The Avs salvaged their 10th point of the month in 13 games but it’s little consolation for a team in a terrifying tailspin. Mistakes, confusion and lack of confidence reigned once again in a winnable game gone wrong. Losing their 6th game in overtime this year in 8 tries was a fitting end.
The only personnel change was Varly starting for the first time in 12 days. The main optical difference was the initial shuffling of left wingers on the various lines.
Scratch: Zadorov (LBI)
Injured: Barberio (UBI), Wilson (UBI), Kamenev (shoulder)
Optimism was dashed early with a stick penalty and yet another royal road pass blowing through the PK for a 1-0 Hawks lead. From there the Hawks went on a dominating 12-4 run and less than 10 minutes in had a 2-0 lead. I’ve been impressed with the Avs resiliency this season and they countered from there with a solid 9-2 run of their own, drawing two calls and cutting the deficit to one before the end of the period. Colorado played a good 2nd period, developing plenty of scoring chances while the Hawks continued their low-danger volume game, and capitalized late to tie the game going to 2nd inters. The 3rd period was garbage. The aggressiveness was gone and mistakes destroyed any momentum. They got outshot to the tune of +8/-14 and surrendered 8 minutes in careless penalties. The PK entered OT with 2:48 worth of time to kill and managed to hang on for 41 seconds.
Tale of the tape was +44/-49 at 5v5 in a game where they controlled the shot board for most of the first 40 minutes. The Hawks lead shots on goal in all situations 37-32. Scoring chances were +28/-16 so the opportunities were clearly there. Shots pace at 5v5 was surprisingly slow at just 110 per hour, Chicago has been very high-event this year up until lately and the Avs have been very high pace this month.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack, Mikko, Landy, Nieto, Kerfoot Compher and in all situations it was the same but sightly shuffled. Gabe Bourque was low man at 5:30 and 6:53 overall.
The defensive regime went EJ, Barrie and Cole all over 20 minutes at 5v5 then Nemeth, Girard and Graves. All situations time looked like Barrie (25 min), Cole (24 min), EJ (21 min), Nemeth (20 min), Girard (13 min), and Graves given a TOI upgrade to the 10:32 level. Sam was benched for all but one shift in the first half of the 3rd period for reasons unknown and got fairly light use throughout the rest of the game.
– Not sure what the point of the big line shakeup was. After one shift in P2 Landy returned to the top line with Matt Nieto installed on the Kerf/Compher line. The net effect on the lineup is to put Nieto with Kerf and Dries with Soderberg, which is fairly routine stuff. Either Coach Bednar just wanted some small tweaks or he’s got zero patience to make big changes and observe the effects.
– Regardless of the forward shuffle’s effects, the main problem for the last month has been the Avs play in the defensive zone. The PK looked like it was getting back on track for the past couple games but last night the royal road was wide open again on the Hawks goal. That goes for 5v5 too, Varly made some incredible side-to-side saves as well as having Chicago miss badly on some open nets on the back side. That can’t happen. There are several ways to prevent seam passes from constantly making it through the defense and the Avs have been doing none of those in the last month. The questions are whether they are unable or unwilling to fix that and whether it’s a personnel rather than tactical issue. Assuming this is a problem that can be solved, and there’s no reason to believe it can’t be, the fact that the coaches have let it get to this point is alarming. If this is a system issue and small tweaks aren’t having an effect then it has to be scrapped and replaced. This is not the time to be stubborn with a strategy that isn’t working.
– Varly was masterful last night and it’s a shame the team couldn’t hook him up with a win. I think the time off from the sick and Christmas break did him well. The post-to-post saves he made several times last night are the kind that Grubauer tends to struggle with so it’s entirely possible we could be looking at this game in an even darker way this morning.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) some good, some bad, not enough
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) for a change it was lots of quality and mediocre quantity
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) it was fine
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (-) sure looked like they shelled up for a point here
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) Varly was outstanding after 12 days rest
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (-) Wasn’t impressed with the consistency from the refs but the liney making a bad bad mistake on an offside call that wasn’t even his to make really aggravated me.
Ring in the new year with Los Angeles tomorrow evening.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals