After successive offensive destruction, the Colorado Avalanche officially marked the end of October and is now entering the second month of the 2021-22 season. The early returnees suggest the Avalanche won’t traverse the regular season again and face an uphill battle to reclaim their place at the top of the NHL’s Western Conference. Now let’s look at some of the stats and storylines that defined Colorado’s first month of play, and discuss which trends could be a minor spike and which ones could last through the end of the year.
10 avalanche statistics from the first 12 games
It was difficult, but I managed to reduce that collection of stats to just under 10. I’ve chosen the ones that give the best insight into the season so far and the predictions for the team over the course of the season. From goalkeeper problems to underrated contributors, this list has it all.
1. Avalanche goalkeepers fight early
The recurring theme of Colorado’s early fighting is below average goalkeeping performance. According to Natural Stat Trick, the save percentage (SV%) of 0.897 in all situations of the Avalanche tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Jonas Johansson is 26th in the NHL. No matter how strong the rest of the team is, a bad goalkeeper is quickly lost.
Darcy Kuemper, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin / NHLI via Getty Images)
Unsurprisingly, Kuemper (47th) and Johansson (68th) both find themselves in the lower half of the NHL’s goalkeeping contingent with goals saved above expectations (GSAx). For an organization that entered the 2021-22 season with aspirations for the Stanley Cup, this just won’t cut the playoff time. On Colorado’s side, 12 games are an extremely small sample of appearances and that their results should normalize over time. Can you afford to keep your fingers crossed and hope?
2. Avalanche’s ice-cold power play
When a team that has a cornucopia of offensive talent with Nathan MacKinnon and his troop of happy men, the 26th place in power play in the NHL is massively overwhelming. In addition to a terrifying conversion rate of 15.2 percent, the team with the male advantage only scores 6.25 expected goals per 60 minutes (18 is due to a positive regression. I will attribute this to an often incomplete line-up for now but it’s something that will follow by November.
3. Byram-Makar pairing offers an insight into the future of avalanches
Driven by need, head coach Jared Bednar put together a pairing made up of two of Colorado’s cherished Blue Line stars in Bowen Byram and Cale Makar and has seen his risk pay off. In over 82 minutes, the pair have scored the seventh highest proportion of expected goals (xGF%) at 5v5 among defensive pairs who have played together for at least 75 minutes. Surprisingly, they were more effective on the defensive than in the attack and conceded the fifth lowest rate of expected goals within the same group of qualified pairs. The tangible results haven’t shown up in the overall standings, but the Avalanche can rest assured that they’ll be on the blue line for the next decade.
4. Nazem Kadri’s best playmaking
With Colorado’s top center in MacKinnon only playing eight of the team’s first 12 games, they had to find offensive contributions from elsewhere. Fortunately, Nazem Kadri is catching up and leads the team with 14 points. His success is his game and his vision as his eight primary assists (A1) rank third in all situations in the entire NHL.
His performance is also not associated with a longer playing time, with Kadri taking fourth place in the primary assists per 60 minutes and 13th in points per 60 minutes in the skaters who have played at least 100 minutes this season. Now that the start of the season surprise JT Compher is on the injury list for MacKinnon, Kadri can expect tough minutes in a leading scorer role. Is A Career High In Points In His Future?
5. Avalanches with significant injury problems
I’ve alluded to it several times now, but the Avalanche were bitten by the injury virus in the early stages. According to the NHL Injury Viz, Colorado has suffered the seventh highest cumulative injury based on its missing players’ cap hit. Chemistry and togetherness are difficult to foster when celebrities are unavailable, and their return together could in time propel the Avalanche back to the upper echelons of the NHL.
Valeri Nichushkin (nine games), Devon Toews (nine games) and MacKinnon (four games) missed more than two games in their first month of play. Colorado is clearly understaffed and has to juggle with a changing line-up of substitutes who have different levels of success. If the Avalanche can hold off the damaging effects of increasing injury problems, they can pick up speed on their way to the playoffs. That’s a big if.
