SUNRISE, Fla.--The Colorado Avalanche is a work in progress.
There are ups and there are downs with the club. Games that are lopsided one way are suddenly tilted the other the next night. That's how it went on the club's four-game road swing on the East Coast.
The Avs were steady and meticulous at the Pittsburgh Penguins and then sloppy and disconnected the following evening at the Washington Capitals. Colorado was dominant and near-perfect at the Tampa Bay Lightning and out of sorts to close out the trek at the Florida Panthers.
If anything, the Avalanche's 5-2 loss to Florida on Saturday night was proof that consistency is an area of improvement for the club entering a five-day stretch without a single contest.
"We're a work in progress," head coach Jared Bednar said after the contest. "We've shown some potential to be a dangerous team. We're building in the right direction. There is a little bit of inconsistency there right now, but I'm sure that's the way with every team at this point in the year."
After a first period that saw the Avs leading the game, things began to unravel. Mistakes were made, errors committed and slowly the Panthers began to take over.
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar on loss to Panthers
"A little bit of a roller coaster for us I think. I liked the way it started. I liked the first period, but we were unable to sustain it though," said Bednar. "I didn't think we managed the puck very well in the second and third. We made a few lazy habits that just came back to bite us in puck decisions, indecisions without the puck, and they capitalized. They're a fast team. They play fast. I thought we were right with them in the first period, but like I said, we just couldn't keep it going for a full 60."
According to defenseman Nikita Zadorov, deficiencies in the neutral zone proved costly in the battle for possession.
"It was a little sloppy in the second period," he said. "For us, we gave away the neutral zone pretty hard. It's tough to play like that."
The Avalanche now returns home with a 2-2 record on the trip, having gained four of a possible eight points. The club sits third in the Central Division with a 3-2-0 record after exactly one week of action.
"It's a step in the right direction. I liked some of the things we did on the road trip. I didn't like others," Bednar said. "We get a split on the road. Would have liked to get greedy and steal tonight's game, but it didn't happen. We'll take what we got. We earned a couple big victories on it, and now we get to go home for a little bit of a rest. That's five games in eight nights for us, so it was work for us for sure tonight. We get a little rest and get ready for next weekend."
Video: Gabe Landeskog talks about game in Florida
The Avs now have five days to work on areas of improvement ahead of Friday's home contest against the Winnipeg Jets (2-2-0), and that's time that captain Gabriel Landeskog said will be put to good use.
"I think in Tampa we set a new standard on how we want to play, and we didn't maintain that level tonight. Now we have five days to really regroup and think about what we can do to be better, and we'll definitely do that," he said. "We'll definitely watch some tape and see what we can do better. Obviously our transition game from our zone into our forecheck, and then our offensive-zone time as well, how to create more scoring chances that way. I think our PK… was good tonight. Our power play wasn't."
DUCHENE SKATES IN 500TH GAME
Although the result was nowhere near what he would have preferred, Avalanche forward Matt Duchene still accomplished something great on Saturday night at BB&T Center. The 25-year-old became just the fourth player drafted by Colorado to skate in 500 games in an Avalanche sweater and the third NHL player from the 2009 draft class to accomplish the feat.
An eight-year veteran of the league, Duchene admitted that the occasion caught him by surprise prior to the game.
"I didn't even think about it until you said that," he said following morning skate in Florida. "It feels like it's gone by quick. Some days you wake up, you feel like you're still a rookie, still 18 years old, and other days you feel like you've been around 500 games, I guess. Pretty cool. Hopefully the next 500 are even better than the first."
Video: Matt Duchene talks about playing in game No. 500
Although the Avs lost a game they desired to win, Duchene continued to show why he's successful at the top tier of the sport. He had his second multiple-point effort in as many games, following up his three-point (two goals, one assist) performance at Tampa with a goal and an assist at Florida.
He finished the match with five shots on goal in 18:33 of ice time, continuing to play a crucial role on his team despite the league admittedly becoming faster and harder to score in.
"The game has changed a lot. There were still some older, bigger, slower guys when I first started," Duchene said. "A little bit more fighting, heavy weights, things like that. Now, the speed of the game is fastest it's ever been. It's harder than ever to produce offense and you got to make sure that you're coming into the season in shape and staying in good shape. It's a tough game now."
Duchene now has 382 points (159 goals, 223 assists) in 500 contests.
The 2016-17 campaign may still be young, both for the team and head coach Jared Bednar, but that hasn't stopped them from exercising their right to video review.
Colorado's bench manager has now twice used a coach's challenge to question the legitimacy of a goal against, and both times he's found himself in the right.
The first examination came in Pittsburgh in the Avalanche's second game overall and first on the current road swing. Goaltender Calvin Pickard claimed he was interfered with by Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and video review confirmed as much. The goal was overturned.
The second came on Saturday night, hardly a second after the whistle blew on an apparent Jason Demers tally from the blue line. Bednar told the officials that he wanted a second look before the crowd was halfway through cheering, and before they knew it, the play had been rescinded due to an errant player who was offside.
For a head coach that preaches attention to detail, not much gets by Bednar and his staff.
The Avalanche was 3-for-7 last year in having previous calls changed. Only one of those decisions resulted in a goal being reversed.