The Avalanche have finally overcome the second round, and while the narrative was drastically overblown, they are halfway to the ultimate goal of the Stanley Cup.
The Avalanche dominated at 5v5 the majority of the series, but especially in the 3rd period, where outside of game 5, when they were horrible, completely shut the Blues down, as seen in the shot charts below. At 5v5 in the five 3rd periods outside of game 5, the Blues only managed three high danger chances, to the Avalanche 13, and in-game 5 in the Avalanche’s massive collapse, the blues still only had one more high danger chances than Colorado with the Blues having 3 to theAvalanche’ss 2.
Being able to lock it down is a key ability for a contender to possess, and the Avalanche have shown they have that ability and they were also able to come back in game 6 to clinch the series.
The Blues had a large portion of the possession in the series at 5v5 but were not able to take advantage of their biggest strength, their passing, as the Avalanche limited them to 2.5 shots off high danger passes, half as many as their previous series as seen in the tweets below.
The Avalanche had some incredible performances in the series, primarily Kadri, after being unfairly subject to racist comments and death threats carrying the Avalanche with a hattrick to a crucial game 4 victory, giving them a 3 – 1 series lead, and NathanMacKinnon’ss game 5 hattrick, which was unfortunately ruined by the rest of the team. However, looking at the series as a whole, the Avalanche won as a team. The Avalanche had 13 different players with a goal in the series, and the only concerns in the series were the 3rd line (who produced two critical goals in game 6, helping clinch the series), MRantanen’snen’s lack of goal scoring, SaGirard’sard’s injury, and DKuemper’sper’s performance. The 3rd line went through some tinkering, with Newhook tBurakovsky’svsky’s spot in 2 games. Still, some other tinkering with the team might need to be made to maximize the lines effectiveness, as they are the only Avalanche line in the playoffs to have played 15 minutes together that have an expected goals for percentage below 50%, at 41.4%. The next issue is thaRantanen’sntanen’s only goal in the playoffs was an empty netter, and while he has been overly criticized as he has still been effective, his scoring needs to be improved if the team is going to win the cup. Another large concern is the Girard injury, and luckily the Bowen Byram – Erik Johnson pairing has played exceptionally well, but it creates a concern whenever the Jack Johnson – Josh Manson pairing has to play. However, outside of the brutal turnover by Jack Johnson leading to the Blues goal in game 6 the pairing has been solid, controlling 51.3% of the expected goals. The last concern in the series was Kuemper, as he only saved more goals than expected in one of the six games, which needs to be better. However, the team was able to overcome his poor play, which shows how well they should be able to do if he pehe’sms to what he’s capable of.
Round 3 Preview
The two biggest questions for the Avalanche are: Can they shut downn Connor McDavid and is Darcy Kuemper good enough. On the Kuemper front, there iwasn’tenying he wasn’t at his best, the 3-0 lead in game 5 against the blues was largely blown due to poor play on the part of Kuemper, but the numbers are misleading for both teams’ goaltenders.
WhenAvalanche’st the Avalanche’s two opponents, Nashville and St Louis, they were 2nd and 7th in goals scored above expected, the Blues scoring 67.9 goals above expected. In contrast, the Predators scored 31.7 goals above expected. On the Oilers side, they faced Calgary, who was 10th at 17.8 goals above expected and Los Angeles, who was last at 36.6 below expected, twice as bad as the second last team, Dallas, who scored 15.6 below expected, and against the Flames, Smith only saved 0.1 goals above expected. There are no guarantees in hockey, but there is a very good chance that Kuemper outperforms Mike Smidon’tven if the numbers don’t reflect it due to the majority of the dangerous chances being created by McDavid and Draisaitl.
According to Natural Stattrick at 5v5 in the playoffs, the Oilers have generated 30.1 expected goals for and scored 35 goals for in 566 minutes. McDavid was on the ice for 15.6 of the expected goals for and 25 of the goals for in 206 of the minutes, which is 51.9% of the Oilers expected goals for and 71.2% of the Oilers goals for in 36.4% of the 5v5 time on ice. If you include all strengths, McDavid played 36.9% of the time, and in that time, they generated 58.4% of the Oilers expected goals for and 72.9% of their goals for. This is just another example of how important McDavid is, but the easiest thing to look at is primary points. McDavid leads the league in primary points at 24, with Draisaitl second with 15, 9 primary points behind, so while Draisaitl broke records in round 2 while playing through an injury, do not be mistaken this is the Connor McDavid show. If the Avalanche are able to cancel out McDavid they will win the series, but the chance that McDavid gets canceled out is about as close to zero as it can get, but the Avalanche are probably the team most equipped to do it. The first reason is their elite top-pairing, who are both elite skaters, with Devon Toews likely jumping the boards anytime McDavid gets on the ice. The following reason is the Avalanche top-six is full of defensive wingers, Nichushkin and Lehkonen, two speedy forecheckers, and Landeskog and Rantanen, two big wingers who can protect the puck with the best of them. The lineup the Avalanche finished the series against the Blues with had one from each of the group on the top two lines, so if Colorado can effectively pressure the Oilers defencemen, who are not the strongest puck movers, and cause turnovers and then spend McDavids shifts forcing him to defend that will lead them to a lot of success. Still, one mistake and the Oilers can make them pay.
In the end, hockey is incredible, and we are about to be fortunate enough to experience a bunch of the best players in the worlcan’ty in a single series. However, we can’t forget there are more important things than hockey, and there idon’tll a lot to be done so that people don’t have to experience what Kadri and his family had to go through.
Data via Evolving Hockey & Natural Stat Trick