I predictably fell asleep long before the Kings began to mount their mini-comeback last night. But I was awake long enough to hear Peter McNab sell us on the importance of scoring first in the NHL.
The Avalanche are now 14-1 on the season when they score first. That 93.3% winning percentage is tops in the league. I'm not sure I can really explain that, as I'd tend to think of teams like Minnesota or New Jersey - good defense, solid goaltending teams - as being the best teams with an early lead. But that's not what I'm looking at today. (For the record, Minnesota is the 4th best team when scoring first and New Jersey is the 10th best).
If the Avs are 14-1 when scoring first, that means the team is a dismal 5-12-1 when they don't. That is the focus today, boys and girls.
Peter Budaj has started 19 times this year. 12 times (63% of the time) he's held the opponent off the board long enough for our boys to get the first goal. The Avalanche are a perfect 12-0 in those games. On the other side of the coin, the team is 1-6 when Budaj gives up the first goal (the one win actually going to Jose Theodore, in the come-from-behind win against Calgary).
Jose Theodore has started 14 times this year. Just 3 times (21% of the time) we've gotten the 1-0 lead. We're 2-1 in those games and 4-6-1 when he gives up the first goal.
Is it simply a matter of the team getting a better jump for Budaj? Nope. Budaj's goal's against average this year when the score is 0-0 is 1.82. Theodore? 4.51. Eep. Through last night's game, Budaj has a 1st period save percentage of .911, while Theodore's is .864.
To be fair, Theo does seem to get better as the game goes on (his 3rd period save % is .906), and that's why you see more comeback games with him in net. But, he's starting out too many games in the hole. Having to play a constant game of catch-up is no way to win consistently in the NHL. And when you have a goalie who can do a good job of keeping the other team off the board to help you get that early lead, he should be the one getting the majority of the starts.