I’m going to cut to the chase here – Erik Johnson has been one of the best defensemen in the NHL this year and it is unfathomable to me that he missed the cut for Team USA. Snubs for other players have been discussed at length, but outside of Avalanche Nation, very few people are talking about Johnson’s candidacy – which is an absolute shame, because his game has reached some incredible heights over the past 12 months.
Posted in 2013 Season, 2014 Olympics, Colorado Avalanche
Tagged Brooks Orpik, Cam Fowler, Colorado Avalanche, Defensive Breakdowns, Dustin Byfuglien, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Keith Yandle, Kevin Shattenkirk, NHL, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Suter, Seth Jones, Sochi Olympics, Stats Nerds, Team USA
I was thinking of doing a quarter-season review earlier, but my poor pattern recognition failed to remind me that about a hundred other writers would be using that exact lead-in. So I’m doing things differently this time – rather than put in the effort to produce creative articles, I’m going to take a clichéd idea and undercut everybody else by writing about it first. The world of hockey blogging is a cutthroat place! This time, we’ll examine who’s in and who’s out among the Avs’ Olympic candidates from top to bottom, or at least until I get bored. Is this what a journalism high feels like?
It surprised me how up-and-down Canadian the roster is – Don Cherry would be proud! AHLer Markus Lauridsen has a contract with the the parent club and would probably make the Danish team had they qualified for Sochi, but he’s our only player hailing from a lesser hockey nation. As for our Russian, Swede, and handful of Americans, they should all be right in the mix for Olympic roster spots – with the lonely exception of Nate Guenin, who will have to deal with the entire team’s smack talk through the break.
Posted in 2013 Season, 2014 Olympics, Colorado Avalanche
Tagged Colorado Avalanche, Erik Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog, Jan Hejda, Matt Duchene, NHL, P-A Parenteau, Paul Stastny, Ryan O'Reilly, Semyon Varlamov, Sochi Olympics, St. Louis Blues, Team Canada
One of the running themes for this year’s Avalanche (and the 2009-10 Avalanche, and the 2010-11 Avalanche) is that they’ve largely been powered by unsustainably high percentages and winning despite poor puck possession and being regularly outshot. Their gamess against the Blackhawks and Coyotes did little to dispel this. Despite coming out with what were ostensibly statement wins – a 5-1 drubbing of the defending champions and a gutsy effort to recover a blown lead in Phoenix – the Avs were soundly outplayed, and outcompeted by both opponents. Once again, they fell into the trap of overreliance on Semyon Varlamov to save their bacon, as he so often has this season.
So this last victory over the Kings made a refreshing change. By even strength Corsi, LA is the top possession team in the league and not only did the Avs outperform them, they steamrolled them. A 4-minute double minor gave the Kings no momentum, and over even strength the Avs outshot them nearly twofold. Only a brilliant game from sudden superstar Ben Scrivens allowed the Kings to escape with a not-particularly-deserved point, which was probably a pretty good representation of how other fanbases feel during Avs games.
Not many people outside of Phoenix have noticed, but the Coyotes have slipped into a good pace as fellow overachievers-of-the-month, spurred on by a tremendous 9-0-2 record at home. Like the Avalanche, their hot start belies some poor possession numbers and puck luck falling in their favour. But unlike our side, these Coyotes haven’t been reliant on their goaltending tandem (which has been uncharacteristically mediocre despite the stifling presence of Dave Tippett’s System) so much as scoring in bunches and bunches.
Their newly active offense was on full display last night, thoroughly dominating possession and hemming the Avs into their defensive zone for much of the game. The boys in burgundy and blue picked up the pace after falling behind though, and outplaying the Coyotes for those 10 minutes proved enough to earn 2 points (granted, after the referees pretty well gift-wrapped them for us). Some pundits will point at these wins over the Blackhawks and Coyotes and say we’re keeping up with top competition, but I’d be wary until we at least stop getting outchanced twofold.
When I first published this blog, the Avalanche were coming off a 12-1-0 start, having scored 42 goals and allowed a paltry 19, and boasted a league-high penalty kill rate of 90.9%. The unheralded defense was stymieing opponents, Matt Duchene was pushing for Hart Trophy candidacy, and the Varlamov-Giguere tandem seemed invincible. Following our second 6-game winning streak in 13 games total, we were on top of the world.
Astute readers may have noticed a steep downturn since then – while Delicious Icing has existed, the team has sputtered to a 2-4-0 record, scoring 17 goals to 22 allowed, including 6 times shorthanded. The defense has been exposed for its dearth of actual NHL defensemen, Duchene is injured, and our goaltenders are regularly getting shelled. From a Carolina game that should have been won to a flat-out embarrassment by St. Louis, it’s been an ugly two weeks, and they stand to get even uglier with tonight’s match against the first-place Blackhawks.
There’s only one conclusion to make: Delicious Icing is ruining the Avs’ season. You can’t argue with stats, man.
Before this blog’s third inception, I decided that one of the changes I make would be to keep a schedule with topics assigned to certain games, so that I’d have some sort of inspiration lined up and avoid that slippery slope of skipping articles until I gave up on the site altogether. I even put together a backlog of emergency ideas, just in case I had neither an established idea for a game nor a reasonable amount of time to research one. And knowing what I’d write about in advance gave me plenty of time to think up bad puns to title my posts (one of the purer joys of blogging). It seemed brilliant at the time.
With that in mind, the rhetorical question for today’s post was going to be “How Bad is the Metropolitan Division?”, and the answer was going to be Pretty Fucking Bad. We’ve all seen the numbers – a woeful 28-39-11 record against other divisions and 5 of its teams in the league’s bottom 9, and they were even worse two weeks ago. Yes, I told myself, these are the sort of outlier statistics that’d make really interesting talking points! And the Hurricanes are in the Metro, which makes this the perfect game to write about them because what else do I even know about this team?
And then the day came around and as it turns out, a whole truckload of other better-written articles have already covered it.
Sorry kids, lazy post today – it’s 4 in the morning, I’m full of beer, and I’ve just remembered that I’ve barely written anything for the Capitals game. I’ll try my best to form a few coherent sentences here – but don’t count on it, because they’re going to be about goaltenders, who are without exception completely insane. (Incidentally, a word of advice to fellow bloggers who are also alcoholics – keeping a list of emergency topics to write about is a great idea and comes very much recommended.)
To lead into this one, I wanted to call a strange anomaly to attention: as of today the Avalanche have seen 8 backups, 2 goaltenders who are arguably in platoons (Bernier) or utter clusterfucks (Ramo), and only 5 legitimate starters. Some of these are due to mitigating circumstances – either the starters were injured or had played the previous night. Off the top of my head, this would apply to Howard, Ward, Pavelec, and Rinne, so that’s actually quite a decent chunk of the teams we’ve seen.
It’s probably a safe assumption that the backup ratio is due to circumstance rather than opponents taking the Avalanche for granted as they would have in past seasons, but still surprising given how well the team is doing. Given that the Avalanche has been winning games but riding good percentages, it seems strange that other teams would allow us us to shoot against weaker goaltenders and inflate said percentages. But from a more Av-centric point of view, it begs the question – could our scoring numbers also be buoyed by playing against weaker goaltending?