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Avalanche defense needs to prove that it is strong enough to participate in the cup

As the 2021-22 season approaches, expectations for the Colorado avalanche are once again high. The team is expected to win the Stanley Cup with the defending champions Tampa Bay Chargers and the Vegas Golden Cavaliers, who ended the Colorado season in the second round last year. Fans and bookmakers have shown tenacious will, hoping to see them withdraw from the playoffs early for the third time in a row.

The Avalanche team was also optimistic about winning the Stanley Cup at the beginning of last season, and it seems that they intend to fulfill this promise. Colorado won the Presidential Trophy with a 39-13-4 regular season record and kicked off the playoffs with six consecutive games with the best record of the team. Then the rails fell off.

What went wrong in the 2021 playoffs

The trouble really started in the second game against Las Vegas. Goalkeeper Philip Grubauer’s 39 saves, including 15 in the third quarter, were enough to overcome Colorado’s 22 shots to force overtime and ensure victory. But the main theme of this series has changed.

Colorado Avalanche goalkeeper Philip Grubauer (AP Photo/David Zarubovsky)

“Gruby saved us today,” Colorado forward Miko Lantanen said after the victory. “He played a very, very good game. He is basically why we joined OT.”

After that, the Golden Cavaliers defeated Avalanche 43-20 in the third game and defeated Avalanche 35-18 in the fourth game. In the decisive sixth game of the series, they defeated Avalanche 6-3.

At first glance, Colorado’s offense seems to have cooled down at the wrong time. After averaging five goals per game in the first six games of the playoffs, the Avalanche team averaged only two goals per game in the last four games. Fans and experts quickly accused the avalanche superstar center Nathan McKinnon and other offensive players for failing to play a role in critical moments.

But did the offense fail to produce results, or did the defense fail to keep the ball and allow the team to create scoring opportunities? The crucial fifth game against Las Vegas tells the story. After the Avalanche team entered the third quarter with a 2-0 lead, three defensive errors, including overtime, lost the game and eventually lost the series.

With the popularity of ice hockey in the playoffs, Avalanche’s defensive core did not take enough measures to protect their forwards and puck in five of the six games with Las Vegas, which cost them. The whole season.

More energy in the playoffs

Ask the fans how to host the NHL playoffs, and you will always hear the rant about the referee swallowing the whistle. is this real? Has the number of penalties taken in the playoffs decreased? The answer is complicated.

The referee made fewer penalties in the playoffs
NHL official (THW file)

this Average number of penalties The average free throws per game in the 2021 playoffs is actually higher than the average free throws per game in the regular season. (3.4 free throws per game in the playoffs and 3.1 free throws per game in the regular season.) But this is only part of the story.

Except for some unusual games in the 2021 playoffs (the Islanders seem to live in the penalty area), most penalties are played in unbalanced games. In other words, when one team has a big win, the other team starts to punish out of frustration or sending a message for the next game in the series. In close matches-games with one or two goals gap-the number of free throws is very similar to the regular season.

This is important because the playoffs The game has an average of 10 -14 more clicks Than the regular season. With more sports games, there should be more penalties. No.

The avalanche defender is a scoring machine

The Avalanche team has a strong defensive core and incredible scoring potential. Three of the top 25 NHL defensive scoring leaders in 2021 played for Colorado, the most of any team: Cale Makar (44 points), Sam Girard (32 points) and Devon Toews (31 points). But in a team with Nathan McKinnon, Lantanen and Gabe Landskog, how important is defensive firepower?

Unless injured, it is difficult to imagine that Avalanche will not make the playoffs. General manager Joe Sakic (Joe Sakic) should build his team for the physical fitness of the playoffs, focusing more on real defensive skills-protecting the ball, protecting the forwards, clearing the penalty area-rather than from the blue line Score.

You can’t teach size and speed

There is an old adage in sports that you cannot teach size and speed. Avalanche has many latter, but they lack the former. Those top three guards, and all the great hockey players — Markal is a once-in-a-lifetime genius, and the Avalanche team is lucky to have him — are not a particularly large group. Girard is 5 feet 10 inches tall, Makar is 5 feet 11 inches tall, and Toss is 6 feet 1 inch tall.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar in the Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

When you watch No. 1 on the hot singles chart of last season, No one on Avalanche can make the top 100. Although the enforcer style of hockey is out of date—NHL rules have evolved over the past two decades to prevent unnecessary injuries—the core of hockey is still a physical sport. Only a team with a strong defense can scorers flourish. This defense makes their presence on the ice well known.

Last year’s roster did have two influential big men on defense at the beginning of the season. Ryan Graves (6 feet 5 inches) leads all NHL players by +/- in the 2019-2020 season and is a reliable force in the defensive zone. After the Avalanche team traded Nikita Zadorov last season, this is a role that needs to be filled. (The deal was a success because Brandon Saad was the Avalanche’s second-biggest shooter in the 2021 playoffs, but Zadorov’s presence was clearly missed, especially in the playoffs. )

The other big man on the list is Eric Johnson, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall. The “Condor”, known to fans, missed four games of the 2021 season due to injury. Johnson has struggled to stay on the ice throughout his career. In the past 10 seasons, Johnson has played only 5 games and more than 60 games. If Johnson is plagued by injuries again, where does the defense go? This is more concerned with Darcy Kuemper, who is now vulnerable in the net. (After Grubauer left Seattle, Colorado traded 6-foot-2 defensive Conner Timmins to ensure the safety of Cooper. This was a necessary move, but it further weakened the impact of the avalanche defensive core. )

Sakic chose to protect Girard over Graves in the expansion draft-Graves was traded to the New Jersey Devils to extract some value from him before Seattle can demand him in the draft-this may be again Troubled by an avalanche.Sakic did Other actions, There are other players—such as 6-foot-6 rookie Keaton Middleton—have the potential to fill this gap, but they are largely untested.

The Avalanche team deserves to enter the 2021-22 season, but if they have a fatal weakness, it is their lack of experienced size and defensive ability, especially in the playoffs.

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