“We feel like we’ve been putting out some solid effort, but it’s just not the whole package,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said after the team’s morning skate in Florida. “We have to find a way to put it all together, or at least find a way for the one part… of the game, for it to make the big difference and put us on top. That’s where we are right now. We’re going to come out hard, and we feel like this could be a big building block for our team if we get the win in this one.
“You get that first one and you get a second one and all of the sudden everybody’s feeling good, everybody’s confident. That’s a big part of the game, and that’s what we’re aiming at. We’ve just got to dig a little deeper and find that first one and then we’ll be rolling.”
When that kind of effort clicks, wins won’t be far behind.
“We’ve done some good things in our past couple games and we just haven’t, obviously, come out with a win,” center John Mitchell said. “Last game, just our special teams wasn’t there but our 5-on-5 play was pretty solid. It’s hard to take positives out of games you lose, but they are there. We’ve got to work on things that obviously hurt us.
“We just have to keep plugging away.”
For head coach Patrick Roy, who said he can see that the team is on the cusp of having its 60-minute game come together, the most important thing is not to lose focus.
“As a coach, there’s no need for me to panic or be impatient,” he said during his weekly radio appearance on The Fan Morning Show. “It’s time for me to stick with them and show them that I’m there when it’s good, but I’m also there when it’s bad. I need to be supportive of my players, and that’s what I’m doing.
“Are we playing the type of hockey we want? No. Are we having the start we want? No. Are we disappointed in our start? Yes. But at the same time, we’re not giving up. We’re positive. We believe in ourselves. We trust what we’re doing.”
Roy’s emphasis remains on playing simple offensively.
“The game doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said. “There’s times where I think we’re a little too much finesse. But there’s also times where we have good looks and we try to be too perfect with our shots.
“It’s kind of funny because we had the ex-[Colorado] Rockies in town and Lanny McDonald was there and I asked Lanny, ‘As a goalscorer, what was your thinking going to take a shot on net?’ He said, ‘I just wanted to make sure I was hitting the net. I was hitting about six inches to a foot inside of the post, and there was nights I would hit inside posts.’ I passed it on to our guys. He said, ‘You have no idea how many passes I’ve had from a goalie’s pads.’ It’s very simple, especially when things are not going your way. When it’s difficult putting [up points].
“The best way to get out of that slump is by putting pucks at the net, jamming the net, driving the net. There’s a time and place in the game where you could use some finesse and make some plays.”
With the defense keeping games close until the third period, the pressure is on the Avalanche’s offense to begin contributing enough to win, regardless of if a tally is worthy of a highlight reel or not.
“We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey the last few games, but we just need to get into those hard areas and get the rebounds and put some ugly goals in right now,” defenseman Nick Holden said. “I think the nicer ones will start coming after that. It’s definitely a little bit of a confidence thing when you’re not scoring, but I think if we keep doing the little things that we want to do and the game plan that we want to have, if we continue with that then we’ll start getting rewarded here.”
Limiting mistakes is another area of focus for Colorado, which has entered the third period of most games this with the match still within reach.
“The plan is try to be even or ahead after the first, and then use the second period as a set up period and then go in the third and say, ‘Hey, this has to be our period.’ Unfortunately for us, it hasn’t been,” the coach said. “We need a strong third period at some point just to believe in ourselves and trust ourselves that we could win those third periods.
Roy added: “I like the intensity that we have in our games. We work hard. Are we perfect? No. Are we making some game management mistakes at times? Yes we do, especially at the wrong time. When I say game management, we could take a couple bad penalties in the third period and all of the sudden it will change the momentum of the game, or they’re going to score on our PK like they did the last game. We’re going to make a bad turnover at the wrong time.
“Obviously, when you don’t score a lot of goals, you pay for that.”
Hockey, often like chess, is a game of waiting and testing and bending and not breaking. It is a sport for opportunists, for teams that take advantage of mistakes as soon as they happen. And they will happen. The trick is to rise above them, to overcome them when they do.
“Even if you’re playing real well and they score a goal on just a little breakdown or something like that, you’ve just got to try and forget about it,” Holden said. “That’s something that we kind of talked about before last game. Even if they get a goal or we get a goal, it doesn’t matter until the end of the night and the final score. So I think that’s something we’re going to focus on doing here.”
The same can be applied on a larger scale.
“It’s not as easy as you would think just to shrug off a shift or a game that you feel like you should have won that you lost and just move on to the next day. That’s just not how the human mind works, but you have to try and do that as much as you can and focus on the game in hand,” Mitchell said. “We take the positives out of our game and we watch those, and we watch the negative things too, just so we can correct them. But we certainly watch the things that we do successfully and we try and keep doing those and do them more often.”
“We’ve got to be able to just kind of put the past in the past and just be able to just kind of play one game and that’s all we’ve got to focus on,” Landeskog added. “One shift. One period. Making sure we score a couple goals and play well defensively.
“If we find a way to put ourselves in a good spot before the third period, I think that should be a big step for winning a hockey game here.”
Re-education takes practice, but it’s paramount now more than ever.
“We just need to learn how to win hockey games,” Roy said. “Right now we’ve been finding ways to lose hockey games. We need to find ways to win hockey games like we did two years ago.
“I almost want to say, ‘Hockey, it’s a game. It’s a game where you need to find pleasure [in] competing. It’s a game where you need to find pleasure [in] winning. But there’s some times where you need to put your foot on the floor and say… ‘It’s enough. It’s enough. We have to win tonight.’”