Things are going really well for the Colorado Avalanche right now. The team has won five games in a row, they’re the highest scoring team in the NHL and their all star forwards are finally healthy for the first time since mid October. The Avs are one of the best teams in the league and a legitimate contender for the first time in a long while.
They’ve also been really lucky.
Following their road win in Montreal Thursday night, the Avalanche are working with a 5v5 shooting percentage of 10.22% - that’s nearly half a basis point higher than the Boston Bruins, who currently have the second highest shooting rate.
Since the last NHL lockout, no team has sustained a shooting percentage this high at 5v5. In fact, last year’s Washington Capitals are the only team to break the 10% mark - and that’s likely due to the fact that their captain is the greatest goal scorer in NHL history.
5v5 Season High Shooting Percentage Since the Lockout
The Avalanche finished the past two seasons with a shooting percentage of 8.26% and 7.62% respectively. This year’s team has a lot more depth up front and is better offensively but they’re not that much better.
Maybe the 2019-20 Avalanche are the best shooting team in the modern era. More likely though, is that they’re set to see a regression to the mean. Particularly from players like Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. All are on pace to set career highs in both goals and points, but they’re all also shooting nearly twice their career shooting percentage. That won’t continue.
What makes team regression very likely is the fact that the Avalanche are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to high-danger shot attempts. When a team has a very high shooting percentage, it’s often do to the fact that they generate a lot of shots from the high-danger area of the ice. The Avalanche currently sit 19th in the league in HD shot attempts per 60 minutes. That means that their inflated shooting percentage is coming from a lot of lower danger shots - making it even more likely that we see the scoring dry up a little.
The 5v5 regression should be somewhat worrisome as the Avalanche have been winning games thanks to their even strength play. They are currently the best team in the league when playing even and that’s helped to hide the fact that the team’s special teams have been a huge disappointment this season. What was a strength of the team, this year’s power play has been average at best. The team sits 16th in the league with a 19.3% success rate. While it isn’t impressive, the struggles could be explained by the fact that both Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have been out of the lineup for a significant period of time. Both being back should give the PP a bit of a boost.
The penalty kill is even worse, sitting 21st in the NHL.
An anticipated improvement with a healthy power play will help mitigate any 5v5 regression that is set to come - but it likely won’t cancel it out. Putting up four goals a night is fun but it’s not sustainable. If the Avalanche want to avoid a prolonged slump like the one they went through last season (the team lost 18 of 21 games between December 21 and February 12), they’re going to need to start playing better on both the power play and penalty kill while tightening things up defensively.
No one expects the Avalanche to suddenly have trouble scoring through the second half of the season, they just shouldn’t count on the shooting luck to continue the way it has.
If only there were a former Hart Trophy winner that Joe Sakic could trade for that would help pick up the slack when the current group’s scoring starts to regress to the mean.