Saturday, December 30, 2006

Post-game vs St. Louis

Double ouch. Actually triple ouch since it's the third loss to the Blues this season. Nothing left to do tonight but hope that one of Edmonton or Vancouver pulls out a regulation win so the Avs don't lose ground to both those teams. Well, that and waiting for Chuck to KO Tito. So some good may still come out of tonight.

Overall though, I really don't have much to say tonight. It was a fairly boring game to listen to and there aren't any real stories to come out of it. No new stories anyways. The penalty kill sucked, the power play sucked, the effort sucked, Manny Legace was good. Same old, same old.

I guess the real question is...what do the Avs do? Well, it's fairly simple. If they improve their special teams, they will win games. It's as simple as that. Tonight they were beat by 2 PP goals against and 0 PP goals for. That's simply unacceptable with the way special teams factor into the game now. The strange thing is, before the last 2 games, the Avs had killed 17 straight penalties (if I remember correctly). So obviously they *can* kill penalties. The question now is what's wrong? Only Q can answer and fix that. Oh, and the players.

Going 2-men down at the end of the game when you're down by 2 goals. Interesting strategy. In a shocking twist, it didn't work out so well for the Avs. It's actually the 2nd straight game where the Avs ended up taking a penalty towards the end of the game. It's definitely not the first though and certainly seems like it won't be the last.

Let's face it, the Avalanche are in a slump and they need to do something to break out of it. Should they trade someone? Bench someone? Fire the coach? Take up Scientology? All very good questions. The team has, up to this point, overperformed to what most people's expectations were. Now, they're living up to them. So is it simply a case that they're playing to the appropriate level now? I'd like to think not and I'd like to think it's as simple as adding some grit to the defense. Maybe now is a chance to shop Sauer and package him up with someone and get a solid defensive d-man in return.

As for getting rid of the coach, that's a call that none of us can make from our armchairs. Has he "lost the room"? Maybe. Is he a bad coach? No. Does he "juggle" too much? Not much more than any other coach. Q is a good coach otherwise he wouldn't be around for so long as with most long-term NHL coaches. Mike Keenan was the exception that proved the rule there. But is he a great coach? Likely not. And that may be what the Avs need in their current state.

The Good
- can I leave this blank?

The Bad
- 2 PP goals against
- 0 PP goals for

The Ugly
- going 1-3 in the season series against one of the worst teams in the league

Pre-game vs St. Louis - Dec 30, 2006

Deja vu anyone? I feel like I just wrote this...yesterday. So the Avs now roll into St. Louis to cap off a home-and-home with the lowly Blues. Those same lowly Blues who outchanced and outscored the Avalanche last night to drop the Avs out of a playoff position...again. Now the Avalanche look to battle back and avoid a 3-game losing streak. They'll have to get around Manny Legace to do it.

Legace improved his record against the Colorado Avalanche to 10-1. I don't think any other goalie has a winning percentage like that against the Avalanche. Unfortunately, I can't see why St. Louis wouldn't start him tonight. I know it's a home-and-home but you've got to go with what works and boy does he work.

Peter Budaj got the start last night and will likely get the start tonight. He didn't get the job done last night but it wasn't squarely on his shoulders. He also didn't get hung out to dry by the defense too much. It was just one of those games where the team lost. Yep, those kind of games happen where you can't blame someone. Shocking.

Joe Sakic scored the first goal of the night for the Avalanche and moved himself one point behind Paul Coffey for 10th place on the all-time scoring list. By the end of the night tonight, he could be in sole position of 10th. If he does play until the 2010 Olympics and averages 80 points per season, he'll find himself into the top 5 of all time. However, I've got my Sakic countdown meter set at 358. That's what it would take to move into 2nd all-time. How about that as a way to cap off an amazing career!

Kurt Sauer was in the lineup as Patrice Brisebois is out with a back injury. By some accounts, he played his best game with the Avs. He ended up with 11 minutes of ice-time and made some nice passes and broke up some possible scoring chances for the Blues. That being said, I'd still like to see Kyle Cumiskey in tonight to get a few shifts. Why call him up just to have him watch from the stands?

3 of the Avs former Hot players have moved into the Cold category. Turgeon, Arnason, and Hejduk have been absent from the scoresheet for the last 3 games. The Avs offense can only survive for so long without those 3 producing some points. Brunette, Wolski, Sakic, and Stastny are carrying the bulk of the workload and in case you hadn't noticed, half of those players are rookies. I'm not sure what is going on with Hejduk this season but he's on pace for 25 goals and 50 points. That's far off of his 50-goal Rocket Richard winning season and even less than what he got last season. Arnason, who has been a pleasant surprise, can be looked over for having a bad streak as can Turgeon who just came back from shoulder surgery. Nonetheless, they need to start producing.

Leopold - groin, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day
Mclean - back, day-to-day

Drake - upper body, IR
Orszagh - knee, IR
Sanford - groin, IR

Wolski has 6 in 3, Sakic has 15 in 10, Brunette has 7 in 4, Stastny has 6 in 4.

Guerin has 5 in 3, Dvorak has 5 in 5, Weight has 6 in 5, Rucinksy has 3 in 2.

Laperriere has 0 in 8, Arnason has 0 in 4, Hejduk and Turgeon have 0 in 3.

Tkachuk has 1 in 6, Brewer has 0 in 5, Mayers has 0 in 3.

Peter Budaj - 9-7-1, 2.52 GAA, .906 save pct
Manny Legace - 9-10-4, 2.97, .896 save pct

Colorado - 18-17-2, 5th in NW, 10th in West
St. Louis - 11-19-7, 5th in Central, 15th in West

Friday, December 29, 2006

Post-game vs St. Louis - Dec 29, 2006

Nothing left to do tonight but cry into my pillow. Ok, I won't do that but it was certainly a disappointing loss to the Blues tonight. Especially since the Wild beat the Jackets in OT and the Flames beat the Kings. What is it about this team that makes them lose to lesser teams? It's an odd effect where you play down to the team you're playing against but it seems to happen to the Avs very frequently. If any players, coaches, waterboys, equipment managers, zamboni drivers, etc are reading this...STOP DOING THAT!

Can any good be pulled out of a loss like this? Sure, there were some good things that occured. Down by one goal twice and came back to tie it up twice. That's some good battling there. Unfortunately three times was the charm for the Blues tonight. You can only fight from behind the lead for so long until you actually lose the game. Go ahead and quote me on that if you'd like. Very deep.

Wolski was still a beast out there. Well, at least from the one replay I saw that involved him and the times I heard his name mentioned on the radio. His goal was the result of sticking it out in front of the net and using his body to protect the puck in tight. That's the kind of goals he needs to get and it warms the cockles of my heart to see him getting in there and getting it done. His confidence is growing by leaps and bounds as he plays alongside Sakic and Brunette. Let's just hope he's got the legs to keep up with those old-timers as they're out there for 20 minutes a game.

*Warning: Side Rant* Have I ever mentioned how The NHL Network annoys me? How they tune in to Avs game way too few times and to Flames games way too many times? Oh, and I don't care about Paul Maurice's post-game comments so quit replaying them. The people that do care have Leafs TV and are watching it on that channel. The NHL Network should have neutral coverage, not favoring one team or the other in either highlights or live look-ins but I see too much Canadian team coverage. And I'm a Canadian! Oh, my kingdom for Center Ice. Wait...I don't have a kingdom...

