Last season it took the Colorado Avalanche 14 games before they lost two games. This season they’ve lost two in a row right out of the gate. Colorado was the last team to be shut out last season. That shutout came 71 games into the season. This year the Avalanche are the last team not to be shutout. It hasn’t been a great start for the defending Central Division champions. Losing the first two games of the season isn’t ideal, but the one piece of comfort for Colorado fans is that this team isn’t going to be held scoreless the entire season. Eventually goals will come. The Colorado top six is a good-looking lineup on paper, but with some new additions to the squad it’s entirely possible that the chemistry just isn’t there yet.
To take nothing away from Minnesota, who seemed to really have the Avalanche’s number, especially in Minnesota, the Colorado forwards have been sloppy skaters. passers, and shooters. In the season opener Colorado gave the puck away too often in the neutral zone. The team had a total of six giveaways in that game, and the return game in Denver wasn’t any better with Colorado recording eight giveaways. All this comes from a team that last season was one of the better teams in respect to taking care of the puck. Colorado is simply trying to be too fancy. Whatever problems anyone had with the team’s defense, the offense is considered a point of strength. But regardless of the talent up front, not being on the same page hurts.
Colorado have their fair share of new additions. Jarome Iginla, Daniel Briere, and Dennis Everberg are all new forwards that Patrick Roy has tried out in a top six roll from time to time in the preseason or in the two games against Minnesota. Alex Tanguay as well, to some extent, is new to this team. He only played 16 games last season before injuries forced an end to his year. He has really looked a step behind so far. Some times these things take time. Iginla had a slow start in Boston last season before eventually notching 30 goals. At times it has looked like he’s starting to get on the same page with center Matt Duchene.
Patrick Roy might also need to work on his own patience. He clearly isn’t panicking, and neither should anyone else. However, two different games and two vastly different line combinations isn’t going to get the team to develop the kind of chemistry they need. There is nothing wrong with juggling lines, every coach does it. Patrick Roy’s line juggling after game one is probably more to do with match-ups, and spreading some of his talent across more than one or two lines, but these players need to develop a sense of familiarity with each other at some point.
In the season preview from NHL Network, Mike Kelly suggests that the Colorado Avalanche were not as bad a possession team as everyone said they were. This is debatable, and really it’s an argument for another day. But the point is that Colorado’s style of play can be a little bit fancy in general. That’s not to say it’s bad. Quite the opposite. If they play to their talents then they’ve been very successful at putting the puck in the net. The only problem now is that new names in the lineup are not fully acclimated to this new system. They will get there. Players like Duchene and MacKinnon have shown real flashes of excellence in the first two games. MacKinnon looks stronger and more explosive, if that was even possible.
What needs to happen going forward is that Colorado need to find a way to balance that fancy play with the simple. Holding onto the puck and moving it around to the zone can work, but you also need some one to just crash the net. The new names will get familiar with their new surroundings, Iginla, for example, is too good not to. What needs to happen though is they can’t panic. Two losses in an 82 game season isn’t going to cripple anyone. The irony is that most pundits would have suggested that if Colorado got off to an 0-2 start that it would be their defense that was the culprit (it was defiantly part of the problem in Minnesota, but not as much in Denver).
Chemistry is sports can be weird, and it’s impossible to quantify it. The only thing for sure is that, right now, Colorado doesn’t have it. But as the season gets older it will come. Well, hopefully.