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Believe it or not, the NHL season is now more than ⅓ over. Where has this season gone? It seems like yesterday we were bemoaning the Avs lack of spending in the offseason and salivating for the start of the season. Now it’s mid-December (seriously: December 15th) and the season is humming along at breakneck speed.

Depending on the minute, the Avs are hovering right around the 6-spot in the Tokyo-subway crowded Western conference with 38 points in 31 games. That’s nearly on pace with llast years total at this point, and since the Avs made the playoffs as the 8-seed last season, it may be concerning for some fans. Add in the strength of the Western Conference, both in terms of points and in terms of teams, and it may cause some pessimistic fans to think that the Avs are in serious danger of not making the playoffs. But I think the Avs are likely to get stronger, not weaker, as the season progresses. Here’s why:

More After the Jump

Injuries

Maybe it’s a fools optimism, just call me Optimist Prime, but I have to believe that at some point the Avs luck with injuries will finally change. Without looking it up, I can almost guarantee that Avs are leading the league in Man-Games lost to injuries. (And if you take Average TOI and calculate Average TOI lost to injury, they’d probably widen that margin of “victory”). Currently TJ Galiardi, Milan Hejduk and Chris Stewart, Kyle Cumiskey and now Kyle Quincey are out to injury (along with Peter Mueller, who at this point has a strangle hold on the team Peter Forsberg award as “Well it’ll be nice if he makes it back, but I’m not holding my breath”. With a concussion as serious as his appears, I just hope he does the healthy thing for him, not the Avs (also known as the the Konowalchuk award).

The Avs are lining up to get healthy. Galiardi is, apparently, on track to return soon. Hejduk’s injury doesn’t seem to be long-term (although we’ve all heard that before) and Stewart will be back before we know it (foolish optimist).  By the new year, the Avs should be relatively healthy

/knock on wood
/spiritual dance of health
/sacrifices virgin to the god of health
/prays to god Stastny is okay and I didn’t just jinx it.

Homestand

The Avs play 15 of their next 20 games at home (including Monday’s 7-5 defensive struggle, 16 of 21 altogether.) While 17 of their first 29 games have been on the road. The Avs record at home is slightly better than their away record, but having the homestand in the part of the schedule that Justin Bourne describes as “the stretch of the season where players get complacent and injuries start to pile up, but the points are just as valuable.” is a good thing, and should help the Avs slog through the lull.

Craig Anderson

I mention him above being healthy, but I think he deserves his own bullet point. Lost in all the injuries, and the Avs pretty decent play is that Peter Budaj has not been very good this season. He is sporting a .895 save % which is among the worst of NHL goalies getting regular playing time. Comparatively Craig Anderson is sporting a .909 save %. Over 450 shots that’s a difference of about 6-7 extra goals that Budaj has given up.  Since Anderson’s injury October 26th The Avs have lost 8 starts made by Budaj. Five of those losses were by 1 goal (Games in which the team got an EN goal are counted here FYI) and the other 3 were by 2 goals. It’s very safe to say that 6-7 extra saves over that span would have had a significant impact on the Avs record.