Consistency is a work in progress, but bouncing back is something the Colorado Avalanche have shown they can do.
The team returned home Thursday for a critical nine-game homestand. Twenty games into a 56-game schedule, coach Jared Bednar said, “I feel like we’re still sort of finding ourselves.”
In the books is a 3-1 road trip, which saw two wins over the Coyotes, then a collapse in San Jose followed by an answer Wednesday.
“We wanted to come back and really make sure we responded,” forward Gabriel Landeskog said. “Tonight I really think we showed some of our best.
“I think overall we’re happy with the way the team’s playing.”
A 4-0 win over the Sharks was its own kind of response, to a 6-2 meltdown Monday. But the Avalanche also answered immediately — on the scoresheet, at least — when Joachim Blichfeld knocked their star player, Nathan MacKinnon, from the game with a high hit. Landeskog scored almost as soon as the shoving and review concluded.
The penalty kill went 9 for 10 on the road swing and continues to be the best in the league (88.9%). The power play connected in each game.
“We still feel like we have another gear on the power play, but it’ll come,” Landeskog said.
Landeskog has goals in three straight after going 10 without. Like Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen had a four-point night Wednesday. The defense, which is patched and called up at the moment without Erik Johnson, Bo Byram or Cale Makar available, has done its job.
They’ve dropped consecutive games once this season. When the Avalanche have lost lately, they’ve fallen hard. Their three most recent defeats were by three or more goals.
Bednar said it’s about not giving into self-pity, and stopping the bleeding.
“That should be a pride thing for our team,” the coach said.
Bednar pointed to the fact that Colorado’s 12-7-1 record is just an overtime loss away from the same point last season.
“We’re trying to find a way to work through it,” Bednar said of injury and COVID-19 adversity. “It’s not perfect every night, but we’re getting to the point where we’re learning what this team has to do to win hockey games.
“At the end of the day, we’re a real mediocre team if we don’t go out and outwork our opponent. If we try to skill our way through games, we’re a mediocre team. If we go out and work the way we can work — I have a lot of faith in our guys and I believe we’re gonna win more than our share of hockey games.”
Note: San Jose forward Blichfeld was suspended for two games without pay for an illegal check to MacKinnon’s head Wednesday, the NHL announced. Blichfeld received a game penalty and MacKinnon went to the locker room. Based on his average annual salary, Blichfeld will forfeit $12,701.14. It was the 22-year-old’s fourth career game and first of the season.