By any metric we've recorded thus far, there is no reason (other than "that's hockey being hockey") the 2014-15 Colorado Avalanche should have trounced the 2014-15 New York Islanders 5-0 last week.
But the Isles committed a series of critical mistakes from the goalie, the defense and the overall penalty kill, and the Avalanche have the kind of top-end talent that can make you say, "Well that's hockey," so a series of unfortunate events equaled a big loss in the first game of the road trip.
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The Avalanche are near the bottom of their division by points and at the bottom of the non-Buffalo section of the league in possession stats. The Islanders are near the top of their division by points and in the top third of the league in possession stats.
But the Avalanche are coached by a Living Legend(TM) and managed by a Living Legend(TM), while the Islanders are just coached by some drifter and managed by some journeyman goalie. Plus, the Avs have those three recent top-three picks. So, expectations can be weird.
When the Isles lost in Denver, panic set in among the fanbase -- two losses in a row, with California looming! -- and many obituaries were read. Three consecutive wins in Anaheim, Los Angeles and
Phoenix Arizona altered the narrative and stayed the executions until the next loss. By any metric we've recorded thus far, tonight should not be that loss. Which of course means...well, nevermind.
One of the oddities of following tonight's teams the last five years has been the occasional Comparison of Rebuilds. As with the Edmonton Oilers, we've seen various proclamations of "Why is Rebuild X ahead of ours?" Outside of a collection of top-end picks, it's not clear what measure can be ordained there outside of playoff success. Despite a division title in the toughest division last season, the Avalanche have yet to find it, just as the Isles could not find it in 2013.
It sounds like Johnny Boychuk will be okay from his knee injury on the unnoticed kneeing by Kyle Clifford. But he skipped yesterday's practice, skated this morning, and is still a gametime decision for tonight.
Meanwhile, Cory Conacher is back in the lineup for Eric Boulton, Boulton having burned through his fumes and/or tweaked something at practice.
Jaroslav Halak is in goal again after a 19-save shutout in Phoenix. (Chad Johnson was the victim of the blowout loss in Denver.)
The (Latest) One Who Chose Denver Instead
The Islanders reportedly made Jarome Iginla a handsome contract offer last summer. Like Ryan Smyth and P.A. Parenteau before him, he was lured by thinner air and crunchier people. Here he is on what ails his new team:
"The goal right now is to win games," forward Jarome Iginla said. "We've been in all these one-goal games, but we haven't gotten the results. Our power play needs to be better, we need to produce more goals. We all look at ourselves in situations like this, especially those close games where you can make a difference. There's definitely a sense of urgency, and we want to get things going."
The Colorado power play has connected at an unsightly 13.6 percent thus far. Will they get the Isles PK that has been perfect the last two games, or the one that is still at only 71 percent on the season?
Happy Veterans Day
It's Veterans Day in the U.S. (and Remembrance Day, once Armistice Day, in many other places). Cheers to those who take on the hardest of jobs, sometimes in the face of absurdity.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this section of the lumber yard.