Canucks Expose Avalanche, 3-1
(Denver, Colorado) — Per preseason predictions, the Vancouver Canucks should roll through the Western Conference and play for Lord Stanley’s Cup. They have depth up front, depth at the blueline, and they are solid between the pipes. Thursday night they showed why they are one of the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, as they stymied the high scoring Colorado Avalanche 3-1 at the Pepsi Center.
While the special teams clicked for the Canucks, nothing seemed to work right for the Avalanche. The offense sputtered –after averaging more than 5 goals in the last two games – due largely to a solid Vancouver defensive effort.
With its tight checking game, the Canucks bottled up the Avalanche’s top scorers to date – Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny, and Milan Hejduk – holding the trio to just four shots on goal. Last night’s game brought to light some of the question marks that surround the young Avalanche team. .. Such as: How well will they handle hardship like losing a key piece of their puzzle in Captain Adam Foote? And how effective will their special teams perform – when the chips are on the line?
Without a doubt, there is no substitution for losing a veteran defenseman like Foote,39, who brings a calming influence to this team, which has 14 players under 26 years old. The Avalanche’s lack of experience showed with some dreadful penalty killing, as the Canucks converted on 75 percent of their power play opportunities – scoring on three of four chances.
While the Canucks were able to move the puck around during their power play and get some solid scoring chances, the Avalanche penalty killers seemed to be on a sabbatical – in particular the defense which at times looked confused and out of place.
Perhaps the Avalanche was due for a letdown after outscoring two mid-level teams – Calgary and Columbus – 11-6 their last two games. Tonight they got a taste of something different — a top-level team which has its sights set on hoisting the Stanley Cup come June.
Colorado gets points for playing a brave game – considering that they did neutralize the powerful Canucks team at full strength – outscoring them 1-0. Nonetheless, even with this bright spot… this Avalanche team’s Achilles heel must be addressed. And this chink in their armor can be seen in two places – the penalty killing and the defense. This team is giving up more than 3 goals a game and killing penalties at an alarmingly low rate of 70 percent. This number ranks at the bottom of the league. With stats like these, the Avalanche will trend downward as the season progresses – unless the coaching staff can find a solution to the problem.
The defense, which averages 25 years when Foote is not in the lineup, needs to be more aggressive and consistent in clearing the front of the net and giving its netminders a chance to see more of the puck. And up front, Colorado needs a go to forward who is adept at killing penalties.
Flashback to last season when the Avalanche came out of the starting blocks gunning, picking up more than 20 points at 10-2-2 in the month of October. Juxtapose those numbers to where they are right now and the Avalanche are not in a favorable spot. Why? Because after getting off to such a fast start last season, they had to go all out just to make the playoffs and get the eight seed in the Western Conference. A less stellar start this season means one thing – teams in the conference are more aware of this young team’s potential and will not take them for granted. Colorado will have to work twice as hard to have a shot at post season play come spring.
Comments: At this point, even with a solid offensive core, Colorado projects the image of a .500 team. They do not look like a team that can finish where they did last season… which from my viewpoint was clearly an aberration. We must remember that this franchise is in the midst of a rebuilding plan – even though it exceeded expectations during the 2009-2010 season. As the front office has made a commitment to rebuild from within, one has to wonder if there isn’t a temptation to forego this pledge and look for a marquee veteran through a trade.
About the Author
Written by Donovan Wilson
Donovan is a professional writer with more than 10 years of corporate communications and public relations experience. He currently resides in the Phoenix, Arizona area where he currently does freelance work for the Arizona Repubilc. With a degree in English from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and a Master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri - Columbia, Donovan has written for a variety of newspapers across the country. The single parent of an 13-year old boy, Donovan is a physical fitness enthusiast whom you can find on a soccer field or in the gym enduring an intense cardio workout. A sports enthusiast, Donovan has played competitive college hockey, soccer, and track and field. During his spare time, it’s not uncommon to see Donovan volunteering his services to a homeless shelter in Phoenix where he helps to feed the homeless. Currently, Donovan sits on the board of two nonprofit organizations – Green Nonprofits, Inc. and Queens Sickle Cell Advocacy Network, Inc. in New York City.