The Colorado Avalanche have 28 games under their belt and a third of the season behind them. How do you measure up?
The Avalanche kicked off the first third of the season with one of the hottest starts in a decade. The contributions came from teamwork and individuals.
Overview of the avalanche team
The Avalanche stands out from the more recent history of the franchise. Their first 28 games of the season made a difference in both the standings and the stats.
In 28 games played, the Avalanche finished fifth overall with 37 points from a 16-7-5 record. Among the teams of the Western Conference, they took second place behind the Nashville Predators. The Avalanche also made it to second place in the highly competitive Central Division. The Winnipeg Jets were one game in hand with a single point behind the avalanche. The Central Division had four of the six best teams in the Western Conference and five of the top eight. The headquarters seemed to be heading for the status of a “death group” again.
The Avalanche managed to climb the ladder while playing 17 of their 28 games on the road, scoring 10-5-2 while traveling. Only two other Western Conference teams have had as many street games: the Vegas Golden Knights and the Vancouver Canucks. Not a single Eastern Conference team played as many street games.
Along the way, the Avalanche had an 11-game points streak and a six-game road win streak.
Colorado’s power play helped move the team forward as they took first place in the league and used the man advantage 32.2 percent of the time. Their power play was almost three percent more effective than that of the second highest competitor.
The avalanche’s penalty kill unit is not as dominant as last year, but it is in 13th placethe in the league at the third mark. They successfully killed the 80.4 percent of their understaffed situations. It’s also important to note that the Avalanche were understaffed more often than 28 other teams in the NHL. Only the Anaheim Ducks and the Canucks had more calls against them, and they had each played two more games than Colorado. While some of the special team players haven’t received much recognition, their contributions have been substantial.JT Compher was instrumental in the penalty shoot-out in the avalanche. (Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports)
Other team statistics
The Avalanche ranked third in the league in terms of goals scored, level with the Maple Leafs with 102 notched goals. The team averaged 3.64 goals per game, finishing second in the NHL. Colorado were the tenth-stingiest team on allowed goals, giving up just 79 goals in 28 games.
The Avalanche was in second place (with the Predators – who else?) For the best goal difference in the NHL with a plus-23. They followed two Atlantic Division teams who shared first place – the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It is no coincidence that both teams were also at the top of the NHL leaderboard.The Avalanche are chasing the Nashville Predators at the head of the Western Conference. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Colorado showed some areas for improvement. The team could afford to take more shots. With all their speed and talent, they finished 20th in the average number of shots per game. They also ranked 11th in the average number of shots allowed. The Avalanche averaged more allowed shots than shots in the first third of their season. That’s not ideal.
In the “no surprise” category, the Avalanche came last in duels. They have won 46.6% of the puck drops so far, placing them at the bottom of the NHL. However, they have improved since the start of the season so there is a small silver lining.
The other point that comes as no surprise – the Avalanche have lost five overtime games and the most overtime defeats with seven other teams. For a team playing with talented young players, Colorado’s 3v3 games were … ugly.
The Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen-Gabriel Landeskog line dominated ice hockey in the first third of the season. The “line of fire” scored 120 points in 28 competitions. They were involved in 56 percent of the Avalanche goals. MacKinnon and Rantanen were tied for most multi-point games, taking first place with 15 games each. Rantanen has collected the most NHL road points so far, followed by MacKinnon in second place. All three contributed to goals together 16 times.The top line of the Colorado Avalanche continues to roll up the honors. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
MacKinnon’s performance earned him the second star of the month in the NHL in November. He collected 23 points in November, making him the most points of the month. He also set Peter Forsberg’s avalanche record for most points scored in November, which was set in 1996-96. On points, he finished second in the league. Nate the Great also led the league in number of goals scored, while finishing second in number of goals scored with equal strength.
