The Colorado Avalanche slid out of their last few games, hit some personal record marks, and ended the season with more questions than answers.
1. Iron man recognition for playing in all 82 games goes to Jarome Iginla, Francois Beauchemin, Carl Soderberg, Cody McLeod, and Nick Holden. An interesting side note, Holden is the youngest of the group at 28. Everyone else is 30 or over. Maybe youth is over-rated in relation to durability?
2. In the last game of the season, Iginla passed Bobby Hull for most career goals scored to take sole possession of 16th place with 611 goals.
3. Both Jarome Iginla and Shawn Matthias led the team in points this past week with two goals apiece and an assist each. Iginla earned a point in each game. John Mitchell also earned three points, all from assists.
4. Recent defensive callup Nikita Zadorov earned a plus two rating while logging an average of over 16 minutes on the ice, including their only two wins in the six games he has played since being recalled. While the team gave up 23 goals in those six games, he is the only defenseman who came out with a positive plus/minus rating over that period. Not to mention he pinched in and kept a number of offensive zone possessions going. While he didn’t play as many minutes as some of the veterans, he certainly made strides to be considered for a starting position next season.
5. Coach Patrick Roy kept young defensive talent Chris Bigras on the bench after a slight foot injury. Why was that good? It shows a desire to protect the players and not pursue the postseason to the point of jeopardizing the future of the team or the health of a player.
6. Joe Sakic affirmed Coach Patrick Roy would be returning next season. Whether one agrees with Coach Roy’s style, avoiding a summer of speculation about whether he will return is a very good thing.
7. Coach Roy airing his frustration about missing the playoffs brings a lot of hope. Unlike some franchises (including this one in some very dark days) where the coaching staff comes out and calmly asserts everything is going to plan, isn’t it better to see a coach upset about losing? One can be sure they will make an effort to improve the team instead of telling people to stay the course. How refreshing!
1. The Avalanche power play unit notched only one goal in 17 opportunities this past week, which was especially poor as they had 7 power play chances against the Anaheim Ducks and only converted on one.
2. Meanwhile, Colorado’s penalty kill continued to slide as they allowed five goals on 11 chances. Ouch!
3. Erik Johnson was ejected early in the second period in the Dallas Stars game while Andreas Martinsen was thrown out in the first period of the final game against the Ducks. Whether the officiating crew was calling things tightly to prevent injuries is debatable. However, the negative impact of leaving the team with a shortened bench with lots of time on the clock is not.
4. Tyson Barrie tallied only two assists in the last two weeks. Zach Redmond managed to get a goal and an assist this past week. While Redmond will never be a Barrie, players who want to be leaders need to step up when the team is struggling. And Barrie, for all the talk, needed to perform better in the last month if he wanted to be considered an ‘elite’ level defenseman.
5. In two of the last three games, the Avalanche were down by three goals before getting the puck in the net. While they proved they were resilient enough to come back when behind, the also showed they couldn’t lock down the other team as they let those valiant comebacks fade away with some sloppy turnovers which cost them viable chances at finally overcoming the deficits.
1. The Avalanche lost their final six games and won only one game of their last nine after the Canada road swing. While injuries to Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Eric Gelinas surely didn’t help, the losses hinged more on recurring issues throughout the season. For example, the inability of the team to play at their best for a full 60 minutes, the failure to successfully complete an outlet pass, the failure to score on a power play – or even take a shot, critical turnovers which led to scoring chances for their opposition, an ineffective defensive scheme, and questionable player usage. The losses were disappointing but the recurrence of the same issues throughout the season made it ugly.
2. The Avalanche gave up thirteen goals in the last three games. Since their return from Canada, they have surrendered 36 goals while only scoring 18 goals themselves. They were outscored 2-1 in the crucial games leading to the playoffs. Ugly.
3. Outside of an amazing performance against the Washington Capitals, Semyon Varlamov has been reliably inconsistent in the final stages of the season. In the last six games he played, including the Capitals game where he earned a mighty .935 save percent on 46 shots against, he averaged a dismal .884 save percent. Granted, better defensive support would have helped, but he let in some soft goals and his play has been unpredictable. It’s tough to make the playoffs without good goaltending but it’s impossible to make it with bad. ‘Nuff said.
4. Coach Roy made some statements on the Fan’s radio show – Behind the Bench with Patrick Roy – which generated some controversy. Many people started opining without actually listening to the interview in question. That alone is ugly. Adding fuel to the fire, assertions were made Roy claimed he didn’t make any mistakes and that he threw star player Matt Duchene under the bus. Neither were accurate. Roy sounded frustrated with the losses and said his key players needed to step up and lead. He mentioned Duchene as a guy he wanted to lead.
Please read the following with the understanding there is complete agreement Matt Duchene possesses some outstanding skills. However, Duchene has been a streaky player. While he showed grit coming back so quickly from the knee injury and led the team in points, playoff hockey requires an elevation in play. Key players need to rise to the occasion. Can Duchene do that? Most think so. But has he found that gear yet? Not convinced. But if anyone can help him find it, Roy should be a good candidate. He helped Duchene ride out his early season scoreless streak before he found his groove. If memory serves, Roy mentioned Duchene needing to step up in November as well. Seemed to work out okay then.
For the record, every player on the team should be under scrutiny.
WHAT TO WATCH
1. Playoff hockey will be starting and one can hope both the Minnesota Wild and the Detroit Red Wings get swept in the first round. Failing that, they both get eliminated in the first round. And yes, yes it is sour grapes.
2. J.T. Compher’s two linemates from Michigan have signed NHL contracts in the past week. Will he sign a contract with the Avalanche or will he wait until after the upcoming world championships?
3. Next week’s Good, Bad and Ugly will review the season as a whole. Tune in next week – same puck time, same puck channel.