Twice this season the Avs have been cruising along and a meeting with St Louis has derailed them for a time. In late October a 3-1 loss threw them into a 1-5-1 spin that lasted until they destroyed Nashville on November 7th. Once again, in mid-December a disheartening 5-2 loss put them on a losing track, going 2-5-1 in the eight games after. Solution: Don’t play St Louis. Well, we can’t do that so the next best thing is to make some changes and finally defeat them.
The Avs coaching staff has been less stubborn than a year ago when we saw a much longer and dangerous slide. Publicly the focus has been on fixing the power play, a lost cause in my opinion, and some of the lineup not playing up to their potential, which I look at as a symptom rather than a cause in most cases.
This week we had a game where the process was fantastic at times and atrocious at others in a 7-4 loss to Winnipeg, a wonderful slaying of demons vs St Louis in a 7-3 win and a mediocre showing in New Jersey where they out-talented the Devils 5-2 but showed a lot of old habits.
The lineup was steady this week other than Vlad Kamenev getting a start Saturday because Val Nichushkin was under the weather. The lines and pairs continued to be a work in progress as the staff searched for chemistry and signs that struggling players were on the rise. Grubi started all 3 games and we ended up with this:
Landy – Mack – Donskoi
Burky – Compher – Mikko
Calvert – Kadri – Nieto
Jost – Bellemare – Kamenev
Sam – EJ
Graves – Makar
Big Z – Cole
Scratch: Nichushkin (sick), Barberio
The Avalanche dominated shot share this week with metrics around 60% and above in everything from attempts to expected goals at 5v5. Shots on goal in all situations were 119-83 so safe to say they dominated play all week. Shooting percentage was pretty sane at 9.4% and goals per expected goal was 1.25 so this wasn’t a luck bender. Save percentage at 5v5 was ok at 92.1% and a G/xG of 1.34 but overall it was only 87.6% with a goalie in the nets. Game pace at 5v5 was a plodding 111 attempts per hour but that’s mainly because the opponents never had the puck. Very good week for suppression.
The Avs averaged 3 goals per game at 5v5 this week while giving up less than 2. Power play scored 5 (1 at 5v3) and gave up 1 in 12 chances. That’s a big improvement for sure but Saturday’s game vs NJD looked like business as usual going 0-for-2 while giving up the shortie. The PK was weak, killing off only 4 of 7, one of those was against a 6-man attack though, but did have a shortie of their own. Special teams were a net +2 for the week, which I would call progress.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Landy (15), Mack (14+), Donskoi (14+), Kadri (13+), Calvert (13) and Nuke (13, in two games). Jost was low man averaging 9:07 per game.
The defensive regime went Graves (18), Sam (18), Makar (16+), EJ (16+), Cole (15) and Z (15). The pairs bounced around a little this week but it looks like the staff want Sam & EJ back together with Graves & Makar taking 2nd pair duty.
Your scoring stars of the week were Mack and Sam Girard with 8 points each (that’s half the Avs goals), Mikko with 4 goals and Kadri with 3 goals 5v5.
Mikko Rantanen’s voyage through the lineup this week was interesting to say the least. He’s struggled since returning from injury and was a major drag on the top line. He bounced back and forth in the middle 6 before getting a few shifts with the reformed 3-Headed Monster in the Jersey game. Over the week as a whole he was deployed as such:
Burakovsky – 20:25 – mainly vs WPG, some vs NJD, +30/-13
Compher – 18:13 – STL/NJD, +20/-13
Kadri – 15:36 – almost all vs WPG, +20/-12
Nieto – 10:52 – all vs STL, +8/-11
Landy (3:53, +6/-1) & Mack (3:35, +7/-2) – spread out but over half vs NJD
His poorest showing on the shot board was with Compher and Nieto vs St Louis where they were the weakest line. Other than that he was very strong vs Winnipeg and Jersey. It’s really important for the Avs to have Mikko playing up to par, the hat trick on Saturday is a good sign. Now the question is what to do with the lines going forward. Do they go back to top-heavy with the 3HM or can the staff figure out a way to leverage talent by splitting them up.
I’m not sure how to feel about Philip Grubauer’s week. He was ok at 5v5 I guess. The penalty kill was a mess but it’s tough to say how much of that is his play. Getting 2 wins is the big thing and he definitely wasn’t the cause of the loss but other than the staff choosing him to play all 3 games there wasn’t anything that signaled he solidified his job as the starter. I’m not implying that Francouz should have played in one of the games but just that the gap between the two remains fairly small.
So what got into Sam Girard this week? Whatever it is, I love it. He raised his point total by 57%, shot attempt total by 15%, SOG total by 12% and expected goal total by 5%. 8 total assists including 4 against St Louis and anecdotally he was more physical than usual. Reunited with EJ, they were a combined +63/-29 in 5v5 shot attempts in 3 games. So that’s working again too, which is nice.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) finally, yes
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) plenty of both
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) a nice change, until the Devs game
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) none this week, no blown leads either. weird
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) Grubi was ok
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) other than the NJD game, which was just weird, the stripes were on the Avs side most of the week
New York games vs the Rangers and Islanders then back home to face the Pens on Friday night.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals