The Avalanche returned to the ice after the covid layoff and crafted 3 solid games in the NHL’s Round Robin. They dominated St Louis for a period then played even until a buzzer beater from Nazem Kadri got them 2 points. Dallas didn’t show up for Wednesday’s game but the Avs sure did. The final matchup with Vegas would determine the top two seeds going forward. They kept up but the usual 3v3 mayhem in overtime stung them once again. Final result is 2nd seed, right where they started, but they shook some of the rust off and stayed healthy.
The only lineup changes over the week were Matt Nieto replacing Tyson Jost after one game and Pavel Francouz taking the Dallas start while Grubi got the other two.
Burakovsky/Namestnikov – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Nichushkin – Kadri – Landeskog
Namestnikov/Burakovsky – Compher – Donskoi
Jost/Nieto – Bellemare – Calvert
Girard – Johnson
Graves – Makar
Cole – Zadorov
Scratch: Nieto/Jost, Dries, Tynan, Bowers, O’Connor, Connauton, Barberio, Timmins, Lindholm, Byram, Hutchinson
Mack’s line didn’t click with Burakovsky so Vlad Namestnikov was promoted after game 1. Tyson Jost was found lacking so he was benched for Matt Nieto, which seems to have been the staff’s desire all along, after a token try-out game. That line ended up being the 3rd line, big surprise, based on role and time. Compher’s line is sort of a repository for extra guys for spot duty in games and in case of injury. The defense stayed the same throughout but there was some interesting situational usage we didn’t see during the season.
Three games isn’t a great sample size to draw conclusions so I’ll just throw down some numbers I usually watch and compare to where Colorado was during the regular season. All these are 5v5 other than the special teams section
Unblocked shots for per hour – Reg: 43.37, RR: 44.70
Expected goals for per hour – Reg: 2.30, RR: 2.51
Goals for per hour – Reg: 2.94, RR: 1.86
Goals for per expected goal – Reg: 1.28, RR: 0.74
Shooting percentage – Reg: 9.12%, RR: 4.82%
Shooting quantity is right there and quality is better than the regular season but they didn’t finish well. All 4 of their 5v5 goals were from high-danger areas and they shot over 17% from there. Everywhere else (perimeter shots, especially from the point) they got blanked and that’s where the rust still remains.
Unblocked shots against per hour – Reg: 41.08, RR: 39.58
Expected goals against per hour – Reg: 2.16, RR: 1.85
Goals against per hour – Reg: 2.08, RR: 0.47
Goals against per expected goal – Reg: 0.97, RR: 0.25
Save percentage – Reg: 93.2%, RR: 98.4%
The Avs were masterful at suppressing quality and Grubi/Frank gave up exactly one goal all week at 5v5. Safe to say that won’t continue but seeing the system work early is a great sign. Or is it. I always worry about Jared Bednar’s system having the effect of suppressing everything, both offense and opponent offense, and how he regulates that so that the Avs offensive guys are able to produce. Having their own offense suppressed almost cost them a win vs St Louis and when they needed it vs Vegas it was still absent.
Power play percentage – Reg: 19.1%, RR: 30%
PP fenwick per hour – Reg: 69.0, RR: 87.2
PP xG per hour – Reg: 6.16, RR: 8.90
PP Goals per hour – Reg: 6.81, RR: 8.72
PP G/xG – Reg: 1.11, RR: 0.98
Penalty kill percentage – Reg: 81.4%, RR: 83.3%
PK fenwick against per hour – Reg: 72.9, RR: 61.5
PK xGA per hour – Reg: 6.69, RR: 5.71
PK Goals against per hour – Reg: 6.72, RR: 6.47
PK GA/xGA – Reg: 1.00, RR: 1.13
The power play really didn’t look good during the week but by the numbers it was a big improvement over the regular season. I did notice some different styles and tactics being tried at various times then they would go back to the usual slow, predictable style. My hope is they were trying stuff to use once the playoffs begin in earnest. The PK continued the suppression we saw at 5v5 but it didn’t help the goalies (well, didn’t help Grubi, Frank was perfect). I think the Avs special teams are going to be a mixed bag with neither being all that reliable game-to-game. That’s just the way the team works this year.
Top 6 forwards were Mack, Landy, Mikko, Kadri, then a gap down to Nichushkin and Nieto. Donskoi was low man at 7:39 per game at 5v5. By Line it went Mack’s, Kadri’s, Bellemare’s then Compher’s.
The defensive regime went Sam (15:25 per game 5v5), Graves (15:04), Makar (14:31), EJ (13:58), Cole (13:43) and Zadorov (12:46). Makar was on PP1, Sam on PP2. Graves led all D with 11:25 on the kill followed by EJ (9:01), Cole (8:10) and Big Z (4:31).
– Kadri lead the team with a goal and 3 assists while Mikko had 4 assists. Donskoi was the only player with multiple goals, he ended up 2G/1A. Mack and Burky both had 1G/2A. Girard led the D with 2 points, both assists. Graves and Makar both had a goal each. Mack led in all the shooting categories of course but Naz was right behind him.
– The top line started out with Mack, Mikko and Burakovsky in game 1, the results weren’t pleasing to the staff so they went with Namestnikov for the other two round robin games. There honestly wasn’t that much difference. What I didn’t like seeing was that St Louis and Dallas used a checking line against them and it was fairly effective. Vegas went best on best and the results were much more promising. If teams can use a grinder line to shut down Mack and Mikko it really does a number on the rest of the Avs lineup. The Kadri line was really good and he and Gabe together can do some damage on the scoresheet if they don’t have to shut down the opponent top line. The worry is anyone but Landeskog on the top line becomes a boat anchor and doesn’t allow them to shut down opponents’ toughest groups. That’s not as likely in round 1 which is why the staff have to come up with someone that can keep up before they face tougher competition.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) some were, too many were not
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) lots of both
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) not bad by the numbers but hurt the eyes often enough
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) no turtles and they really could have vs Dallas
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) this is an article in itself, both were good. I think Frank looked better but it was against the weakest opponent.
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) absolutely was not a fan of the officiating in any series. very aggressive and inconsistent and most games were poorly managed. the message was sent but now it’s time for NHL refs to call games like they’re NHL refs
The Coyotes! We went through a lot of the nuts and bolts on the podcast and it’s no secret that Arizona plays a tight checking style with little offense either way when it works. They were outshot badly by Nashville in Round 0 and cashed in on 10%+ shooting to win the series. This happened to the Preds a lot this year so credit the AZ staff for taking advantage and using a strategic trap along with tactical ones on the ice. The Avs need to watch out because they shot a lot without much finish in the round robin. Keys to the series for me are how quickly the Avs can establish their style of play rather than falling into Arizona’s. They have to break down the forecheck and counterattack and get chances in transition. I don’t see special teams being a positive, if they can play even there it’s a win.
First three games are Wednesday late afternoon, Friday early afternoon with the back-to-back on Saturday. Enjoy!
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals