12 games into the 82-game NHL regular season, the Colorado Avalanche have provided their fans with an entire spectrum of emotions. Thus far, the team has been blown-out, shut out, won a nail-biting last-second game, erupted for a 7 goal game, lost in overtime, lost in a shootout, and steamrolled an opponent themselves.
With a gamut of different results from game to game, fans may be wondering; is consistency the problem? How can a team lose 0-5 and 0-3 in consecutive games and then “go off” in wins by scores of 7-3 and 5-0? Is it just going to take time for the numerous new additions to play cohesively with the nucleus that the team has committed itself to build around? On an even more positive viewpoint, could Colorado just be a sleeping giant, slow to awake from the hibernation of the off-season, now ready to feed its hunger for wins?
Time will tell, though it really could be any combination of the three aforementioned circumstances. Yes, it’s been a bit of a slow start in terms of accumulating points in the standings, but one thing is absolutely certain: lack of talent is not an issue; which brings us to the team’s strengths:
SPEED: Colorado has showcased it’s speed with the lightning fast skating of youngsters like Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. And the impressive quick stickhandling moves that Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay have in their skill sets, to go along with Semyon Varlamov’s uncanny ability to get back in front of the posts when in a scrambling situation makes Colorado one of the quickest and fastest teams within the NHL. Over the course of the long season, speed is going to be one of this team’s secret weapons and it will definitely come in handy when opponents travel to play in the Mile High air.
PENALTY KILL: At this early point in the season, the Avalanche boast a spectacular penalty kill unit, having killed off 91 percent of their adversary’s power plays. That is the second most effective penalty kill in the league, trailing only the Detroit Red Wings. Colorado has accumulated more penalty minutes than any other team in the league, and if they’re going to continue to serve time in the penalty box, the team’s strong penalty kill is much needed.
GOALTENDING: Starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov and backup goaltender Reto Berra sport save percentages of .935 and .932 respectively. Those are both among the highest in the league, and with the amount of shots the goalies are having to face night in and night out, strong play between the pipes is crucial to the team’s success. When Varlamov did have to sit out a few games due to injury, Reto Berra played very well in 4 games, stopping 69 of 74 shots fired at the net he defended.
In spite of all their strengths, the first leg of the season hasn’t been all fun for the boys in burgundy. There are also a few areas of much needed improvement:
SHOTS ON GOAL DIFFERENTIAL: One of the most glaring weaknesses that has become apparent with this team is the huge gap between shots on goal and shots faced. The Avalanche face the third most amount of shots out of all teams in the league, as opponents are averaging almost 37 shots per game. That is asking a lot from your goaltenders, no matter how good they may be. On the other hand, Colorado is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to getting shots on goal for themselves, ranking 16th out of 30.
POWER PLAY: It has become apparent that there is definite room for improvement when the Avs have the man advantage, evident by their capitalizing with a goal when the team is on the power play only 15 percent of the time, leading the Avs to rank in the bottom third of all NHL teams. While I don’t think this is a huge concern, as these goals seem to come in bunches and the team may just be in a short slump, more power play production could just end up being the difference between getting 1 point or 2 in many games on many occasions.
Of course, not too much stock should be invested in random stats and team rankings, the only columns that truly mean anything are the W/L columns and the total points column. All other should just be looked at as somewhat of a gauge on where the team is at in that particular category.
The coaches and players within the organization have made it clear to the local media and to fans that it is not time to panic. The team is fully confident that it has the right cast to get wins and punch their return ticket to the postseason, where the season virtually starts over and every team has a clean slate. With 70 games left, there is obviously plenty of time for the club to recreate the winning culture that it worked so hard for last season. Heading into the Nov. 2nd matchup against the Anaheim Ducks, the Avs had earned at least 1 point in each of their last 5 games. That alone is reason to believe this team can compete, and will continue to grow and get better as a club as the season rolls onward. Time will tell, but in my personal opinion, Avs faithful need not worry. The snowcapped “A” will be in the thick of it soon.