Avalanche stumbling when it matters the most

The Colorado Avalanche were the surprise of the season, as the burst
out to a great start behind the stellar play of Craig Anderson in net
and a potent offense. We kept waiting for this supposedly overachieving
team to crash back down to earth, yet all season long they’ve held onto a
top spot in the West.

Except lately the Avs have started to falter. Colorado was in perfect
position coming out of the Olympic break to challenge for a top three
seed in the West and the Northwest division crown, yet’s been nothing
but inconsistency and struggle in the five games since.

It’s what you would expect from a young team that despite it’s sudden
surge this season is still finding its way after a couple of years of
painful rebuilding. But what about this season? Is this is a team that
is going to stumble on its way into the playoffs only to lose in the
first round and exit? It would be a wholly disappointing end to a
remarkable season, yet it certainly seems they could be headed that way.

The Avalanche are 3-4-0 in their last seven games, with all four
losses against teams they are battling with for playoff positioning.
Most alarming was the way in which the Avalanche fell apart in an
extremely important home game against Vancouver, with the possibility of
tying the Northwest division leading Canucks. Instead of hanging onto
an early 4-1 lead, the Avs allowed five straight goals en route to a
disastrous 6-4 loss.

“We got away from our game,” said Avs defender
John-Michael Liles, who finished minus-2. “That’s ultimately what
allowed them to get back in it. We need to cut down on turnovers. We
were making our own chances and forcing them into some turnovers, but
we got away from that.”

It’s certainly not time to
push the panic button. The Avalanche will make the playoffs and they
still have a good shot at challenging the Canucks for the top spot in
the division. But with points at a premium and each game more important
than the last, Colorado has not taken advantage of the opportunities
they’ve been handed.

Yet it also seems as if Colorado is playing
with fire. They are last in the NHL in shots per game, and 25th in shots
allowed, yet somehow maintains a healthy goal differential. The team is
relying heavily on the play of Craig Anderson and obviously has some of
the most efficient scorers in the NHL to score like they have, but are
we seeing what happens when the good fortune they’ve enjoyed starts to
wan a bit?

There’s no doubt that the Avs can be a dangerous team
in the playoffs, with solid goaltending and young, talented players up
forward. But there’s also a good chance that either the goaltending or
scoring will give way in the playoffs and I doubt one side can overcome
the stumble of the other.

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    Johansen is a ‘little disappointed’ the Blue Jackets didn’t recognize him in return to Columbus

    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 19:  Ryan Johansen #92 of the Nashville Predators skates against Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period at Bridgestone Arena on January 19, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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    Ryan Johansen played 309 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets before a blockbuster trade to Nashville last January.

    On Sunday, he finally made his return back to Columbus as a member of the Predators. However, he did not receive any sort of tribute whatsoever from the team that originally selected him fourth overall in the 2010 draft, and that is something that apparently bothered him.

    “I am a little disappointed they didn’t put anything on the Jumbotron and say ‘thank you’ or anything like that,” Johansen told the Columbus Post-Dispatch. “I think we all know who made that call, but whatever.”

    While Johansen enjoyed some productive seasons with the Blue Jackets, his time in Columbus, particularly his final months, were dogged with contentious headlines about his contract negotiations with the club and then his working relationship with coach John Tortorella.

    Johansen, now 24 years old, has nine goals and 40 points in 58 games this season for Nashville. Currently in the final year of his three-year, $12 million contract, he’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

    Make that four straight wins for the Bruins

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    Brent Burns turned in a dominating performance. But Brad Marchand had the last laugh.

    Marchand scored his 25th goal of the season and, more importantly, the overtime winner for the Boston Bruins as they defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Sunday.

    That’s Boston’s fourth consecutive win since the controversial coaching change — which took another twist earlier in the week when the rival Montreal Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien. Off a defensive zone faceoff, Marchand bolted up the ice for the breakaway pass, on what appeared to be a set play, beating Martin Jones through the legs.

    The Bruins move back into third in the Atlantic Division, and are now only four points back of the faltering Habs for first.

    Meanwhile, the Sharks were unable to fully capitalize on another freakish Brent Burns outing. He’s been dubbed ‘an unstoppable force’ in recent posts at PHT — a defenseman possessing great size at six-foot-five-inches tall and 230 pounds, but no shortage of mobility and offensive talent with 27 goals and 64 points in 60 games. Um, and did we mention he’s a defenseman. . . ?

    Against the Bruins, he had 20 shot attempts — by far the most of any player in this game — in just over 26 minutes of ice time.

    Given the final score, that probably doesn’t mean much to Brad Marchand.

    Jacob Trouba will have a hearing for head shot on Mark Stone

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    It appears Jacob Trouba will face supplemental discipline from the NHL.

    The league’s Department of Player Safety has said in a Twitter statement that Trouba, the Winnipeg Jets defenseman, will have a hearing tomorrow for his head shot on Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone during Sunday’s game.

    Trouba was assessed only a minor penalty on the play. Stone, who dealt with a concussion prior to the beginning of the season, stayed down on the ice before he eventually made his way to the dressing room.

    The incident occurred when Trouba stepped up to throw a hit on Stone, but instead caught him in the head as he followed through, sending Stone to the ice.

    Stone was one of three Ottawa forwards to leave the game because of injuries, which are piling up for the Senators.

    Video: Drouin ‘wasn’t going to be denied’ on thrilling OT winner

    TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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    The Tampa Bay Lightning needed overtime to defeat the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, but it’s a critical win for the Bolts as they try to chase down a playoff spot.

    The hero? Jonathan Drouin, and he did so with a thrilling individual effort — making moves, then losing the puck and then immediately getting it back before he finally scored on the backhander.

    That’s his 17th goal of the season. Tampa Bay gets a 3-2 win, which keeps them five points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the East.