Colorado Avalanche's Hockey Season in Perspective so Far

AJ OlivieriContributor IDecember 20, 2011

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Paul Stastny #26 of the Colorado Avalanche (right) is congratulated by teammates after he scored a power play goal against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on December 15, 2011 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Three out of four of the Colorado Avalanche’s last contests have resulted in a one-goal victory for the Avs.  The fourth game was a one-goal loss suffered by a third period collapse of focus.  Of those three victories, two came via a shootout, which never really had to take place. 

Those two games in question can ultimately be compared to the age-old debate: Is the glass half full or half empty?

Colorado’s season definitely has had its share of highs and lows so far.  The Avalanche started the year out playing what looked like muddled hockey.  Their defense was sloppy and their attack was lackadaisical at best. 

A lot of questions began to surface as the Avalanche headed into the second quarter of the season.  Then the Avs started to find comfort at home winning seven straight at the Pepsi Center.

Still, as a follower of the Avalanche, I am constantly trying to put things into perspective.  I have analyzed Colorado’s last four games rather closely, starting with the home-and-home against the San Jose Sharks.  What I have found is that the Avalanche, depending on your perspective, are a great or terrible team going into the third period of these four games.

December 13, 2011, pitted the Colorado Avalanche against the San Jose Sharks in Denver, CO.  The Avs were clinging to a one-goal lead late into the third period when the Sharks decided to pull their goalie for an extra attacker.  With 22 seconds remaining in regulation, Sharks winger Patrick Marleau put in the game-tying goal. 

After the five minute overtime session the game went to a shootout.  The Avalanche, up to this point, were 4-0 in shootouts.  After Colorado buried two shots and the Sharks only scored once, the Avalanche improved to 5-0 in shootouts.

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks is hit by Paul Stastny #26 of the Colorado Avalanche as he tries to score on Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion at San Jose on December 15, 2011 in San Jose, Cali
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Let’s take a look at the viewpoint of this game.  The “glass half empty” type will say that the Avalanche should have never let this game get to a shootout, which is true.  The Avs defense had trouble with the extra skater on the ice. 

The Sharks seemed to look like they were overpowering Colorado in the final minute of regulation. 

Now let’s look at the “glass half full” approach.  The Avalanche let in the game-tying goal late in the third period, but responded by exhibiting a strong back check and applying pressure in the San Jose end throughout the overtime period. 

Then, as if on cue, the Avs turned on the magic, winning their fourth straight shootout.

The next game showed a complete mental breakdown in the third period by the Avalanche.  After going into the locker room up 4-2 at the end of two periods, the Avalanche gave up three goals in a matter of minutes midway through the third period and lost all momentum they had established. 

This game proved to be what the Avalanche needed going back to the Pepsi Center to take on the Washington Capitals.

Colorado, once again, found themselves clinging to a one-goal lead late in the third period.  This time, the defense for the Avalanche stepped up and did their job, not allowing a clear shot on goal and clearing the puck when they had the opportunity. 

Colorado’s defense did what they needed to do and the Avs came away with a victory.

December 19, 2011, brought the Philadelphia Flyers to the Pepsi Center to faceoff against the Avalanche.  Like the previous game, the Avs go late into the third period clutching to a one-goal lead.  Unlike the previous game, the Avalanche let in another game-tying goal late in the period. 

After converting on all three of their opening shootout goals, the Avalanche improve to 6-0 in shootouts.

The Colorado-Philadelphia game comes down to perspective.  The Avalanche defense struggled against the extra attacker.  However, when the Avs needed it the most, their offense and goaltending rose to meet the challenge of what it takes to pull out yet another shootout victory.