22 April 2010
Stats junkies, like Behind the Net, have said that the Avs propensity for being outshot, especially at even strength and with the score tied, is a fatal flaw of the Avs that will come back to bite them in the ass. Well they have been right. The Sharks are really taking advantage of that flaw, to the tune of outshooting the Avs 5,000,000 - 35 at even strength this series (ok it's actually 327-165 I might be a little off, that's just how it's felt). Not surprisingly the Avs are 1-3 in those games and the only win is thanks to a gargantuan effort by Craig Anderson in net and one of the flukiest goals you'll ever see. Also in those 4 games the Avs have exactly 5 Even strength goals.. all in game 2. They have 0 even strength goals in the last 3 games. Quite simply the Avs are being absolutely dominated.
So the question is, why do the Avs give up so many more shots than they take? Avs fans who have watched games this season have taken some umbrage to the idea that it's the skill at the forward position. Now that's certainly a problem for the Avs, as they are missing Milan Hejduk, Peter Mueller and David Jones. Three of the Avs better players. But it can't all be injuries either, and it's happened all season. Personally I think it's the defense, and the inability to make passes through the neutral zone.
More after the jump
The biggest reason, as far as I can see, for the avs being so thoroughly out shot in this series is that they can't even get the puck past their own blue line. And when they do they can't get it to the red line to even dump it deep. When they are able to dump it deep, they are so damn tired from trying to get it there that they change lines and can't establish a forecheck.
And that all comes from the inability to generate an attack from their own end once they have possession of the puck. It's time to give the Sharks scouting staff and coaches credit for recognizing that the Avs have a very poor passing defense, and exploiting it to the maximum. The sharks have pinched two guys down low for the Avs breakout taking away both of the defensemen's passing options, and daring the Avs to make a long pass. The Avs only have one or two players who can make that pass: John Liles and Kyle Quincy (not coincidentally, Liles has had an good series). And Liles isn't good enough defensively to actually take the puck and start a break out all that often. Cumiskey looks terrified to use his speed to break out of this, and Hannan, Foote, Salei, and Wilson just aren't good enough passers to deal with it. Hannan has looked especially bad, but none of these guys are up to the task of getting the puck out.
Once the Avs finally get set up in the Sharks zone, they are creating scoring chances, it's just that getting there has been a huge challenge all series. The Avs absolutely have to deal with this in the off-season. the good thing about the sharks is that this flaw has been exposed, and just in time for it to be fixed. The offense has problems too, but they are young and will conceivably get better. The defense, however, needs to be able to get pucks out of the zone, and to their own players.
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