Five Games, 44 Points: The Avalanche So Far

The Colorado Avalanche have played five games so far this season, for a record of 3-2.  In those five games, they've scored 16 goals and 44 total points.  With nothing much going on today, we'll do a little exploring of individual performances so far.

Let's start from the bottom of the player statistics list and work up.  

The usual suspects are down in the basement with no points scored so far.  For the forwards, both Ben Guite and Wyatt Smith are without a single point, but considering their styles of play, their line partners and their levels of talent, that's no surprise.  Scott Parker is also pointless but he's played only one game and is more or less just a gigantic concrete pylon anyway.  For the defensemen without a point we have Karlis Skrastins and Kurt Sauer.  Sauer has actually scored a goal, but it was for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night when a shot by Rostislav Klesla bounced off his skate past Peter Budaj.  

In the one- and two-point category we have names that are hardly unexpected: Finger, Clark, Hannan, Laperriere, Svatos, Arnason and Leopold.  Those that ARE unexpected would be John-Michael Liles and Jaroslav Hlinka.  Both are gifted offensive players who haven't had as big an impact on the scoreboard as one might expect.  That's okay, considering the team's depth, but things will work out fine for those guys.

Two players have scored three points so far this season: Ryan Smyth and Wojtek Wolski.  Considering that one guy is not a very dynamic offensive player (talented in other ways, but not dynamic) and the other is still young and finding himself with different line partners almost every game, you can't worry too much about them.  To be honest, three points in five games is pretty much where I expected to see Smyth and Wolski at this point.

Nearly topping the scoring list in the five- and six-point levels are Andrew Brunette, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk.  That's really no surprise at all, since each of these players is a point-per-game (or better) kind of performer when playing well.  And all three are indeed playing well.  Sakic had a slow start to the season but his hat trick against the Blue Jackets on Saturday has him right where he needs to be.

Finally, in a league all his own, is Paul Stastny.  In five games he's scored five goals and five assists, and is one of the top five players in the NHL for scoring.  He's been very good or superb in every Avalanche game so far save the disaster in Nashville.  Clearly, his rigorous off-season training is really paying off.

In addition to comparing him to his talented teammates, it's interesting to examine how Son of Stastny stacks up against his fellow league leaders.  First of all, Stastny has played fewer games than each of them.  He's also averaging as much as four minutes of ice time LESS than the others.  Henrik Zetterberg, who leads the league with 12 points, has been on the ice a much greater amount of time than Stastny, and has scored three more points on the power play.  Seven of Stastny's ten points have been scored at even strength.  Only Dany Heatley and Mats Sundin are slightly better in that regard.  

Also extremely interesting is the fact that Son of Stastny has scored five goals on just ten shots!  Everyone else in the top five has at least twice as many, and poor Jason Spezza has failed to light the lamp at all despite 24 shots on goal.  Fewer games, less ice time and fewer shots.  Clearly, Paul Stastny is the most effective offensive player in this group.

And nobody believed us Avalanche fans last season when we argued he was the best player in the Calder Trophy race.  Even if he wasn't the best rookie last year, he might just be the best player in the entire league this year.  Let the "Stastny For Hart" campaign start now!

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