Sauer stepped in today in place of Patrice Brisebois and Kyle Cumiskey took Sauer's spot in the press box. I was hoping Cumiskey would get some ice-time during his call up but tonight wasn't that night. Sauer got significant minutes in the first half of the game but his numbers really tailed off towards the end. Some of his missing minutes went to Ossi Vaananen who ended up with 15 minutes of ice-time which is about 3 minutes more than average I believe. Klee and Clark both ended up with 22 minutes of ice-time and were the primary D on the PK along with Skrastins.

Speaking of penalty kill, have I ever mentioned that it's not so good? Well, the streak continued tonight. 3 goals on 4 chances. Sure, the last one was an empty net goal but I'm cutting no slack. I'm not going to claim to be a coach who can step in and wave a magic want and fix it...but it really seems to me that they need to be more aggressive. They've got a "Wait and See" attitude about it but the "See" part is usually them "seeing" the puck in the back of the net. The 2nd PP goal was a nice, subtle tip in by Rucinsky who was just standing in front of the net. I think a priority should be to tie up the stick of the guy in front of the net. Just my opinion.

Svatos was back in the lineup tonight but didn't get a lot of ice-time. Rycroft and Richardson were the only forwards with less time...and it wasn't a lot less. It would make sense though to limit his time in his first game back after resting a sore groin. He even came away with 2 hits on the score sheet tonight which is good to see. Seems like he's getting more comfortable with the health of his shoulders. Let's hope the rest of his body follows suit and we finally see a 100% Svatos in the near future.

Looking at the NHL super stats, the Avs got beat in near every category. Blocked shots - 20 to 10 for St. Louis, Giveaways - 13 to 8, Hits - 26 to 14, Faceoffs - 55% to 45%, all favoring the Blues. One of the few numbers that didn't favor the Blues was Shots on Goal. The Avs pounded off 32 shots and the Blues got off 20. So Legace continues to be an Av killer for whatever reason. Budaj played well and got beat on some quality shots/tips by the Blues. Let's see who's in net tomorrow night if the teams can get out of the city!

The Good
- rallying from behind twice
- Wolski continues to improve
- remembering that we're only 2pts out of top spot in the division

The Bad
- losing to the worst team in the West
- 25% PK tonight

The Ugly
- Blues radio announcer calling the Avalanche divers

Pre-game vs St. Louis - Dec 29, 2006

The Blues roll into town as we all wait with baited breath to see if this game will go on. Denver got hit with their second snowstorm in the past couple weeks, the first one causing their game against Calgary to be postponed indefinitely. If the game goes on, and I think we all hope it will, we should see an angry and fired up Avalanche team after a 5-4 loss to Dallas two nights ago.

Peter Budaj will undoubtedly get the start tonight after Jose Theodore put in a sub-par performance against Dallas. Rife were chat forums with swears, curses, trade proposals and more. If you want more reaction from the players and coach Q, read this article by Frei in the Denver Post. And always remember how honest and up-front Andrew Brunette is as you read his comment. Maybe the reaction from the team and coach will make fans calm down just a smidge. Hopefully. Maybe. Probably not.

The Blues are starting to heat up a bit under new coach Andy Murray. However, "heating up" for the Blues means going 3-3-4 in their last 10. That's .500 hockey baby! The bad thing with low-expectation-having teams is that they don't have a lot to lose. Just ask the US world juniors about their tournament opener against Germany. Let's hope Canada doesn't befall the same fate today. Back on track, look for St. Louis to come out firing as well, as they have in every game we've played against them this year.

If things keep going as they are for Wojtek Wolski, he will soon insert himself back into the Calder trophy race. Not that he's going to win it, but there's got to be a couple others in the race at least! For a few games, he was looking listless and lazy but he seems to have really stepped up his game and gained a great deal of confidence in himself. It takes balls to make a between-the-legs-jump-around-the -D move and he pulled it off in style against Dallas. He came away from that game with 1 goal and 2 assists and now has 5 points in his last 2 games, moving him into 4th place in rookie scoring, one point behind Paul Stastny.

Joe Sakic continues on an unbelievable pace this year. Well, unbelievable for most other 35+ year old players. He has 14pts in hist last 9 games and is on pace for 36 goals and 90pts. And guess what...he usually gets better after the Christmas break. I don't think a 100 point season is out of the question at this point. Hey, maybe it'll force TSN to update their scouting report to remove the "isn't as prolific as he used to be" line.

Patrice Brisebois will be out for this game and the Avs called up Kyle Cumiskey to take his spot on the roster. Well, some feel that Sauer takes Brisebois' place and Cumiskey takes Sauers but I'd like to see Cumiskey get some ice-time. We've seen Sauer get ice-time and it's unimpressive. Why call him up if you don't get a chance to see him in action at a higher level than the AHL? Hopefully Brisebois isn't out for too long as the Avs, obviously, aren't too high on the depth chart defensively aside from callups. His play as of late had picked up a bit and he wasn't committing as many "Brisebois" as usual. If he plays solid, he's a definite benefit on the ice and in the locker room.

On the plus side for the D, Ken Klee is continuing his stellar play. He's by no means a superstar but he's been very solid and commits fewer errors than most of our defense. I can only imagine that he's a great presence in the locker room as well. So far, he's on a 3 game point streak and is is +15. He's on pace for a 25 point season which would be his 2nd best season point-wise and he's aiming to finish +34 which would be a career best. Now of course, he's not paired up against teams top lines so his +/- will benefit from that, but he is getting a lot of ice-time, usually in the top 3, so it's nothing to scoff at.

A player to watch for the Blues, at least in terms of ice-time, is Peter Cajanek. Rumours are the he is being actively shopped around as the Blues continue their rebuilding process. Of course, this comes from Darren Dreger of TSN (formerly of Sportsnet) and who knows just how much those guys actually know. When I hear their insider reports from "sources", I always picture a GM telling them "Sure...we're totally interested in trading X for Y. *snicker* Sure, go ahead and report it. *evil grin*"

And how about Manola Legace? He seems to have woken up a bit. He's 3-0-2 and has a 1.78 GAA and .933 save pct in his last 5 games. Could it be that he's finally hitting his stride? After a playoff series like he had, subsequently getting shipped out the door, you'd think he would have came out gunning to start the season. He didn't, but if he keeps playing like this, the Blues won't care all that much about the start of the season. Well, except for when they miss the playoffs by 6 points. Then it'll matter.

Leopold - groin, IR
Svatos - groin, day-to-day
Brisebois - back, day-to-day

Drake - upper body, IR
Orszagh - knee, IR
Sanford - groin, IR

Wolski has 5 in 2, Sakic has 14 in 9, Brunette and Stastny have 5 in 3, Liles and Klee have 3 in 3.

Guerin has 3 in 2, Dvorak and Weight have 4 in 4, Hinote has 3 in 4 and Stempniak has 3 in 3.

