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Everyone’s favorite ginger Avalanche beat reporter, Adrian Dater, has a solid post about the Avs goaltending situation right now. I recommend going over to read it, mainly because I agree with it. Budaj and Anderson are playing about the same right now (their Save %’s are nearly identical, especially at ES), and it doesn’t really make sense to bench Anderson. But the Goalie position is high profile, especially when a team is losing. It’s the easiest thing to point at as a problem because a team is getting outscored. But the team is losing right now for, mainly, a simple reason: The PK is the problem, both with the goalies and the team.

And I think Dater brushed up against the underlying issue here when he said this:

But, geez, has Anderson really been that bad lately? What about the awful penalty kill in front of him and Budaj pretty much all season? Yes, his record is 1-5-1 in his last seven starts. But are you going to seriously sit here and tell me that it’s all been his fault, and that matador defender-of-late Matt Hunwick hasn’t also been guilty in some of the losses of late?

The PK especially has been the reason the Avs goaltending has looked bad.  The loss of Hannan (trade), Quincey (injury) and to a lesser extent Holøs (inexplicable benching) has created huge holes in front of both Avs goalies that other teams have exploited, especially on the PK. 

(more after the jump)

After the Avs traded for Ryan O’Byrne, the Avs had three-four top notch Penalty Killing defensemen in O’Byrne, Hannan and Quincey. Throw in a Wilson, Foote or even Liles and that’s a solid unit. In the month between O’Byrne’s  arrival (Nov. 11) and Quincey’s injury (Dec. 12)  the Avs PK hummed along at 90.9%, and never allowed more than one PP goal against in any game in that stretch. After Quincey went down (which was a game or 2 after Hannan was traded) the Avs PK has been unbearably bad.  In fact before the game against the Wings on Monday it was 73.1% over that month stretch which would be worse than any other team in the league (and it went down again with a 33% 1 for 3 PK Monday night). So yeah, with the loss of Hannan and Quincey (and to a lesser extent Holøs) the Avs have gone from having the best PK to the worst. 

Now look at the goalies. At Even strength both Budaj and Anderson have average stats. Budaj sporting a .917 Sv%, and Anderson a .918 Sv%. Compared to other goalies in the league, this is just about average. (It’s below average, but it’s in line with goaltenders like Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard, Jaroslav Halak, and Antero Nittymaki). Where the Avs goalies Save percentages really take a hit is in PK save %. Most notably Anderson, whose PK save % is a dismal .789.

That looks bad really bad on Andy until you remember: He was injured almost the entire time the Avs were icing O’Byrne, Quincey, and Hannan.

Goalies are an easy place to lay the blame when the team is struggling, and Anderson could be better, but the problem lies with the people in front of him. The Avs got a bit unlucky in that they traded their #1 shutdown guy (Hannan) away (which was a good trade, Fleishmann’s been very good) and their #2 guy (Quincey) was hurt almost immediately, leaving the Avs with a huge hole that they have been unable to fill.  The Avs lost their #1 defense pair, and ½ their #1 PK unit. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone they are struggling on the Penalty Kill. I realize that people were down on Quincey before his injury, but I argued that his defensive play was more than making up for his lack of offense. I’m not seeing anything that changes that position with him out.

This is not an absolution of the goaltending, specifically Anderson. He’s been a bit of a disapointment, and not as good as he needs to be. But blaming all the avs struggles on him  glosses over the avs biggest problems right now, which is the penalty kill. The most concerning thing, to me, is that the Avs don’t have a lot of options to fix this. Sure they could play Holøs over Hunwick (and that would help quite a bit), but they either need to trade for a #1 defenseman, which would be against the organizational philosophy of going young, or just try to ride this thing out knowing the Avs have a fatal flaw.