Rantanen was the first star of the month for October. Rantanen led the NHL on points and assists after 28 games, finishing third in points in November. He also accumulated 20 points in consecutive months, something that had not happened in the avalanche since 2002/03 (Forsberg had three months with 20 or more points in a row).
Landeskog took third place in the league in plus / minus, 11th place for goals scored and 17th place for points. The captain turned out to be particularly scary in the 5v5, as he was ninth in the goals scored with even strength. But Landeskog really shone when he thought about game-winning goals that made him finish first in the NHL. It’s also worth noting that the team struggled with puck drops in the first third of the season, but Landeskog didn’t. The captain won 54.8% of his innuendo, good enough to finish 21st in the league.
Goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov played his part in the Avalanche’s hot start. He saved 0.923 of the shots on the net, good enough to put him in ninth place in the league. His goal-against-average put him in 11th place. And he managed to get 10th place in the number of wins. Despite not dominating the league, Varlamov offered a solid online presence in the first third of the season.Semyon Varlamov was a solid presence on the Avalanche network. (AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill)
Defense attorney Ian Cole brought a stabilizing presence to the avalanche. He led the league in blocked shots 28 games into the season. His physical style of play also provided the penalty minutes and took sixth place in the league for the scored penalty time. Cole collected plus nine and scored nine points.
Tyson Barrie also made significant contributions on the blue line, especially when it came to goals. With his 21 points, he finished eighth among the defenders, although he missed four games due to injury.
A total of nine players on the team scored double-digit points in the first third of the season. Seven defenders earned at least one point. The secondary rating really improved as the line combinations stabilized after the initial juggling.
The future of the avalanche
If the Avalanche can continue their hot start, they could easily be the second seed in the Central Division and if they keep improving they could even top the Predators.
Last year, the Avalanche had 28 points after 28 games. This season, the Avalanche rolled to 37 points after 28 games. The biggest difference? Colorado took three more wins and learned to come into overtime. Even if they lost, they still scored a point.
If the Avalanche continues at this rate, they could end the season with 108 points. Since they are in the Central, they need every point they can get to secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs. The Nashville Predators have long been the leaders in Central.Gabriel Landeskog wants to meet with the Nashville Predators. (AP Photo / Mark Zaleski)
It’s amazing to even think about playoff spots for Colorado. The fact that it is even sensible in a conversation disturbs every bet. Your 48-point season was just two years ago. In the 2016-17 season, the Avalanche had 23 points after the 28th game. That’s an improvement of 14 points in two years.
The last time the Avalanche broke the 30-point mark after 28 games was in the 2009-10 season. They collected 35 points and lost to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.
The fans also noticed the difference. While audience numbers improved last year, games were nearly sold out this season. In recent years there have been times when the fans of the opponents outnumbered the Avalanche fans. But those days are over. The Avalanche have proven to be an exciting team that people love to dig for and the fans have returned.
Rantanen’s 46-point pace can be tough to maintain throughout the season. MacKinnon’s 43 points in 28 games could be tough to keep for the length of the season. Rantanen is unlikely to score 134 points for the season. But even a small cool down will keep the trio at the top of the NHL leaderboards.Mikko Rantanen continues to fight for respect while continually finding ways to score. (AP photo / David Zalubowski)
Colorado was relatively lucky in the 2018/19 season. The team has managed to keep its top performers largely healthy. If their top performers stay healthy, they should continue to win.
The Avalanche also have other weapons in their arsenal. They have high goalkeeping quality, talented depth and a solid blue line. The team overcame a number of challenges that plagued them two years ago. Stay two thirds of the season.
Colorado appears poised to freeze its opponents and bury them under an avalanche of goals. Anything is possible, but it’s a great start to the avalanche and the view from the top of the table is a refreshing change.
JD has been following the Colorado Avalanche since the days of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. JD is blessed to oversee the team for almost 5 seasons, including 3 in different locations, and enjoys working with the Hockey Writers. Proud parent of three people and two dogs, you can follow all the antics @JDKpirate.