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Around the West: The Avalanche are doubling down on who they are

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Things go from bad to worse in LA, something fishy is going on in Calgary, and Connor McDavid is being run into the ground.

Colorado Avalanche v Los Angeles Kings
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche checks Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Los Angeles Kings during the first period of a game at Staples Center on December 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Things are starting to settle around the NHL after a frantic first couple weeks. The top teams in the league are rounding into form, the middle of the pack remains boring as ever, and the Los Angeles Kings have lost their crown.

The Calgary Flames are in a bit of a weird spot with respect to core defenseman T.J. Brodie, the Oilers are playing Connor McDavid as if they have two of him, and the Colorado Avalanche are accepting their one-line fate and rolling with it.

(All stats as of Thursday morning)

1. Nashville Predators (Points per game: 1.555)

The Predators were so close to a perfect week and a sixth straight win, but then they gave up three unanswered goals in the third period to the San Jose Sharks in a 5-4 regulation loss. The Predators are a good team, a great team even, but at this point in the season the special teams are really holding them back. 30th in the league in power play percentage, and 22nd on the power play, Nashville has the worst PK% + PP% in the league after their first 14 games.

2. Colorado Avalanche (Points per game: 1.400)

The Avs are a one-line team, but honestly who cares because their one line is the best in the league! Alexander Kerfoot, Tyson Jost, and Colin Wilson have since slowed down after their hot start to the season. Their defensive numbers have been good — among the best on the team — but the actual goals and points have been tough to find. Will they be able to turn things around? Hopefully, but in the meantime, the Avs are comfortably the second best team in the West.

3. Chicago Blackhawks (Points per game: 1.333)

Another .500 week for the Hawks saw both the good and the really bad from this aging squad. Recently healed goaltender Corey Crawford gave up three to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, before bouncing back against the Blue Jackets, stopping 37 in the 4-1 win.

38 shots is a lot to take, hopefully the Hawks were able to clamp down on the defense for when Cam Ward steps into the net to play the Tampa Bay L- Oh My God! The Lightning out-shot the Hawks 33-5 in the second period, a new NHL record for most shots in a period en route to a 6-3 win (that was never close).

4. Winnipeg Jets (Points per game: 1.300)

The Jets struggled out of the gate, but a great week going 3-1-0 against Canucks, Coyotes, and Blues, before a tough loss to the Maple Leads have catapulted them back to the top-end of the standings.

Connor Hellebuyck was slow out of the gates to start the season, but he’s been much better recently. Mark Scheifele continues to lead the team in scoring with 10 points in 10 games. Patrik Laine has yet to score at even-strength this season, which is a bit of a concern and is only shooting 7.5%. Both those numbers will come up in time, there’s no rush for this perennial Cup contender.

5. Minnesota Wild (Points per game: 1.250)

I’m not really sure what to make of the Wild. Their shots for numbers for their entire roster beyond a handful of guys are all in the bottom half of the league, and only four players on the team (Eric Staal, Matt Dumba, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund) have positive shot and goal differentials. And yet, they’re 4-2-2 and on a three-game winning streak.

6. San Jose Sharks (Points per game: 1.222)

It was a perfect week for the Sharks, who are starting to round into form. Wins over the Sabres, Islanders, and Predators have pushed the Sharks back over a point per game in the standings.

Erik Karlsson is doing great things offensively, but puck luck is the only thing holding him back right now. His goal differentials are terrible, but his expected numbers look great, so it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out.

In the meantime, the Sharks have Brent Burns scoring at over a point-per-game pace. I guess that’s what happens when you have two Norris winners on the same team.

7. Calgary Flames (Points per game: 1.111)

Things have been a little weird in Calgary lately. T.J. Brodie has been relegated to the third pair despite putting up some great results. His shot and goal differentials are great, he doesn’t take penalties, and his teammates improve around him. What’s going on?

After some research, fans in and around Calgary are certain that Brodie should be traded. He took an unnecessary penalty in the Canadiens game so perhaps that’s why? If someone has answers, I’d love to hear them.

8. Vancouver Canucks (Points per game: 1.111)

The Canucks have been able to keep every game they’ve played in close, and allowing their young stars a chance to win them games. Long-term cap situations aside, this has been a pretty good recipe for them so far. It’s a shame it might lose them Jack Hughes.

9. Anaheim Ducks (Points per game: 1.100)

Told you the Ducks would fall out of the sky. They’ve lost three straight (vegas, Buffalo, Chicago) and have been brutally out-shot in each game. They might be (are) the worst coached team in the league.

10. Edmonton Oilers (Points per game: 1.000)

The Oilers don’t go anywhere without Connor McDavid. I don’t just mean that they’re not as good of a team, no, I mean they don’t go ANYWHERE. In their only win this week, McDavid had two primary assists in the 3-2 OT win, including practically gifting Leon Draisaitl the overtime winner after doing all the work himself. They looked utterly useless in the 3-0 loss to Nashville when McDavid was limited to only two shots on goal, and was on the ice for two against.

At what point does McDavid get put into child protective custody? Not only are the Oilers losing, but they’re skating him into the ground.

11. Dallas Stars (Points per game: 1.000)

Like most teams in this range, the Stars are a middling team who are consistently able to beat non-playoff teams, but generally struggle against any team that shows any kind of offensive pushback or defensive fortitude. They are 4-4-0 with a 23-23 goal differential and a middle-of-the-pack shot share. They should contend for a playoff spot simply because more than half the teams in the league make it.

The main issue I see with this team is that all the good the top of the lineup brings is being almost perfectly cancelled out by the lack of talent anywhere else in the lineup. Their entire bottom half of the lineup (on forward and defense) provide zero offensive while being in the range of okay to terrible defensively.

12. Vegas Golden Knights (Points per game: 1.000)

This is about where we expected a year-two Vegas Golden Knights roster to be. That PDO bender is well and truly in the past. As Avs fans, I feel like we should pour one out for our PDO Bender Buddies.

That Jonathan Marchessault contract looks pretty good so far. He has five goals and 10 points through the teams first nine games. But on the other hand, those contracts to Alex Tuch and doper Nate Schmidt that were signed this week are both expensive and long, and I don’t think either player is worth all that much. A clean Schmidt was a third-pair defenseman on Washington, and it was well known how much Tuch struggled as the second-line center in the playoffs. They have Paul Stastny now, but do you really want to pay your third-line center $4.75 million for seven years?

13. St. Louis Blues (Points per game: 0.875)

The Blues are being very mediocre to start the season, but it’s definitely not Ryan O’Reilly’s fault. He has 10 points in nine games, leading the team in scoring, and doing all the great defensive things he normally does. This past week for the Blues wasn’t bad; they beat Toronto in a commanding 4-1 performance, and were able to control the dynamic Jets long enough to steal a point in overtime.

14. Arizona Coyotes (Points per game: 0.750)

Believe it or not, the Coyotes are scoring! Three goals in their first five games has turned into 11 goals in their last three! Antti Raanta has shaken off the early season jitters and has turned in a few really good performances as of late. Darcy Kuemper has also played well in the backup role; he has a .953 SV% through two games, a win and a loss. For a team that’s been so bad for so long, this is cause for optimism.

15. Los Angeles Kings (Points per game: 0.555)

The Kings were out-scored 16-5 through three games this week. no one is scoring, no one beyond Adrian Kempe can defend even if their life depended on it, and as a result, the Kings have lost five in a row. Also, ahem, I’d like to formally apologize for putting the Kings as my Stanley Cup Finalist. I really thought they had enough in them for one final run. I thought Ilya Kovalchuk would do something, anything, but I was wrong.