The Colorado Avalanche have no bigger hype man than Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter.
Everyone remembers what he said before the playoffs last season.
"It's going to be a waste of eight days."
Darryl Sutter on Wild Card teams facing the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/FmH7fItBW5
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 15, 2022
It turned out he was on the money there.
Well, he’s at it again.
Before the Wednesday matchup between the Avalanche and the Flames, he made it clear he would bet on the Avalanche making the playoffs. He didn’t just stop there.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter with big praise for #Avs goalie tandem Georgiev/Francouz:
“They’ve probably got the best one-two punch in goal for the whole year."
— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) January 18, 2023
Interesting. Is he correct? Let’s dig into some numbers.
If you look at just the traditional numbers for Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz, they’re very strong.
In 31 games, Georgiev is sitting with a .916 save percentage, and has won 17 games. Goaltenders on new teams typically take some time to adjust, but that has not been the case here. He has fit right in with the Avalanche under the tutelage of Jussi Parkkila.
Francouz has been the same steady goaltender we’ve seen since he became Phillip Grubauer’s backup in 2018. In his 12 starts, he sits with a very strong .917 save percentage, with some of his games coming on tough back to back’s.
Five on five, both goaltenders have excelled.
Georgiev currently sits tied for fifth amongst all goalies with at least 300 minutes played in the NHL with a .934 save percentage at five on five. Francouz isn’t far behind at .932.
If you dig in a little more, the numbers look even better for Georgiev. According to Natural Stat Trick, Georgiev is third in the NHL with 13.32 goals saved above expected at five on five. That’s above some of the top goalies in the world, like Juuse Saros, Igor Shesterkin, and Connor Hellebuyck. At 4.63 goals saved above expected, Francouz is doing quite well for himself too.
At five on five, the Avalanche do appear to have one of, if not the best, duo in the league.
The penalty kill is another story.
Let’s get it out of the way: the Avalanche penalty kill has not been the best this season.
Too often, teams are able to make that royal road pass across the ice with ease. It’s not always on the goaltender, but you know the old saying: “You need your goaltender to be your best penalty killer”.
For Georgiev, this is his biggest area of growth. Of the 56 goalies that have spent 60+ minutes on the penalty kill, only four have a worse goals saved above expected than Georgiev. So while he’s one of the best goalies at five on five, he’s near the bottom on the penalty kill.
Francouz has been respectable, sitting at .98 goals saved above expected. Is part of that because he’s spent a few years in the system and knows what to expect? It might be. Maybe this is where Georgiev is still adjusting to his new team.
Even with the struggling penalty kill, both goaltenders sit in the top 20 in goals saved above expected. The only other teams with two goalies sitting in the top 20 are Boston and Nashville.
While Darryl Sutter might just be an Avalanche fan in disguise, he’s pretty close on this one. The Avalanche don’t statistically have the best goaltending duo in the NHL, but they’re pretty darn close.
Injuries have created a lot of inconsistencies in the Avalanche lineup through 43 games, but the one consistent thing they have had is good goaltending.
And as we saw in the playoffs last season, good goaltending can get you pretty far.