An Underwhelming Start to the Season - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Underwhelming Start to the Season

Two games in and the Avalanche are snake bitten with an 0-2 record after losses to Edmonton and Boston. Not exactly the start we were all hoping for but exactly the start many pundits expected. And boy do I hate when pundits are proved right. Especially after saying they were wrong.

So what's going on in each department for the Avalanche?

If Peter Budaj wants to be regarded as a #1 goaltender, he's going to need to make saves when it counts - even on a redirected shot.

Budaj is certainly not to blame on the final goal in the 3-2 Edmonton loss. However he's not instilling confidence in his abilities to make the clutch save. 

In both games this season, most recaps have included a phrase similar to "but that was the only bad goal". I don't want to keep reading/writing that all season long.

I'm still believing in him but it would be a lie to say I haven't questioned myself on it after just two games.

The Avalanche are firing shots at will and currently sit 4th in the league with 36 shots per game. And if records were kept for posts/crossbars hit, I think they'd be leading the league in that category.

But the Avs need to ensure they aren't taking shots just for the sake of taking a shot. Ryan Smyth still has a penchant for coming down the left wing and firing a shot from the top of the circle. Unless you keep that shot along the ice, 99% of the goaltenders in the league will swallow that up. 

This squad has a great amount of goal scoring ability with players like Sakic, Stastny and Svatos spread out along the top three lines. I'm expecting more from them and have no doubts that they will start delivering.

Defense was supposed to be the Avalanche's strong suit this season but right now it's looking a bit soft and disorganized. The disorganization should fix itself in a couple more games and if it doesn't, it's time to try some new combinations and strategies. 

But the softness won't magically turn around unless they are pushed in that direction. Right now, the opposition are planting themselves in front of the net with no retribution. That needs to change fast.

Adam Foote leads the squad in hits with eight and is an impenetrable wall when players try to squeeze past him along the boards. Oh how I love seeing a speedy forward try to go ripping past Foote only to end up stopped dead in their tracks by the "slow old man".

Ruslan Salei and Brett Clark have one hit each, Jordan Leopold has two while John-Michael Liles has four. Scott Hannan hasn't even been credited with a hit. Flaws in the RTSS stats reporting aside, this squad needs to get physical.

Special Teams
It's pretty early to make any judgements on special teams but the Avalanche currently sit dead last with a 60% PK rate. Ouch. More time is needed before full judgement on the penalty kill but again I've noticed confusion on assignments during a kill. And if you're already down by one player, adding any confusion to the mix will sink you faster than a submarine with a sunroof.

The powerplay has been operating at 12.5% which puts them in the middle of the pack this season. Last season, that would have had them dead last. This early though, rankings are a bit skewed with teams like Minnesota with a 66.7% conversion rate. 

The team is still going with Joe Sakic on the point. If anybody has noticed Sakic taking a shot from the point this season, let me know because I have yet to see it. I just don't see the benefit of putting him on the point when he could wreak some havoc down low.

On the flip side, I wasn't terribly impressed when Brett Clark was manning the point on the second unit so maybe there isn't a better option for the #1 unit at the moment.

Next game
The Avalanche face the Calgary Flames tomorrow at 9:30pm ET, 7:30 MT and I've got to be honest, I don't see them walking out of the Saddledome with a win.

Now prove me wrong.


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