After the Colorado Avalanche’s 4-2 loss to the NHL-best Washington Capitals on Friday night, head coach Patrick Roy said that his team needed to be better.
That sentiment remained following practice on Saturday, and Roy elaborated on his point, talking specifically about the negative impact that turnovers have had on the club.
“We know why we’re losing,” Roy said before sharing an anecdote. “It’s kind of funny because last night, I went for a bite to eat after the game and I was watching the end of the [NBA] game between Boston and Golden State. [The Warriors] had what, 54 wins in a row at home, and their coach after the loss took the time to praise his players for what they’ve been doing for 54 games. But the first thing he said [was], ‘We had 22 turnovers and we cannot win if you turnover.’ It goes for basketball. It goes for hockey. It goes for all the sports.
“We had way too many turnovers.”
The official scoresheet from Friday’s contest credited the Capitals with 13 takeaways and the Avalanche with five giveaways, but Roy said the total was much higher than that.
“It’s a lot more than 22,” he said. “I’d say probably half of their shots are coming after turnovers.
“It’s too many, and it’s impossible—when you play against top teams like this, where their counter attack is outstanding, transition game is good, if you turnover the puck, bang. They’re gone. They’re going to have breakaways, 2-on-1’s, 3-on-2’s. They’re going to possess the puck in the O-zone. There’s moments in that game where we had the puck two times, if it’s not three times, and we could not get it out of our zone. All of the sudden, you’re watching and you’re like, ‘You’ve been in the zone for 1:30… because we gave away the puck three times.’”
Roy said he knows that turnovers are one of his squad’s major issues, but now he has to figure out a way to fix that, whether it is immediately, as Colorado still has a shot at the postseason, or simply moving forward.
“Is it a lack of talent? Is it a lack of concentration? Is it a lack of options? What is it? These are the things we might have another conversation on,” he said. “We know we have to be better there, and that’s the cause of our problem. It’s the main cause. Are we going to fix this to zero? No, there’s always going to be some. But we’ve got to cut down on those numbers big time.
“Is it too late to fix? We’ll see. All I can say to you is we’ve talked about it for a while, and we know we need to be better at it. You’ve heard me saying that many, many times. It’s not just in hockey. It’s not just in basketball. It’s not just in football. It is something that we need to be better at.”
For Roy, who has long said that he prefers to treat his players like partners in the great adventure that comes with each NHL campaign, there is a now a focus on accountability as well.
“My values are respect and trust,” he said, pondering the right way to approach the turnover conundrum. “That’s why I said yesterday [that] I was very frustrated, because I have to find a way to make our guys accountable. How I’m going to do it? I guess I’m going to have to figure it out. Is it by showing them on the clips night after night? Is it by taking them out of the power play? Is it by benching the guys? However it’s going to be, we have to find a way.
“Should I have shown those clips before? I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to affect their confidence. Sometimes if you watch clips too many times, you’re like, ‘OK, is it going to help?’ What’s the good strategy? That’s the thing I’m going to have [to figure out].”
Part of the reason that the Avs managed to pull within one goal against Washington late in the third period was due to the play of netminder Semyon Varlamov, who earned first-star honors in the loss after turning aside a blistering 43 shots.
When asked whether Varlamov was disappointed in the result, Roy admitted that he should be disappointed, though not at his individual performance.
“I really like Varly a lot because he’s a great person. He cares, and yesterday he played really well,” said Roy. “He has the success of this team at heart.”
Veteran forward Jarome Iginla mirrored that statement but confessed that the tiny bright spot was overshadowed by the overall darkness of the defeat.
“It’s hard to take the positives right now. We got outplayed by a lot. Varly played great, but they’re a very good team. There’s no question,” Iginla said. “I guess if we’re looking for a positive, it would be that we hung in there and almost came back and forced it to overtime and got an important point. But on the same side of it, for the first half of the game we got thoroughly outplayed.
“They’re a very good team. We got to see that up close. Varly played great, that’s another positive, but it’s about winning games.”
According to Roy, Varlamov will get the start on Sunday against the visiting St. Louis Blues.
One player that likely won’t be in the lineup for the Avalanche is rear guard Nikita Zadorov.
The 20-year-old Russian was on the receiving end of a questionable hit by Tom Wilson, forcing him from the game with a head injury.
“I didn’t like the hit, because to me it was a blindside hit,” Roy said of the play. “I think it was a head shot. It should have been penalized. That’s how I see it.”
When asked whether Zadorov had suffered a concussion, Roy responded, “Yes.”
NEXT UP: ST. LOUIS
While Friday’s loss delivered another critical blow to Colorado’s playoff hopes, the team still isn’t out of contention yet. The Minnesota Wild has lost back-to-back games, and while the Avalanche hasn’t taken advantage of the slowdown, the club does have a game in hand.
This makes Sunday’s match against the St. Louis Blues—on a day where the Wild faces the Winnipeg Jets—vastly important.
“We have a tough road ahead of us, but it’s still possible to make the playoffs. So that’s really where the focus is,” Iginla said. “Now it’s St. Louis. Like I said, it’s a hard road, but it is still possible. The only chance we have to do it is to focus on our games.”
There is no quit in this club, but the players need to figure out a way to win when it matters most.
“From our point of view, we’ve got to find a way. That’s what it comes down to, just to win that game. It’s not the big picture. It’s not anything else,” said Iginla. “It’s just about St. Louis and making sure that we find a way to win and be better than we were last game and better than we were last game against them.”