avalanche: Coach Bed­nar says team must limit odd-man rushes to im­prove chances to win.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Terry Frei Terry Frei: tfrei@den­ver­post.com or @TFrei

As the Avalanche prac­ticed Wed­nes­day morn­ing at Fam­ily Sports Cen­ter, only the New York Is­landers, with 18, had fewer points than Colorado’s 19. Then the Isles beat Pitts­burgh 5-3 on Wed­nes­day night, leav­ing the Avs tied with Ari­zona at the bot­tom of the NHL.

That’s how dam­ag­ing an 0-2-1 start to a five-game home­s­tand has been. The home­s­tand con­tin­ues against Colum­bus on Thurs­day night. The lat­est stum­ble was a 5-3 loss to Nashville on Tues­day night, and the strug­gles again raise the ques­tion of whether the Avalanche’s much-cited faith and com­mit­ment to its “core” — gen­er­ally con­ceded to be six play­ers — has been mis­placed, and whether it should be bro­ken up.

“It’s not just a frus­trat­ing time for me,” first-year Avalanche coach Jared Bed­nar said. “I’m just the one stand­ing here up in front of the mic. Our team, I know, feels like we’ve squan­dered a bit of an op­por­tu­nity here with three home games and we only have one point to show for it so far.”

Bed­nar was in­sis­tent that the Avalanche’s ten­dency to give up odd-man rushes is nei­ther an in­dict­ment of his sys­tem nor in­dica­tive that this team can’t ef­fi­ciently play that speed-ori­ented, rush-the-puck up style.

“No, be­cause I look at even last night again, the odd-man rushes, I think there were four or five,” he said. “A lot of them were track­ing them back, and we just made a mis­take on a cou­ple. We got beat one on one twice. Those are the goals that hurt us.”

He ac­knowl­edged that ear­lier in the sea­son, “we were giv­ing up a lot, but I think we’ve di­aled that in. I liked our de­tail last night and the way we played within our struc­ture. I just think there’s a lit­tle more to give from a com­pet­i­tive stand­point.” Can this sys­tem work? De­fense­man Erik John­son, one of the six, noted: “Not the way we’re giv­ing up the odd-man chances. We’re giv­ing up too many odd-man rushes, and they’re put­ting them in the back of our net. We’re giv­ing teams way too many free­bies. That’s not the sys­tem. That’s just guys rec­og­niz­ing when to make the read, when to make the pinch. The sys­tem’s work­ing great as far as get­ting out of our zone, get­ting into the zone. We just have to make bet­ter reads as in­di­vid­u­als. A lot of it’s cor­rectable and to a man, we have to be bet­ter.

“I think it can be done. I think we showed it in glimpses, but at the end of the day, we have to win games con­sec­u­tively to right the ship. We can’t have slides like this, oth­er­wise it’s not go­ing to be pretty.”

John­son ac­knowl­edged that core group needs to kick its game up a notch.

“It doesn’t mat­ter how many points you have or how much you’re play­ing, it’s the record that in­di­cates how you’re play­ing,” John­son said. “Clearly, the record is not good enough. … No­body can look in the mir­ror and say we’re play­ing good enough be­cause our record doesn’t in­di­cate it. As a group of in­di­vid­u­als who feels a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the team, I think you go out and do your best ev­ery game and you re­al­ize there are con­se­quences no mat­ter what.

“We could be a bunch of games over .500 and they still might see a rea­son to make a change. So that’s up to them up­stairs and all we can do is go out and play hard ev­ery night and do our best to get this team back to win­ning. At the end of the day, it does fall on our shoul­ders un­til the job gets done, and so far it’s not good enough.”

An­other mem­ber of the core, Matt Duch­ene, has been vis­i­bly frus­trated by the los­ing.

“I think we have to be more fo­cused for the 60 min­utes,” he said. “We have fits and starts of good hockey, but it’s not long enough and at the right times. For some rea­son, we’re not ready at the start of se­cond and third pe­ri­ods right now. We have to make sure that we’re the team tak­ing con­trol.”

Duch­ene is the player most of­ten men­tioned in trade spec­u­la­tion when talk comes up about break­ing up the core.

“I’m not mak­ing any de­ci­sions on this hockey team,” he said with­out ran­cor. “I just go out and play ev­ery night.”

The Avalanche hopes to limit op­po­nents’ chances like the one above Tues­day night, when Nashville Preda­tors left wing Vik­tor Arvids­son scores. David Zalubowski, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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