Laperriere has 0 in 7, Arnason has 0 in 3, Laaksonen has 0 in 3.

Tkachuk has 0 in 5, Brewer has 0 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 9-6-1, 2.48 GAA, .909 save pct
Manny Legace - 8-10-4, 3.02, .894 save pct

Colorado - 18-16-2, 3rd in NW, 8th in West
St. Louis - 10-19-7, 5th in Central, 15th in West

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Post-game vs Dallas - Dec 27, 2006

I suppose I spoke too soon. I thought the Avs had a great shot at winning tonight against a depleted Dallas team but they couldn't get it done tonight. That tends to happen when you get 5 goals scored against you. The D needs to clear better, Theodore needs to control rebounds better and that's about all that can be said about that. Well, all that can be said for a couple paragraphs, then I'll jump back in.

Let's got some good out of the way first. Wolski was amazing out there. He looked exactly like what was expected of him this season. If you ask me, a bit much was expected of him right off the bat but tonight, he lived up to those expectations. His moves were great, his awareness was great, his speed was there and he got on the board with a couple hits as well to go with his goal and 2 assists. I'm glad Q kept him on the line even when it seemed like he wasn't working. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will a rookie be turned into a veteran in a day. Give Joe and Andrew time to build the kid up and he'll be a superstar soon enough.

4 goals on the board is always good to get. The fact that it didn't lead to a win somewhat muddles that a bit though. The Wolski and Sakic goals were both off of great work by Wolski. Liles was a great shot from the point and I actually didn't see Brunette's goal but I'll assume it was nice. There was never a lot of sustained pressure on the Stars though from the bits I saw as I was unpacking. The Stars D did a great job of giving them a shot or two and then clearing the zone. Maybe our D can take a lesson or two from that.

Where were Hejduk and Arnason? I don't think I heard their names more than once or twice all night long. They didn't have a ton of ice-time but those guys were on fire the last few games. Today, they fell off the radar for some reason. Granted, I wasn't watching the game with eagle eyes but I heard Wolski, Sakic, and Brunette all night long. They were a force tonight and it's great to see that line gelling (man that word looks stupid, maybe I spelled it wrong).

Now to the bad. 5 goals against on 22 shots on Theodore. That sounds terrible. However, 3 of those were on the PP. I don't like blaming a goaltender for goals on the PP unless they were terribly weak goals. I'm sure there are those who blame Theodore though so I'll break down my thoughts on the 5 goals.

1st goal: PPG off a rebound - he needs to control rebounds better and D needs to clear them better.

2nd goal: Even-strength goal off a rebound - again needs to control rebounds better and this is where I get the feeling that he is not 100%. On the first save, he fell over backwards and not in a "Where's the puck I can't find it" way. It seemed in a "Ouch, that hurt" kind of way. Then the D couldn't clear and we gave a call-up his first NHL goal. Aren't we nice.

3rd goal: PPG on a wraparound. Now, people complain that Theodore overcommits. People (myself included) also chastised Budaj for the Edmonton goal where he want down and an Oiler walked right around him and scored. So in this case, Theodore stays up and doesn't overcommit on a wide-open Dallas player who proceeds to whip around and bury it 5-hole. I guess if you have a player wide-open right in front of your goalie, it's damned if you do and damned if you don't no matter how you commit and which goalie you are.

4th goal: Even-strength screened shot. And a hell of a shot. Nobody said Zubov wasn't one of the smartest D-men around and he showed it. Pulled the puck in and played the screen beautifully. Going high on a butterfly goalie off a screen puts the possibility of the puck going in into the stratosphere.

5th goal: PPG on a rebound. Started off by making some key saves on a rush, then made the initial save but couldn't stop the rebound shot. And I want him to make that save. He was there but it just got by him. Sure, it was a good shot but I expected that save.

So in all, it looks terrible on the scoresheet but I won't go so far as saying he was "rancid" as the Stars announcer did. He certainly wasn't great and was definitely below average tonight. But to put this loss strictly on him is ridiculous. Remember this is a team game and a team should be clearing rebounds, not taking penalties and not giving up odd-man rushes. I've been berating the PK all season and I'll continue to do so. Until that smartens up, this will be a .500 team at best. And until we get consistent goaltending from someone, we won't be atop the division for longer than a game or two, if ever again.

The Good
- 4 goals scored
- Sakic going 10 for 11 in the faceoff circle
- *shrugs*

The Bad
- Theodore getting yanked...again
- giving up a 2 goal lead
- giving up a 3rd period lead...30 seconds in

The Ugly
- losing to a farm team

Pre-game vs Dallas - Dec 27, 2006

After closing the pre-Christmas break era by taking top spot on the Northwest, the Avalanche now aim to remain on top as they take on Dallas at home tonight. Dallas is coming off a loss to the streaking Chicago Blackhawks last night while the Avs haven't seen action since defeating the Hawks on the 23rd.

In what can only be thought of as a good thing for Colorado fans, the following forwards are likely not in the lineup for Dallas tonight: Lindros, Modano, Morrow. That's like telling Avs fans that Brunette, Sakic, and Stastny are out. That would sting. Let's hope it hurts like know what...for Dallas tonight.

The bad news for the Avs is that Dallas is 6-0 against them in their last six meetings, 3 of these being at the Pepsi Center. But as I always say, the longer things remain the same...the more likely they are to change. Let's hope that comes true tonight and the Avs wipe the floor with Dallas. If anything, just so I can regain some dignity since my uncle is a Dallas fan. I've still got the playoff wins to hang over his head.

Even as the Avs sit atop the Northwest, they are a mere 1 point ahead of the cellar dwellers in that devision. Thanks to a Canucks win last night the Northwest is tighter than *insert favorite analogy here*. Thankfully, the Leafs took care of the Wild last night, capping off one of the few times I cheer for the Leafs. I feel dirty all over. Minnesota, Calgary, and Vancouver are all in action tonight so any one of them could step over the Avs, possibly even two of those teams.

Jose Theodore gets the start tonight and hopefully he, and the rest of the team, don't come out a bit flat after having four straight days off. Theodore's last start wasn't a particularly busy one as he turned aside only 17 shots, but he should see more action than that tonight. We're likely to see Turco in net at the other end unless they decide to go with their surprisingly capable backup Mike Smith.

Marek Svatos is sitting out this game as well as his groin still isn't 100%. It's unfortunate to miss him on the ice, however hopefully the rest brings him back near 100% so we can see the Svatos of last year. He's shown flashes of what he can do this year but has never put a consistent effort together either between games or even between periods.

