It's entirely possible that the 8-2 rout the Colorado Avalanche suffered at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night was an aberration.
Even Taylor Hall admitted as much.
“I haven’t been in this league long," Hall said after the game, "but I’ve been in it enough to know that anything can happen on any night against any team. You have to be ready for the opportunity. You just have to come out and play your game. Sometimes you’re going to get eight and some nights you’re going to get zero."
He's right. When it comes to the events of any given night, the NHL can be about as wacky as a road rally featuring Dick Dastardly, the Gruesome Twosome and Penelope Pitstop. Thursday might just have been one of those nights for the Avalanche.
If that's the case, they'll live. But on the other hand, it was the sort of loss -- as any loss to the Oilers should be -- that makes one wonder if there aren't more of those nights on the horizon.
The Avalanche were the big surprise of the season's first month, stunning the pundits that didn't expect much by, well, accomplishing much. They won 10 of 11 games in October.
They seemed like the real deal. After all, the sudden turnaround seemed explainable: they had a new coach. Plus, let's be honest, they were winning a lot, and that's a bewildering, disorienting sight for anyone that's been following this team for the past few years. When you're not sure what's going on, sometimes it's best to just go with it.
But now, just as some have begun to anoint Colorado as the real deal, the team has begun to cool. They're 5-5 in their last 10, with a couple 4-1 losses, a 7-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues, and this rout at the hands of the Oilers, in which they surrendered two goals more than they allowed in their first six games of the 2013-14 campaign, not to mention half of their goals against total for the entire month of October.
Which Avalanche team is the real one? The team that stormed out of the gate, or the team we're seeing now?
I hate to say it, but I'm leaning towards the team we're seeing now. I point you to Colorado's league-high PDO of 105.0.
PDO is a fun stat. It's deceptively simple -- nothing more than shooting percentage plus save percentage. Even the name is simple. It looks like an acronym, but it stands for nothing. It's named after the message board user that came up with it, because the advanced stats community is so great at branding their innovations to maximize mainstream acceptance.
Anyway. Add the two numbers together and you've effectively produced hockey's luck quotient. Over a large enough sample, the number it yields tends to settle around 1000. If it's below 1000, a team is due for some good bounces. If it's high, a team is due for some bad ones. It's that simple. (Here's a nice primer if you want to know more.)
As I said, the Avalanche have the league's highest PDO. They are, more than any other team in the league, due for some bad breaks.
It's already starting to happen, especially in goal, where Semyon Varlmov is beginning to regress to his career average. (Being left in goal for eight last night doesn't help his stats, of course. To his credit, he will continue to play for the Avalanche after the humiliation, proving he's a little more mature than his coach.)
See, either Semyon Varlamov got substantially better in the offseason -- better than just about any goaltender in the NHL last season -- or he had a hot start. You tell me which is more plausible, and what it means for Varlamov's numbers going forward. (Before you answer, consider that the Avs have suddenly surrendered 32 goals in their last 10 games.)
Now I'm not suggesting the Avalanche are a bad team. I don't think they are. But I don't think they're the elite team they looked like to begin the season either. More likely, they're something closer to the .500 team they've been over their past 10.
As they continue to cool, expect them to find themselves right about where we expected them to be at the beginning of the season, before October made us second-guess ourselves: battling for a playoff spot with the other second-tier teams in the West.
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