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Making Playoffs in the West

All season, we've been concerned about our top players not putting up the points like they should. We predicted that Duchene should end up with around an 80 point season, and Hejduk and Stastny should end up somewhere in the high 60's - mid 70's range.

Right now, the Avs leading scorer is Ryan O'Reilly with a projected 59 points, 8 less than what Duchene posted last year.

Luckily, our depth players have been able to pick up the slack and the Avs are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. But it's well known that the pace picks up in the second half of the season. I'm worried about our Top 6 not putting up as many points as they need to, but I wasn't sure how worried to be. So I did a little research.

Turns out, we should be concerned. Very concerned.

I stared by looking at all the teams to make the playoffs in the Western Conference since the Lockout. Once I found their team Goals For and Goals Against totals, I researched their top 6 goal scorers. I then found the Total Goals Scored by the Top 6 of each team and the Total % of goals they were responsible for. I repeated that process with the Top 3. (If you're curious, the raw data including the top 6 scorers and the Team-by-Team breakdown from each year can be found here).

I then averaged my findings and came up with this data:

("Sum of 6" = sum of goals from top 6 goalscorers on the given team; "% of 6" percentage of team's total goals scored by the top 6 goalscorers; "Goal Diff." = goal differential, aka team goals for minus team goals against)

'05-'06 '06-'07 '07-'08 '08-'09 '09-'10 '10-'11 Average 8th Overall
Sum of 6 157 149 137 153 139 143 146 145
% from 6 59.7% 60.0% 59.4% 60.6% 56.3% 59.0% 59.2% 58.1%
Sum of 3 97 90 87 93 82 86 89 89
% from 3 36.8% 36.2% 37.7% 36.8% 33.3% 35.3% 36.0% 35.7%
Goal Diff. +34 +43 +21 +23 +29 +27 +30 +14

So, basically, you need your Top 3 goalscorers to bring home about 35-40% of your overall goal total, and your Top 6 are responsible for around 60%. It also means that you need to score more goals than your opponents - only one team (CBJ in '09) had a negative goal differential at -4.

Now, how do the Avs Top 6 stack up?

Our top 6 scorers right now are O'Reilly, Stastny, Duchene, Hejduk, Landeskog, and Jones. Assuming they stay healthy the rest of the year or come back when they're projected to (Feb. 1 in Duchene's case), here's the pace they're on target for.

Player GP G GPG Proj. GP Proj. G
Stastny 43 12 0.279 79 22
O'Reilly 46 12 0.261 82 21
Duchene 39 12 0.308 69 21
Hejduk 46 11 0.239 82 20
Landeskog 46 9 0.196 82 16
Jones 37 9 0.243 73 18

If those numbers seem low, it's because they are. In order to find out how far off they were, I had to project how the team would finish at the end of the year.

GP 46
GF 119
GF/GP 2.587
GF Proj. 212
GA 128
GA/GP 2.783
GA Proj. 228
Points 50
Proj. Points 89

Not only is the 89 points we're on pace for right now lower than the 97 that almost guarantees an entry into the playoffs, the individual pace for out Top 6 is WAY off the mark.

'11-'12 COL 8th Overall Difference
Sum of 6 118 145 -27
% of 6 55.7% 58.1% -2.4%
Sum of 3 65 89 -24
% of 3 30.7% 35.7% -5.1%
Goal Diff. -16 14 -30

Right now, our Top 6 players have 65 goals. Our Top 3 have 36. In order to reach the 35% mark, Stastny, Duchene, and O'Reilly would have to score 17 goals each in the remaining 36 games. If they can pull that off, Hejduk, Landeskog, and Jones still need to score another 10 each.

Now, that's not to say that making playoffs can't be done with players that score only around 20 goals per season. The defense and goaltending has something to say about it too. In fact, Nashville pulled it off last year.

Season Team GF GA Pts Player Goals
'10-'11 NSH 219 194 99 Kostitsyn 23 '10-'11 NSH
'10-'11 NSH 219 194 99 Hornqvist 21 Sum of 6 113
'10-'11 NSH 219 194 99 Fisher 19 % from 6 51.6%
'10-'11 NSH 219 194 99 Erat 17 Sum of 3 63
'10-'11 NSH 219 194 99 Legwand 17 % from 3 28.8%
'10-'11 NSH 219 194 99 Weber 16 Goal Diff. 25

However, look at their GA total. They're below 200 goals allowed and 34 goals below what the Avs are projected to hit this year (228). If we wanted to achieve that, we'd have to shave almost a full GA/GP off our current rate. If Giggy, Varly, EJ and the rest of the blueline crew can get our GAA down to about 1.8 from here on out, we can achieve what Nashville did.

We'd also need our other scores to step up as well. The rest of our team has 47 goals right now, which is 42.0% of our total. In order to follow Nashville's example, they'd have to figure out a way to score 48.4% of our goals, or 106 goals of the 219 the Preds posted last year. If our Bottom 6 and blueliners can post 1.64 GPG and our Top 6 can find 1.33 GPG, we'll be able to make that split. Basically, if we score 3 goals every game from here on out, we should be fine.

So, to summarize:

  • We need to find a way to gain 8 more points that we're supposed to to hit the magic 97.
  • In order to reach the average stats from the Western Conference 8th seed team, our Top 3 forwards (O'Reilly, Stastny, and Duchene) need to score 17 goals each in 36 games.
  • Even if our Top 3 players reach that mark, we'd still need our next 3 players (Hejduk, Landeskog, and Jones) to score another 10 each and our bottom 6 and defensemen staying near their current rate.
  • If we were to follow Nashville's model of getting into the playoffs, we would have to allow 1.8 goals per game while scoring close to 3 to reach their totals.
  • We're also not the only ones who REALLY want these points. Our competition will be playing harder as well.

The Avs currently lead the league in One-Goal-Game wins, but they'll either need to start scoring more or defending more in order to keep the streak alive. Luckily, they've been playing better hockey of late and may still stand a chance of making playoffs. But it's not going to be an easy ride, and our top 6 NEED to kick it into gear if we're even going to stand a chance.

Out West, a single point could mean the difference between post-season and golf season. I just hope the Avs can find a way to bring home enough wins by the middle of April to be on the hockey side of the equation.