Blackhawks Outmuscle Avalanche - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blackhawks Outmuscle Avalanche

(Jonathon Daniels/Getty Images)
I woke up early for volleyball, only got in one game since one team cancelled, and I thought "Sweet, I'll be home in time to watch the game live." If only I'd known what was waiting for me on the other side of that television.

The Blackhawks ran circles around the Avalanche and just for good measure, they pushed them around like schoolyard bullies too. I found myself more frustrated by the lack of response to the Hawks physicality than I was by the Avalanche's lack of offense. If the freight train that is Dustin Byfuglien steamrolling Milan Hejduk doesn't get the team pissed off and fired up, then what will?

It feels ridiculously ironic that after getting Ryan Smyth back, supposedly signed for grit and offense, the team loses all its grit and a good chunk of its offense. I'll tell you what, I doubt this sort of turnaround would happen with solid coaching.

Coaching Prowess
But once Sakic and Stastny are back and the team continues to underachieve, the media story will either turn completely away from the Avalanche or gloss over the idea that the coaching squad is limiting the capabilities of the team. Whether it comes to the powerplay or to line matching or to the overall strategy of this team, not a lot appears to be working.

Hell, Guite and Lappy were the only two players with any jump yesterday and they only played 11 and 13 minutes respectively. A coach needs to recognize what works and roll with it during a game, not go with the old, tired routine no matter the situation. You have to be flexible and adjust to different teams gameplans and styles.

Dump and chase is a reasonable strategy for a team to employ. But you can't employ a dump and chase while playing a four-man back trapping system. It's just basic mathematics that one person in the corner won't be able to attain or maintain control of the puck against two or three opposing defenders.

The same theory holds true on the powerplay. The Avalanche continuously have one person on each corner, 2 players at the point and another circling in the high slot. And what happens when the puck is down in the corner? The penalty killers collapse on that one player forcing a pass, which is typically short pass to a player who has snuck behind the net and the other forward goes high on the boards to block clears. But if that player never chips in to outnumber the penalty killers down low, the penalty killers will always win. And I won't even get into the audacity the team has to continue putting a forward on the point no matter how many times they get burned by it.

Low end of the stats scale
The Avalanche are 29th on the powerplay, 22nd on the penalty kill, 15th in goals against, 16th in goals scored and 29th in faceoff percentage. Those numbers are going to make their playoff hopes a 50/50 shot at best. And as a matter of fact, they lie just below the 50% line at the moment according to the Sports Clubs Stats playoff picture numbers. The loss yesterday was a huge blow to their chances.

Upcoming Games
The Avalanche have a nasty schedule coming up with 6 games in the next 10 days including contests against the Wings today and the Ducks on Wednesday closing out with games against the Flames, Oilers and Canucks. Oh, and after the Wings game today, the rest of the games are on the road. This team needs to wake up and they better do it yesterday.

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