Svatos - groin, day-to-day
Leopold - groin, IR

Lindros - upper body, questionable
Modano - hip flexor, IR
Morrow - lower body , questionable

Stastny and Brunette have 4 in 2, Sakic has 13 in 8, Richardson and Turegon have 3 in 2, Wolski, Liles, Rycroft, and Klee all have 2 in 2

Boucher has 14 in 13, Barnes has 4 in 5, Klemm has 2 in 2 and Robidas has 3 in 4

Laperriere has 0 in 6

Ribeiro has 0 in 5, Zubov has 0 in 4, Sydor has 0 in 7, Lehtinen has 1 in 6

Jose Theodore - 9-9-1, 2.96 GAA, .903 save pct
Marty Turco - 18-10-0, 2.12 GAA, .919 save pct

Colorado - 18-15-2, 1st in NW, 3rd in West
Dallas - 23-14-0, 3rd in Pacific, 6th in West

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Post-game vs Chicago - Dec 23, 2006

Shut Havlat down, shut the Hawks down. The Avs came away with their own one-goal win against the Hawks tonight. The game got off to a wild start. A goal 2 1/2 minutes in by the Hawks was answered barely a minute later by the Avs. Then the Avs went up by one midway through and barely a minute later, the Hawks answered back. Thankfully, 5 minutes in to the 2nd and Sakic fed a gorgeous no-look backhand pass to Wolski who buried it for his second goal of the game and it held up as the winner.

From the sounds of it, Chicago took it to Colorado for the first period and got a lot of chances and took advantage of some sloppy play by the Avs. What's new. Then in the 2nd, the Avs turned it around and came out firing. What's new. They then held on for the win in the 3rd. That's new. And good to see.

So Wolski gets 2 goals tonight but should he really? If you get a chance to catch the highlights, be sure to do so. Wolski streaked in down the left side and Jason Cullimore swiped at the puck and promptly potted it top shelf past a surprised Khabibulin. Ouch. Apparently there is a "Let's get rid of Cullimore" thread on the Hawks message board. And that existed before this goal.

Sakic came away with one goal and one assist tonight. His goal was a bank shot off his skates which held up under review and his assist, as mentioned, was just beautiful. Not many people can toss a pass like that and have it land on the tape. However, he has to be careful not to do those no-lookers in the defensive zone. Less margin for error in that end of the rink so best not to attempt it. Even if you are Super Joe.

A shorthanded goal was given up which is about the 6th that the Avs have given up. I couldn't find the actual stat but it sounds about right. It's unfortunate to keep giving those up as they are real momentum killers. Thankfully the Avs were able to recover but you're not always so fortunate. We need to be sure that we don't get too aggressive on the powerplay. Which is funny because I always complain they aren't aggressive enough on the penalty kill. Maybe the players are misunderstanding when Q wants them to pressure!

The Avalanche came out ahead on faceoffs! They ended up winning 55% of them. As I've said, I don't think it's crucial to winning a game, but it certainly can't hurt. And they've got Turgeon to thank tonight for propping them up in that category. He won 6 of the 7 faceoffs he took for an impressive 85% win ratio. And on a complete side note, Turgeon is taking 51 second shifts on average. Get the hell of the ice after 40 seconds! He must think he's Joe Sakic or something.

It was a low-shooting game with the Avs walking away with 22 and the Hawks with 19. 3 of the Avs 22 came in the 3rd period. How terrible is that! They didn't get one shot away until midway through the 3rd. But you won't hear any kudos to Theodore or the D for keeping the puck out of the net during that time. I'll give it to them.

The Good
- a 1-goal win!
- Sakic stays on fire

The Bad
- a 1-goal win! - should be 2 or more ;)
- shortie given up

The Ugly
- I don't know, I couldn't see the game!

Pre-game vs Edmonton - Dec 23, 2006

It's almost time for a Merry Christmas and what could make it merrier than the Avs finally solving the Chicago Blackhawks. The Avs have so far been unable to get out a win out of what is, on paper, a weaker team. Lately though, paper seems to matter less and less as the Hawks have climbed back into playoff contention on the backs of a new coach and a healthy Martin Havlat.

The Avs are supposed to be coming off of a win against the Flames on Thursday but, luckily for the Flames, a blizzard sealed off the city of Denver and the game was postponed. In a stroke of luck for the Avalanche, Jose Theodore managed to not break his heel on some icy steps and should start in goal tonight. After an unexpected rest, it would seem that any nagging injuries have had a chance to heal up and the Avs should be fairly healthy coming into the game tonight.

Fairly healthy that is, save for Leopold and Svatos. Leopold, as we all know too well, is out for a while. Svatos, as planned, will miss this game as well to get his groin back to 100%. Although we all want Svatos to come back, if we want him to come back as the Svatos we know, we'll have to suffer without him for another game or two.

With the start of Jose Theodore will be the start of Nikolai Khabibulin. The Bulin Wall held up in the game between these teams as he was able to slightly outdo Theodore and get the win for his team. And he's not looking back right now! In his last 3 games, he has a 1.34 GAA and a .946 save pct. He just might be back to his cup winning form and that's bad news for the Western Conference. We've got enough all-star goalies right now, thank you.

Hopefully the Avs can continue with a pretty darn hot offensive line. Granted, a lot of their points came in the goal-fest against Edmonton, they've still been looking better as of late. Not great, but better. They're battling more but still inconsistently. Some nights they'll have so many bodies in front of the net that opposing goalies see nothing but burgundy. Other nights, the goalie sees nothing but open ice and black rubber coming at him. The return of Turgeon seems to have helped sparked things with his crafty little plays. His veteran presence appears to have stabilized things a bit.

I won't be catching this game on tv and likely won't get all of it on radio as I'm visiting family. But I'll do my best to get a post-game up though it might not be terribly in-depth. And some insight might be shortsighted!

Svatos and Leopold - groin

Handzus and Lalime on IR

Liles has 12 in 12, Arnason has 10 in 10, Clark has 7 in 7, Brunette has 8 in 5, Richardson has 3 in 2, Hejduk has 4 in 4

Havlat has 10 in 8, Smolinski has 10 in 10, Keith has 5 in 4

Laperriere has 0 in 5, Laaksonen has 0 in 4

Sharp has 0 in 5, Bourque has 0 in 4, Lapointe has 0 in 3

Jose Theodore -8-9-1, 3.01 GAA, .903 save pct
Nikolai Khabibulin - 13-6-2, 2.43 GAA, .918 save pct

Colorado - 17-15-2, 3rd in NW, 8th in West
Chicago - 15-14-5, 3rd in Central, 10th in West

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Avalanche - Flames Game Postponed

It's official. After all my hard work on the pre-game post, the game is now postponed:

I think they waited for me to finish up before announcing it was off. I'll be sending a sternly worded letter to the Pepsi Center!

Pre-game vs Calgary - Dec 21, 2006

The big questions tonight is...will the game go on as planned? Denver just had 60cm of snow, the airports are closed, roads are closed, a state of emergency has been declared. It doesn't look good. The main thing to remember however, is that these are hockey players! They thrive in winter time so all this snow must have them bursting at the seams to put on a great performance for the fans. And since the Flames were practicing at the Pepsi Center this morning, I'd say the game is good to go.

This is the biggest game of the season by far. Then again, every subsequent game will be the biggest game of the season. Which is great. Why wouldn't you want each game to be more important than the next? The story behind this one is that the Avs could take over 1st place in the NW with a win tonight. If the Avs win and Edmonton loses to Phoenix, then Denver based fans can run through the giant snowbanks yelling "We're #1! We're #1". If they lose and Vancouver wins against Boston, then Denver based fans can run through the giant snowbanks yelling "We're #5! We're #5!". So either way, you can have some fun if you live in the state of emergency area.

