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Behind The Numbers

Avalanche capable of sustaining recent success

MacKinnon, Johnson can help Colorado continue to thrive following 10-game winning streak

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

The Colorado Avalanche have climbed into the Stanley Cup Playoff race thanks to a 10-game winning streak that ended with a 4-2 loss at the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.

During the streak, Colorado outscored its opponents 41-16, scored the first goal in each game and did not trail at any point in the first nine games; the Avalanche trailed for 1:34 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 10th game.

Will this success help Colorado make the postseason for the first time since 2013-14? Based on the underlying numbers, the recent success can be chalked up to its top players, coaching and some intangible factors.

Video: The crew discusses Colorado's recent hot streak

 

Nathan MacKinnon

MacKinnon's chemistry with linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen was on display throughout the winning streak. During the 10 games, MacKinnon had 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists); he has 60 points (24 goals, 36 assists) in 47 games this season. That ranks second in the NHL to Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has 61 points (27 goals, 34 assists) in 48 games.

MacKinnon's average of 3.94 points per 60 minutes ranks third behind Josh Bailey of the New York Islanders (4.02) and Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins (3.99) among players who have played at least 10 games. At even strength, MacKinnon leads the NHL with 41 points; his 3.43 points per 60 minutes at even strength ranks second to Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues (3.74), according to Natural Stat Trick.

Will this continue? As discussed before the season, MacKinnon was on the verge of a breakout. Although he may cool down slightly, he should remain among the League's scoring leaders.

Video: The crew breaks down MacKinnon's recent hot streak

 

Erik Johnson

It wasn't only the offense that deserved credit during the winning streak.

Given Colorado's relatively inexperienced group of defensemen, Johnson is relied upon to play tough minutes to a greater extent than arguably any defenseman in the NHL. The Avalanche have used 10 defensemen this season; five had previously played fewer than 40 NHL games. Besides Johnson, who played 575 games prior to this season, and Tyson Barrie (338) the average Colorado defenseman had 61 games of NHL experience.

Johnson averages 25:45 of ice time per game, which ranks sixth in the NHL. That's 4:26 more than Barrie, who ranks second on the Avalanche. Barrie has been on injured reserve since Dec. 23 because of a hand injury.

Johnson's importance is magnified in shorthanded situations, when his average ice time of 3:49 ranks second in the NHL to Ron Hainsey of the Toronto Maple Leafs (4:19). Colorado's penalty kill of 84.7 percent ranks second in the League behind the Los Angeles Kings (85.9) .

At 5-on-5, Johnson has boosted Colorado's share of shot attempts from 47.14 to 49.41 percent, for a Relative SAT of plus-2.27 percent that ranks first among Avalanche defensemen. Given that he has boosted Colorado's share of shot attempts in each of his six previous seasons, Johnson should continue to be reliable down the stretch.

Video: COL@FLA: Johnson snaps shot past Reimer to pad lead

 

Jared Bednar

There has been an added importance placed on optimizing the line matchups in Colorado, given the strength of its top players, injuries throughout the lineup and its reliance on rookies.

At home, coach Bednar can use the last change to get the matchups the Avalanche needs to be most effective, which has resulted in an 18-7-1 record and outscoring opponents 95-66 for a goal differential of plus-29 that ranks second to the Vegas Golden Knights at home (plus-34). This was a key factor during Colorado's 10-game winning streak; eight of the 10 games were played at Pepsi Center in Denver.

The question is whether the Avalanche can win on the road, where they are 9-10-2 and have been outscored 69-60. That will be answered over the next 14 games, which include 11 away from Pepsi Center.

Video: Jared Bednar on the biggest change with Colorado

When evaluating Bednar's influence, there are also intangibles. Last season, most Avalanche players had NHL career-low scoring rates and shot-based metrics. The replacement of veterans including Francois Beauchemin, Fedor Tyutin, Rene Bourque, Jarome Iginla and John Mitchell with rookies Alexander Kerfoot, J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost, Samuel Girard and Anton Lindholm has given Bednar the opportunity to oversee a cultural shift that has more players competing closer to their maximum potential.

Because of these factors, it is difficult to predict if Bednar's coaching strategies will continue to yield success long enough to qualify for the playoffs. However, statistical models place Colorado's chances of making the playoffs from 68-78 percent.

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