Colorado Avalanche: Playoff Push a Question of Consistency

Kevin GoffContributor IFebruary 8, 2012

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 04:  Jean-Sebastien Giguere #35 of the Colorado Avalanche defends the goal as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Avalanche 3-2 in an overtime shootout at the Pepsi Center on February 4, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche are a mysterious team to follow.

Try as much as you want; it is just impossible to tell which team is going to come out on any given night.

The Avalanche had an amazing December and a respectable stretch leading up to the All-Star break.

With their last game before the All-Star break, they put on an absolutely dismal display against a Minnesota Wild team that hadn't won on the road in 11 games.

The Avalanche didn't get off to a start that gave much more hope as they dropped three more divisional games in a row.

The final game, played against the Vancouver Canucks, at least saw the Avalanche put together an effort worth talking about only to see a win snatched from their hands late in the game.

The Avalanche brought the same intensity to their next game against the Chicago Blackhawks, controlling the play and winning by a score of 5-2.

This is probably the most maddening thing about this team: They can come out and skate with the best teams in the Western Conference and then play so poorly against teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota.

What causes this is hard to pinpoint. It could be that it's hard to get consistently complete effort from young teams and it could also be that coaching is so inconsistent that it's hard to get any consistency from the players.

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 04:  David Jones #54 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates his first period goal against the Vancouver Canucks with his teammates at the Pepsi Center on February 4, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Whatever it is, consistency is something that the Avalanche must discover if they want to make a push into the playoffs.

More specifically, the Avalanche need to find a way to play a complete game against their divisional opponents.

In January, the Avalanche played some great hockey against the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, but didn't bother showing up against the previously mentioned Wild.

They simply cannot afford to do that, especially when they really should be able to beat teams like Edmonton, the Calgary Flames and Minnesota even if the games are competitive.

The coaching staff has done a good job in finding consistency in a couple of places. The first is in goal with the play of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Giguere seems to have regained his form, as he has supplanted Semyon Varlamov as Colorado's top goalie and he keeps his team in every game. Giguere's consistent play and wonderful leadership are huge reasons that the Avalanche find themselves as close to the playoffs as they are.

The other area that has solidified is the penalty kill. While the Avalanche PK falls in the low 80s as far as percentage is concerned, this is still a huge step up from where they were at the start of the season.

They are playing with great confidence, working hard and making the opponents play responsibly because the penalty kill is fast enough to create scoring chances while short-handed.

The power play, even-strength play and overall effort from start to finish need to follow suit if the Avalanche are going to push their way into the playoffs.