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Blame it on Anderson

The Avalanche have had a bit of a problem lately – they went from feeling pretty secure in making the playoffs to worrying they won’t win enough of their games to make it. Sitting in spot number eight right now with a four point cushion over division rivals the Calgary Flames the Avs need to figure out how the heck to keep from falling to number nine.

There’s many different theories as to what the Avs need to do in order to win some of their seven games before April 11, so here’s mine.

How much is TOO much?:
Craig Anderson has helped bring his team this far, but one has to wonder if Coach Joe Sacco is riding him too hard. While it’s well known that goalies are a different breed; their game is a different kind of physicality mixed with the highest level of mental preparedness, a combination needed to be effective. How can a goalie stay sharp in this post-Olympics super packed schedule? How many other goalies have played as much as Anderson has? Only three; Martin Brodeur (70), Jonathan Quick (68) and Miikka Kiprusoff (67). Since January 8, 2010 he has sat out two games. Overall his back-up Peter Budaj has played 13 games this season, five wins, four losses, one overtime loss, and one shut-out – helping the Avs get 11 points. So that means Anderson has played in 66 games already. Let’s break these stats down a little further to show you the kind of pressure the Avs have been putting on Anderson. Anderson has faced 2092 shots so far this season, the most any goaltender has faced. Of those 2092 only 170 goals have gone in, meaning 1922 shots have NOT gone in, another NHL high. 

The days of Roy:
There was time when Colorado had one of the greatest goaltenders in the history of the NHL between the pipes. Saint Patrick helped the Avalanche win Lord Stanley’s sacred cup not once but twice. Roy has won the cup four times, the Conn Smythe Trophy three times, and is arguably one of the most dynamic goaltenders to play. The wink, the fighting, the trash talking, the incredible saves, andof course the superstitions. What did Roy have that Anderson doesn’t? Well that’s a loaded question but barring talent and personality differences the answer is of course days off. There’s many reasons Roy had cat like reflexes, one key factor was time away. Time to reflect on performance, watch someone else make the same mistakes you’re making, etc. To put it simply Roy was afforded an opportunity to regain that mental edge that is imperative to produce the W.

Blame Sacco:
While the easy target is to blame Anderson for any loss the real culprit lies with Coach Joe Sacco. Not only does Sacco play Anderson too often there are some serious issues the Avalanche need to address before the playoffs. Many times it’s been said around Denver that Budaj is in Sacco’s doghouse. Why? For whatever reason it appears that if a player pisses Sacco off they lose the opportunity to play. Sacco needs to learn to trust Budaj, he should have allowed him to play throughout the season. If, heaven forbid, something were to happen to Anderson the Avs should feel comfortable with Budaj between the pipes. Anderson has to know that if he doesn’t feel he can contribute 100% to the team that the team and his coach feel comfortable with Budaj, if they don’t we know Andy will suck it up and get out there. And is that really the best solution? For Anderson to play at less than everything he’s got every game?

Blame the Offense:
How is it that three members of the Avalanche’s offense have been putting the points on the board post-Olympics, yet the Avs as a whole have been struggling? Point leaders post-Olympics around the league, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart are tied for third, Peter Mueller is tied for fifth (with Derek Roy.)  While it is wonderful that many of the shots the Avs take on goal become goals, the discomforting thing is that they rarely shot the puck.  When there are periods like their game against the Kings when a total of three shots on goal were produced it sends up a red flag for concern. What is the team doing that prevented them from shooting? Where did they spend most of their time, in their defensive zone or the offensive zone?

Blame the Defense:
Anderson cannot do it on his own, the defense needs to clear the puck away, get it out of their zone, and start contributing more offensively. The Avs have always had a problem with allowing the opponent to move so freely  in their zone. Defense needs to make Anderson’s job easier, not jump on the load he’s already carrying. While no one says the Avs’ defense ‘sucks’, they wouldn’t say it’s the best either, they need to step it up a notch. When they get the W, the defense takes the credit, when they get the L, Andy takes most of the blame.  efense has to share it, learn from it, and act on it. 

Blame Special Teams:
There are some days that it appears the Avalanche cannot kill a penalty to save their life. Most of the goals they have given up recently come from a Power Play. So the Avs taking less than intelligent penalties, but they with their current pk abilities, they’re practically inviting the other team to score. When you watch a CO pk you’ll notice one of two things. The first? There are multiple times when two defensemen will be covering one player. When you are short-handed in the first place, you shouldn’t be doubling up on any one player. The second? There are static sticks, no one is moving their stick, no one is taking away passing lanes. When your pk looks tired, slow, and stuck, is it any wonder why teams score against you?

Many teams will claim that they have trouble on the power play, and while Colorado isn’t the worst, they have a history of overcomplicating things. The problem with the Avalanche pp has, and potentially will always be, the lack of shooting. The Avs pass the puck around until they feel the shot they are taking is beautiful. While that’s great if you’re winning 10-0, the point of a power play is to take advantage of the other teams disadvantage and fire some shots in there, rush the crease, get something, hell anything, in there. The Avs fail to remember that pretty goals count the same as rebounded garbage goals. 

The Remedy:

1 – Show up to the game, for every single period
2 – Get the puck out of your defensive zone
3 – Take more shots on goal
4 – Give Andy a rest
5 – Stop treating players like they’re in the doghouse
6 – Work on special teams

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