The Avs are on a 3-game home winning streak but have had some bad luck lately when it's come to playing the Flames. For some reason, they have trouble against this team and have lost 4 straight. But the good news is, the last 2 trips to the Pepsi Center resulted in the Flames heading home with their tails between their legs. So I put the count in that paragraph at: Bad Luck - 1, Good Luck -2. So Good Luck shall prevail. or Bad Luck will tie it up. It's tough to tell.

As Jamie McLennan started the last Flames game, it's 100% guaranteed that Kiprusoff starts tonight. Now there's not much good news here folks. Kiprusoff is 9-4-1 with a 1.85 GAA and .934 save pct in his last 14 starts. If someone finds good news in there, feel free to share. For the Avs, I'm thinking that Theodore gets the start tonight after Budaj had a shaky night against Edmonton. Or Quenneville could decide it's time to let a goalie rebound after a bad start. Or he could toss a dart at both of them, whoever it hits sits out due to injury and the other gets the start.

Last game against Edmonton was a very sloppy game. It was exciting to watch, but it was certainly not the best hockey I've ever seen. Some terrible goaltending and some terrible defending led to some wicked looking offense. Let's hope that tonight the Avs tighten up a bit on defense but keep the offense going. The Flames are tied with Dallas for 3rd best goals against for the entire NHL so you know their defense is pretty darn tight already. Everyone on the team knows how lucky they were to pull out the win so I expect to see a fairly different defensive style. By that I mean they'll give away less pucks, flop around on the ice less (Karlis, I'm looking at you), and try to cover guys that are wide open in the slot (Klee...)

Back to the plus side, Andrew Brunette, Pierre Turgeon, and Paul Stastny had stellar games in terms of point production. Brunette recorded his first career hat trick, Turgeon had a wicked, crafty goal followed up by 2 assists and Stastny recorded a goal and 3 assists. So they are obviously in the Who's Hot side of things, along with many of the Avs players. The most notable of those, aside from Mr. Sakic, is that JM Liles has 12 points in his last 12 games. That's stellar production from a defenseman. He just has to make sure he doesn't cost the team defensively while pinching in of course.

Alex Tanguay is listed as day-to-day with a charley horse right now. Since that's not a terrible injury I can say this...YES! Let's hope he's out for the game tonight as he and Iginla have found some chemistry lately and I'd like to avoid that. Roman Hamrlik and Andrei Zyuzin are both listed as day-to-day with groin injuries and Rhett Warrener has a leg injury which would be a fair sized blow to the Flames defense.

Svatos and Leopold - groin

Hamrlik and Zyuzin - groin (day-to-day)
Warrener - leg (day-to-day)
Tanguay - charley horse (day-to-day)

Liles has 12 in 12, Arnason has 10 in 10, Clark has 7 in 7, Brunette has 8 in 5, Richardson has 3 in 2, Hejduk has 4 in 4

Iginla has 14 in 6, Langkow has 7 in 3, Amonte has 5 in 3, Huselius has 3 in 3

Laperriere has 0 in 5, Laaksonen has 0 in 4

Lundmark has 0 in 18, Kobasew has 1 in 5

Jose Theodore -8-9-1, 3.01 GAA, 903 save pct
Miika Kiprusoff -16-11-2, 2.14 GAA, .927 save pct

Colorado - 17-15-2, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Calgary - 17-12-3, 1st in NW, 3rd in West

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Post-game vs Edmonton - Dec 19, 2006

What a game! It was a goalfest but what a huge, huge comeback by the Avs. I thank the Edmonton announcers who, as soon the Oil went up 2-0, announced that the Avalanche had not come back from a 2 goal deficit yet this season. The best thing about having something yet to happen in a season is that the longer it doesn't happen, the likelier it is to happen in the future. Logic. It's what's for dinner.

The Avs still got pushed around a lot in this game. I'm not sure what it's going to take to get them to actually follow up on a check. Maybe things are done differently now but I was always taught to follow up on your check. If you didn't, the coach would knock your ass down. Ok, he wouldn't but he would threaten to. It was enough to make me finish my checks. Maybe my old coach needs to help out the Avs coaching team.

One good note on hitting, towards the end of the game Skrastins laid out Hemsky and took him out for the rest of the game. That's what you've gotta do! Hemsky has been the recipient of a lot of highlight reel hits and the way he moves he is vulnerable if you catch him properly.

Ken Klee had a night off tonight. The only problem with that is that he was still on the ice! Boy, he was just standing around a lot tonight, most noticeably on the sixth goal. It could very well be that he's getting worn out after putting up a few 20+ minute games lately. Either way, Q did take note and significantly cut his ice-time tonight. He was on the ice for the last minute of the game though which I thought odd.

Ok, here's where I might tick some people off but it has to be said...Joe Sakic had a terrible night in the faceoff circle. He ended up with only 3 wins on 13 tries. Usually he's a solid 50% face-off man but tonight was not his night. Stastny, on the other hand, came away with 13 wins on 20 tries which is more than acceptable. I'm not a "Win faceoffs and you'll win the game" guy because the stats just don't back that up, but you do have to win close to half your draws for the stats to not back it up.

Peter Budaj did not have his best game tonight. 6 goals against speaks for itself. I count one weak one (3rd goal) and 2 soft ones (1st and 6th). Granted, he came out strong in the second and gave the team the momentum to come back but you can't be letting in six goals unless they were all as pretty as the 2 Hemsky set up. I'm guessing we'll see Theodore in net Thursday.

Paul Stastny had a huge game tonight. 1 goal and 4 assists moves him one point behind Anze Kopitar for 3rd in rookie scoring. He has been a great story so far this year. Not the whole "I'm Peter Stastny's kid" thing, it's that his actual play has been outstanding. He puts up points, he's a very reliable backchecker, and a pretty good penalty killer as well. Even with his missing teeth, he could very well be the face of the Avs in the future.

And of course Brunette was on fire! 3 PP goals for his 1st ever career hat-trick. His first goal was a banger goal, his second was a great setup by Stastny and his third was good, hard-working goal out in front. Do you know who assisted on all of Brunette's goals? Yep, Paul Stastny. Could Brunette and Stastny be a good combination? I think they certainly could be, if only on the PP.

Oh, and a final comment...I hate Raffi Torres. He annoys me.

The Good
- 3 PP goals
- 1st hat trick for Brunette
- great comeback

The Bad
- giving up the first 2 goals
- terrible, terrible start
- some weak goals on Budaj

The Ugly
- Ryan Smyth (it's the mullet)

The Beautiful
- Hemsky's moves (yep, I gave him his own one-time category)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pre-game vs Edmonton - Dec 19, 2006

Game day looms and its another chance for the Avs to move into the top position in the Northwest. They'd actually be tied, and with Edmonton playing less games, will be in 2nd place. But hey, it beats being in 5th place! The Oilers haven't played since Friday's 4-1 loss to the Avalanche. The Avalanche are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Blackhawks on Sunday which would have moved them up towards the top of the Northwest. So both teams should be fired up, but I see the Avs having more of an edge tonight.

