The Avs are now, #2 on the PP with a 26.8%, trailing only Detroit with a 27.6%. They are also 5th in the league on the PK with an 86.3%, as Philly leads that category with a very good 90.9%. This makes the Avs 2nd in the league in overall specialty teams with a combined 113.1, trailing only Philiadelphia who has a combined 114.8.
This is the category, along with goaltending, that will determine whether we win the Cup this year, and if we can have these kind of numbers all year, and into the playoffs, are chances will very good.
Our PP has been clicking, no matter who's out there, and our PK has looked outstanding of late. The adition of Konowalchuk, also seemed to coincide with the improved penelty killing, as he has really performed well out there when down a man. Other great PK'ers I've noticed this year are Danny Hinote, Andrei Nikolishin, and Milan Hejduk. There's also one thing I've noticed the Avs doing differently, that I think might also be adding to the improved PK of late, and that's being less agressive at trying to score when down a man. Granato emphasized at the begining of the season, that this was how the team was going to play this year on the PK, but it looks like he has changed philosophies a bit, as he did with the 5 on 5 play, which is now less offensive oriented as well. The team still tries to score shorties, and look for outnumbered rushes on the PK, but they seem to be picking their opportunities a little better, and it makes for a simpler, less hectic, and apparently more efficient penelty kill. Another positive we might be able to take out of this, is that the changes Granato is making, shows that maybe he has learned from last year, that he needs to make adjustments when the time comes to do so. That's one of the main reasons that we lost the series against Minnesota, along with the piss poor PK.
granato is adapting to the coaching role. he's starting to understand the importance of playing a simple game...something i really respect. plus, he seems to have a better rapport with the players, which can definitely not be said with many other coaches like crawford (who recently villified hedberg in the media when he was unable to control his emotions).
I still think that Granato won't achieve much success. If the avs win the cup, it will likely be in spite of him and not because of him. He looks like he doesn't know what kind of coach he is. He can't decide if he is a players coach, a defensive coach, a offensive coach, a special teams coach, or what. He is just trying to do stuff and hasn't excelled at anything.
Our PP has been clicking, no matter who's out there, and our PK has looked outstanding of late. The adition of Konowalchuk, also seemed to coincide with the improved penelty killing, as he has really performed well out there when down a man. Other great PK'ers I've noticed this year are Danny Hinote, Andrei Nikolishin, and Milan Hejduk.
I knew Konowalchuk would be a big contributor (didn't think he'd have 5 times the goals as Battaglia's entire stay ), but I'm very surprised at how Nikolishin's played to this point. He's been great on the PK... can't find his faceoff percentage, but it seems like he wins all of them when on the PK
One big difference I've noticed on the PK is that this year they're being much more aggresive in their own end. The last few years, and perhaps longer, the Avs played a passive box and didn't aggresively attack the puck in their own end. They basically tried to keep the puck on the perimeter and let Roy have a clear view of the shot if possible. This year, I see the team attacking the puck carrier more often and forcing the opponent to turn it over so we can clear the zone more often and get more line changes.
Konowolchuk, Nikolishin, and Skrastins have been huge additions to the PK and of course Konowolchuk's point production is a huge upgrade over Battaglia as well. Much was made of the Roy retirement, the Kariya and Selanne signings, and the uncertainty of the goaltending situation but quite frankly the additions of Konowolchuk, Nikolishin, Skrastins and the deletion of Keane, Shantz, Messier is looking to be much more important to the Avs success than the bigger, more publicised stories of the offseason.
I'll give credit to Tony G for getting that power play to work so well, and the PK too, but I want to see this team do better in even-strength situations. I believe this team is still a collective minus in 5-on-5 play.
Funny how that works out...the Canucks power play is abysmal right now, yet I believe they're leading the league in even strength goals. The Avs power play is great, yet they're still a little shaky at even strength. Guess you can't have everything you want.