Sports enthusiasts are suckers for comeback stories, or unexpected turnarounds. It gives you hope, and usually hits you right in the feels. When Daniel E. “Rudy” Ruettiger finally got to play at Notre Dame you were cheering, and then when his teammates carried him off the field you might have shed a tear. I know I did.
I will cry during a sports movie, or a dog movie, much more frequently than I would watching a romantic flick or something like Titanic.
I relate to the struggles in sports movies as realistic. You can relate to the sacrifice, loyalty and family. And don’t get me started on movies like Marley and Me. If you ever had your own dog you know what I’m talking about. Hell, just typing this thinking about taking Chuck to the vet to be put down gets me emotional.
It is good to feel that way, but sports movies are different. You get fired up, and even if you know the outcome you are still cheering for the underdog.
In 2017 the Colorado Avalanche were one of the worst teams in NHL history. They won 22 games, meaning they lost 73.2% of the games. Even the darkest year in the Decade of Darkness was never that bad.
It was the 10th lowest point total, 48, in the previous 25 years (full NHL seasons). The Avs were awful, but then last season they had one of the great single-season turnarounds we’ve seen.
They almost doubled their point total jumping from 48 to 97.
Semyon Varlamov’s SV% jumped from .898 to .920 and he played 27 more games.
Nathan MacKinnon had 53 points in 2017 in 82 games, but exploded to 97 points in 74 games.
Mikko Rantanen jumped from 38 points to 84.
Gabriel Landeskog went from 33 points to 62.
Tyson Barrie and Eric Johnson were better, and in Johnson’s case, healthier, and suddenly the Avs were a playoff team.
And they have improved even more this year. Rantanen leads the NHL with 48 points, MacKinnon is 2nd with 45 and the Avs are tied with Nashville for first place in the Central division with 39 points.
I’m sure Oilersnation wasn’t bursting with emotions watching the Avs’ Cinderella turnaround last season, but Colorado fans sure were, just like Oilers fans were in 2017 when Edmonton improved by 33 points to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Things can change quickly in the NHL, for some teams, and big improvements, or large dips in the standings have become more common.
Colorado is looking to build on last season, while the Oilers are hoping for a 20-point improvement to get back in the playoffs. A month ago the Avalanche came to Edmonton and easily defeated the Oilers 4-1. I thought it was the Oilers worst performance of the season. They were listless and looked disinterested for the entire game.
The most impressive aspect of the Avalanche’s solid start is they’ve only played eleven home games compared to 19 on the road. Eight of their next eleven games are at home and they will be looking to separate themselves from the rest of the Central Division, meanwhile the Oilers are just trying to claw their way into a playoff position.
Both teams are 7-2-1 in their previous ten games. The Avs have outscored their opponents 38-29 during that stretch while Edmonton has won with defence allowing 22 goals and scoring 24.
If the Oilers can contain the high-powered Avalanche first line then their defence and goaltending has truly turned a corner.
Ken Hitchcock deployed Kyle Brodziak and McDavid’s line each for seven minutes against Johnny Gaudreau’s line at home on Sunday. McDavid’s line was outshot 6-2, while Brodziak’s trio was outshot 2-1. I suspect Hitchcock will want McDavid’s line, and McDavid and Draisaitl will want the challenge, against the dangerous Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen trio.
Those five are all in the top-16 in NHL scoring so the potential for offence is definitely there. The Avs have given up more goals lately, but they’ve also scored 14 more than Edmonton. It will be fun to watch how this matchup unfolds, but Hitchcock won’t be afraid to deploy his veteran line against Colorado’s top unit.
The Avs first line has scored 45% of their goals. They’ve been deadly so far, lighting the lamp 49 times. Their other forwards have scored 45 times, which is still solid production from the bottom nine. In case you’re wondering, the Oilers top line tonight has produced 43 goals and the other forwards have combined for 28 goals, but Drake Caggiula has seven of those and he isn’t in the lineup tonight. The difference between the Oilers top line and Colorado’s is that the Avs trio has played together all season, while Chiasson, McDavid and Draisaitl have played for long stretches with other linemates.
Regardless, the Avs forwards have scored 92 goals and Edmonton’s have produced 71. The overall depth scoring is a decided advantage for Colorado. The Oilers forwards have 15 PP goals, while Colorado’s forwards have 28.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The rough loss in Tampa Bay makes it easy to forget that the Avs ended their four game road trip with a respectable 2-2 record.
Despite the drubbing at the hands of the Lightning, Colorado still sits tied with Nashville at the top of the Central Division. Despite their place in the standings, these are a huge two points as the Avs might end up battling Edmonton for a Wild Card position at the end of the season.
This game gives us the two fastest skaters in the NHL and three legitimate Art Ross Trophy contenders – the defenders on both sides need to be ready to skate.
The Oilers will be looking for revenge as the Avalanche won the first matchup between these two teams last month in Edmonton.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Avs’ first ranked PP scores and Colorado wins 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers fans watch the Avs PP and wonder why can’t the Oilers move puck that quickly and precisely? It is a valid question.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Milan Lucic scores his second goal of the season.
MONTH OF GIVING…
Thank you to Curtis for his amazing bid of $19,500 on the amazing Full Acre package. Thanks to Ryan for donating it.
DAY SEVEN: Manny Viveiros coaches your child’s hockey team’s practice.
Todd McLellan started this a few years ago, and after he left Viveiros offered to keep it going. I love it.
- Your son or daughter’s minor hockey team will have an hour practice at the community rink, or Rogers depending on availability, in January-March with Viveiros running the practice.
- Viveiros will take the team on a tour of the Oilers coaches room and other facilities.
- A signed Oilers jersey by every player on the team or a signed McDavid jersey.
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Santas Anonymous.