Following the loss on Sunday, Coach Q decided that the team wasn't fighting enough for pucks. So at the end of practice, he set up one goal and 2 players in front. One player tried to get the puck in, one tried to keep it out. After the drill, he gave the team the thumbs up and said that's how they need to play from now on. A bit more passion, a bit more grit, a bit more determination. Good move by the coach!

Marek Svatos is going to sit out this game, Thursday's game against Calgary, and possibly Saturday's game against Chicago. He felt that he needed a bit more rest for his groin to play at the level he needs to play at. It's unfortunate but it is a responsible decision. If you're not able to give a full effort, take the time to heal up and the team will be better for it in the end.

Brad Richardson is likely back in the line-up after sitting out one game with a sore elbow. I'm also hoping that Sauer is a scratch, Klee goes back on D, and Laaksonen goes in. Sauer did nothing on defense that Klee doesn't do, Klee is not a winger, and Laaksonen is a good penalty killer.

Peter Budaj will get the start tonight according to Rocky Mountain News. I think it's a bit of an odd choice since Theodore played well against the Hawks. However, Budaj won the last game against the Oilers so maybe they're going on the idea of players playing great against certain teams. Budaj won his last 2 starts against the Oilers and Theodore lost his last start against them. So the goalie carousel continues to whirl round and round.

Hopefully Dwayne Roloson starts in goal for the Oilers tonight. His last two starts against the Avs led to him being yanked after our offense dismantled him. That's got to be on his mind but who knows if it will work for or against him. He's a good goaltender but has looked very beatable the last few times I've seen him play. He has had a good rest though and might have just been too tired in his last starts against the Avs, one of them being the 2nd of back-to-back starts in goal.

Ian Laperriere and Anti Laaksonen are on a bit of a dry spell lately. It's understandable for Laaksonen as he gets well under 10 minutes per night of ice-time, a lot of that being on the PK. Laperriere seems to be in a funk however. When he's on the ice he brings tons of energy, battles for the puck constantly, is a presence around the net. He just hasn't been able to cash in on anything or get anything setup.

And as a complete aside, in case there are any George Parros worshippers reading this, he got schooled last night by Robyn Regehr. Don't mess with those Saskatchewan boys!*

Leopold - 1 month on IR, groin
Svatos - out for rest of week, groin

Smyth - 1 week away, thumb
Moreau - on IR until late March, shoulder

Sakic has 11pts in his last 6, Brunette has 5 in 4, Clark and Arnason have 3 in 2 and Hejduk has 3 in 3. Brett Mclean has benefitted from being on the Hejduk/Arnason line and has 3 in the last 4.

Jarret Stoll has 6pts in his last 5 and Raffi Torres has 7 in his last 7.

Laperriere and Laaksonen are 0 in the last 4 and 3 games respectively.

Lupul has 0 in 6, Reasoner, Smith, and Staios have 0 in 5, Horcoff is 1 in 6 and Sykora is 1 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 8-6-1, 2.28 GAA, .915 save pct
Dwayne Roloson - 15-11-2, 2.43 GAA, .918 save pct

Colorado - 16-15-2, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Edmonton - 17-13-2, 1st in NW, 3rd in West

* I know Regehr was born in Brazil

Leopold on IR

Well, Jordan Leopold is back on the injured reserve after suffering a groin pull against Carolina on December 11th. This is pretty unfortunate as he had just come back from hernia surgery and was in for a grand total of 4 1/3 games.

He will be out for a minimum of one month and trainers are hoping not much longer. I think we all are hoping for that! In the only bright spot of this news, it is supposedly unrelated to his hernia surgery. So fears that he is weakened after the surgery are, supposedly, put to rest.

The injury was suffered, I believe, in the first period of the game as he stretched to stay onside. He didn't make it, the play was whistled down, and he had to be helped to the back and was seen after the game walking on crutches.

I think the GM deserves a quick pat on the back for not pulling the trigger too quick on a trade and ensuring that Leopold was 100% ready for a return. Even if this was unrelated, it certainly makes him look like a smart, patient GM. If he had done a trade to get rid of a defenseman and brought back picks or a depth player, he'd be the talk of the day on all sport channels.

Konowalchuk Hired

The Denver Post reports that Steve Konowalchuk has been hired as part of the Player Development staff:

That is nothing but good news as there aren't many players that worked harder out there than Kono did. I'm not sure if player development only deals with the new recruits in the minors, or if it also involves the folks on the Avalanche roster.

It would be great if he did deal with the players on the Avalanche roster. And it would make sense as we have a fairly young team. Joe can only do so much to help the youngsters along and Kono would be a great influence on them. Right now some players are missing a bit of work ethic it seems and if that could be tightened up, the club would easily be above .500.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Post-game vs Chicago - Dec 17, 2006

Well, the boys just couldn't get it done tonight. It was an exciting game up until the end that's for sure. I think Theodore was pulled with about a minute and a half left so there was some good scrambling! Overall, I was both impressed and unimpressed with the Avs. They come out fairly flat but really turned it on at the end of the game. They just couldn't break down the wall and cash one in.

It was really the second period that did them in. They walked away from that one with 5 shots to Chicago's 13. They're lucky that the score wasn't higher than 2-1 at the end of that period. What led to the goal was taking 2 consecutive penalties. Oh, and leaving Adrian Aucion open to blast a shot almost through the net. That guy has a rocket on him. So much so that in the next PK, Lappy was on him like white on rice.

Jose Theodore got the start tonight and played very well. I felt this was a good move by Q when I heard it. Budaj doesn't feel down as he knows he played well in his 3 starts. It also gives confidence to Theodore as he sees that Q will go to him even with Budaj on a hot streak. I said that if Theodore finally gets a start and does not play well, it would be a near-final nail in the coffin of his career as a starting goaltender. Thankfully, he picked up his play and made some key saves to keep the score at 2-1.

I think the Avalanche gave Martin Havlat too much respect at the start of the game. Sauer basically opened up the widest hole I've seen since...well, leave it at that. He just tap-danced around the whole team and then fed it to Ruutu who cashed it in. I think some words were given and from that point on they played the body on Havlat a bit more. It's pretty tough to play the body on a guy who's there on second and magically vanishes the next and appears behind you. He's a magician with that puck on his stick and he's only going to get better.

I think Kurt Sauer played a better game tonight than he did on Friday. Aside from letting Havlat walk around him, he made some good choices on keeping the puck in the offensive zone and put the body on some guys in the defensive zone. Maybe he was just nervous in the game on Friday.

Wolski seems to take some time to wind up each game. In the first period he fanned on 3 passes in a row on one shift and seemed almost disinterested in the game. He played a bit better in the second and even more so in the third. For him to survive and become an elite player, he's going to need to come in more fired up. He has been skating well on the forecheck and has gotten better at backchecking. So he is improving! I think fans put a bit too much hope in him for his first full season though. We have to remember that it is his first year and he's no Crosby.

Turgeon continues to be a force out there as he recorded an assist on the only goal of the night. Brett Mclean had a beautiful tip on the Turgeon shot and gave us all hope! There was also a span of about 15 seconds where Turgeon just sat behind the net waiting with the puck and nobody went near him. It's good that we have a player that gets that sort of respect with the puck. You want your opponents to fear you!