6. Trade-Bait Girard ignores rumors
Samuel Girard has become a regular presence in trade rumors as Colorado’s goal difficulties suggest they may need reinforcements. Mix in Byram’s rise as a top four defender and Girard quickly became dispensable. If the rumors annoy him, he won’t show it.
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The miniature blueliner has eight even strength points (third in the NHL) and produces the second most points per 60 (PTS / 60) among all defenders. He has also managed to save his results on the ice from unfamiliar depths and is now over 50% with the shot and chance percentage at 5v5. It makes it easier to trade, but is that a deal the Avalanche might regret?
7. Logan O’Connor produces under the radar
For all the dismay at Colorado’s supposedly reduced forward depth, they’ve increased several underrated lower six contributors. Logan O’Connor represents the newest of these players and has developed into a larger role for the Avalanche this season. His six points in 12 games rank 10th on the team, and he was also a minor threat as he scored two points on penalties.
His odds stats point to a breakout star in the making and one who deserves a bigger offensive line. He ranks sixth in 5v5 rounds per hour (SH / 60), 24th in his rebound generation rate, and 15th in his high-danger shot production. There’s always some concern when odds stats exaggerate results in a small sample, but O’Connor continues his efficient performance from last season. Put him down as one to watch.
8. Avalanche criminal killers are a regular threat
Very few teams have embodied the modern shift to a more proactive approach to penalties than the avalanche. Rather than sit back and be content with sending recovered pucks across the ice, Colorado has implemented a strategy that emphasizes the threat of unsuspecting power play units. The team’s three narrow goals are level with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals and offer the Avalanche another reliable attack option. Compher, O’Connor, and Darren Helm each scored a goal while losing a man, which contributed to Colorado’s 83.9% kill rate, which currently ranks 11th in the NHL.
9. Tyson Jost, the penalty pulling machine
As Tyson Jost in the 2016 Entry Draft from the Avalanche to 10th. After only 91 points in 274 career games, that’s no longer the case for Jost, but he has adapted well to become a crucial utility man further down the lineup .
Jost uses his adeptness and crisp play to annoy his opponents, and he ranks second in the NHL at 5v5 penalties per 60 minutes for his efforts. He doesn’t just give up right defense on his team, because his plus-5 penalty difference (six draws, one awarded) is third among all skaters this season. His skill is a valuable asset in bringing the team’s attacking stars into power play, an unannounced skill almost as important as actually scoring goals.
10. Colorado’s underlying numbers remain strong despite a record
Despite a reduced cavalry and a mediocre record of 6-5-1, the Avalanche have retained their identity as a strong possession team in five-on-five. They kept 53.7 xGF%, 55.2% of the scoring opportunities (SCF%) and 55.9% of the high risk chances (HDCF%), all in the top half. Actual goals don’t match underlying numbers (only 49%) but the process is solid. If you don’t give up your tactical game plan, you should soon be reaping the benefits.
Will these trends in avalanche statistics continue?
The Avalanche have won four of their last six games and are slowly returning to the shape of last season’s Presidents’ Trophy. The statistics I have listed suggest that Colorado has been a victim of bad luck, both healthily and in terms of results on the ice. My money is with Jared Bednar’s men to keep moving up the table and shifting into top gear as the playoffs get closer. However, as has been proven beyond doubt, assuming anything about the NHL this season is stupid.
Data courtesy of Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, MoneyPuck, and Natural Stat Trick. Statistics correct, as of November 15th.
Marko is an aspiring sports writer with a passion for creating stories while using a combination of eye testing and (shake) analysis, complemented by an academic background in criminology and political science.
When he’s not reporting on the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers, he can spend countless hours in various sports video game franchises, indulging in science fiction novels, and doing long laps of the neighborhood.
Marko can be reached through his personal blog at unexpectedegoals.ca, and you can yell at him by following him on Twitter and other social media which can be seen under articles like this one.
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