The Avs encountered the pinnacle team of the NHL last night and not unexpectedly found themselves with another loss. It wasn’t a horrible performance but there were plenty of the same old issues that proved too much to overcome.
The Avs got buried in the first period but ended up even thanks to a couple of soft goals against old friend Peter Budaj. Actual shots on goal were pretty even in the second but attempts were highly in favor of Tampa. The Avs resiliently plowed forward in the 3rd but couldn’t finish and the Bolts got a PPG on a phantom penalty call and a shortie thanks to incompetency by the Avs PP. The picture below tells the story well.
The contrast between Tampa’s power play and the Avs was stark, as one would expect since they are at opposite ends of the statistics. Avs went 0/3 and gave up a shortie, the Lightning went 1/5 but could have easily done more.
EJ led the team by more than 10 minutes at even strength and 7 minutes at 5v5. Mark Barberio went from healthy scratch to #2. Girard and Nemeth filled out the top 4 with Tyson Barrie noticeably lagging in 5th. Lindy and Z finished just short of 11 minutes total. Whatever the usage strategy was here, I’d call it somewhere between incomprehensible and ineffective. Shoutout to Sam Girard for finally getting more than a token minute on the PP.
Overall the forwards racked out Mack, Landy, Mikko, Comeau, Compher & Kerfoot. At 5v5 it was much the same with Colin Wilson taking Compher’s spot. With only 11 forwards and no 4th line, usage was again odd and, in the end, ineffective.
We all guessed this season would have it’s ups and downs with an inexperienced lineup and more questions than answers about the players, coaches and even Avs management. What’s disturbing as a fan is seeing a lack of progress on some primary issues one third of the way through the season.
Strategically the Avs are falling into the same scoring issues that plagued them last year. The thinking was getting rid of slow unproductive veterans and adding a new coach to augment the offensive side of the ice would pay some dividends. It has so far but the rate is slowly decreasing. They have half as many goals in one third of the games as last season. The bad news is that goals against are right on pace to match last season. New goalies (well, one new and one that didn’t play most of last year) and new defensemen haven’t put much of a patch on that leak. The solutions seem to create more problems than they solve by going low-event and slowing the game down. Swarming and collapsing in the d-zone leave plenty of opportunities for the opposition and make it more difficult to break the puck out. What started out as a team built on speed now relies more and more on forcing the players to play a heavier style that they are ill-suited for.
Player usage has been absolutely baffling. Icing a 4th line was abandoned weeks ago for various reasons and the ultimate expression of this was playing with 11F/7D last night. Of course any coach wants to play the guys that are most effective more often but rolling 3 lines with some subs just burns them out and makes them less effective. Other than the top line and Soderberg’s line no one has a defined role. The staff need to ask themselves what they are doing with the other 5 or 6 forwards and how crafting a lineup like this benefits the team.
On defense there have been injuries, rookies that have made bad mistakes and players trusted that don’t seem to have earned it. Erik Johnson has been fabulous but has been played far too much. I love seeing him able to take huge minutes but it also makes me wonder if the extra 5 or 6 shifts each night are worth it, the same can be said with Tyson Barrie. The team might be better served with the targets being 24 minutes and 21 minutes respectively each night.
What we all want to see this year is progress, not stagnation. I don’t think it’s wise to fall in love with how half the lineup works then try to work around issues with the other half. The goal is to have 4 lines and 6 defensemen that can execute on the ice with purpose. If that’s not happening then there’s no reason to keep trying the same resolutions with limited success. The talent on this team is not what’s holding them back from success, it’s how the talent is focused and used. They’re in a rut where their effectiveness is far from their current capacity to perform each night and it’s up to the staff to craft some new solutions. Whether it’s as simple as mixing up a few lines and pairs or as complex as redefining roles and making use of the extended roster in the AHL then that’s what has to happen. Having low expectations is an opportunity to experiment and develop and the Avs aren’t taking advantage of that as much as they should.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) but not a strong one really
– Corsi gets a (-) and this one is strong
– Power Play gets a (-) just awful an -1 on the night
– Turtle gets an (+) I’ll give them one thing, they poured it on late
– Varly% gets an (even) but that could be charitable
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) Mikko’s phantom call was absolutely terrible and wasn’t justified from a game management perspective even if he actually had been holding the stick. Shameful.
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The Avs play the Panthers Saturday in a game that’s a lot more important than it should be.