Khabibulin also had himself a pretty impressive game. He made a few key stops on some in close chances by the Avalanche and weathered the storm at the end of the third period to come away with the win. It looks like he's really starting to regain his form lately. In an interesting note, I heard the announcers mention that in the year before the Lightning cup win, Khabibulin decided it was time to get in better shape to become a better goaltender. Makes sense. So he eat better. He worked out harder. He got his condition up. He quit smoking. He...wait, what? He smoked *while* he was an NHL goaltender? I didn't think that any NHL player would still be sucking back on the tobacco leaves.

The Good
- came out hard in the third period
- good performance by Theodore

The Bad
- the Bulin wall going up
- sloppy first period
- weak second period

The Ugly
- penalties costing the game

Pre-game vs Chicago - Dec 17, 2006

Can the Avs extend their first 3-game winning streak of the season to their first 4-game winning streak of the season? In days past, a game against the Blackhawks would lead to an answer of "Yes!". This season, it's not such a certainty. Under new coach Denis Savard plus (big plus) a healthy Martin Havlat, the Hawks are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.

The Blackhawks are coming off of a 6-4 win over the Jackets last night so hopefully they got home late and the Avs can take advantage. After their 4-1 win over the Oilers, the Avalanche had Saturday night off and should have some legs under them.

The safe bet in goal tonight for the Avs is Peter Budaj. He has been in net for this latest winning streak and has put up some pretty darn good numbers along the way. He's been showing more and more that he will be a very capable starter in the near future. He does need to get those soft goals under control. The elite #1 goaltenders in the league don't give up one every game. He must be taking lessons from Roberto Luongo (that oughta get the Canuck fans going)

EDIT: Theodore gets the nod tonight. After practice Quenneville said "Peter had a nice stretch here, and we're comfortable no matter who we go back to. We feel like we have a good chance of winning." I suppose anyone would be comfortable knowing Brian Boucher is in net! But here's to hoping Theo comes out smoking hot after working hard in practice.

EDIT: Khabibulin is in net. Geez, I don't know where I got my info from but it was just all wrong today!

In their last 5 games, the Avalanche have outscored their opponents 22-11. If it wasn't for a collapse against the Kings, those numbers would be even more impressive. Unfortunately doubling up on their oppenents and going 4-1 in their last 5 has still left them at the bottom of the Northwest division. In what can only be described as ridiculous, the bottom two teams, Minnesota being the other, are only 2 points behind the top team, that being Edmonton. No other division has close to that level of parity and it's going to lead to lots of nail biting in the final stretch run.

Last game, Svatos being out led to an easy choice on forward scratches...nobody. I haven't heard anything more on his injury but let's hope it's not serious. On defense, Brisebois was out with the flu which, with Leopold out, led to calling up Kurt Sauer. I'd like to think we have better defensive prospects in the minors than Sauer. I never noticed him out there except when he took penalties or slowly lumbered towards the puck.

Ken Klee and Brett Clark were #1 and #2 in ice-time last game and it should be interesting to see the ice time that Klee gets tonight. Aside from Arnason, Klee is the biggest surprise so far this season. He leads the team in +/-, is right up there in ice time and is a solid force in the defensive zone. He's willing to toss some bodies around when necessary. Unfortunately, his legs do show his age at times. The younger players in the league can often get a step on him.

Leopold and Svatos are both out with groin injuries and no more word on their status. Brisebois could be in tonight if he's feeling well enough.

Handzus is out until late March with knee surgery. Lalime could be returning soon after back surgery. Adrian Aucoin is day-to-day with a groin injury (man, that is really going around the league lately).

Sakic owns the "Hot" category with 11pts in his last 5 games. Wolski and Liles each have 10 in the last 10. Brunette has 5 in his last 3, Turgeon has 4 in 4 and Clark has 6 in 5.

Havlat has 8 in 5, Smolinski has 5 in 4 and Ruutu has 3 in 2.

Laaksonen and Laperriere have 0 in 3.

Holmqvist has 0 in 8 and both goalies are in the Cold category. I'm actually not sure how that works b/c Khabibulin is 1-1-0 with a 3.53 GAA and Boucher is 0-1-1 with a 5.77 GAA in their last 2. So that's 2 losses between the 2 in each of their last 2 games...but Chicago is 6-1-3 in their last 10. Doesn't add up so if anyone can enlighten, please do.

Jose Theodore - 8-8-1, 3.06 GAA, .903 save pct
Nikolai Khabibulin - 11-5-2, 2.6 GAA, .015 save pct

Colorado - 16-14-2, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Chicago - 13-13-5, 3rd in Central, 11th in West

Friday, December 15, 2006

Post-game vs Edmonton - Dec 15, 2006

Yes, 3 game winning streaks actually exist! The Avs finally cashed it in and pulled out their third win in a row tonight in a 4-1 thumping of a tired Edmonton team. Colorado played very well and Edmonton played very bad. So it was a good fit!

Peter Budaj put in another solid performance after letting in an absolute stinker in in the first period. That was, without a doubt, the worst goal I've seen since Aebischer made his diving blocker swipe and miss in a game against Calgary last season. He rebounded well and made some good saves throughout the rest of the game. The final shot count for Edmonton was 19 so he wasn't particularly busy but there were more quality chances there than the shot count shows.

In a quick comment during the 3rd, Ferraro mentioned that Theodore was in good spirits today when questioned by the media. I take that as nothing but a good sign. If a perennial #1 can be relegated to backup and still make a comment such as "The puck is the same size, the goal is the same size...I'm not sure what the problem is", it shows me that he's still willing to prove himself. Only problem is when he'll get that chance! Budaj has played well enough that there's no reason not to put him in on Sunday unless Q feels he's a bit fatigued.

Wolski was his inconsistent self out there again tonight. Potted a goal off a beautiful setup by Brunette, yet managed to make some lazy plays and a few intercepted passes. Overall though, I'd say he played more good than he did bad. If that sentence makes any sense to you, then I commend you. It made no sense to me. He ended the night with over 17 minutes of ice time so he must be doing something right.

Hejduk got another goal tonight off a brilliant play by Brett Clark. He basically led the entire Oilers team over to him, leaving Hejduk a wide-open goal to shoot at. Oh, and don't forget Mclean clogging up the front of the net forcing Roloson to search for the puck.

Arnason had some jump in his step and was again rewarded with a goal on a blistering slap/snap/wrist shot (yes, it was all 3 at once!). He blew it above Roloson's shoulders and spelled the end of Roloson's night in Colorado. That's twice that the Avs have chased Roloson out of the goal. Here's to hoping he's in net on Tuesday!

Speaking of jump, Mark Rycroft had 2 shorthanded breakaways but couldn't cash in on either. The first chance showed why he won't score many goals. 20 shoulder fakes and none of them were enough to make Roloson commit. His second one he got clotheslined by Stoll right after he got his shot off. A little frustration showing on the Oilers part.

Brisebois caught Svatos' flu and was out tonight so in comes Kurt Sauer. And directly into the penalty box is where he headed. His first shift on the ice and he gets called for high sticking. He was then somewhat invisible until the third when he took an interference call. People wonder why he doesn't play more. I think tonight we saw why.

