You must understand, my dearest Oilers, that it is virtuous to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get frustrated. Anger and frustration do not produce the righteousness that God desires, so get rid of any negative attitudes and humbly accept that your lot this year may not be the Stanley Cup. Instead, God is testing you so that you will know that you can rely on his power to get you through every trial.
But that doesn't mean you can be lazy! Don't just listen to your coaches, actually do what they say! Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves when you say, "We're just young, we'll get better with age". If you say things like that, you deserve a bag-skate! For if you listen, but don't act, it's like taking a quick glance at a map before leaving home - you're sure to get lost! But if you study the map carefully, you will be saved from every trouble.
If you consider yourselves followers of the Way, then prove it! Keep a tight rein on your tongues - and I'm not just talking about speech! - so that you can be set apart from the world. You have been called by God for a particular task: to live lives singularly devoted to the practice of your craft so that you may bring his Cup to his favoured city once again.
Colorado Avalanche (12-8-1) @ Edmonton Oilers (5-11-4)
Rexall Place, 7:00 p.m. MST
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report:
I was not a believer in the Colorado Avalanche last season, and was not a believer in the Colorado Avalanche before this season began. In fact, I picked the Avalanche to finish 28th in the NHL this season with a -45 goal differential. I said that mostly because this team was outchanced and outshot by just about everybody last year, and because management didn't do anything to make this club better over the summer - it's hard to build a winning team when you're spending $10 or $15 or even $20 million less than your competitors. I think the logic was sound, but so far, I'm dead wrong.
The Avalanche have been, for me, one of the biggest positive surprises of the season, especially considering the number of injuries they've had to deal with to key players like Craig Anderson and Kyle Quincey (both out tonight). The Avalanche are solidly in the middle of the pack in terms of Corsi with the score close, a massive improvement over last season when they were at the bottom of the league. Overall, the Avalanche have also improved substantially, moving from a shot differential (all situations) of -4.2 per game in 2009-10 to -0.1 so far in 2010-11. The Avalanche don't have as many points this year as they did at the same time a year ago (they were 13-5-3 after 21 games), but the team is much better, and with a lot of their best players under twenty-five, the future looks bright.
Edmonton Oilers (5-11-4):
Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Cogliano - Brule
Jones - Gagner - Paajarvi
Jacques - Fraser - Stortini
Whitney - Gilbert
Smid - Foster
Peckham - Vandermeer
Colorado Avalanche (12-8-1)
Jones - Stastny - Stewart
Porter - Duchene - Hejduk
Winnik - O'Reilly - Mauldin
McLeod - Dupuis - Yip
Shattenkirk - Hannan
Wilson - Foote
O'Byrne - Liles
By the Numbers:
- The Colorado Avalanche have gotten a lot of scoring from the top of their lineup: Chris Stewart, Milan Hejduk, John-Michael Liles, Paul Stastny, and Matt Duchene are all among the top fifty scorers in the league, which is probably above expectations for four of them. The only other team with five top fifty scorers? The Anaheim Ducks. I wouldn't have guessed that.
- The big story in Edmonton is the three big rookie forwards and how they're progressing, and so far things are going quite well for Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle who have played mostly on the same line and are both in the top ten among rookie scorers. In Colorado, the rookies were the big story of last season. Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly both had strong rookie seasons, and that's continued in 2010-11. Duchene currently leads all sophomores in scoring, and O'Reilly has continued to learn and the defensive side of the game - there aren't too many sophomores out there with the toughest Zone Start ratio on their team and a postivie Relative Corsi rating (i.e. their Corsi rate compared with their teammates).
- One of the things holding Colorado back has been a pretty brutal penalty killing unit. So far this season they're only running along at 77.9%, tied for 25th in the NHL, and a full ten points up on the Oilers (67.9%). One thing the two units have in common is very poor goaltending: the Oilers save percentage on the PK is a deplorable .805, but the Avalanche netminders aren't much better at .830.
- The Avalanche have been a poor team on the draw for the last couple of seasons now. They look like they've improved so far this season (from 47.7% last year to 48.5% this year), but most of that jump looks like good fortune on the PK. The Avalanche have won 50.3% of draws while penalty killing (157 total FOs), but only 46.9% at EV (951 total FOs). This strange success while penalty killing didn't exist a year ago, so I don't think the Avalanche are being coaches to do anything special here, but it might be something to look for if the Oilers manage to earn themselves a power play.
- The Oilers have a runaway leader in penalty differential so far this season: Zack Stortini. Through twelve games, Stortini has drawn six penalties and has only taken one (of the non-coincidental variety), which is darned impressive for a fourth-line banger. That kind of discipline should keep in the lineup (but might not). On the other end? Theo Peckham. In seventeen games, Peckham has taken seven penalties and drawn only two, and that's excluding a bunch of times he's given a forearm to the mouth without getting called. Of course, it also counts Peckham shooting a puck through the glass... so maybe we'll call it about right. I know that physical play needs to be part of his game, and that defenders generally take more penalties than forwards anyway, but I do hope it's an area that gets better as he ages.