The Coyotes are playing as billed and giving the Avs a rough time, although not in a particularly dangerous fashion. Darcy Kuemper has been the MVP of the series so far and yet only has one win to show for it. Jared Bednar is normally a master of the game plan but we still have more questions than answers on how to effectively control this series.
Tyson Jost was a healthy scratch in Game 1 but worked into Games 2 & 3 due to some unfitness to play. Joonas Donskoi missed Game 2 due to unfitness. Vlad Namestnikov was knocked out by Mack midway through the second game and did not return nor did he start in the third. Pavel Francouz started the back half of the b2b in Game 3 while Grubi got the first two starts.
The only consistent forward line has been the vet trio of Nieto, Bellemare and Calvert. With Namestnikov’s injury Gabe Landeskog returned full time to the top line with Mack & Mikko. The middle 6 has been fluid and JB remarked after the Game 3 loss that he’s searching for something that works. More on that later.
The D-pairs have largely remained as usual with Sam/EJ, Graves/Makar and Cole/Z but there has been more situational mixing than during the regular season. Part of that is because none of the 6 have shown consistency game-in game-out yet.
Scratch: Jost (G1), O’Connor, Dries, Tynan, Bowers, Connauton, Barberio, Timmins, Lindholm, Byram, Hutchinson
Injured: Donskoi (G2), Namestnikov (G3)
The Avs have the shot quantity battle well in hand but they aren’t generating much quality. In he chart below you can see a divergence between quantity and quality that opened up a bit in Game 1, got back to par in Game 2 and then widened massively in the Game 3 loss.
What’s troubling is that Arizona has been improving game by game on generating quality per shot and also after game 1 started finishing off their quality chances.
xG per unblocked shot attempt – G1: 0.035, G2: 0.044, G3: 0.087
Goals per xG – G1: 0.00, G2: 1.51, G3: 1.01
I think the latter area is just some random shooting luck but the former shows that they are making progress offensively that the Avs aren’t countering. They need to get right on that because this series should be all about Colorado’s offense vs the Arizona defense. Allowing the Yotes offense to start being a factor isn’t someplace we want to go.
Like we saw in the round robin games, the Avs are finishing their high-danger chances well but the point-perimeter stuff isn’t dropping at all
The Avs have attempted 25 high-danger shots which have turned into 4 goals. In the other 157 shots attempted they have just 2 goals. These are attempts so this isn’t classic shooting percentage but it shows that there is a lot of unproductive offense happening out there. Mucho trabajo, poquito dinero. Most of that is the Coyotes ability to clog up the high-danger zone and force the Avs into poor shot selection. What the Avs are lacking is a way to create space and there’s really no one behind the bench that knows how to do that. Colorado relies on speed to create space and that hasn’t been a factor yet. Plan B is to take shots from far away and go for deflections and second chances and so far Kuemper has been shutting those down.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 have been Mack (15:45), Mikko (14:04), Landy (14:01), Kadri (11:28), Compher (11:25) and Nuke (10:50). Jost has the lowest average at 9:33 in two games, Bellemare is the lowest of those that played all three at 9:53.
The defensive regime at 5v5 has been Sam (17+), Makar (17), EJ (16), Graves (15+), Cole (13+) and Big Z (13). Makar and Sam have run the first and second PP units respectively. Graves & EJ have taken the most PK time, Cole is a distant 3rd at about half of Graves PKTOI and Z gets about one PK shift per game.
Mack leads the team in scoring with a goal and 3 assists. Mikko and Burky have 2 goals each, Kadri and Compher have 1/1 each and Gabe has 2 assists. Makar leads the D with 3 assists, Sam and EJ have an assist each. 7 players have no points through 3 games, so much for depth.
When Mack inadvertently destroyed Namestnikov midway through Friday’s game the staff’s solution was to put Gabe back on the top line. It’s not the worst idea but I question the effectiveness. This strands Kadri, who was by far the best Avs player in Game 1, without talent to play off of. He has struggled since with a collage of middle 6ers. The Avs are a top-heavy one-line team with this setup and it makes them much easier to defend. I’m not knocking the middle 6 forwards here as much as pointing out that they need help to be effective. Kadri is a really good 2nd line center but he’s a shooter not a facilitator so without talent around him it makes life tough. Kadri with Gabe have an xGF% of 63.67 together, Kadri without Gabe sits at 43.94 during this playoff run. That’s a big loss. Gabe without Kadri is at 54.47 so this isn’t a parasitical situation. They play well together and the team plays well when they’re together. Mack and Gabe are at 55.31 xGF% together and Mack is at 61.2% without Gabe so putting them together possibly creates some redundancy. Bottom line, the Avs need two effective lines and going top-heavy hurts that. I’m not going to go through all the possible combos but the staff really need to consider putting Gabe and Kadri back together and figuring the rest out from there. I don’t think it’s a huge problem in this series but it’s not getting any easier in the higher rounds either.
Finally I want to give a shoutout to Tyson Jost who sat and watched his first Avs playoff game while in the stands healthy on Wednesday. He came back and scored a big goal on Friday and has been one of the better depth guys since. I don’t think there were 12 more effective forwards when he was scratched and I hope it doesn’t happen again.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) this is tough to evaluate but I think so
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) quality is lagging but quantity is off the charts
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) it’s been refreshing not to hate the PP to be honest
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) none so far
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) Grubi’s had one good game where he saw 14 shots then a sort of bad one. Frank was good in his start. I still think you can win with either.
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) Not great but watching other series I think we got a decent crew all things considered.
Series continues Monday and Wednesday and hopefully no further
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals