Nino Niederreiter, Semyon Varlamov

Poll: Are the Avs due for a downfall?

34 Comments

According to proponents of the so-called “advance statistics” that we continue to hear so much about this summer, the real Colorado Avalanche were exposed in the playoffs, when they lost in seven games to Minnesota.

All season long, according to the analytics folks, the numbers said the Avs were leaning too heavily on the goaltending of Semyon Varlamov, as well as a high shooting percentage that couldn’t possibly be sustained.

And after winning the first two games against the Wild, things did, in fact, seem to catch up to the surprise winners of the Central Division. In Games 3 and 4, the Avs scored just once on a measly 34 shots combined. In Games 6 and 7, Varlamov allowed eight goals on 56 shots combined, including the series clincher, in overtime, by Nino Niederreiter.

Not too long after losing to Minnesota, Colorado lost center Paul Stastny, one of their best possession players, to free agency. Which was a particularly tough pill to swallow, given they got nothing in return for the 28-year-old, and didn’t even have a postseason victory to show for rolling the dice and keeping him, sans long-term contract, for the playoffs.

There is, of course, an opposing side to the argument that the Avs are due for a downfall. (Or, in stats speak, for a regression.)

For starters, defenseman Tyson Barrie was taken out of the series by Matt Cooke in Game 3.  Wouldn’t a lot of teams struggle if they lost such a key player? Just a coincidence they went 2-0 with Barrie in the lineup and 1-4 in games he didn’t finish or didn’t play?

Also, the Avs’ core is still very young, with the potential to improve under the coaching of Jack Adams Award winner Patrick Roy. Yes, they lost Stastny. But they’ve still got Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Ryan O’Reilly in the top six. All with valuable postseason experience now.

On top of that, they added veterans Jarome Iginla, Daniel Briere, and Brad Stuart to the mix this summer.

OK, time to vote:

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

1 Comment

For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

2 Comments

The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
1 Comment

If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

2 Comments

It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.