First off, sorry for jinxing the Avs powerplay with yesterday's post. That's an egregious mistake on my part, and I know that any one thing could sink the Avs fragile improvement, yet I fired that torpedo anyways. So that's my mistake. Jeff Finger is taking a lot of the heat today, and deservedly so he hasn't played particularly well over the last three games and he made a bad mistake last night that cost the game even if the puck did bounce funny off the boards, but if we're going to point fingers (see what I did there) let's point them at the biggest goats in this series so far: Paul Stastny, Tyler Arnason, and Joel Quenneville.
Stastny has been simply awful in the first three games of this series, and he topped it off last night with an inexcusable pass that directly lead to thw Wild's go-ahead goal. Awful. He needs to be better, end of story.
As bad as Stastny has been, Tyler Arnason has given more fodder to all of us fans who have been calling for his benching since November. Since the Trade deadline, that's 22 games (more than 1/4 of the season to put it in perspective), Tyler Arnason has exactly 4 points- 2G & 2A. Even better 3 of those four points are against Edmonton. That's .182 points per game over 1/4 of the season (and a truly dismal .05 against non-Edmonton opponents). Just to put that in perspective .18 is Cody McLeod's PPG on the season, and it ranks well behind such offensive Stalwarts as Adam Foote, Scott Hannan and Ian LaPerriere. (And in case you're wondering, Brad Richardson is at .23 PPG, and Jaroslav Hlinka is at .44PPG, The only Avs worse than .05: Scott PArker and Johnny Boychuk. That's some exclusive company Arnason is keeping there). In 11 games against the Wild this season Arnason has 1 goal and 1 assist (and is -2). That's good for .09 PPG against the Wild this season.
Quite Frankly, Tyler Arnason shouldn't even be on the ice anymore. His benching is long overdue. Yet Joel Quenneville has stubbornly sticks with his man Arnason while a perfectly good center (who has .44PPG this season and plays defense and PK's) sits in the luxury box. Hlinka isn't the only banished to purgatory in the playoffs. As a reward for being one of the best Avs on the ice through 3 games (and having 3 assists in the playoffs) Wojtek Wolski was also banished to purgatory in the playoffs... well on a line centered by the aforementioned Arnason, which is close enough to purgatory.
I know Quenneville is trying to rewards Ryan Smyth for his outstanding play over the first three games of the series by getting him on one of the top 2 lines, but dropping Wolski off of them isn't accomplishing much. But the personnel moves haven't even been his biggest folly of the playoffs
On February 21st, in a fit of frustration, I decided I have had enough of the "Let's sit on this tiny lead and hope we can luck into either an OT point"strategy that the Avs seemed to have had all season. There is nothing more frustrating that to watch a team take the slimmest of leads and then decide to go into Hockey's version of the "Prevent" defense that football teams have been using to blow games since I was a kid.
So I decided to look at the Avs GAA and Goal For Average (GFA) in the 3rd period when leading by 1 or 2 goals. These are the results for the entire season, and playoffs.
|Mar ||6 ||0 ||68.08 ||1.13 ||2 ||3.03 ||0.00 |
You'll notice that when the Avs were struggling the most was in January and February, when they decided to sit on leads, and then get scored upon. You'll also notice that the Avs are doing it again, playing tentatively and trying to sit on the leads. But don't take my word for it here's what Peter Forsberg said after the Avs blew their third consecutive lead (via Denver Post):
I think we sat back a little too much in the third period, We were a little tentative.
We have already learned that the Avs are better attacking the net when they have a lead, not sitting back in their own zone playing dump and sort-of chase, yet they continue to try and employ the same strategy that has been the biggest detriment to their season, outside the pitiful powerplay.