Night and day, black and white, home and away. Complete contrasts offering different perspectives. The latter applies to the style and effectiveness of play of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avalanche are currently sitting at 2-3 on the young season with both of their wins coming on home ice. The Avalanche compiled wins of 3-1 over the defending champion Los Angeles Kings and 4-0 over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Solid team defense, a dominating penalty kill and timely offense all combined to propel the Avalanche to each win.
After opening the season on the road at Minnesota, a 4 to 2 loss, the Avalanche embarked Saturday on their first actual road trip of the season. A 4 to 0 loss to the San Jose Sharks set an early tone for the road trip. Monday night saw the same anemic effort as the Avalanche amassed only 3 shots in the opening period on route to a 4 to 1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Surely this Avalanche club is the seam team that played at home, so what causes the problems? Yes, Captain Gabriel Landeskog was knocked out early versus the Sharks on Saturday but that is just one player. Matt Duchene, P.A. Paranteau, Paul Stastny, Jamie McGinn and David Jones should be able to provide plenty of offense. To tally only 1 goal so far is inexcusable for this young offensive-minded club. Throw in the opening night loss in Minnesota, the Avalanche are a combined 3 goals for and 12 goals against for a goal differential of -9 on the road.
How can the Avalanche turn around their woes on the road? The answer starts with discipline. The Avalanche have been short handed 19 times on the road so far and have allowed 9 PP goals. That is a whopping Penalty Kill percentage of 52.6% on the road. In contrast, the Avalanche are a perfect 12 for 12 killing penalties at home. In order to be competitive in the tough Western Conference, the Avalanche must bring up their road Penalty Kill.
The other half of the problem for the Avalanche on the road has been their star players missing on the ice. Matt Duchene has had two great games so far, both at home, and seems almost invisible on the ice. The only top 6 forward to score on the road so far is newcomer P.A. Paranteau who tallied a late third period goal versus Edmonton. Where has the line of Stastny, McGinn and Jones been? The only road point to come from that group is the second assist McGinn had on Paranteu’s goal. That has to change.
The bottom line remains that the Avalanche must bring the same intensity and passion they did for their two home wins with them on the road. The lack of effort and offensive zone presence has cost the Avalanche early on the road. The inability of the defense to clear away attacking forwards has left goaltender Semyon Varlamov helpless in net.
With two big road games remaining on this trip, both in the division at Calgary and Vancouver, the Avalanche will find out early if they have the team to compete for a playoff spot or will once again fall to an early exit and high first round draft pick.