Is the Colorado Avalanche honeymoon over?

The Colorado Avalanche are hitting their first bump in what’s been an incredibly smooth ride: Three straight losses to the Carolina Hurricanes, the St. Louis Blues ( a blowout) and a stunner at home to the moribund Florida Panthers.

The previously impenetrable goaltending hasn’t been that in these games. They lost the special teams battles in two of the three games. Alex Tanguay is out indefinitely with a knee injury; Matt Duchene injured his oblique in the third period; and hopefully that doesn’t do anything to derail what’s arguably been a Hart-worthy season so far.

One symptom of the Avs’ struggles: Their starts. Before the skid, the Avs were outscoring teams 16-6 in the first period; they gave up the first goal to Florida and Carolina in the first and were held scoreless. For the first two periods before the skid, the Avalanche were outscoring opponents 36-17. In those three games, they were outscored 10-3 in the first two.

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post diagnosed the loss to Florida thusly:

The penalty killing was bad last night and has been the last two games. The play in front of the net has been soft, with opponents just having too much time and space with the puck.

More Dater:

… Lots of really boring neutral-zone play. The Avs of the early season acted and reacted quickly in neutral zone (the space between one blue line to the other). Tonight, the neutral zone just seemed to be a giant tiddly-wink cup that Avs forwards/defensemen hoped to chip the puck into to get some breathing room from the withering pressure in their own end. The neutral zone wasn’t neutral at all: it was in favor of the Panthers all night.

As Dater notes: a 14-5-0 record means we’re still in the honeymoon period for Patrick Roy and the Avs. And adversity is healthy for this team, and for management, that’s no doubt still sussing out which players are Roy players and which ones they still might move as the season continues – especially on the blue line.

It’s a 3-game losing streak, extended to four of six if you track it back to their loss to Nashville. It’s not a disaster, they honeymoon isn’t over; but with two key injuries up front and with Chicago, at Phoenix, at Los Angeles, St. Louis and then a home-and-home with the Wild coming up, this is Patrick Roy’s first key test as head coach.