If you've watched the Avalanche over the last, say, 3-4 seasons, you know that the third period has basically been re-named "hold on for dear life." It's come to the point where I'd rather see the Avs tied or behind after forty minutes then in the lead. Of course, that's a bizarre statement. I want to see them ahead every single time at every single point. Still, lets see if it's as bad as I'm making it.
So far this season, games seem to be turning on what has transpired in the third. A look:
Game 1 - Chicago
After two periods, the Avs held a 3-2 advantage; however, halfway through the third, they allowed the Blackhawks to tie the game on a Patrick Sharp power play goal. Colorado took two penalties while the Blackhawks took none. The Avs would prevail in OT.
Game 2 - Philadelphia
Trailing 2-1, the Avs didn't waste any time tying the game thanks to a Milan Hejduk goal just thirty seconds into the period. Unfortunately, an almost-fluke goal by Jeff Carter followed by an empty netter made the Avs go home as losers. The Avs took two penalties (including the bizarre Anderson for diving call).
Shots: 13-9 Flyers
Game 3 - Detroit
Again, the Avs trailed entering the third (3-2) and again, Daniel Winnik did not waste time evening the score at 4:43. After allowing a shorthanded goal to Patrick Eaves just three minutes later, the Avs refused to quit and tied the game with nine minutes left. Colorado won in a shootout. Two Detroit penalties, zero for Colorado.
Shots: 14-13 Detroit
*Detroit outshot Colorado 8-1 to end the period*
Game 4 - New Jersey
Up 2-1 and then 3-1, the Avs seemed poised to finally show some killer instinct and put the Devils away. Alas, Ilya Kovalchuk made things interesting with a goal at 8:49. For the period, the Devils outshot the Avs 16-7 and absolutely deserved to win this game. Had it not been for Anderson, this would have gone down as another third period cough up. Still, Avs win 3-2. One Avalanche penalty - a fighting major to Adam Foote.
Shots: 16-7 New Jersey
Game 5 - New York Islanders
This time, the collapse happened in the second as Colorado fell behind 3-0. They battled, making it 3-1, only to fall behind 4-1, only to battle again to make it 4-2 with ten minutes to go. They couldn't capitalize, eventually allowing an empty net goal. Two Avalanche penalties.
Shots: 13-8 Colorado
Game 6 - New York Rangers
The best third period of the season by far. They built on their 1-0 lead to make it 3-0 thanks to goals that were 30 seconds apart by Winnik and Chris Stewart. One penalty taken by Colorado.
Shots: 14-13 New York
Game 7 - San Jose
Down 3-1, the Avs got back into it after a Milan Hejduk PPG. The equalizer could not be found. Three Avalanche penalties in a game that was just ridiculous.
Shots: 10-7 Colorado
When Trailing Heading Into Third: Outshot 47-40, Record of 1-3
When Leading Heading Into Third: Outshot 44-34, Record of 3-0
Obviously it's pretty early, but I think that the records here are misleading.
The Avs are getting outshot in the third period (overall) by a margin of 91-74. Yes, they're holding leads, but they're also putting much more pressure on their goaltender to do so. It's even more disturbing if you look at how they've been outshot.
In New Jersey, it was by a 16-7 margin. The Avs should have been in firm control of that game. Up 3-1, you're supposed to continue to skate hard, continue to put the puck on net, and continue to do everything that made you successful.
In Detroit, they battled to tie the score, and it looked like the final blow when Eaves scored that shorthander. But they were resilient, and thanks to David Jones, tied the score. Colorado should have had the momentum and they should have been able to build on that goal. Instead, Detroit took it to them, outshooting them 8-1.
So many of the games this year have been one-goal affairs. As we progress deeper into the season, the teams that move ahead of the pact are going to be the ones that win these one-goal games. How do they do that? They keep fighting and they show some killer instinct. If there's one thing this young Avalanche roster is lacking, it's that killer instinct.
How many empty net goals have we seen? Now compare that to how many failed clears there have been in the final minute.
This is practically the same exact group as last year but minus the dead weight that was Tucker and Svatos and Clark. There are no excuses for not being able to perform late in the game. Again, this is more about performance than it is about record. In the Western Conference, every point is crucial. Getting games into OT (at the very least) might be the key to a playoff appearance.
As it stands, Colorado is 4-3. It's too early to tell much of anything, but it's clear that this group isn't for the faint of heart. Hopefully they'll grow this season and learn how to put games away.
It'll make things a lot easier on all of us.