In a season where the Colorado Avalanche battle bad luck almost as much as their opponents, this past week epitomized their struggles. But hey, the pain is nearly over and there are plenty of interesting things yet to see.
1. Sven Andrighetto continues to impress as he led the team with four points in the past week, notching three goals and an assist. Currently, he owns a three-game point streak. He also was called for a penalty in three out of four games, but his tenacity on the ice has been refreshing.
Since joining the Avalanche, Andrighetto scored five goals and tallied four assists in his 12 games with the team. He’s making the trade look good. And watching his smooth puck possession skills when transitioning through the neutral zone is a thing of beauty. Remember when more of the team would do that? Good times, good times.
2. Perhaps one of the best Andrighetto moments yet in his brief tenure with the Avalanche was when he was called for a penalty with less than 40 seconds remaining against the Calgary Flames and he knocked down the camera in the penalty box. When was the last time an Avalanche player showed that kind of passion?
3. Hey! The Avalanche actually figured out a way to score in the third period, courtesy of the “O” guys – defenseman Mark Barberio (who notched a goal against the St. Louis Blues) and forward Sven Andrighetto (who tallied two goals against the Calgary Flames). Since they only have 39 games combined with Colorado, one can hope their fire rubs off on the other players. Right? Right? Please?
4. Stick taps to Alternate Captain Nathan MacKinnon as he passed the 200 point mark this past week, becoming the youngest Avalanche player to reach the 200 point mark, achieving the distinction nearly a year earlier than the previous holder – Matt Duchene. Former Captain and current GM Joe Sakic owns the franchise record (from when the team was the Quebec Nordiques) as he reached the milestone at 21 years and 148 days. MacKinnon reached the marker at 21 years, 203 days off two assists in Thursday’s matchup against the Edmonton Oilers.
5. While Alternate Captain Matt Duchene may not be scoring much, he continues to dominate in the faceoff circle, leading the NHL with winning 62.8% of his 1,025 matchups. Interestingly, Nathan MacKinnon has fielded 1,400 faceoffs, placing him 14th among all NHL players, winning 50.5%, a better average than Sidney Crosby. While there are plenty of things to be concerned about the Avalanche, face-offs aren’t one of them. Now, if only those wins converted into points. Maybe next year.
6. Forward Mikko Rantanen played like he had something to prove against the Edmonton Oilers when Colorado hosted the team. He scored two goals and helped the team develop a lead against the likes of the much-heralded Connor McDavid. Rantanen continues to show flashes of brilliance. Hopefully, he can continue to develop into the catalyst the team desperately needs.
7. Recent Rampage call-up J. T. Compher, who for some mysterious reason has played limited minutes with the likes of Joe Colborne, still managed to score a goal this past week. Would it kill the team to put him on the top six for more than a period? It’s not like experimenting with the young guns is going to cost a playoff position. Cough, cough.
8. In case you may have missed it, center Carl Soderberg is tied for fifth place on the team with Mikko Rantanen for shots on goal. Who knew?
9. Defenseman Anton Lindholm, in his seven games to date, continues to look like a quality fifth round acquisition. He could be earning a slot for the next season and is definitely worth watching in the last two weeks. Something may be going right for the Avalanche. Don’t tell anyone or it may jinx it. Especially not Dater.
10. Two of three Avalanche prospects will be advancing from the NCAA Regionals to play each other in the Frozen Four semifinal Thursday night, April 6, at 7:30 pm MDT. The DU Pioneers, led by Team Captain and Colorado defensive prospect Will Butcher, will face Notre Dame and freshman forward prospect Cam Morrison. DU has only lost one game in their last 17 and that was in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal against another Avalanche prospect – Tyson Jost and the University of North Dakota.
11. There are only seven games remaining before the end of a disappointing, nay, surprisingly bad, Avalanche season. The finish line is in sight!
1. Colorado’s power play ranks dead last among all NHL teams, capitalizing on the man advantage only 12.7% of the time for 28 tallies. Since February 1, the Avalanche have scored only 7 times on 71 chances. For the month of March, the team has scored three power play goals on 37 opportunities. Since the power play has been a challenge all year, one would hope to see the team improve as they address the problem. Instead, it seems to be getting less effective as the season wears on. At some point, one has to start questioning the coaching.
2. It’s not news to anyone following the Avalanche but third periods tend to be gut wrenching. In the past week, Colorado has been outscored 12 to 3 in the third, twice costing the lead and wins. For the month of March so far, they have been outscored 28 to 12 in the third frame. Five games when the team was tied or ahead, their collapse in the third led to a loss so far this month. That’s 10 points. That’s the difference between respectably struggling and historically bad, folks.
1. The Avalanche are only the fifth team since 1943 to average less than two goals per game. No one wants this team to be wretched. Ugly.
2. Speaking of ugly, what in great Landy’s beard were the Avalanche doing icing a line combination of Blake Comeau, Matt Nieto, Fedor Tyutin and Anton LIndholm on a penalty kill situation with a potential comeback on the line? Is it any wonder the Avalanche surrendered a power play goal in such a crucial situation? All of those players could be a good fourth person on a stronger line combination. But all four of them out together? That is NOT playing the best players for the situation. And only one person is responsible for that debacle – the coach. Give your team a chance to win. Give your players a chance to play to their strengths. That was neither.
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
1. Recent call-ups and acquisitions appear to be playing better than some of the veterans. While plus/minus is a controversial statistic, it’s worth noting on a team that has been outscored 50 to 26 the past month, the only Avalanche players in single digits – albeit negative - are Sven Andrighetto (-1), J.T. Compher (-2), Anton Lindholm (-5), and Mark Barberio (-6). On another team, those numbers may not be worth noting. However, considering how the Avalanche have been dominated in so many categories, the new guys seem to be holding their own during a particularly dismal month. Not only are they worth watching, they are worth rooting for. Thank you for giving people something to hope for.
2. Watching the recent scratches may give some indication of future offseason moves. Cody Goulobef hasn’t suited up for a game in two weeks. Patrick Wiercioch hasn’t played since March 9. And John Mitchell hasn’t returned to the ice since he scored a goal and an assist against the St. Louis Blues a week ago. While Mitchell might be dealing with a nagging injury, the fact defenseman Mark Barberio has earned more points in his 27 games than Mitchell has playing center for 64 games certainly hasn’t helped. Joe Colborne has also been an intermittent scratch, appearing in 10 of the last 14 games. It’s a good bet some, if not all, of these four will be moving on in the offseason.
WHAT TO WATCH
1. The Avalanche will face three opponents battling for top spots in the postseason starting Wednesday night at home with the Washington Capitols for another late game (ugh), before hosting the St. Louis Blues Friday night followed by a Sunday afternoon road match against the evil Minnesota Wild.
2. With North Dakota getting knocked out of the NCAA tournament, top Colorado prospect Tyson Jost may consider signing his first professional contact with the Avalanche. Since he is only a freshman and idolizes Jonathan Toews, he may follow Toews example and stay in college for another year. Either way, Jost’s contract status will be something worth following, even if it’s just to watch all the sportscasters sweat.
3. Will 2011 first round draft pick Duncan Siemens get one more chance to strap on an Avalanche jersey? The team has seven games remaining. What can it hurt?