Two reasons for the change-up this morning. One, the Avs are at the midpoint of their season, 24 games in. It's time to check in on how some of the storylines we were looking for have progressed. Two, I'm not able to get at my numbers as I write this, so I couldn't tell you last-ten trends even if I wanted to. Time to improvise!
Back in January I tossed out a bit on the storylines to watch this season, with less-than-serious predictions. It's time to see how those stories have played out.
Gabe Landeskog has not had the best season so far, if we're being perfectly honest with ourselves. Apart from being concussed by a controversial Brad Stuart hit (not touching it), Landy has 6 points in 13 games, a -8 relative Corsi (which is low on the team) with around 40% zone starts. But his effect on and importance to the team was obvious as soon as he was knocked out of the lineup. That very instant, the Avs were an oddly different animal. It took a while to rebound, and it helped when Landeskog returned. That all said, outside the Calgary game for the ages, Gabe has 2 assists and 0 goals since returning from his concussion. He needs to turn those numbers upwards.
Speaking of the Duke...
In case you missed it, he's been out with some sort of mystery torso injury after taking a Legal Flying Elbow Into The Boards While He Didn't Have The Puck, which must be in the new CBA somewhere. Milan Hejduk has 9 points (3-6) in 20 games with diminished ice time. The pick up of Aaron Palushaj off waivers has covered his spot on the O'Reilly line (hey, there's a storyline I intentionally left out!) in his absence, but the general expectation seems to be that Milan hangs em up this summer.
Who is Jamie McGinn?
If 24 games is a substantial enough sample size to learn this, we know that he is streaky, we know that he can put up points in bunches when put with linemates who are producing, we know that he can go cold for several games too, and we know that he fires lots of shots at net. (McGinn leads the team in Corsi events and it's really not close.) That combined with his physical game would make him a second line power forward in my book.
We Will See Monsters (maybe)
This was a joke that David Jones was going to get hurt because I drafted him in fantasy. (David Jones has been bad, with 7 whole points in 22 games, and has fought nagging injuries.) But we did get to see Michael Sgarbossa, who showed some promise but was ultimately kept off the scoresheet; Brad Malone for a game; and David Van Der Gulik for two.
How good can Erik Johnson be?
Erik Johnson has been BEAST this season. Oh my. As long as he keeps a cool head, he has been dominant in his own zone, exhibits a calming presence over a game, has the capability to control the pace of it, and.... 2 assists. EJ has a horribly slow release and a less-than-fearsome slap shot. That means a lot of his shots are blocked, and do nothing. Defensively, Johnson can be really really good. Offensively... Defensively, Johnson can be really really good.
Boy, special teams. The power play has scored a few goals this week, but before that, oof. As of right now the Avalanche power play is 14.7% (25th). The penalty kill is in the middle of the road with 79% (T-19th), but has the hilarious split of being 93.6% (1st) at home and 66% (30th) on the road. If you can figure that one out please let Coach Joe know ace fuckin sap.
Rooks and Ladders
I did pretty good on this one. Tyson Barrie's 6 points in 15 games has come along with an overall improvement; he's pretty clearly an NHL defender now, despite the recent scratching. Only Jan Hejda has more points on the blue line (in 8 more GP). I also predicted O'Reilly being an Av here, which seems out of place in retrospect, and his signing crowding out Patrick Bordeleau. Not so much. Bordy has played in all but one game, beating up people along the way, adding an assist, and shown slow and steady improvement of his silly obstruction penalties.
Semyon Varlamov has put together several good games in a row, but was super up and down as the year began. He'd back up a shutout with a sub-.850 SV% night. Not sure how much of that can be pinned on him vs. a hilariously unstable D:-corpse, so we'll call the jury still out, eh?
Well he's still with us, despite subaverage results, but it's hard to imagine anything different, especially given the hand he was dealt (injuries, luck, the team itself).
Matt Duchene's Rebound Control
Hello beautiful. Matt Duchene's 26 points in 23 games leads the team. He has been fantastic all over the ice, including killing penalties. Who would have been comfortable with Matt Duchene killing penalties last season? What. A. Boss. And look on his wing, where we have P.A. ":D" Parenteau with 25 points of his own through 24 games. Now, they both have slightly high shooting percentages on the season, so we'll see, but these two together have been a joy to watch, and in the absence of Gabe Landeskog, Duchene took this team back and made it his own to carry on the ice.
Greg Zanon's Beard
Well it turns out that Tim Thomas wasn't in the Beard after all. It was a large cache of junk food and, strangely, three birds. You can find the Beard's very own Twitter account here if you don't follow already. Try not to imagine how it types. #creepy
This is the best week of hockey the Avs have played in a long long time. They were defeated by luck in detroit, 1-2, which we are not going to talk about, then went into Chicago and played extremely well again, falling 2-3 nonetheless as Dan Carcillo of all people scored with less than a minute left. The Avs declared shenanigans and offered to meet the Hawks at Westminster Prominade on Friday; understandably, Chicago elected for a game at the Pepsi Center instead. Which the Avs won in dominant fashion, 6-2. It was the first Chicago loss in like, a while or something, I dunno, didn't hear a whole lot about it. Last night San Jose, a team that normally throttles the Avs, came to town in a game I couldn't watch myself but that ended with literally last-second OT heroics from Matt Duchene. Avs win 3-2.
The Avs honor Admiral Ackbar Week (apparently) by facing Edmonton at home Tuesday (7pm MDT), then taking on Minnesota in a home and home on Thursday (6pm MDT) and Saturday (1pm MDT).