3 Takeaways From Avalanche Loss to the Blue Jackets

The Colorado Avalanche took on the Columbus Blue Jackets in last night’s game, ultimately losing 4-2 after taking a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. The Stanley Cup hopefuls watched their record drop to a miserable 4-5-1, firmly on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, albeit early in the season. Here are three takeaways from yesterday’s frustrating defeat.

Burakovsky Breaks Out Offensively

Heading into the game, Andre Burakovsky scored at a pace (0.5 points-per-game) much lower than his output last season (0.83), highlighted by an inability to finish scoring chances at his normal career rate. In his first eight games of the 2021-22 season, Burakovsky only converted one goal on 13 shots (7.7 shooting percentage), well off of his 14.5% career mark.

Andre Burakovsky Colorado Avalanche
Andre Burakovsky Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Against the Blue Jackets however, Burakovsky potted two chances to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, displaying more of his familiar marksmen tendencies. The Swedish-born winger found himself buzzing around the net all game, creating three individual scoring chances at five-on-five. If the Avalanche are to return to their place atop the Western Conference, their depth scoring must step up in place of their stumbling stars.

Kuemper Effort Wasted By Avalanche Defensive Mistakes

Darcy Kuemper’s early struggles in the Avalanche net this season are well documented, but last night’s loss cannot be fully attributed to the net-minder. Once Colorado went up 2-1 after Burakovsky’s second of the night, the Blue Jackets engaged in an onslaught on the Avalanche goal, out-attempting them 46-36 in all situations. Kuemper held strong, stopping 38 of 41 on the night, but failed to keep Columbus from staging a late comeback which saw them score three goals in just under six minutes of game time.

Related: Avalanche Remain Stanley Cup Favourites Despite Early Stumble

Alexandre Texier’s game-tying score saw the puck bounce into the slot only for the forward it bury it past Kuemper as he stood idle in the net, not expecting such a redirection off of the boards. Rookie Cole Sillinger tipped a puck past a screened Kuemper, a back-breaking goal to concede for the Avalanche with a minute remaining in regular time.

Power Play Struggles While Penalty Kill Stands Tall

The Avalanche special teams units continued to exemplify recurring trends from the first month of the season. The power play went 0-for-4 as Colorado slumped to yet another scoreless night with the man advantage. A period of adjustment is understandable, as the Avalanche have struggled to ice a lineup which concurrently features all of their stars, as they’ve been hampered by a combination of suspensions, injuries, and restrictions related to COVID protocol.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, the Colorado Avalanche’s power play general (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

However, a power play percentage of 10.5% (29th in the NHL) is unacceptable for a team of Colorado’s skill level. Besides the low conversion – which can partially be explained by a small sample size or plain bad luck – the team is not generating scoring chances at their past rate. In eight minutes of power play time against the Blue Jackets, Colorado only attempted nine shots and failed to create a single high-danger opportunity – Columbus managed three in their own eight minutes spent on the man-advantage. It’s a familiar refrain for an Avalanche squad that has created scoring chances (14th in the NHL), high-danger looks (18th), and expected goals (19th) at middling rates this season.

In comparison, Colorado’s penalty kill unit kept the Blue Jackets at bay, erasing all four of Columbus’ power play opportunities on the night. The Avalanche penalty kill is stellar, killing 84.6% (10th in the NHL) of all infractions and without another inspired effort from their short-handed specialists, the score could have been even more lopsided.

Game Preview: November 11th vs. Vancouver Canucks (4-6-1)

If the Avalanche machine is set to start purring once again, their upcoming matchup against the equally disappointing Vancouver Canucks is a good opportunity to reset. The Canucks don’t necessarily concede an overwhelming amount of chances, but they fail to create much offensively for themselves. They rank 31st in expected goals for percentage (xGF%), 26th in their share of scoring chances (SCF%), and 31st in high-danger shot-share (HDCF%). As the Avalanche rank 10th or better in of each of these categories, they should have no difficulty in asserting control over the run of play at even-strength.

Further, Vancouver’s porous penalty kill appears to be the perfect antidote for the ailing Avalanche power play. The Canucks struggle mightily in keeping their opponents out of dangerous areas on the man-advantage (30th in expected goals against per-60), and concede actual goals at an equally atrocious rate (30th in goals against per-60). Nathan MacKinnon and company should be salivating at the prospect of feasting on vulnerable prey. Let’s see how it plays out.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe