The Colorado Avalanche are struggling with special teams, which is putting their success in jeopardy. They need to solve these issues.
The Colorado Avalanche are one of the most dangerous teams at even strength. They work as a full five-man unit that plays responsibly on both ends.
And then they go on the power play or the penalty kill, and the wheels come off the bus. That fact is preventing them from making a real run at the top of the Central Division.
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Last night the Avalanche had three power plays and four penalties, one of them a double-minor. They did score a power play goal, but they also gave up a goal on the penalty kill. And on the power play.
The special teams have been mediocre at best — and that’s being generous. They’re #21 in the NHL for the power play with an 18.9% conversion rate and #21 for the PK with a 79.1% kill rate.
Nope, that’s not good. That’s not good at all.
The coaching staff has been running special teams drills, especially the power play. Yet somehow it’s just not clicking. Not only are they not getting enough quality chances with the man-advantage, but they’re also failing at simple puck possession.
For example, as noted above, the Avalanche gave up a short-handed goal. It happened when the Avs were down by one goal late in the third period. But they were on the power play, so they should have the advantage, right?
Well, our rookie made an oopsie. Cale Makar tried to get the puck to Mikko Rantanen without noticing a lurking Kevin Hayes. Hayes got just enough disruption to change the path of the puck, which he then collected himself. He was off on a two-on-one rush that ended in a goal.
Makar was the defender back, but I’m not going to hang him out to dry. He should have had some support, but neither Mikko Rantanen nor Nazem Kadri could get enough juice to make it back. And Philipp Grubauer needed to save the game with a big save there.
Nope and nope:
That goal absolutely stole what little momentum Colorado had mustered at that point in the game.
Again, like I said, I don’t mean to pick on Makar. Turnovers are a problem across the team and were responsible for at least one other of the goals.
Meanwhile, the penalty kill also failed to get the job done, which is a pity because the Avs took more penalties than Philadelphia.
It’s not just the one game, though. Too often neither the power play nor the penalty kill looks aggressive enough. In the power play, they look too enamored of trying to make the pretty play. For that reason, the second unit usually looks better — but the coaching staff won’t recognize that.
Meanwhile, on the penalty kill, the team just doesn’t seem to be getting sticks into passing zones. And the times they’ve found success is when they’ve aggressively challenged the possessor of the puck, something they haven’t been doing much lately.
Plus, your best penalty killer is your goalie, but Philipp Grubauer hasn’t been that for us lately.
The Colorado Avalanche are going to have to find a way to solve both their power play and penalty kill woes. I don’t think just practicing is enough. And for the love of the hockey gods, just changing the lines every other shift is also not helpful.
It’s time to look at what’s been successful in the past and to design some new plays. Colorado is a team built to excel at both special teams. And they need to do just that to control their own destiny both in the race for the Central and for a deep playoff run.