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Week Ahead: VI - November 5th to November 11th

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The Senators head to Stockholm, Sweden to play the Avalanche in the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Ottawa Senators Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Due to all of the rumours swirling around for the past couple of months, it feels like we’ve talked about the Avalanche a ton. With news recently coming out that a trade involving the two teams and their number one centres — Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris — fell apart right before this trip, many are speculating what will happen now that GMs Pierre Dorion and Joe Sakic are going to be together for a week.

Despite this, though, the two teams have some hockey to play. Being a team from the West, Ottawa usually plays Colorado twice-a-year in a home-and-away series, but this year, they’ll be playing in Sweden as part of an NHL global initiative that also saw the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks play two preseason games in China (Shanghai, Beijing) in September. The Swedish content on both teams? Colorado has Anton Lindholm, Patrik Nemeth, Carl Soderberg, and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Ottawa has Johnny Oduya, Fredrik Claesson, and captain Erik Karlsson.

The league has done something like this before. From 2007 - 2011, a variety NHL teams opened their seasons in Europe, usually playing an exhibition game against a local team while also playing the first game of the regular season. Ottawa was in Gothenburg and played Erik Karlsson’s Frölunda team before losing their regular season opener in Stockholm to the Pittsburgh Penguins two days later.

Here are the logistical details for the two games, before we get into previewing the Avalanche lineup:

  • Game 1: Friday, November 10th, 2017. 2:00pm EST. TV: NHL-N, TSN5, RDS, ALT
  • Game 2: Saturday, November 11th, 2017. 1:00pm EST. TV: NHL-N, SN, RDS, ALT

The Avalanche come into the week having gone 3-0 after being blown out in Vegas by a score of 7-0. Wins over Chicago, Carolina, and Philadelphia carry them into Brooklyn to play the Islanders at 4:00pm EST tonight — an extra game over the Senators before they fly out to Sweden. At 8-5-0 in 13 games, the Avs are 7th in the West but 3rd in the Central Division.

The team is led (in ice-time and in points) by the quartet of Mikko Rantanen (5G, 7A, 12P in 13 GP), Nathan MacKinnon (3G, 9A, 12P in 13 GP), Matt Duchene (4G, 6A, 10P in 13 GP), and Gabriel Landeskog (4G, 4A, 8P in 13 GP). Rantanen, MacKinnon, and Landeskog all have 30+ shots on goal, and are joined by defenceman Tyson Barrie, who has 12P in 13 GP as the minute eater on the backend. Although Rantanen’s emergence is new, he was a T10 pick so this isn’t unexpected. Rather, production (>0.5 PPG) from newly signed depth players like (ex-Hab) Sven Andrighetto, Nail Yakupov, and college free agent Alex Kerfoot have all helped the Avs win games this season.

Despite this winning record, the Avs are one of the only teams that are worse than the Sens when it comes to shot metrics, with the team generating less attempts for and allowing more attempts against. They have a roughly average team shooting percentage and goaltender save percentage, so it’s not like they’re riding some sort of on-ice % wave. They’re also not out-chancing the opponents (expected goals or xG), shown below with rates against (red) being greater than rates for (blue).

Looking at the team heat maps, the Avs appear to get a lot of attempts from their corner points and by walking the puck to the middle of the ice, but don’t get much in high-danger areas. On defence, they give up a fair bit from the point, and also to either side of the net in dangerous scoring areas.

While the Sens are only expected to be missing Bobby Ryan (Mark Borowiecki has the flu, but is expected to be back; the team may still carry an extra defender and goaltender on the trip anyways), the Avs are missing quite a few players to injury. Highly touted rookie Tyson Jost is out on IR with a lower-body issue, and is joined by newly acquired LWer Colin Wilson (hip) and defenceman Sergei Boikov (shoulder). Ex-Panther Rocco Grimaldi has missed a couple of games with the flu, but may be healthy enough to play in Sweden.

Playing on a back-to-back in a foreign country is something Ottawa has never had to experience before, so we can throw most of the adages out of the window. These are two teams, evenly matched in terms of underlying metrics and point production, that will be in the same environment. I’m excited for the atmosphere.