Colorado Avalanche: From Apathy To Cautionary Hope

DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 16: Goalie Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Colorado Avalanche is congratulated by Matt Calvert #11 after their shut out win against the San Jose Sharks at the Pepsi Center on January 16, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - JANUARY 16: Goalie Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Colorado Avalanche is congratulated by Matt Calvert #11 after their shut out win against the San Jose Sharks at the Pepsi Center on January 16, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche defeated the San Jose Sharks. We can see the victory as a moment of cautionary hope.

It was one of those nights walking into Pepsi Center on Thursday night to watch the Colorado Avalanche play the San Jose Sharks. As a fan I wanted to think we could pull off a win, and yet there was a sense of, maybe it won’t be tonight, based on the last few games we’ve played.

And yet, a win we got.

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Don’t get me wrong, as a die-hard Avs fan it’s not just about the wins for me. I’m with the team win or lose. It’s just that after watching the team play some amazing games of hockey earlier on in the season, this slump has been hard to take.

Having been at or watched/listened to all of the games I’ve been trying to work out what’s been wrong.  My theory – the Colorado Avalanche have been ‘trying’ too hard.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that ‘trying’ doesn’t work. It’s mentally hard to concentrate on trying to do the right thing, that you lose sight of what you do best and that is to follow your instincts.

These professional hockey players know how to play hockey. They’ve been doing it for years. Sure, their coach sets up structured plays for them, and they can still follow their own instincts.

Thursday night at Pepsi Center proved that. The Avalanche played a tight game of hockey. Their passing was spot on; player to player. Yes, there were a few that went wider than would have been perfect stick contact, and the players had the will to go after the pucks in those situations and win them.

Or reach for them. The apathy of the past few games had disappeared.

Coach Bednar in his after game presser commented that it was a ‘whole team effort tonight.’ That was the other thing that stood out. There was no one player trying, there’s that word again, to win the game on their own.

The team effort was evident, especially in the defensive area.

Whilst it was a team effort one player’s improved attitude and subsequent change of play on the ice is making a difference.

That player is Nikita Zadorov. He’s gone from half-hearted, smashing opposition players and taking penalties, to a committed defenseman who is now also playing offensively. In the last several games he’s taken the puck all the way up the ice in solid play, and been a part of scoring shots, a couple of which found the back of the net.

Thursday night’s defensive effort from the entire team was outstanding. Philip Grubauer commented when asked by Lauren Jbara about his shut out, that “the team kept the puck away tonight, which made my job easier.”

The efforts of the Colorado Avalanche D Core in Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov, Ian Cole and Ryan Graves have all well and truly earned their places in the team based on their efforts Thursday night.

Ryan Graves scored a goal and the others not only kept the puck out of the Sharks net, but they were also instrumental in a number of the offensive rushes that resulted in close shots on goal, and/or pucks in the net.

There are only two players that aren’t playing up to their potential, in my opinion, at the moment, and they are Tyson Jost and JT Compher. Both players continue to be moved around on different lines, in order to try and find somewhere that has them be the value add. It hasn’t worked.

Jost is not committed enough. In Thursday night’s game, he would take to the puck and then appear to give up. Is it that he feels small and is afraid of getting hurt?  I’m not sure, but something is up mentally.

And JT Compher seems to make mistake after mistake at the moment. A disappointment from the player who was of great value when the Avalanche had a number of key players out with injury earlier in the season. Not sure why his game is off. Thursday night there were times when I thought he was trying to do too much on his own.

Time to remember the saying “There’s no I in Team!”

The highlight of the night for me was the short-handed goal by Matt Calvert. This isn’t the first time he’s rampaged the Penalty Kill to put a goal on the board for the Avalanche. Maybe the way the Power Play is going, they need to work this tactic more often.

So, we beat the Sharks four goals to nil. A very different game to game seven of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

My question now is ‘Can the Colorado Avalanche keep it up?’; can they continue to play 60 minutes of team hockey and put more win’s on the board?

The win against the Sharks put the Avs back into 2nd place in the Central Division.  The place they would prefer to be, heading into this latter half of the season.

I’m not getting too excited yet. There are still two games to play in this homestand, before the All-Star break. Let’s see where they finish after those games.

Next. Leadership Core Can Drive Success. dark

Hopefully, it will be with four more points and a more solid spot in the top two of the Division. Fingers crossed.

Then, of course, we have the remaining back half of this draw to finish.