It's a statistic that doesn't matter... but heading into tonight's game the Avalanche still have the opportunity to do something very cool with their 2013-2014 season. As of this morning, the Avalanche have beaten 28 of the NHL's 30 teams (that's 27 opponents and a number of games where they've beaten themselves). For you fans of advanced statistics that leaves:
30 teams - 28 teams = ummm divide by the corsi of the 4th line center, carry the 7, fenwick the PDO annnnnnnd we get 2.
Just two teams left in the whole NHL and it just so happens that the Avalanche play both of them this week. Before we watch the Avalanche finally lay the smackdown on the Blues on Saturday we'll need to deal with the New York Rangers, after all, we wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves. The Avalanche will look to increase their 3-point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks and solidify their chances at home ice advantage, but they face a tall task beating a red hot Rangers squad (8-2-0 in their last 10).
Losing Matt Duchene hurts the Avalanche more than words can say, but the Rangers have also lost a few key players to injuries. Chris Kreider will miss significant time with an injured hand, and Ryan McDonagh is out with what looks to be a minor shoulder injury. With both teams hurting for depth, this game could easily come down to a contest of "whose star players get on the scoreboard." For the Avalanche that means getting the puck to the dynamic duo of Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog, both of whom have been excellent lately. For the Rangers well... there's not a lot of firepower to go around. The Rangers rank 17th in the NHL in goal scoring and their big guns have struggled to get the job done all year. Rick Nash is the team's only 20 goal scorer (with 25), but after some early season injury troubles the near $8 million dollar man is on pace for just 41 points, the lowest total since his rookie season. Meanwhile, the Rangers big trade deadline acquisition has absolutely floundered on Broadway. In 62 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, Martin St. Louis scored 61 points. In his 15 games as a Ranger he has just 4 points. St. Louis scored his first goal as a Ranger Tuesday night in Vancouver after 14 scoreless games in the red, white, and blue.
Despite injuries the Avalanche seem to match up well against the Rangers on paper, but lets not forget that this Rangers team gave the Avalanche one of their most one-sided ass kickings of the season in early February. In that game the Rangers outshot the Avalanche 43-28 and outscored them 5-1. It was a complete team victory to be sure, but one player stood out above the rest as an enormous difference maker on the ice. Ryan Callahan led the Rangers to victory that night with 2 goals, 1 assist, 6 shots on goal, and 7 hits. He's done some great work for the Rangers and continues to play very good hockey.... in Tampa Bay (along with some really nice Rangers draft picks). This is a different Rangers team and in my opinion a worse Rangers team than we saw in February. It's time the Avalanche return the favor and shellack the Rangers in front of a packed home crowd.
Lets Go Avs!
Projected Avalanche Lines:
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Nathan MacKinnon
Ryan O`Reilly - John Mitchell - Jamie McGinn
Cody McLeod - Marc Andre Cliche - Max Talbot
Patrick Bordeleau - Brad Malone - Paul Carey
Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie
Nate Guenin / Andre Benoit / Cory Sarich (1 will be scratched)
Note: On the fan yesterday morning Roy said he may try a line of 92-26-90. Presumably leaving us with a 2nd line of 11-29-7. Roy also suggested that when Parenteau returns O'Reilly could make a move back to center ice, giving the Avalanche something like this: 11-90-15 and 92-26-29.
The Avs Win If: Varlamov plays like Vezinalamov and the top line gets a goal on the board (Oh offensive depth. I miss you so much).
Projected Rangers Lines:
Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Carl Haglin
Dominic Moore - Brad Richards - Martin St. Louis
Matz Zuccarello - Derick Brassard - Benoit Pouliot
Dan Carcillo - Brian Boyle - Derek Dorsett
Marc Staal - Dan Girardi
Anton Stralman - John Moore
Raphael Diaz - Kevin Klein
The Rangers Win If: Marty St. Louis sits at center ice and cries until he gets his way.
Puck Drops at 7:00 MST, 9:00 EST on Altitude.