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