This is what I have noticed about what transpires on the ice:
The game is not always given to the fast,
and victory does not always present itself to the strong.
Wise management is not always rewarded,
and strong underlying numbers do not guarantee a win.
Time and chance happen to them all.
No team knows when its hour has come.
Just as a Wild fish gets caught in a cruel net,
Or a tree is felled after years of standing by an Avalanche,
so some fans grow accustomed to luck
and think it skill. When the luck turns
they are devastated by the mounting losses.
Edmonton Oilers (12-8-2) @ Colorado Avalanche (9-12-1)
Pepsi Center, 5:00 p.m. MST
More analysis after the jump...
Home Team Scouting Report:
The Colorado Avalanche have a terrible record. That was also true in 2010-11, probably should have been true in 2009-10, and was most definitely true in 2008-09. The reason is that the Avalanche were a terrible team that was given a one-year reprieve from the basement thanks to some great goaltending from Craig Anderson. Here's the thing though. They're a pretty good team this year. Shot differential? +4.6 per game. A little of that comes from playing from behind so much, so what about their Fenwick with the score tied at even strength? +319 -300, or a very solid 51.4%. Perhaps most encouraging of all, it's the good young players leading the way - Gabriel Landeskog, for example has the best Corsi rate on the team (+23.0 per sixty minutes of five-on-five ice time) despite starting more than half of his shifts in the offensive zone. So what's wrong? They aren't getting any love from the percentages. Not a single regular has a PDO of 100 or better five-on-five; no one with an on-ice shooting percentage above 8% and no one with an on-ice save percentage above 93%. After trading away a first-round pick for a goalie, that's got to be particularly galling for both management and the team's fans. Still, the percentages should turn around, and the Avalanche should be able to get out of the bottom five. Heck, they're close enough to the pack that, with some luck, they might make a run into the playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers (12-8-2):
Hall - Horcoff - Hemsky
Smyth - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Jones - Belanger - Gagner
Petrell - Lander - Hordichuk
Smid - Gilbert
Whitney - Petry
Peckham - Teubert
Colorado Avalanche (9-12-1):
Jones - Stastny - Hejduk
Landeskog - Duchene - Lindstrom
Porter - O'Reilly - Winnik
Galiardi - McClement - Kobasew
O'Brien - Quincey
Hejda - Wilson
O'Byrne - Hunwick
By the Numbers:
Milan Hejduk has scored 0.59 points per game so far this season. If he finishes the year at that level, the thirty-five-year-old would match the worst offensive season of his career in terms of total output while playing significantly more minutes. I think that it was a great idea to make Hejduk the team's captain, but unfortunately, it looks like he might be slowing down.
- Then again, maybe Hejduk will have a resurgence like fellow oldster, Ryan Smyth. Smyth has never scored more than 68 points in a season, but with 24 points already this season, he's on pace for 89, and already more than halfway to last season's total of 47. He's not likely to sustain his current scoring pace over the whole season, but if he does, it could be one of the more heart-wrenching contract negotiations. I mean, if I had a career year at age thirty-six, I don't know that I'd be in any kind of big hurry to sign a one-year contract, but if I were the Oilers, I wouldn't be in any big hurry to sign a thirty-six-year-old to a multi-year deal either.... May Smytty's love of Edmonton of prevail!
- Ryan Smyth is also one of two Oilers that ranks in the NHL's top ten in points (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), one of three Oilers that ranks in the NHL's top twenty (Jordan Eberle), and one of four that ranks in the NHL's top forty (Taylor Hall). The last time that any of those things were true would have been... a couple of decades ago and then some?
- This whole trading for Semyon Varlamov thing isn't working out too well, but not really in the way that I was expecting. The Avalanche forwards and defensemen have actually been better than I had expected, but Varlamov himself has been awful. His even strength save percentage is a lowly .905, and the usual shot quality excuses are getting blown to bits by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who's standing tall at .931. I thought that the Avalanche would lose a great pick out of this deal, but I also thought they'd be getting a very good goalie. Their fans were hoping that only half of that would be true. So far, it's the wrong half.
- Some of these scoring droughts are getting ridiculous: Eric Belanger, Magnus Paajarvi, and Sam Gagner are all among the league's top fifteen forwards in terms of total ice time without a goal. Eric Belanger is #1 with a bullet with 341:54 in total minutes, including 38:59 on the power play.