Honestly, we think it is that they (Colorado) are a well coached team. A well coached team that gets, and this is the important part Calgary, and capitalizes on the power play.
But lets look and see if we can't look and see.
Calgary: 2.14 / 2.86 / 0.92 / 26.6 / 28.7 / 16% / 85.2%
Colorado: 2.88 / 2.50 / 0.87 / 30.8 / 32.2 / 29.2% / 88.5%
So it is pretty glaring when you look at it. First off, the Flames have 5 points while the Avs have 12 because the Avs score more goals than they give up. Eureka, we know, but it is important because we want to see where the Avs are scoring their 'more' goals. And you can see they are scoring their 'more' goals on the power play.
Looking at the teams 5 - 5 F/A numbers, we can see that both teams do not generate a 'plus' level of offense while at even strength. In fact, the Flames are probably the better team 5 on 5, because they seem to be doing better at this metric (0.92 vs 0.87) than Colorado while generating less shots. But they aren't so much better than Colorado, and we would say the teams are probably a wash.
Back to the power play then. Colorado is scoring at a 29.2% clip, good for second best in the entire league. Obviously this is probably the reason they are enjoying success right now. The question is whether or not that 29.2% is real or not. And we highly doubt it is real: in 2010-2011, the Canucks had the best PP at 24.3%, in 2009-2010 it was Washington with 25.2%, and in 2008-2009 it was Detroit with 25.2%. It does not seem likely that Colorado will finish the year with a higher power play success rate than these teams. There is room for regression in Colorado's numbers, so there is subsequently hope for Flames fans that the hockey gods start to turn on the Avs come Wednesday.
Drilling down further into Colorado's PP numbers, it gets even fucking scarier. They are scoring at a 36.8% clip on the PP while on the road, while also generating quite a bit of chances (19, or 6th most in the league). Looking back through the years, the teams with the best road PP success rate seem to have one that sits at 28% when it is all said and done. Not that you need that, because scoring at a 36.8% clip on the road probably isn't sustainable over the long term, intuitively.
So they have a good PP. A real good one, and it has been killing suckers left and right. We would be advised not to take penalties. Colorado does not take penalties: they are the 5th best team when it comes to not taking PIMs. Calgary, however, isn't so good at avoiding the sin bin. They are 17th in the league in this category, with almost double the amount of aggregate PIMs than Colorado has taken this season.
It looks like the Colorado Avalanche are a special teams team then. They force the opposition to take penalties, they score on the PP, and they themselves don't take many penalties. They are not great at 5 on 5, but they are not terrible either. The game plan seems to be to tread water at even strength and then kill you on the PP.
We take a time out to say that they probably learned this shit from Vancouver. Fuck you, Vancouver.
Now, we also mentioned something about coaching. Check out behindthenet and just look at the zone starts. But here is what we want to highlight: The top 5v5 minutes guys on Colorado are Winnik, O'Reilly, and Landeskog. Their Ozone starts/finishes are 29.6/40(!), 32/38.8, and 35.7/45.2. In other words, Colorado has guys on the team who can take the puck from their zone and move it into the oppositions. This is probably one of the reasons they get so many penalties.
The Flames are less well coached and you can tell immediately. The top minute even strength guy is Iginla, who has never been known as a two-way forward (and is played about 3 minutes more on even strength than everyone else on the team). The next two guys are then Tangs and Joker. Offensive guys. We think this is important: Colorado seems to be using 5 on 5 to generate penalties, and then they generate their offense off the penalties. They probably do this because the Colorado coach has a brain, realizes offensive production 5 on 5 is much harder to generate in the NHL than in the WHL, and has adjusted his game plan accordingly. He looks at his roster and says "I'd have a killer PP, but these guys would get killed if we tried to play even up on most nights. I'm going to try to generate PP chances."
Our coach has a different approach. He seems to want to tire out our best weapon on the PP, Jarome, by using him as two way forward on even strength. Instead of utilizing his bottom half of the roster for defensive responsibilities on even strength, he seems to want to bury them. Now whether he does that because he doesn't trust them or because he feels his best players should be out there on 5 on 5 we don't know. But it seems a stupid way to utilize the roster: over 82, the bottom half is going to be fresh, but the real players are going to be gassed and worn out. And a losing streak in the final two weeks of the season is going to be the result.
But whatever, we all knew the roster was poorly constructed when the season started. It's just too bad Ken King didn't. It's also too bad he compounded the mistake by bringing back a coach who seems to be over his head at the NHL level. Why is that guy allowed near the hockey operations department, again?
Furthermore, I think