The Avs traumatic slide through the standings continued Friday night with a loss to a Winnipeg team they need to measure up against if they want to entertain a return to the playoffs this season. They have one point in their last 5 games and 3 in their last 7, which sounds bad because it is. On the bright side, they are dead even with last year’s team which also had 17 points after 16 games. Not time to panic yet but it’s getting close.
AJ Greer was recalled again right before the flight to Winnipeg. Tyson Jost was activated off IR and slotted in initially on the 4th line. Matt Nieto sat out with an undisclosed injury.
Scratch: Barbs, Greer, Nieto (?BI)
Injured: Andrighetto (LBI), Compher (Haut du Corps)
Another ugly start put the Avs on defense for much of the 1st period. They suppressed shots decently but constantly being on the back foot took it’s toll. A dumb puck over glass penalty gave the Jets a PP which they scored on immediately then backed it up with an even strength goal right after. The Jets playbook is to score early and cruise and this worked out perfectly. The second period was more of the same until the final third when some good zone time led to 2 consecutive penalties and 4 minutes of power play. Good chances but no glory there. The 3rd started off with a promising goal from Erik Johnson, his first of the season, to get within one then Nate made a lazy, selfish play to give it right back. Tyson Jost scored a minute later for his first even-strength point of the season to make it 3-2 but the refs were having none of that. A soft call on Sheldon Dries led to another instant PP goal for the Jets. They added an ENG late and that was that.
Tale of the tape was a +36/-41 but they were down heavily until score effects took over in the 3rd. Shots in all situations were heavily in favor of the Avs 30-24. The alarming number here is 1, the number of high-danger chances they had after two periods. Simply not good enough.
The power play went 0-4 including what was essentially a double-minor situation. Colin Wilson took Matt Calvert’s spot on PP1, which worked out fine I guess. Initially the staff put Tyson Barrie back on the first unit but when the same bad things happened again (turnovers, poor shot selection, massive chances against) then went back to Sam Girard. Barrie has turned into a high-risk, no-reward PP quarterback and that’s troubling.
The PK had it’s own set of issues. Yes, Winnipeg has a very good PP but scoring twice in under 10 seconds is all on Colorado. They killed the two others but not without incident. After EJ exited the box in the mid-2nd it took them 27 seconds, including an icing, to get the PKers off the ice. Pretend the Avs kill one of those 10-second jobbys and score a PPG of their own and this is a wildly different game. There are lots of problems to look at and special teams is definitely a big one.
Top 6 forwards were Mikko, Landy, Mack, then a smaller gap than usual to Calvert, Dries and Carl at 5v5. In all situations it was the top line then Carl, Wilson and Calvert. Marko Dano was low man at 6:20, Vlad Kamenev was a few seconds lower at even strength but played a few minutes of special teams. The staff sat on the top line’s 5v5 minutes a bit, Mack has been top player, not just forward, a lot lately. He still took the honor overall which I think is a mistake.
The defensive regime went Barrie, EJ, Cole, Girard, Z, Nemeth at 5v5 and Barrie, Girard, EJ, Cole, Nemeth, Z overall. The new pairs we saw against Vancouver and Nashville were gone and status quo returned. I think EJ looked better but everyone else was either the same or worse. What we’ve learned is that EJ needs a good partner to be good (big surprise!) and that Patrik Nemeth is going to be a serious liability no matter who he’s paired with.
– In the midst of a long losing streak everything is on the table, even breaking up “the best line in hockey”. No points last night, they weren’t driving play and there’s a fair argument that Mack’s lazy turnover early in the 3rd was the dagger in the back.
Jared Bednar has some soul-searching to do. He’s swapped around everything that’s easy and comfortable to do and it has yielded little change. The premises that he and his staff along with Joe Sakic and the player personnel staff made over the summer are not working out. They’ve opted for grit over skill and were complacent about how the roster performed at the end of last year. Right now there is too much square-pegging going on in the lineup, guys are playing in roles that are over their heads or divergent from their skillsets.
I think the pieces are here to ice an exciting and competitive team night in night out, they just aren’t in the right places. The mistakes they’ve made like going all in on a 4th liner becoming a star and picking up a useless roster block off waivers are very fixable. The coaching staff and organization just have to go back to what got them here in the first place. That’s going to take going out of their comfort zone but they’re at the point where that’s necessary anyway. Continue with #youngerfaster, it’s a never-ending process not something you use and discard after one decent season. Focus on making good things happen rather than trying to prevent bad things from happening and the success will come.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) Need a + here soon fellas
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (-) another low-event, low-quality night. Yowza
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) please send help
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) upside of losing all the time is no turtle
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) but another weak one for Varly
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) After the Nashville debacle this seemed tame but a couple of really soft calls helped the Jets out a lot. The Avs weren’t skating so it’s hard to argue, this is just a symptom of poor play overall.
A night game in Edmonton on Sunday, quite late if you live on the East Coast
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals