Colorado Avalanche: Worried Yet?

Following on yesterday's post about Corsi percentage: The Colorado Avalanche have been one of the year's surprise success stories.  After finishing 28th in the league last season, they came out of the gate 10-1-2 and they're on pace to hit 100 points this year.  Much of the improvement came from the brilliant offseason signing of goaltender Craig Anderson - despite being outshot by more than 4.5 shots per game, the Avalanche have managed to score just as many goals as their opponents in the 54 games since their hot start.  I know nobody wants to hear this, but I'm concerned that Colorado's success is illusory.

Craig Anderson has posted a .923 save percentage, which has netted the Avs three more wins than if he put up his career-average save percentage.  It's instructive to look at career save percentages for active goaltenders:

 

Goalie SV%
Backstrom 0.919
Hiller 0.919
Luongo 0.919
Thomas 0.918
Lundqvist 0.917
Vokoun 0.917
Anderson 0.915
Miller 0.914
Huet 0.914
Kiprusoff 0.914
Mason 0.914
Bryzgalov 0.914

 

Anderson is a good goaltender and he was a solid pickup, but we shouldn't expect a .923 save percentage going forward from him or anyone else.

But goaltending isn't even half the story: not only do the Avalanche have one of the best save percentages since the lockout, they also have one of the highest shooting percentages.  This table shows the raw numbers and their rank for even-strength play when the game is tied, both with and without missed shots:

 

Excl Miss Rank Incl Miss Rank
SH% 9.2 14 6.8 9
SV% 936 15 954 18
PDO 1027 7 1021 4
Corsi% 44.5 144 48.0 124

 

There have been 150 team-seasons since the lockout, so ranking 144th in Corsi% is troubling.  Sometimes the very best teams can get outshot because they spend so much time with the lead and don't need to pinch and press for shots.  But as the table shows, Colorado gets outshot when the game is on the line.  Obviously a team can get outshot and still win with a great goaltender, but in the long-run, teams simply do not sustain high shooting percentages.  If Colorado's shooters had merely been league average, the Avalanche would have 72 points today and a playoff spot would feel very much out-of-reach.

It may not seem inherently unreasonable for the Avs to have a higher-than-average shooting percentage.  But the bottom of the roster - filled with players who've been healthy scratches or shuttled back and forth to the minors - has a much higher shooting percentage than the top three lines.  There's no reason to think that players who aren't really part of the plan are going to shoot the lights out, and there's no reason to think that guys like Brandon Yip or David Jones (when he returns) will continue to post the best shooting percentages of the post-lockout era.

Let me be clear: it's not like Colorado should finish 28th in the league this season.  But even with Anderson playing well in goal, they seem like more of a playoff bubble team.  It will be very difficult for the Avs to win a playoff series if they don't start dominating their opponents on the shot tables.

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