Takeaways: Avalanche let important two points slip away in Anaheim

Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports.
Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports.

The Avalanche had an opportunity to gain some ground in the standings facing a struggling Anaheim Ducks squad Sunday afternoon in Orange County. However, Colorado failed to capitalize, losing 2-1 on the tail end of a two-game road trip in California.

Anaheim dominated the opening of the game, controlling the pace of play and wreaking havoc on Colorado’s neutral zone attack. An Avalanche turnover forced by a Ducks defender was the catalyst for Anaheim’s first goal of the game scored by Jakob Silfverberg just over three minutes in.

After the first five minutes of the game, the play evened out and became more of a back-and-forth contest; neither team was capable of capturing momentum. A series of penalties for each side made it difficult for both the Ducks and the Avalanche to get in a rhythm.

That is, until Cam Fowler scored a power-play goal just over halfway through the second period. The game was far from over, but the way Anaheim kept their defense tight in their own zone and prevented any dangerous chances for Colorado made a comeback seem unlikely.

Derek Brassard gave the Avalanche some hope with 4:17 into the third period, scoring a power-play goal and his second goal in four games with Colorado.

The Avalanche were unable to get another puck past John Gibson, though, who finished the game making 25 saves and handed the Avalanche their third loss in four games.

Takeaways:

1. Production from top line was absent: With just under half of Colorado’s shots on goal at 12, you’d expect to see at least one go in for the top line. Understandably, it’s tough to expect them to produce every game. But considering the other nine forwards combined for seven shots, the top guys are counted on to help the team rise up and take the two points they should have had and so desperately need.

2. Power-play needs a cleanup: While they did score a power-play goal Sunday, the first handful of opportunities with the man advantage lacked the sharpness necessary for an effective power-play. When the team was at its best, the power-play, especially the top unit, was sharp crisp and dangerous. Anaheim knew how to disrupt almost everything Colorado was attempting to run and frustrated the Avalanche to the point that the top power-play unit had almost no impact in their four chances.

3. Derick Brassard is proving to be a fantastic addition: With his second goal in four games with Colorado, Brassard is officially an absolute steal for the Avalanche. He’s fit right in and immediately became an offensive asset with a lot of skill and experience. The Avalanche were desperate for some firepower and considering what they gave up for Brassard, the trade already looks like another Joe Sakic win.

4. Grubauer looked solid: Just a short time ago, the Avalanche were losing a lot and the fingers were pointed at the goaltending. Grubauer was leaned on to cover for Varlamov’s struggles and he was unable to produce, but for the second game in a row, he played well. All you can ask is that the goalie plays well enough to give the team a chance to win and Grubauer did just that stopping 21 of 23 shots faced.

5. Ian Cole made a bad decision: When Ian Cole got his faced pounded by Tom Wilson for a questionable hit on Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov and had to miss some games as a result, one would think he’d be more cautious moving forward. Sunday, Cole made a dangerous knee-on-knee hit with Anaheim’s Devin Shore and was ejected. We will see if he faces any additional discipline.

6. Avs fall to physical play: Traditionally, the Ducks’ style of play really bothers the Avalanche. Their physicality, ability to create neutral-zone turnovers as well as limit Colorado’s offensive chances seemingly frustrates the Avs and more post-whistle scrums ensue. The Avalanche have to get better at adapting to this style of play, getting creative and finding ways to generate offense as well as not find themselves in the penalty box due to frustration.

The Avalanche have another opportunity to take advantage of a struggling team when they face the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at Pepsi Center.

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