Well, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome back to Avalanche Country. We haven't seen the boys in Burgundy and Sakic Blue in 18 days, even tho I guess some of our guys came back from Russia with some bling. Tonight we host the Los Angeles Kings in both teams' first game after the Olympic break, and its looking like a fun one.
First of all, we should tip our hats to both teams' recent representatives to Sochi. We all know that the Avalanche boasted four Olympians: Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny, and Semyon Varlamov. Dutchie came home with a Gold with Canada, Landy with a Silver with Sweden, Varly with the opportunity to represent the host country's team, and Stats had a pair of goals. But there has been a ton of excellent coverage on that already, so I'll leave it there.
The Kings had six players head to Russia: Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and Slava Voynov. Carter and Doughty were both given Golds with Duchene, Kopi ended up with three points, Voynov had 7 SOG, and Quick and Brown got to commiserate with Stats over shots of chilled vodka.
All in all, a combined 10 players from these two teams were given the opportunity to represent their respective nations in the 2014 Olympics. Congratulations to them all.
Now, back to the business of the NHL. Its the home stretch, folks. Including tonight's game, the Avs have 24 games left. They sit at 79 points, ranked 3rd in the Central Division, and have 2 games in hand on Chicago, who's in 2nd with 84 points. A couple fun items about this:
If we continue to win at the same rate, we are on course for a 111 point season.
If we lose half of our remaining games, we will still break 100 points for the season.
Even if we do only win half of our remaining games, Minnesota would have to make 32 of a possible 46 points to catch up to us.
These facts have extended our chances of making the playoffs to 99.96% (according to Sports Club Stats).
That, Ladies and Germs, looks like a good deal to me.
All that being said, we don't have an easy time of it for the rest of the year. Of those 24 remaining games, 15 of them (that's right, fifteen) are against teams that are likely in playoff position. Some of the wild cards are still up for grabs, and there's time yet for things to happen (good or bad), but goodness sakes, that's a lot of competition against good teams. As a matter of fact, based on the winning percentage of the teams we are going to face, we have the hardest remaining schedule in the Western Conference. The only consolation that I can find there is that the Blackhawks and Blues both have hard schedules, too (tho not as hard as ours), so maybe they won't pull too far ahead of us on easy wins.
So, if we want to have a strong showing for the remainder of the year, we must gird our loins and step forth to battle with our heads clear and our eyes keen. Ain't no half measures here. This is going to the be real test of our team, and what its made of. Have the boys gotten chunky and short-winded sitting around a pool drinking pina coladas? Did Russia's unstable defense shake our awesomesauce goaltender? Will Pauly Walnuts get all depressed about his Olympic performance and how it will affect his upcoming contract negotiations?
I think not. I think that Duchene really has learned what it takes to win. I think our Captain My Captain will use what he learned earning the silver to continue to lead this team. I think that Erik Johnson will continue to BAMF his way around the ice showing how much better he could have done than some other US Olympians. Snook will get his back up about wanting one of those shiny neck thingies and keep on going the way he has been. Coach Roy won't let this team sit back.
So lets do this, shall we?
The Avs have five players averaging more than .7 points per game: Duchene (.91), Landeskog (.84), Stastny (.79), Nathan MacKinnon (.76), and Ryan O'Reilly (.73). In case anyone was wondering, their average age is 22 years and 7 months.
Semyon Varlamov has faced the third most even strength shots against in the league with 1176. Unsurprisingly, he has also faced the second most Power Play shots against with 239.
While not quite a lock for the playoffs, LAK is right on the doorstep with Phoenix four points behind nipping at their heals. A win tonight will sure make them feel better, since the Desert Dogs have a game in hand.
Before the Olympic Break, the Kings only won 2 of the previous 10. We will have to watch them and see how they regrouped with their time off.