After winning just three of their past ten games, the Avalanche are looking to turn the page on their struggles. And a five-game homestand just might do the trick.
“I don’t think we’ve been as good as we’ve wanted to be here at Pepsi Center, especially recently with some of our inconsistencies,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Quite frankly if we lose one we’re already trying to get things back on track. So I would say the urgency and desperation is already there over the next five games.”
Colorado went on a 9-1-1 run right before their recent stretch, which includes multiple leads blown in the third period—three times at home.
Bednar said last week that his team continues to look at catching St. Louis in first place rather than worrying about the teams trailing behind. But with Dallas riding a five-game winning streak and Winnipeg winners of two straight, the Avalanche are suddenly in the middle of a three-team race for second in the Central Division.
One of the factors is Colorado’s recent struggles, which includes two straight losses against New York teams, is the Avalanche’s defensive play. Colorado has scored 37 goals over its last 10 games but has surrendered 36. Its power play has capitalized on 21.6 percent of its opportunities, but the penalty kill is a lowly 76 percent in the same stretch.
The Avs are one of the best five on five teams in the NHL, but over the past ten games, they’ve surrendered 23 goals at full strength, or 2.3 goals against per game. In the previous 34 games, Colorado had only surrendered 52 goals at five on five or 1.53 per game.
“I don’t think it’s one thing in particular, it’s the commitment to checking,” Defenseman Ian Cole said, addressing Colorado’s recent defensive struggles. “Starting from the puck along their end boards in their defensive zone, all the way through the neutral zone into our end, there are opportunities all the way down that stretch as the puck continues to advance that we can end that play or certainly slow that play down. I think that we’re realizing that we need to put ourselves in better positions to enhance those opportunities to kill plays early, to catch guys from behind.”
While the offense has continued to score at a league-leading pace, Colorado has numerous players currently slumping. Top six forwards Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi have combined for one goal and four assists in this ten-game stretch.
Donskoi is not expected to play tomorrow after Bednar confirmed that he is in concussion protocol after taking a hit to the head from Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren on Tuesday.
Top forwards Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen are also struggling. Landeskog has four goals and five points in the past 10 games and Rantanen has five goals and seven points. The combined 12 points the pair has provided for Colorado is one less than star center Nathan MacKinnon’s 13 points in the same stretch.
Colorado’s homestand begins with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday and will continue with games against Dallas, San Jose, St. Louis, and Detroit.
The Avs are hoping to break out their funk at home, where they are 7-7-2 after starting the year 4-0.
“We love playing at home, we play playing in front of our fans,” Cole said. “We love trying to use the altitude in our favor. Unfortunately, we haven’t done a great job with that so far, mostly because of mental mistakes that have happened in some recent games. Now is a great time to right that ship. We can’t do anything about what happened in the past. All we can do now is win the game tomorrow at home and get us in the right direction, and we go from there.”