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.
In Joe Sacco’s first season as the coach of the Avs, the team started off 10-1-2 and he was heralded as a genius. Vehement opposition to the advanced statistics community pointed to his system as why the team was defying poor underlying numbers to keep turning out victories. (In reality, it had much more to do with Craig Anderson playing completely out of his mind.) From then on, they would go an unremarkable 33-29-7, allowing them to coast into the Western Conference’s 8th seed and one of the more lopsided playoff series in recent memory.
The following season’s start wasn’t quite as hot, but as of December 9th, the Avalanche were 18-10-4, good for the division lead and a tie for 5th in the league. This was still before the fanbase had turned on Sacco, and the team was producing nearly 4 goals per game despite heavy injuries and seemed to be taking the next step to legitimate contention. We all know what happened next – the Kings crushed the Avs 5-0 and wrote the book on winning against Joe Sacco’s system. The floodgates opened and that year’s team would finish 5-25-2 post-January, a record normally reserved for expansion teams and the Edmonton Oilers.
The current incarnation of the Avalanche is playing better than either of those teams, though you probably wouldn’t have guessed from watching any of the last three games. Playing average hockey and taking some of their losses into extra time should be sufficient to secure a playoff berth, but all bets are off in possibly the toughest conference to ever exist in the NHL. If the Avs want to avoid going down the paths of either of their past lives, they’ll need to right the ship as soon as possible. My investigative journalism has identified four key steps that should be taken to maintain our early success.
1. There’s a strong correlation between allowing goals and having both goaltenders take the ice in one night. If we want to reduce our goals allowed, Patrick Roy’s side should use that to their advantage by committing to keeping their starter in net for 60 minutes every game. I’m pretty sure there’s no way that could possibly backfire.
2. Lose in a complete blowout, like 23-0 or something. Make sure the team save percentage drops like a brick, and take as many soft shots as possible to drive our shooting rates down as well. Once the team’s PDO is at the bottom of the league, we’ll have burned through all of our downwards regression in one game and spend the next few weeks regressing back up. That’s definitely how luck works, right?
3. Patrick Bordeleau hasn’t been on the ice for a goal against all season. Based on his track record of goal prevention, he should be deployed against opposing top lines as much as possible. Opposing coaches should be perfectly fine with this if we just explain why.
In all seriousness though, the defensive lineup against Florida was as follows: Johnson/Hejda, Hunwick/Sarich, and Holden/Guenin. With all due respect to the first pairing, that is abominably bad. While Guenin has been a pleasant surprise, he, Holden and Hunwick are AHL players on any contending team. The Panthers may seem like a pretty miserable clusterfuck, but their defenders were legitimately better than the Avs’ both on paper and on the ice. Over an 82-game season, that’s a pretty glaring problem and calling Tyson Barrie back up probably isn’t the quick fix we need. Which leads us to our last and most important step:
4. Shut this blog down immediately; it’s clearly fucking with the team somehow.