Losing sucks, so sometimes it’s difficult to make objective comparisons when your team is reeling during a bad stretch. That’s why we turn to data! Numbers don’t lie to you like your eyeballs do; and in large enough samples, they can paint a clearer picture of what’s happening on the ice. Is 12 games a large sample? Not really, but let’s see what we can come up with here:
The Colorado Avalanche are currently 5-7-0 and in last place in the Western Central Division twelve games into coach Jared Bednar’s tenure—not exactly good, right? But last year, they were 4-7-1 without the excuse of learning to play in a new system.
Strength of schedule? Not a large enough sample so far to employ most models, but how about this? In 2015-16, seven of Colorado’s first 12 games would go on to make the playoffs. In 2016-17, nine of their first 12 games were playoff teams the previous season. Certainly not a perfect method, but it illustrates how difficult both seasons were to start, with this year’s opening 12 being especially difficult.
You may have heard, but the Avalanche have had a really difficult time getting pucks in the net this season. How bad has it been? Well, through 12 games last year, Colorado was averaging 2.75 goals per game. That includes two six-goal outbursts against Dallas and Calgary and getting shut out just once against Carolina. This season? They’re scoring just 2.00 goals per game, with one six-goal outlier against Dallas (again) and getting shut out three times against Washington, Winnipeg, and Chicago.
Much of this scoring dearth can be explained by shooting percentage. In 2015-16, Colorado was shoot 9.0% at this point in the season, right up near the league average. This year? Just 6.2% through 12 games, good for second to last place among NHL teams. Sure, high scoring teams tend to have high shooting percentages (especially in small sample sizes); but over the course of a season, it’s statistically likely the Avalanche will experience a market correction.
The goaltending duo of Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard have also gotten quite a bit of flack early this season (the former much more than the latter). Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Avalanche goalies bail out their team more often than they probably deserve and that simply hasn’t happened yet this year. But are they worse than last year through 12 games? Not really.
So far this season, Colorado is allowing 3.08 goals per game, where they allowed 3.00 the year before. That rise can be explained by a .895 save percentage through 12 games in 2016-17 compared to .900 the year before.
Are they seeing more shots? Nope. Slightly less, actually—29.42 this season compared to 30.33—which brings us to our next category.
Ah! Everyone’s favorite topic. Have the Avalanche turned a corner? The answer is emphatically yes. No longer is Colorado getting outshot at even strength by comical amounts throughout the game, which is evidenced by more shots toward the net—38.50 CF 5v5 compared to 35.58 the year before—but also by how well they’re suppressing shots. The Avalanche are allowing just 40.50 shots at the net through 12 games this season vs. 50.75 in 2015-16. This is an astronomical improvement—one that should pay dividends when the team’s shooting percentage normalizes. Their PDO (5v5 Sh%+Sv%) is 97.1 right now—last in the league. In 2015-16, that number was 99.0 through 12 games, right around the middle of the pack.
The Avalanche’s CF% is a whole six percentage points better right now, which is way ahead of schedule.
- 2015-16 — 10.58 per game
- 2016-17 — 13.25 per game
Power Play Opportunities
- 2015-16 — 49
- 2016-17 — 42
Power Play Goals:
- 2015-16 — 0.83 per game
- 2016-17 — 0.67 per game
Power Play Percentage:
- 2015-16 — 20.40%
- 2016-17 — 19.05%