The Colorado Avalanche are currently on a six-day break between games. Their last showing, an unfortunate 5-2 loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers this past Saturday, October 22, was the last regular season game the team plays until this Friday, October 28 against the Winnipeg Jets. With the extended off time, there are some things the Avalanche are hoping they will not forget from their opening five games, as well as a few things they may need to work on to improve on their 3-2-0 early season record.
Welcome Back Mikko Rantanen
Starting on a positive note, early this week Colorado decided to part ways with veteran forward Ben Smith through waivers and call up 19-year-old Finnish Forward, Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen is expected to slot into the Avalanches’ top-six alongside young superstars Nathan Mackinnon and Mikhail Grigorenko. The six-day layoff could not have come at a better time as the Avalanche are hoping the extra practice time will help Rantanen adjust to his new linemates and fellow teammates, as well as get a feel for the powerplay.
Rantanen was drafted by the Avalanche 10th overall in 2015 and managed to earn himself a nine-game regular season tryout out of training camp last season. Unfortunately for Rantanen, his high skill set which saw him flourish in the SM-Liiga, could not translate over to the NHL as he closed out his nine games with a stat line of zero points and a negative seven-plus/minus.
Rantanen was demoted to the San Antonio Rampage, where he proved why he was a true first-round talent, scoring an impressive 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games and earning himself the honor of an AHL All-Star selection.
Rantanen was expected by many to make the Avalanches opening day roster but an ankle injury on September 17 caused the rookie to miss essential minicamp time, leading to his demotion to the AHL on a conditioning stint. In a best case scenario, Rantanen’s talent will fit perfectly into what is looking to be a very strong Avalanche top-six.
Special Team Practice Focuses on PK
In the first five games, Colorado’s special teams have been both very good and very bad. Their power play currently sits at 29.4%, which is good for fourth-best in the league, and an impressive 6.3% higher than last year’s power play percentage leading Anaheim Ducks and their 23.1% season long power play. Although it is only a small sample size the Avalanche are also 11.4% more successful than their 19th-ranked power play a season ago.
Unfortunately, the strong power -play has been matched with an equally as unimpressive penalty kill. The Avalanche are currently killing penalties at a 69.6% rate, which ranks them second-last in the entire NHL. In fact, if the season were to end today, the Avalanche would have the fourth-worst penalty kill since the NHL started keeping track of the powerplay and penalty kill stats in 1963-64.
Bednar: If you look at the league stats, the teams that are the most penalized also have the worst penalty kill… We need to clean it up.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) October 27, 2016
With the days off, fans can be sure head coach Jared Bednar will be focusing on both the good and the bad in regards to special teams with hopes of improving what has been a very unimpressive penalty kill.
They are Reminded to Shoot More
On a team stacked with young, exciting talent many outsiders would expect the Avalanche to be on the upper end in many of the league’s offensive categories. Unfortunately, this is the Colorado Avalanche we are talking about and anyone who has paid attention to the Avalanche’s Corsi stats over the past few seasons would realize that never really seems to be the case when it comes to shots-per-game.
This season has been much the same, with Colorado averaging a mere 25.2 shots per game, ranking them second to only the Vancouver Canucks for least shots averaged per game. They currently average 10.1 fewer shots than the league-leading Toronto Maple Leafs and 7.6 shots less than the 32.8 they’ve been giving up to opposing teams on a nightly basis.
For the Avalanche to improve their overall success from seasons past they will need to start getting pucks to the net at a higher rate. Let’s hope these practice days reminded the Avalanche to fire away.