Colorado Avalanche: Contender or Pretender?


As of November 4th, the Colorado Avalanche have the most wins in the NHL. If somebody told me that the Avs would be the number one team in the NHL at this point before the season started, I’d have thought that person was spending too much time hanging out with Rob Ford (Google him). Anyway, this Colorado team has been nothing short of spectacular. But can it last the full 82 games and even past that?

A number that is very influential of how this team has done thus far is .955. This number is the current save percentage for the combined goaltending for the Avs. .955 is a number that obviously won’t last the full season, but it also shows how well goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere have played so far. It’s still a very young season, but when you’re playing this well in net, it must be noted. It’s not a complete stretch to think that Varlamov could keep his save percentage at around .915 – .920. If he does, it would really help this team make a playoff push.

One thing that helps the goaltenders numbers is the team’s penalty killing. Yup, you guessed right, the Avalanche have the best penalty kill in the NHL, weighing in at 90.9%. Who on the Avs are to thank for these numbers? Household names like Jan Hejda and Nate Guenin are averaging three or more minutes per every 60 while a man short, leading the team. Can the core of this teams penalty killers (Jan Hejda, Nate Guenin, John Mitchell, Marc-Andre Cliche and the recently added Maxime Talbot) hold up over a very long season? So far, it’s obviously worked, but any speculation on this is justified. Also, Colorado has yet to give up a power play goal on the road. Patrick Roy’s witchcraft at it again.

Enough about boring old defense. How have the Avalanche performed on offense? Colorado is 6th in goals per game, averaging 3.23 per contest. This may be the most sustainable number the Avs have so far, and though their power play is 16th in the league, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that this number could go up.

One number that does concern me with this team is its Corsi for %. If you’re unclear of exactly what Corsi is, there’s a great explanation of it right here. The Avs Corsi for % is 50.5. This number has them ranked smack in the middle of all the NHL at number 15. The two previous Stanley Cup champions are ranked numbers one and two, as Corsi has become a great barometer to tell how a team has controlled the puck during a game or not. Most legitimate teams in the NHL are in the top 10, and since the Avs aren’t in the upper tier of puck-controlling teams, some people don’t take them as seriously. This standpoint on the team is a justified one.

Another number that isn’t very friendly to the Avalanche is their shooting percentage, which is at 11.2% (second in the league). Many analysts see a high shooting percentage and chalk it up as not pure luck, but the ‘Hockey Gods’ being on their side. This number will more than likely come down at some point, and when it does, it will be difficult for the Avalanche to be tops in the league.

Is this one of those typical hot starts a team gets on early in the season? Some of the more in depth statistics would say so, but nonetheless, it’s still a great performance they have put on in a city that needs their NHL team rejuvenated. And for the sake of the Avalanche players being yelled at by Patrick Roy, let’s hope they stay hot.


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