Colorado Avalanche: Avs Must Be Better on Power Play, Penalty Kill

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIJanuary 28, 2013

Colorado has taken too many penalties this season.
Colorado has taken too many penalties this season.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Three minutes into the third period of a January 22 matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, David Jones scored a power play goal for the Avs.

Jones’ goal is the only Colorado goal scored on the man advantage through its first four games of the 2013 NHL season.

In case you were wondering, the Avalanche have had more than one power-play opportunity this year—they’ve had 12. Colorado has gone 0-for-3 against the Minnesota Wild, 1-for-4 against the Kings, 0-for-3 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and 0-for-2 against the San Jose Sharks.

Collectively, the Avs have been horrible on the man advantage. Colorado’s 8.3 power-play percentage is the fourth-worst in the NHL this season, just a hair better than the Detroit Red Wings’ mark of 7.7.

On the other side of Colorado’s special teams play, the Avs haven’t been that great either. Colorado sits in the middle of the pack in the NHL with an 80 percent penalty-kill percentage.

The problem has been that the Avs have put themselves into a hole far too often. They have the second-most penalties in minutes this season with 112 and have been shorthanded 25 times. Despite the fact that Colorado has killed off 20 power plays—which is nothing to scoff at—the dumb penalties cannot continue.

Steve Downie—who is now out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL—took six minutes of unnecessary penalties against the Wild. And although Ryan O’Byrne was sticking up for his captain, Gabriel Landeskog, after a “dirty” hit, he earned himself 19 minutes in penalties.

The Avs have having an extremely tough time scoring when up a man and also struggling to keep opponents from scoring when Colorado is down a man. Head coach Joe Sacco has to find a new strategy on both sides of the puck.

When on the power play, the Avs have to get more shots on net. In general, Colorado is averaging the 25th-most shots on net per game. If you don’t shoot the puck at the net, you aren’t going to score. Putting constant pressure on the defense and the goalie is the key to succeeding.

Clearly whatever the Avs have thought would work isn’t working. They can no longer continue to try and setup the perfect shot by making pass after pass, taking up valuable time.

Quickly find the open man and fire it toward the net. If the goalie makes the save, hope for a rebound and put it by him. A power-play opportunity where Colorado only gets one shot on net is bound to be a failure. And when Colorado isn’t taking advantage of these chances, it’s losing games.

Defensively, blocking shots has been one of Colorado’s biggest strengths. Several players have taken a puck off the body—and also in the face—in order to put the team first and their health and safety second. Prime examples of this type of attitude have been shown in the play of Matt Duchene and John Mitchell.

Colorado mainly has to avoid putting itself in tough spots. Extended power plays are the ones where goals are scored. Semyon Varlamov has been great in net for the Avs this season, but he can’t do everything on his own. It’s not his fault his team in down a man for two or more minutes. His teammates need to play smarter.

The Avs are even through their first four games of the season at 2-2 and there’s still plenty of season left to be played. But if Colorado continues to play poorly when up a man and continues to take penalty after penalty, 2013 is going to end in disappointment.