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Avs' mantra needs to be: "Shoot the damn puck"

Adrian Dater Avatar
April 12, 2019

When in doubt on what can ail a hockey team offensively, no one better to quote than the Great One.  “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” Wayne Gretzky supposedly once said.

Someone should plaster that quote all over the walls of the Avalanche dressing room before Game 2 against the Calgary Flames Saturday night. A gettable game, a game that was there for the taking, was treated like a fussy diner, who sends the prime rib back because it’s a trifle too pink.

Time and again, especially in a disaster of a second period and especially on the power play throughout, Avalanche skaters either held onto the puck too long or made unnecessary extra passes in a 4-0 loss to the Flames in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at the Saddledome. The Avs were shut out by 37-year-old goalie, Mike Smith, whose saves percentage coming in to the game was .898.

Translation: you don’t need to be so picky against this guy.

The Avs tried to paint a Picasso, when all they needed was a Thomas Kinkade. When they did choose to attempt shots, they had the accuracy of a man blindfolded trying to pin the tail on the donkey. It’s not like the Avs couldn’t get shots against the Flames. They had pretty good puck-possession numbers, especially in that fateful second period in which the Flames scored the game’s first two goals.

“The first game, there’s always some butterflies,” said Avs veteran Derick Brassard, who played in his 91st career playoff game. “It was a long day. Guys were anxious to play. We had some looks, the goalie made some really good saves. We had some odd-man rushes we didn’t capitalize on. The power play, sometimes it’s going to win you some games and sometimes it’s gonna be like tonight.”

But they just…wouldn’t…shoot. Some examples: Carl Soderberg, with a beauty of a 2-on-1 break-in, never even got a shot off, waiting until he was almost in the crease before making a decision with it, eventually watching it skitter off his stick. Alexander Kerfoot, on another 2-on-1 down the right side, threw a tricky saucer pass across the ice instead of taking the shot himself. The puck never made it to his intended target.

By my unofficial count, the Avs had three 2-on-1 chances and never got a shot off on any of them.

“I think we had at least three or four odd-man rushes in the second period, and at least two 2-on-1s and we don’t get a shot on net,” Jared Bednar said. “You get a couple of them, and you like to think your guys are going to put one in the net there. They didn’t do that. We didn’t even get shots on goal. We have to be better there, there’s no question. We can’t be looking for the next play or the next pass too long instead of a shooting opportunity or driving hard to the net.”

The Avs had three power plays in the game’s first 21 minutes, a scoreless game to that point. Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie fell back into the habit of playing catch with each other, trying to outwait the Calgary defenders in overcommitting. Instead, Flames defenders seemed to love the extra time to set themselves and block shots, which they did a couple of times against them.

The Avs had 15 official shots on goal in the first two periods, with another 11 either missing the net or blocked. Tyson Barrie attempted six shots in the game, but only one got on net. To be fair, the Avs did put a few very high-quality shots on Smith, with MacKinnon getting one, Gabe Landeskog getting one and Gabriel Bourque getting one. Smith, on this night at least, was up to the task.

Matthew Tkachuk’s tip-in goal with 1:02 left in the period was a huge one, and it definitely caused the Avs to sag their way into the dressing room.

“I felt that we were in control of that game, all the way to the last five minutes of the second period,” Brassard said.

Said Erik Johnson: “It’s only one game. We’ve got to throw this one away and get ready for Saturday.”

OTHER NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS

  • Bednar said he “wasn’t happy” with several players’ efforts in this one. He wouldn’t single anyone out, but looking at the ice time of some guys, it’s probably not a stretch guessing who some are. Tyson Jost didn’t even play eight minutes, Carl Soderberg seemed a step off all night, Patrik Nemeth took a bad penalty that led to Tkachuk’s power-play goal, Matt Nieto was invisible, Colin Wilson was…meh, J.T. Compher was a minus-2 in 12:59 and Mikko Rantanen was…not exactly at the top of his game, after missing the last three weeks with an injury.
  • “Rusty” was how Bednar assessed Rantanen’s play, although he did say he thought he got better and more “competitive” as the game went along.
  • The Avs were just brutal in the faceoff dot, winning only 35-percent on the draws. MacKinnon lost 13-of-17 (24 percent). He’s going to have to work harder on that skill over the summer if he wants to be a better two-way center.
  • Well, we’ll have to wait another two days to even consider the possibility of Cale Makar signing with the Avs and playing in these playoffs. I think this: I think it’s going to come down to whether the Avs win this next game or not. If they do, it’s a 1-1 series going back to Denver and a Makar joining the club could make a real difference. If it’s 2-0 Flames, I think the Avs say “It’s a longshot even to win this series now, let’s not burn a year off his ELC and let’s just have him fresh for training camp.” That might turn out totally wrong, but that’s my hunch.

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