The storylines of the past month or so are boiling down to a few concrete ideas: The continued ineffectiveness of the Avs special teams, the disappearance of the top 2 lines and recently, the inability to hold a lead late in games. All 3 are important. The final one is the most obvious because it’s a result issue while the other two are more about process.
Avs fans are sensitive to the result issues because we’ve been hurt before. The team has a history of collapsing after strong starts going back far before Jared Bednar was hired, it’s part of the identity of the franchise in the Teens. Are the Avs in trouble? Not really. Despite a lacklustre 2-4-1 record over the past two weeks they have 50 points in 39 games, two short of halfway, and sit 2nd in the Central Division with a 4 point lead on 3rd and a 7 point lead on the first team that could conceivably knock them out of a playoff spot. The tide has ebbed but they aren’t in much danger.
Cale Makar re-joined the team after the Christmas break leaving only Colin Wilson on the injured list. Anton Lindholm was sent back to the Eagles so the roster is made up entirely of players that have been there all season.
Landy – Mack – Mikko
Burky – Kadri – Donskoi
Nuke – PEB – Calvert
Nieto – Jost – Compher
Big Z – Sam
Cole – EJ
Graves – Makar
Scratch: Kamenev, Barbs
The forward lines have been pretty set for a while now. The defensive pairings are fluid and change often. Grubi got the vote of confidence as the starter from JB but Frank had the only win this week.
The Avs won the shot battle in all 3 games, which is good to see since we had the variety of a blowout win and then blown 3rd period leads in the other two games leading to a loss and a tie in regulation. They controlled unblocked shot attempts at 5v5 to the tune of 55% and expected goals at 53.6%. After a dip last week their G/xG was at 1.47 with a shooting percentage of 10%, not bad. On the defensive side GA/xGA was at 1.38 and Sv% at .900, which is not good. The usual goalie blaming is going around but it’s uncanny how poorly goalies fare when the team in front turns the puck over constantly, has difficulty clearing the zone and generally plays chaotically. Game pace for the week at 5v5 was a standard 121 per hour.
The power play got 2 in the blowout win at Vegas but was blanked otherwise, including a crucial 5v3 last night vs Dallas. The averaged exactly one shot on goal per PP chance this month, which isn’t enough. At some point I’ll go back through when and against whom they score their PP goals but the feeling I get is that it’s similar to last season when they cleaned up vs weak teams and in blowouts while doing zilch in close games. The PK wasn’t good either with 2 goals against, including the Stars tying score last night which sent the game to OT. They did get a shortie vs the Knights so on paper special teams were a net +1 on the week.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack (17), Mikko (16+), Landy (16), Kadri (14), Donskoi (12+) and Burky (11+). The 4th line guys (Jost/Nieto/Compher) all averaged less than 10 minutes but not by a lot.
The defensive regime at 5v5 went Makar (19, in two games), EJ (18+), Graves (17+), Sam (17), Big Z (14+), Cole (14+) and Anton Lindholm with 11:15 in the one game he started. The usage here doesn’t correspond well with any of the pairings, mainly because they changed each game, further evidence of the d-corps being a little bit in flux right now.
While the Avs have struggled through the last 7 games, the top 6 has been one of the main factors. Everyone’s been healthy in that stretch and for most of it the lines have been pretty set. Other than Matt Calvert playing a few seconds more than Joonas Donskoi, TOI reflects the top 6/bottom 6 split. Starting with goals, none of the top 6 appear in the top 6 in on-ice goals for per hour at 5v5. Out of the 14 goals the Avs scored at 5v5, Mack and Kadri had 2 each, Landy and Burky 1 each. Three goals per line in a 7-game stretch, that’s a little weak. Defensively, both lines have been fairly average at suppressing shots and quality but there’s a big disconnect when we look at goals per expected goal and on-ice save percentage:
Mack – 1.73 GA/xGA, .877 Sv%
Landy – 1.53, .898
Mikko – 1.84, .867
Kadri – 0.86, .943
Burky – 0.96, .927
Donskoi – 0.70, .960
Team – 1.24, .909
So your eyes aren’t deceiving you, bad things are happening quite often when the 3HM is on the ice. We saw the staff try to ameliorate this at the start of the Dallas game by using the Bellemare line vs the Stars top line and they immediately got scored on. That’s not going to work. It’s up to the staff to either get the 3HM a little better defensively or split it up (my vote!) until everyone’s a little more comfortable doing their jobs in the d-zone. In all fairness the defensemen play into this and some goalie luck as well but this is too strong a signal to ignore.
Now some of this plays into the 5 games out of the last 7 the Avs have had a lead later in the game and blown it.
St Louis – Careless penalty on Kadri for a double minor, 2 goals against on the resulting PK and 4 straight for STL
Carolina – Sitting on lead late doesn’t work out with 3 goals against in final 2:56
Chicago – Hawks score 4 straight in the 3rd to win 5-3, Mikko/Landy on for 3 of those
Minnesota – Top line on for tying goal with less than 10 to go, 3 straight goals in 3rd for Minny
Dallas – Unfortunate first NHL penalty for Makar lets Stars tie on PP in 3rd period
It’s a mixed bag of issues here, penalties, turtles, bad defense, bad goaltending and what have you. I’m more concerned that the Avs can’t get back into these and did not score a single goal after losing the leads. The symptoms are obvious but the diagnosis is tough. Is this a psychological thing? Do they not have the offensive tools to do what they need to when the score is against them? Is there something the staff isn’t doing to prepare them for these situations? I honestly don’t know but it needs fixing pronto.
There’s little point in harping on special teams play anymore, other than to point out it’s a major weakness. The power play is near the bottom of the league for December in any category you could think of. They’ve scored 6 goals in 40 chances, which is better than the 0 they had last January/February in a similar number, but nowhere near good enough. I guess the arrogance of thinking this would fix itself without a coaching change over the summer aggravates me the most. There’s so much talent on the roster now and some of it gets wasted because of incompetence. It’s infuriating. The PK is actually good most of the time after some rough stretches earlier in the season. It was responsible for giving up 2 leads in the STL & DAL games though, so it’s not beyond some criticism.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) nope
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (-) a little slow on both
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) nice try on that 5v3 tho
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (-) much turtle
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (-) please help these fellows out
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) Ok, so Kadri is a known diver but how he got an embellishment penalty while Ryan Hartman tackled and sat on him is ridiculous.
Winnipeg on New Years Eve, then St Louis and the Devs to close out the week.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals