The Avs still haven’t solved 3 on 3 play and it’s having a profound effect on where they sit in the standings. Despite losing most of their games over a two month stretch they could be comfortably in a playoff spot if they were even marginally competent in overtime. There are plenty of reasons why but it all comes back to not having a cohesive plan that works. It’s easy to point out a handful of players that consistently don’t execute but when it’s so easy for opponents to score there has to be a major flaw in the system they aren’t executing.
The Avs were buyers at the deadline for some reason and came up with Derick Brassard who conveniently was in the building at the time and able to play immediately. AJ Greer and Andrew Agozzino were sent back to the Eagles. Gabe Bourque rounded out the lineup for the first time in weeks. Matt Nieto is out for what looks like the rest of the regular season with LBI. Colin Wilson skated with the team in a NC jersey. Ian Cole has been skating on his own. Varly returned to the net after a game off vs Nashville.
Scratch: Barberio, Nieto (LBI)
Injured: Wilson (???), Cole (face), Kamenev (shoulder)
After a languid start the Avs picked up the pace and drew a call 6 minutes in. The PP was horrifyingly bad as usual but did lead to a 12-2 run and some positive momentum for a while. The next 20 minutes were back and forth with the Avs picking up a couple goals but gradually surrendering more and more chances to the Cats. There was a total breakdown in the final 2 minutes of the 2nd period with defensive play going MIA and a soft penalty allowing the Panthers to tie going into 2nd intermission. This was where the game was lost. Despite getting buried for the first 12 minutes of the 3rd period, they had a lead thanks to new acquisition Derick Brassard but couldn’t sort out the defensive struggles and gave it back minutes later. From there the Panthers sat back but didn’t allow the good guys to capitalize. My feeling at the time was that the Avs would be better off pulling the goalie than going to OT. A low-danger shot turned into a faceoff in the o-zone which was terribly planned and executed. A nice backcheck but lazy coverage by Mack resulted in OT loss number 11 on the season. Better luck next time.
Tale of the tape at 5v5 was a +53/-52 and shots in all situations favored the Avs 39-38. Colorado had the upper hand in unblocked shots and shots on goal at even strength, the soft call on Z at the end of the 2nd and resulting PK breakdown gave Florida the impetus to win the game. Shot pace at 5v5 was a fairly pedestrian 121 per hour but that’s a little misleading. In P1 it was below 100 per hour and in P3 there were, no kidding, 35 faceoffs.
Special teams weren’t a big part of the game time-wise but had a fairly large effect on the outcome. The 2 Avs power plays came early in the 1st and again early in the 2nd but did nothing to help. They created 3 attempts in 4 minutes with only one real scoring chance. Contrary to that, the Cats had 9 attempts in 3 minutes of PP time which resulted in 8 shots on goal and 3 from right in Varly’s grill. Imagine what the Avs would be like if they ran a real power play system.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mikko, Mack, Landy, Kerf, Compher and Carl. In all situations it was the same with Carl and Compher flipped. Sheldon Dries was low man and neither he nor Gabe Bourque hit 6 minutes at even strength.
The defensive regime went Sam, EJ, Nemeth, Z, Barrie and Graves. Overall TOI had Sam (24), EJ (22+), Nemeth (20), Barrie (19), Z (17) and Graves (14).
The Avs made a couple of personnel moves at the deadline which seemed to affect their play last night.
– First of all, losing Matt Nieto for what looks like the rest of the season is pretty big. He’s only 8th in forward scoring but had 5 assists in the last 4 games he finished, however that’s not why he was in the lineup. He leads the Avs in PK TOI per game and has the lowest PK goals against per hour rate. That’s tough to replace and will probably require Gabe Landeskog taking more PK shifts (like last night) than is optimum.
– New acquisition Derick Brassard had a solid debut with a goal and a couple shots at 5v5 and what I would consider the only legitimate scoring chance on the PP last night. First impression is that he still has decent offensive instincts and went against the grain by actually trying to score with the man advantage. Drawbacks are a lack of speed and questionable defensive ability. Without giving him any practice or systems knowledge we’ll have to wait to get a full picture. The main question here is what’s the point. Is he a good guy to have on the team? Sure, in a vacuum there’s nothing wrong with the trade, either value-wise or team composition-wise. Long term he’s not going to make a difference in the outcome of the season so what the Avs lose is playing time that would increase the experience level of younger players with a future in the org and now you’re short one top-100 pick in next year’s draft. Everyone makes the argument that losing a lottery ticket is meaningless but you have a much better chance of winning the lottery with three tickets rather than two. Draft picks are a volume proposition, looking at them singularly is missing the point.
– The Avs made some internal moves yesterday as well. Sheldon Dries, Andrew Agozzino and AJ Greer were re-assigned to the Eagles before 3pm ET so they would be eligible to play in the AHL for the rest of the season and playoffs. Dries was immediately called back up and here’s where we have some questionable logic. He started the season well but has tailed off significantly since mid-November. He has a goal and assist in the last 26 games and just a single shot on goal even in his last 7. The staff has tried to square-peg him into a center role and it’s been highly ineffective. These moves also put Gabe Bourque back in the lineup for the first time in 3 weeks. I get that having a player festering in the press box isn’t a good idea but when the results are as predictable as last night then there’s good reason. Neither of these fellows helped the team in a measurable way and didn’t play on the PK either, which would be the only reasonable answer to why they were dressed for the game at all. In a nutshell, the staff made the team worse just for the hell of it. And lost.
– The Avs were on a bigtime hot streak coming into the Panthers game. They were getting production from both ends of the lineup and playing solid team defense. The lineup was deep thanks to spreading out the talent and time on ice was fairly evenly distributed. Last night they went top-heavy and the scoring was ok but nothing like the 5 goals per game they were rolling with before. Defensively they looked confused and ineffective, especially in the second half of the game, which hearkened back to the December/January doldrums. I’m pretty baffled here. They had a formula that worked and scrapped it for reasons I can only guess at.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) not a good showing
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) ok totals for both for the most part
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) another game, another useless PP effort, such is life
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (-) got smoked for a lot of the 3rd
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) Varly wasn’t as good as he’s been lately but the d-zone coverage killed him
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) I like a laissez faire game but this was just a bit too uneven. Plenty of stick fouls went uncalled but soft interference was like basketball reffing.
Vancouver comes to town for a late start on Wednesday
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals