In game four of the current seven-game road trip, the Colorado Avalanche snapped their longest winning streak since the final three games of the 2014-15 season. In a 5-1 result against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Avalanche did not look like the team we had seen as of late. Toronto, much like the Avs, are struggling in the standings this year and beat Colorado using a dose of their own medicine, beating the Avalanche the way the Avalanche have been beating other teams.
Special teams, which for most of the season has been a strength for the Avalanche, was embarrassingly bad against the Leafs. Not only was Toronto able to capitalize on four out of five Avalanche penalties, they also managed to score shorthanded. A costly turnover in the neutral zone by Nathan MacKinnon, followed by poor positioning by Tyson Barrie in an attempt to recover, cost Colorado the first goal of the game. That shorthanded goal put the Avs behind early and took away the momentum Colorado had on the power play. Toronto’s special teams going in to the game was in the bottom third of the league. Scoring four power play goals against the Avs has moved them to the top third. The Avalanche were at a decent 81% on the penalty kill; now they are at 77%, dropping to 22nd in the league. The Avalanche special teams have been a big factor in whether they succeed or fail, and against Toronto it was the main factor for their failure.
As head coach Patrick Roy alluded in his postgame conference with the media, the Avalanche actually won the game in the Corsi category, granted it was only by two shots 62-60. Corsi is a metric that measures all shots taken by either team and the Avalanche are at the bottom of the league in this statistic. In hockey, there will definitely be instances where the team who loses Corsi also wins the game, which can help discredit the statistic. Nine times this season have the Avalanche beaten their opponent in the Corsi category and they were only able to win two of those contests. The Maple Leafs were able to win the game despite losing in Corsi, much like the Avalanche typically do, but it is still an important statistic for Colorado to strive to win.
The biggest reason a team can win in Corsi but lose the game is the play of the opposing goaltender. Reto Berra was one of the main factors in the three-game winning streak the Avalanche held before playing Toronto. Well, much like Berra shutting down opposing offenses and winning games for the Avs recently, Toronto goaltender James Reimer came up big in the win against Colorado. Stopping 29 of 30 shots, Reimer is continuing his recent hot streak and proving why he deserved to be one of NHL’s three stars of the week last week (Matt Duchene and Mats Zucarello being the other two).
Perhaps playing in Toronto got into the head of a lot of the Ontario-born players on the Avalanche. Perhaps the three-day rest was detrimental yet again. Whatever it was, the Avalanche did not look like the team we had seen in the three games prior. Winning three of the first four games of this seven-game road trip is satisfactory, but losing against a team with a worse record in the fashion that they did is not encouraging for those hoping to see the Avs return to contention. Through special teams play, strong goaltending and finding a way to win despite losing in Corsi, the Leafs showed the Avalanche what it is like to lose to the Avalanche.
The Colorado Avalanche move on to game five of this current road trip in Pittsburg to face the 11-7-0 Penguins. Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog will return from his two-game suspension that he earned hitting Brad Marchand last week. Face off will be Thursday evening at 5 p.m. MST.