The Colorado Avalanche had a difficult third week of the season, to say the least. Not only did they lose back-to-back games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Nathan MacKinnon suffered an injury that keeps him on the sidelines for the next three weeks. In response, the Avalanche outscored their opposition (the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks) 13-3 last week and look to be hitting their stride for the first time in 2021-22. Another light week beckons, with a road trip to the Pacific Northwest to face the Canucks and Seattle Kraken headlining the schedule for week five. Looking at each matchup separately, let’s dig into what can be expected over the next two games.
November 17th vs. Vancouver Canucks (5-8-2)
After three consecutive losses (including one to the Avalanche) to give the Canucks only two wins over their last nine games, things are tense in Vancouver. Although the season is still young, the team is quickly spiraling and are currently on track to miss the playoffs for the seventh time in the past nine seasons. As demonstrated in last week’s blowout, the Avalanche are likely salivating at the thought of enjoying another offensive buffet come Wednesday night. In any case, the climate seems ripe for change in Vancouver, with the owner accompanying the team on their most recent road trip. Could another embarrassing outcome trigger long-awaited personnel changes?
On the ice, the Canucks are struggling to meaningfully suppress opposing offenses at five-on-five in the early going. They rank in the bottom half in terms of how frequently they concede expected goals (20th in the NHL), scoring chances (19th), and high-danger opportunities in the slot (25th). It’s no wonder that their starting goalie in Thatcher Demko is sporting a sub-.900 save percentage (SV%) over 12 games — he’s receiving little defensive support. Their penalty kill has been even less effective, with Vancouver’s league-worst 63.3 percent mark being driven by abysmal scoring chance prevention (29th) while shorthanded. The Avalanche capitalized to improve their own feeble power play, scoring on two of three opportunities on the man-advantage and looking more like last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners. Colorado’s stumbled out of the gate, but another matchup with the limping Canucks is just the right antidote for their woes.
November 19th vs. Seattle Kraken (4-10-1)
The Kraken are competent at even-strength, despite what their record suggests. In particular, their defensive structure is among the best in the NHL, conceding the third-lowest rate of expected goals (xGA/60) and the fewest scoring chances (SCA/60) and high-danger looks in the league. Unfortunately, their attack is impotent in comparison, ranking in the bottom third of each of those metrics. Yet, their offensive output complements their defense enough to see the team control over 53 percent of scoring chances (seventh in the NHL), 55 percent of high-danger chances (fifth) and nearly 53 percent of expected goals (10th). So what gives? Seattle’s special teams and goaltending are the main culprits, tanking their otherwise stellar underlying numbers and distorting how the expansion franchise is faring in its inaugural season.
The tandem of Chris Driedger and Philipp Grubauer isn’t delivering on its promise, with the $9.4-million pair allowing 14 goals more than expected (GSAx), according to Money Puck, and ranking sixth- and eighth-worst respectively in GSAx/60 among goalies with more than one start. When including their third-string goalie (Joey Daccord) in the results, the Kraken’s collective SV% (.859) ranks dead last in the NHL — a full .14 lower than the next worst team. The historical competent performances of their netminders and Seattle’s strong underlying numbers suggest that they won’t be as bad for much longer, but it’s been a rough first month of competitive existence for the Kraken.
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The Kraken’s power play is firing at an ineffectual 10.9 percent clip (31st in the NHL), while the penalty kill has neutralized 80.7 percent of opposing opportunities (20th), neither of which come close to emulating their sturdy five-on-five numbers. Seattle’s produces middling scoring- and high-danger chance generation with the man-advantage, ranking at about the league-average in both departments. Their penalty kill allows an immense quantity of quality chances (31st in xGA/60), doing their trio of struggling goaltenders no favours. If the games become special teams affairs — which is likely since the Avalanche (second), Kraken (third), and Canucks (fifth) all rank highly for penalty minutes given (combined for and against) in their games — Colorado’s opponents could be in for some long nights.
The Colorado Avalanche’s Three Stars of Week Four
- Samuel Girard – 1 G – 5 A – 6 PTS
- Darcy Kuemper – 2-0-0, .942 SV%, .909 HDSV%, 1.50 GAA
- Nazem Kadri – 1 G – 3 A – 4 PTS
Marko is an aspiring sportswriter with a passion for crafting stories while using a combination of the eye-test and (shudder) analytics, which is complemented by an academic background in criminology and political science.
When not covering the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers, he can also be found pouring countless hours into various sports video games franchises, indulging in science fiction novels, and taking long runs around his neighbourhood.