Avalanche-Sharks Afterthoughts - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Avalanche-Sharks Afterthoughts

The Avalanche lost to the Sharks but they did it the right way. They tried. As simple as that sounds, it's something the team has not done all too often this year.

On Sunday, they faced the (now) top team in the league and showed flashes of what this team could have been this season. Not a contender, but a team that can hold their own every night.

And though I'm a bit late to the party, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the game.

Just like the economy
This team collapses all too readily. I know I'm harping on it but I think it's one of the key problems in the defensive "system" that the team employs.

Far too often the wingers are finding themselves caught heading deep into the zone as they follow the puck rather than covering an open man. I'll grant that on a rush, things can get a bit harried as the opposition breaks into the zone. And it doesn't help if the center on your line has decided to forgo backchecking.

But that doesn't absolve them of their responsibility once the rush has slowed and everybody is back in the zone. Now's the time to cover your d-man and help on the breakout. Don't just take it from me, take it from Milan Hejduk who on more than one occasion was directing T.J. Galiardi to cover the Sharks left defenseman rather than heading deep.

Just like OJ
This team has trouble breaking out. However there were a couple notable instances where they shed the "flying I" and went for "triangle of danger" (patent pending)

In this scenario, the left-side defenseman comes from behind the net and carries the puck up the ice. Near the Avs blueline, they fire a pass to a streaking right winger who is close to the opponents blueline. While this is happening, the center is racing up the middle of the ice and the left-wing starts to angle in as well (thus forming a triangle...get it? get it?)

The right-wing can either carry the puck into the zone or feed to the center or left-wing. But the key thing to happen at this point is that all forwards maintain speed in heading towards the net. This will pressure the defenders, possibly causing them to collapse too deep. At this point, it's a judgement call. The puck carrier can either fire a shot on net or drop it back to a trailing defenseman who one-times one towards the net.

Either way, what happens here is a quick transition which puts pressure on the opponents as well as generating not just a shot, but a chance at a tip or rebound opportunity since all the forwards were driving the net.

Of course this won't be possible on every breakout but when the opportunity arises (ie. the opponents peel off for a line change after a dump-in), the Avs need to strike and strike fast.

They showed they have the skills to pull this off. They just need it to be part of the gameplan.

Walk tall and carry...
A big stick. I don't want this to come off all creepy but does Evgeni Nabokov not use a ridiculously long stick?

Byngin it home
Patrick Marleau took what was his ninth minor penalty of the season as he clipped Cody Mcleod while trying to jump past him. Given where Martin St. Louis and Pavel Datsyuk are in the points race combined with their 10 and 20 PIMs respectively, I don't see Marleau walking away with the Byng. But he should be in the picture.

Steaming along
The Cheechoo train found itself derailed (groan) early in the game as he caught Lawrence Nycholat from behind, injuring Nycholat and gaining Cheechoo a 5-minute major and game misconduct. I think it was an unfairly assessed game misconduct but I'm also a big proponent of eliminating any hit from behind so I guess I have to stick to my guns on this one.

Down goes Staubitz!
Brad Staubitz delivered a head shot to Ryan Smyth and John-Michael Liles took exception. The diminuitive Liles immediately grabbed Staubitz and ended up tossing him to the ice.

"Big deal", you say. Well, given that Staubitz is 6'1, 210lbs and recently destroyed Jordin Tootoo, you've got to admire Liles for having no qualms about sticking up for his teammates. That's the kind of play that brings a team together.

I'll take "penalty" for $1000, Alex
The Avalanche pulled Raycroft down 2-1 with about 1:30 left in the game. And then they got a huge break from the referees.

The Sharks fired the puck out of their zone but it was well wide of the net and prime for an icing call. Until you say that the race was between Scott "Minister of Defense" Hannan and Marleau. I would wager that Marleau is in the top-10 in the league for speed and Hannan is...well...not so much. And given how much time Hannan has spent with Marleau, you know he knew that too.

So he did what anyone would do. He grabbed Marleau's arm and held on for dear life. They arrived at the boards at the same time but both whiffed on the puck, leaving the trailing Avalanche player to touch up for the icing.

And when Marleau turned to the refs and said "That's holding!", I couldn't help but agree. It wasn't even a missed call, it was simply a no-call. If the Avs had scored to tie the game, the Sharks and their fans would be justifiable in their anger.

I would have been ecstatic. But there would have been a twinge of guilt, I swear.

Related Links
MHH Recap
The Greatest - Aaron resurface to end the Roy vs Brodeur debate
Frei: Is it time to toast Sakic - the RMN is done, no need to keep fishing for hits
Jib meets AD and the world didn't asplode! Jib's account here, AD's here

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