More puck possession is why the Avs are now only allowing the third-most shots in the NHL

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Fancy stat enthusiasts have always been quick to point out Colorado’s poor possession metrics and high shots-against totals.

Now, head coach Patrick Roy is referencing them as well.

From the Denver Post:

The Avs were allowing an average of 38.9 shots on net at one point last week. That number is down to 34.1, and while it remains third-most in the NHL, it’s progress. Roy thinks he knows why.

“We’ve been possessing the puck more,” Roy said. “Defensively, we (are not) staying (as) long in our end. Earlier this season, we could be a minute, a minute ten or twenty in our own end.

“Now, it’s like 10, 15, 20, 30 seconds at most. Maybe one or two times we’re going to be more than 30 seconds.”

The “Analytics vs. Avalanche” battle has been going on for a while. In September, Roy and GM Joe Sakic downplayed the value and importance of Corsi, Fenwick and other advanced metrics, disagreeing with those that predicted Colorado would regress following last year’s 112-point campaign.

Of course, Sakic did acknowledge improving puck possession was something his club needed to work on — but not without dismissing the fancy stats.

“We know we need to control the play a little more than we did last year. And we expect to do that,” Sakic said, per the Denver Post. “But I don’t think we really needed the analytics to tell us; we saw it ourselves.”

In light of this us-versus-the-math squabble, those on the side of numbers have taken pleasure (schadenfreude?) in Colorado’s slow start to the year. The Avs sit dead last in the Central Division with a 7-9-5 record and many of the staples to their success last year — high scoring, excellent goaltending — haven’t been as consistent.

Despite Roy’s quotes above, don’t expect Colorado to go all-in on the metrics. Captain Gabriel Landeskog reminds us that at the end of the day, nothing beats a little elbow grease.

“We’re still getting there, but I think we are just playing better fundamental hockey than we were,” he said. “We’re at our best when we’re working just as hard as our talent level.”