Even though the old Detroit VS Colorado rivalry is long dead, a post by EJ Hradek at ESPN today made me think about the two teams and how they've performed so far this season. Detroit is off to a superb 9-2-1 start. The Avalanche has a decent-but-not-stellar 7-4-0 record. Hradek analyzes several aspects of Detroit's performance and suggests that their success at the fundamentals of offensive hockey is the primary cause of their success in the standings. His points are important.
I'll post bits of Hradek's piece about the Wings and use them as starting points to discuss the Avs.
This season, Mike Babcock's team has picked up where it left off last year. Through their first 12 games, the Wings have already compiled a league-best 141-shot differential. That number is nearly double of the next best club (the Rangers are second with a plus-72 shot differential).
The Wings leads the NHL with 411 shots on goal through 12 games. The Avalanche has 314 shots in 11 games, good enough for tenth place. However, while the Wings has only allowed 270 shots against (therefore the 141-shot differential), Colorado has actually allowed 318 shots against for a differential of -4.
The Wings are also an excellent faceoff team. In 12 games, the Wings have won approximately 55 percent of their faceoffs and they stand near the top of the league in that category.
The Wings has actually won 55.2% of their face-offs and do indeed lead the NHL in that category. The Avalanche, however, ranks 29th in the league with an abysmal 45.2% (but still better than Vancouver's atrocious 43.0%).
So, when you combine those two stats, you realize the Wings have the puck more often than their opponents and they usually start with it because of their faceoff prowess. It's no wonder they're among the very best teams in the league.
Obviously those two stats play a huge role in the success of the Red Wings so far this season (multiple games against Phoenix, Los Angeles and Edmonton don't hurt either). The Wings owns the puck, plain and simple. The Avalanche is not as successful in that regard. Even though they did very well in the circle against the Wild yesterday, Colorado's centers still need to work hard to improve their performance in those critical face-offs they still tend to lose.
As for shots on goal, the Avalanche still allows far too many and takes too few. Consistent with team tradition, the Avs still drive us all crazy by holding and passing the puck during the power play instead of shooting like crazy. It's very simple: shoot more, score more. Nobody ever scored a goal by passing the puck along the blue line.
Now, obviously, the Avalanche doesn't have to lead the league in any statistical category to win games and make the playoffs. Getting the face-off win percentage above 50% is not the end-all-be-all of hockey success. But factors like Hradek mentions in his piece, when considered as part of a team's overall performance, are absolutely critical to finishing with a great season rather than a mediocre one. The Avalanche should take note.