least three of the goals Grubauer let in were softies.

No, really, this is WTF 2.0:

That’s a moment when the Avalanche had battled back from a 4-1 deficit against one of the strongest teams in the NHL. They didn’t need an impressive save from Grubauer there — just a routine one. Instead, he let the puck just trickle past him.

Also, this is not a night Grubauer had to face Avs-style defense, which allows goalies to get peppered with an average of 33 shots. He faced just 20. He allowed six goals in 20 shots. That’s “good” for .700 save percentage.

Ok, every goalie has an off night when he costs the team a game. As I noted above, we’ve even seen Varly do it.

The problem is, like I said, Grubauer hasn’t stolen a game yet. In fact, with 20 games under his belt — meaning he’s played in almost half of Colorado’s games thus far — he’s given us just a .895 save percentage. That’s below league average.

In the backup position, Grubaeur put up good numbers with the Washington Capitals — around .920 save percentage. He faced only an average of 25 shots per game, though. And, knowing how machine-like Washington tends to play, he probably didn’t get hung out to dry too much.

Next: Avalanche Need to Play Heavy Hockey

I’m not saying Grubauer is a bad goalie. By all accounts, he’s a level-headed (important to the position), technically sound goalie. However, I think he’s showing us he’s not a Colorado Avalanche goalie.

And that’s a problem for the team moving forward.

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