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Hot Starts, Slumps And Sustain In The Western Conference

After a brief hiccup, the Minnesota Wild are off to one of the best starts in the short history of the franchise.  Their goal differential of +7 in 20 games ranks third in the conference and they've opened up a 5 point lead on the Edmonton Oilers in the Northwest Division.  After a nice start, the Colorado Avalanche have collapsed and now sit 13th in the conference in points earned per game.  The Canucks sit in 11th and the Predators are in 5th.  The only thing that makes sense is how dominant San Jose has been.

Are any of these hot starts sustainable?  Will Colorado linger and Vancouver falter for the whole season?

A couple of key underlying statistics provides some answers.  While it's still early to have a definitive grasp on each team (we'll know better by Christmas), Fenwick Tied and save percentage are extremely useful nonetheless.

*Data accurate as of 11/20/2011

Team Fenwick Tied
Detroit  0.571
St. Louis  0.567
Chicago  0.551
Vancouver  0.537
Colorado  0.521
Phoenix  0.509
San Jose  0.508
Calgary  0.505
Columbus  0.501
Edmonton  0.499
Los Angeles  0.491
Dallas  0.454
Nashville  0.433
Anaheim  0.417
Minnesota  0.413
  • This is a bit problematic for the Wild.  Not only are the Wild the worst possession team in the Western Conference, they're the worst possession team in the entire league. The sharps are already talking about this, but without divine help at even strength the Wild's stay at the top of the conference will be brief.  It's a small sample size to be sure, but the Wild are a worse team at even strength compared to the 2010-11 team.
  • The Avs, meanwhile, are a much better team than the Wild, but have suffered through a number of issues as they fell into the bottom tier in the West.
  • Vancouver is far better than their record lets on and Phoenix might be a legit team.
  • After starting 11-3, the Stars have lost their last five in a row.  Yes, they've been without Alex Goligoski, but like last year,  the Stars are not a good even strength team. 
  • St. Louis has to be the most surprising team on that list.  The story might be about Brian Elliott, but it's even strength play driving their success.
  • The Ducks are full value for their 14th-place standing.  They're getting smoked at evens.
  • The old men in Detroit are still the best possession team in the league.
Team EV Sv Pct. Tied EV Sv Pct
Los Angeles  0.968 0.934
Minnesota  0.956 0.951
Phoenix  0.948 0.936
Nashville  0.947 0.933
Dallas  0.946 0.935
Edmonton  0.938 0.932
Detroit  0.932 0.939
Colorado  0.932 0.918
Columbus  0.920 0.904
San Jose  0.919 0.938
Calgary  0.918 0.925
St. Louis  0.917 0.942
Anaheim  0.910 0.914
Chicago  0.903 0.905
Vancouver  0.901 0.902
  • That divine intervention mentioned for the Wild might be goaltending.  The Wild are 2nd in the West with the score tied and first overall.  Backstrom and Harding are good - but they aren't that good.  The two have kept the Wild at the top of the conference, but when they come back to the pack, the Wild should trend down.
  • How bizarre is it to see Vancouver at the bottom of the list?  And while Robert Luongo hasn't been his stellar self, he's not the primary culprit at evens - Cory Schneider is.   Scheinder has been bad, .889 bad, at evens thus far.
  • The reason behind the Stars' early success becomes evident through the save percentage data.  Kari Lehtonen has stopped everything, and he's been busy, what with the puck always in his end.
  • If Chicago's goaltending remains this poor, they'll go looking for a goaltender on the trade market.  Whether they can land one is a diferent story - the impending free agent collection isn't enticing.
  • How strange is it to see Columbus in the middle of the pack tied?  They're 14th in the conference at evens overall, but with the score tied, they're (Mason?) is better.

Data courtesy and the irreverent Vic Ferrari