After a dominating month of December, the Colorado Avalanche have been humbled twice in the month of January. The latest of these came at the hands of the Coyotes in Phoenix. Playing a rare weekday afternoon game, the Avs got beat like a drum in the desert. After watching the game it is hard to not notice the main reason for this beating. Defense, or lack thereof.
The Avalanche have already moved on from the Duchene injury and have proved that they can find ways to win without him. The problem that has plagued Colorado since early November lies within the defense. The Avalanche try and create offensive opportunities deep in their zone which creates a ton of odd man rushes in favor of their opponent. This, in turn, creates an unfair advantage against their net minder. Granted, Varlamov and Giguere have held their own against the constant barrage of open shots they have faced. But in reality good teams find ways to create offense using their forwards and keep pressure away from their goalies with a good back check from their defensemen.
Since Colorado already struggles with a poor defense they need to stay out of the penalty box. By taking stupid penalties Colorado only creates more problems for themselves. The penalty woes continued last night in Phoenix with the Coyotes converting on 1 of 3 chances. The power play they converted on was with Statsny in the box, one of Colorado’s key players.
The other thing that hurts the Avs are the long cross-ice passes. Colorado has a tendency to make cross-ice passes that either get picked off or miss their mark, which results in the loss of a scoring chance. Instead of cycling the puck like they should, the Avalanche tend to throw the puck across the slot where all of the bodies seem to congregate. If the Avs would cycle the puck along the boards and deep into the zone, it would naturally create more scoring opportunities.
It all comes down to fundamental hockey. The Avalanche need to focus on the little things that makes good teams great. If they spend a little more time on the fundamentals of the game then their play will be taken to the next level. Until they tighten up the loose ends, so to speak, Colorado will continue to be a sporadic, unpredictable hockey club.
Follow AJ Olivieri on Twitter @olivieriaj