If the Colorado Avalanche were the lightning rod for the statistical debate last season, then the storm that just hit knocked out power for the entire region and left just one house untouched; the house that PDO built.
The Avalanche were as awful as the Wild were excellent on Thursday night, which should add significant fuel (at least for one day) to the “they can’t do it again” crowd, which should be fun to listen to until Saturday night. Of course that neglects a few things:
1. It’s just one game.
2 It’s just one game between two teams that got to know each other on an Osmand-close level last spring.
3. If anyone knows how to game the Avalanche, it’s the rising-star of match-ups, Mike Yeo. Giving Yeo home ice is like giving a bully brass knuckles. Remember how badly the Wild dominated all three match-ups (irrespective of the final score) in St. Paul last April?
And while one game does not a trend make, watching the game Thursday one could see what the “geeks” are talking about. The Avalanche played like garbage Thursday, specifically because they could not possess the puck. Everyone gave it away. Hell, Jarome Iginla, a brainy player if there ever was one, coughed it up twice in fifteen seconds during one shift. Without the puck, one cannot shoot, and without the shots, one cannot score. You’re welcome for that little reductive nugget which is of course at the core of the pro-statistical argument.
But, did the Avalanche cough up the puck because they just can’t hold it? Did they cough it up because the Wild we’re just on them all night? These are the great questions, and they land on either side of hockey’s great argument.
One thing is certain, the Wild did play their best on Thursday, and whether you call it grit, heart, or possession, they looked truly a better team from top to bottom. The Avalanche, while they tried to add in the off-season, still don’t have a line capable of keeping up Granlund, Parise and Pominville, and they don’t have anything close to resembling a defenseman who can control the flow of a game like Ryan Suter. I’m not sure any of the Avalanche defensemen would crack the Wild top four.
Now comes the coaching test for Patrick Roy, a man who still needs to prove he isn’t a fluke. And while he may not be a one-year wonder, he is an old school type of coach. Now he needs to old school the hell out of his lineup, or his team will end up at the back end of hockey’s best division come April.
And while it is still true that what happened Thursday doesn’t mean the Avalanche have regressed, if they do end up back in the pack this season, it will be because of efforts like that. Time will tell, but the statistical ICBM’s are being programmed as we speak, and they are pointed directly at Denver. Launch sequence initiated.