But it is no laughing matter to Avs coach Tony Granato that his team ranks 24th in the league in hits. Entering Tuesday, Colorado had been credited with 354 hits through 20 games, barely half as many as the league-leading New York Rangers' 655. Monday night in Anaheim, Calif., the Avs officially were outhit 16-10 by the Ducks - ranked third in the league with 532 hits - and were outscored 4-1.
While not saying so in as many words, Granato seemed to suggest there was a correlation between the hit total and the final score, and he would like to see his team be more intimidating physically.
"You want to be. Certainly, it is a part of the game where you want to be as physical as possible," Granato said.
First, here's the NHL definition of what constitutes an accredited hit for the official stat sheet: "A hit occurs when a player applies legal and physical contact to impede the puck carrier such that his forward progress is contained or he loses possession of the puck, and/or, legal physical contact is applied to a player who has just relinquished possession of the puck temporarily impeding him from rejoining the play."
Some Avs players say hits are inconsistently tabulated from one arena to the next.
"Some buildings back East, they're very generous. Some others, you have to kill someone to get a hit," said Avs forward Ian Laperriere, the team's fifth-leading "hitter" with 28. "It's not very accurate. You don't get a hit if the puck's not there, too. The way I grew up, if you finish your check, even if the puck's not there, you should get a hit."
But does being a top-hitting team make you a better one? The defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, No. 2 in the conference in points, are No. 27 in hits (335). On the other hand, conference leader San Jose is seventh in hits with 475.
That the Avs rank 24th is actually an improvement over where they finished in hits last season: 29th, with 1,168. But the Avs finished among the top eight teams in the conference. This season, they're near the bottom of the conference.
If you have the puck all the time, such as Detroit, there isn't the need for as many hits. On the other hand, the awful Atlanta Thrashers rank last in the NHL with 256 hits. The best teams, Laperriere indicated, are disciplined overall - physical when they need to be, but in control of their emotions.
"You can't just start running around to get hits," he said. "It has to have a purpose. It's one thing you can always improve on, and it's something we need to do."
Avs defenseman Ruslan Salei, third on the team with 33 hits, echoed Laperriere, but said being nastier with bodychecks is something the team should try to do.
"It never hurts to be more physical," Salei said. "I think everyone can be more physical, as part of our game. I don't think the hits are kept accurately, but I wouldn't say it's an overrated (statistic)."
Adrian Dater: 303-954-1360 or
firstname.lastname@example.org ------------------------------------------------------------ Gentlemanly Avs far down on hit list
Avalanche hits leaders
1. Cody McLeod47
2. Darcy Tucker35
3. Ruslan Salei33
4. Cody McCormick32
5. Ian Laperriere28
1. Milan Lucic, Boston82
2. Brooks Orpik, Pitt.77
3. Dustin Brown, L.A.69
4. A. Ovechkin, Wash.69
5. R. Callahan, Rangers68
6. Shane Doan, Phoenix67
7. S. Robidas, Dallas65
8. Niclas Wallin, Caro.65
9. C. Clutterbuck, Minn.64
10. D. Girardi, Rangers63