The Avs mid-Winter collapse continued this week, collecting 1 point in 3 games vs the Eastern Conference. Semyon Varlamov and the Islanders locked them up and threw away the key. The next night Avs were a no-show against the Rangers. On Friday they blew another 3rd period lead against Pittsburgh but did manage their only point after some late-game heroics by Cale Makar.
Still with the best goal differential in the West, Colorado’s .400 points pace over the last 10 games has allowed Dallas to pass them by. Winnipeg has been mediocre as well lately but they’re only 3 points back. Whoever fixes their shit first will have the advantage coming out of the All-Star Break.
Joonas Donskoi suffered a concussion vs the Rags which the league was fine with. As of Friday he was still in protocol. I’m quite sure how to describe the goaltending situation now. Francouz started 2 games this week, the Pitt game was the surprise since there were 2 days off before and 3 after. Here’s how the team lined up for that one:
Landy – Mack – Mikko
Burky – Kadri – Nuke
Nieto – Bellemare – Calvert
Jost – Compher – Kamenev
Sam – EJ
Graves – Makar
Big Z – Cole
Scratch: Donskoi (concussion), Barbs
Earlier in the season the Avs played with the lead a lot, most in the league in fact. This week they had the lead for only 32 minutes out of 183, most of that vs the Pens. I’ve seen a lot of people make the point that their shot metrics are good so they’re just playing well and getting unlucky or something. That’s not really the case. Metrics like CF% are very situation-dependant, and the situation is that the Avs didn’t have the lead much so they shot more. The silver lining here isn’t that they’re playing well, it’s that they can actually produce shots when they’re behind which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Shot pace at 5v5 looks slow at 116 per hour but most of that is due to opponent suppression. The Avs themselves had good pace at 66 per hour but opponents were just below 50.
Another common narrative is that they were in for a PDO regression so here we are. That’s not how that works either. A team doesn’t shoot/save at certain rates for months then crash hard over a couple weeks because of statistical measures. Over time it’s expected that shooting and save percentage will even out to something normal, like a long time, but falling off a cliff speaks to other issues. This week’s 5v5 numbers were not strong at all. Colorado’s shooting percentage was just over 5%, that’s bad. Goals per expected goal were even worse at 0.66, half of what they had been generating over the season. The goalies are catching a lot of flack for their play, which by the eye test hasn’t been great, but it’s stronger than the shooters on the other end of the rink. Save percentage was 91.3% and opponent goals per expected goal was at 1.37 so more or less opponents are doing to the Avs what they did for most of the Fall.
Special teams were their usual bland mediocrity. The power play went 1 for 8 and the PK stopped all but 1 of their 6 chances. That’s a net even. On the season special teams are a net +4 which is a little light considering they have 26 more PP opportunities than PKs. With a league average PK and power play rates commensurate with their talent level they should have maybe 5 or 6 more in the goal differential department. It’s subtle perhaps but right now that’s the difference between 2nd and 3rd place in the Central.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack (17+), Landy (16), Mikko (15+), Kadri (13), Calvert (12+) and Nuchushkin (12+). Matt Nieto was low man of those that played all 3 games at 10:41. Vlad Kamenev was given 7:52 to show his stuff in his one game.
The defensive regime at 5v5 went Sam (20), Graves (18+), Makar (18), EJ (17), Cole (13+) and Zadorov (13). Is Ryan Graves a top-pair defenseman? Sure looks like the staff think so.
I want to dig a little deeper into why Ryan Graves is getting top-pairing usage lately. For what it’s worth he’s 3rd behind Girard and Makar in all situations. He doesn’t play on the power play and is one of the better (or luckier) PK defensemen so special teams usage seems fine. If the Avs had spent a lot of this week leading rather than trailing or tied then the 5v5 TOI becomes more palatable. Part of the explanation is that he’s paired with Cale Makar and that’s why he’s out there so much. That’s fine, although I do have my doubts about that pairing in general but that’s a topic for another time. Graves and Makar played 43:50 this week together, about 14 and a half minutes a night. Graves played another 12 minutes away from Makar while Makar played a little over 7 away from Graves. So where does the time go?
As it turns out, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Makar is better at getting off the ice and keeping his shifts short, I’m guessing mostly when the bench is on the right side. Graves and EJ take shifts together after power plays like Sam and Makar often do after a penalty kill. If you want to make the case that playing Graves as often as Makar isn’t a great strategy I’ll listen but for the most part he’s just gaining some minutes here and there because he can’t get off the ice. Theory debunked.
Let’s do a little shot outcome analysis on the week, shall we. The Avs had the upper hand in most of the 5v5 shot metrics but were lacking in two key areas: shots on goal and goals in net.
Avs – 167 attempted shots
52 blocked (31%)
36 missed (22%)
79 on net (47%)
4 in the net (2.4%)
Opponents – 125 attempted shots
28 blocked (22%)
17 missed (14%)
80 on net (64%)
7 in the net (3%)
Good lord, look at all those blocked shots. Why? Easy answer is shots from the point. Half of the 52 blocked shots came from defensemen not named Cale Makar. Avs defensemen accounted for 36% of total shot attempts and 54% of shots blocked. STOP IT. Their missed shot rate was in line with the rest of the team but the blocks just killed them. This is a poor strategy and I have no idea why the staff is so into it. It’s not like this is a new thing either, last season’s collapse was marked by lots of point shots doing nothing productive. It’s dumb, lazy and reeks of playing it safe. Moving the puck into dangerous scoring areas takes work and risk, they have to get going here or it’s only going to get worse.
Quick note on the one power play goal they scored, it was a beauty low-to-high play they never use for some reason. They should do that a lot more. It’ll pay off, I promise.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) nah
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) quantity fine if you like score effects
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) the one goal was nice, the rest…
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) no wins, no turtle!
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (-) strap in, it’s goalie blaming season
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) Donskoi’s concussion happened on a sort of gray area hit, at least in real time. It was a pick and major head contact that really wasn’t intentional, I get that. I also get that it’s hard for DOPS to punish for something that was neither careless nor malicious but there has to be a little more consequence for good plays gone bad if they injure someone like that.
Tuesday vs Dallas, then every other night against San Jose, St Louis and detroit before an 11 day break.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals