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31 in 31

Colorado Avalanche key statistics

Even-strength scoring, special teams need to improve

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Colorado Avalanche.


[AVALANCHE 31 in 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Top prospects]


1. Scoring slump

The Colorado Avalanche struggled to score at even strength last season. With 114 goals at 5-on-5, they were tied with the New Jersey Devils for last in the NHL.

This was a big drop from the three previous seasons, when the Avalanche averaged 153 even-strength goals per season, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators for ninth in the NHL.

Each of Colorado's three top forwards struggled at even strength. In the three seasons from 2013-14 through 2015-16, Matt Duchene averaged 2.32 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, but he dropped to 1.45 in 2016-17. Gabriel Landeskog went from a three-season average of 2.04 to 1.43, and Nathan MacKinnon dropped from 1.93 to 1.68.

Video: 31 in 31: Colorado Avalanche 2017-18 season preview


2. Special teams

The Avalanche also struggled to perform in other manpower situations. Their 12.6 power-play percentage ranked last in the NHL last season, and their 76.6 penalty-killing percentage was 29th, ahead of only the Dallas Stars (73.9 percent).

Add the two figures together and Colorado had a League-low Special Teams Index (STI) of 89.2, which was a big drop from its STI of 98.2 in 2015-16, 99.2 in 2014-15 and 100.1 in 2013-14. It was the fourth time in 20 years an NHL team finished below 90.0, and it was the second-worst STI in franchise history (1990-91 Quebec Nordiques, 88.9).

Digging deeper into the numbers, the Avalanche's shot-based metrics weren't that bad when they were shorthanded. Their penalty kill allowed 95.51 shot attempts per 60 minutes, which ranked 11th in the NHL, according to the data compiled at Natural Stat Trick. The problem was in net, where the shorthanded save percentage of .835 was 29th, ahead of only the Stars (.815).


3. Erik Johnson

One reason for Colorado's disappointing season was the absence of their top defenseman for 36 games after he broke his fibula against the Stars on Dec. 3. When in the lineup, Johnson handles the tough minutes: killing penalties, playing in the defensive zone, and taking on top opponents.

There are modern metrics to measure each of these assignments. Over the past three seasons, Johnson's average of 2:50 of shorthanded ice time per game ranked 11th among the 281 NHL defensemen who played at least 40 games over that time. Over that same span, he started 1,077 of his shifts in the defensive zone and 843 in the offensive zone, for a zone-start percentage of 43.91, 24th-lowest.

In terms of taking on top opponents, the forward Johnson faced most frequently on each team tended to be its highest-scoring player last season, including Vladimir Tarasenko (34:30) for the St. Louis Blues, Jamie Benn (24:51) and Tyler Seguin (23:58) for the Stars, Patrick Kane (21:49) for the Chicago Blackhawks, Connor McDavid (21:42) for the Edmonton Oilers, and Patrik Laine (20:25) for the Winnipeg Jets, according to the data at Natural Stat Trick.

Video: CHI@COL: Johnson shows off speed, pots OT winner

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