Speaking of Svatos (can I use "Speaking of" as a seque twice in one post?), he was out with an apparent groin injury. I don't know if he caught it from Leopold but it's not good news. Hopefully it's just a tweak and he'll be good to go for Sunday. He hasn't been flying too high lately but the return of Turgeon held some promise for waking him up.

Sakic, while having a "quiet night" according to Ray Ferraro, came away with 2 assists. I don't know how you can be quiet and still get 2 points but if anyone can do it, Sakic can! Brett Clark also came away with 2 assists tonight and was a force in the defensive end. He laid out a good hit in the third which went along nicely with the crushers that Lappy laid. And of course Vaananen did some good smashing along the way.

And how about Ken Klee! No sooner did I compare him to Pronger did he end up posting 24 minutes of ice time. That's the most out of any Avs player and actually more than any Oiler tonight as well. I guess it's true...the man is the reincarnation of Chuck Norris.

The Good
- 3 game win streak
- offense stays on fire
- Budaj plays solid game
- Chuck Klee showing what an "old man" can do

The Bad
- 4 penalties in the third period
- Svatos injury

The Ugly
- weakest of weak goals on Budaj

Pre-game vs Edmonton - Dec 15, 2006

The Oilers roll into Colorado as the Avs try to extend their winning streak to 3 games for the first time this season. The Avalanche have had a day of rest after dispatching the Blues on Wednesday while the Oilers are coming off a hard-earned victory over the Minnesota Wild to secure 1st place in the Northwest. Who knew that after Pronger left, the Oilers could still be a contending team. Certainly not many of the Oiler fans who pissed and moaned like they had lost the entire team. I guess Pronger was their Ken Klee.

Peter Budaj gets his third straight start. I can't say I blame Q for going with Budaj again. I'm not a fan of riding the hot goalie but Budaj has played solid in the last 2 games. He gave up a questionable goal in each but came away with a GAA of 1.5 and save pct of .944.

The only problem is that if the team loses, I'm sure Q will go back to Theodore on Sunday. I've got no problem having Theodore in net, but I want to see any of our goalies get more starts after a loss. I expect that once Theodore gets back into the net, he will come in hot (in more ways than one) and will be eager to prove his worth. If he doesn't, I'd say his days are numbered. Not that Colorado would be able to offload him anywhere, but if you can't rebound after sitting for 3 or more games with a solid effort, then your head is just not in it for whatever reason.

The Avs offense is riding high right now after scoring 18 goals in their last 4 games. It's put a lot of players into the Hot column. So many in fact, that I'm only going to list about half of them. It's great to see the offense break out like this as there is a wealth of offensive firepower on this team. Maybe not as much as years past, but enough that they should be averaging 3.5 goals a game. They're slightly under that with 3.2 goals per game and that is all due to inconsistency. 7 goals one night, 0 goals the next. Mind boggling at times.

In the last 2 games, the defense has come into its own as well. 3 goals against in the last 2 games is deserving of a pat on the back. We can only hope they continue to show up and play well. Losing Leopold to injury again might benefit some players a bit as their positions are secured again for the near, and possibly far, future.

Ryan Smyth is out with a fractured thumb which is a blessing in two ways. First, he's a huge leader on that team so having him out can't help Edmonton at all. Second, it means there won't be any sort of "retribution" for Smyth running over Richardson they last time they met. Which may or may not have been precluded by Liles kneeing Richardson the time before that. So this might be a "get over it" game and hopefully we don't have to hear about either incident ad nauseum from the commentators.

It should be interesting to see which forward sits tonight. With Turgeon back, there is an empty spot up in the press box that needs to be filled. Richardson filled it last time and both Rycroft and Laaksonen have been scratches as well. Laaksonen is a good penalty killer but so far is useless at anything else. Richardson is a good killer and has scored some timely goals. Rycroft is a reasonable replacement for Hinote in terms of energy. I could see any of those 3 sit and not lose sleep over it.

Since I get to watch this game on Sportsnet, I will be able to put up a quicker post-game entry. I won't need to wait for the highlights to see some of the goals, saves and hits (do hits still happen?).

Leopold is out indefinitely with no more word on his condition yet.

Hemsky has a shoulder injury but could be in the lineup tonight. Moreau is out until late March/early April at best. Smyth is on the IR with his broken thumb.

Sakic has 9pts in the last 4 games, Brunette has 4pts in the last 2 games, Wolski and Liles both have 9pts in the last 9 games and Tyler Arnason has 7pts in the last 7 games.

Jarret Stoll has 6pts in the last 4, Raffi Torres has 3pts in the last 2 and Bergeron and Pisani both have 2pts in the last 2.

Svatos has just 1pt in the last 4 games.

Lupul has 0pts in the last 5, Reasoner, Smith and Staois have 0 in the last 4 and Horcoff only has 1 in the last 5.

Peter Budaj - 7-6-1, 2.38 GAA, .913 save pct
Dwayne Roloson - 14-10-2, 2.4 GAA, .920 save pct

Colorado - 15-14-2, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Edmonton - 17-12-2, 1st in NW, 3rd in West

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Post-game vs St. Louis - Dec 13, 2006

Consistency! Well, enough to go on a 2-game winning streak. Hopefully they can turn it into 3 for the first time of the season on Friday. Other than a lackluster start, it was a solid overall effort by the Avs tonight. They got another PP goal and were able to beat, and look better than, a team that is much weaker than them. No more pity losses to make teams feel good about themselves! But boy, Blues sympathies.

Budaj had another solid effort in goal. He wasn't tested on many huge saves, but he made all the saves he needed to make. The NHL Network still hasn't shown highlights of the game even though I've seen a vignette on the Blackhawks a hundred times. Maybe it's karma for me complaining about no Blackhawks coverage while I was in Chicago. Or the NHL Network needs to be better. I've complained twice to them about their choice of coverage and have received nothing but radio (tv??) silence. At least Scott Cullen writes back to me when I send him crazy ideas. Seriously, I just finished this whole post (probably 10 or 15 minutes) and they still haven't made it to the Avs highlights. There were 3 games tonight! Come on.

Turgeon came out flying again tonight. Well, maybe not flying per se but he's definitely a presence out there. As I said, I wasn't looking forward to his return but man am I happy he's back. He ended with 6 shots on goal, 1 goal, 1 assist, and a +2 rating. I don't think you can reasonably ask for a whole lot more out of a scant 11 1/2 minutes.

Tyler Arnason ended the night with 7 shots on goal but no points. He had some amazing chances and is making things happen when he's out on the ice. I don't know what kind of fire Q lit under him but it doesn't seem like it's going to go out!

Paul Stastny woke up! He ends the night with a goal and an assist.He must have read my pre-game posting where I asked what was up. Thanks for reading and responding accordingly Paul. Oh, but don't take 2 hooking penalties in one game though. Be like Milan. He got a goal and an assist with no penalites. And he did it all while looking like Hannibal Lecter!

Ossi Vaananen and Karlis Skrastins both picked up an assist tonight. These guys aren't there to produce points but it's nice to see them get the odd one. Let's just thank our GM that both these guys are still here. I shudder to think if he'd pulled the plug on a trade just before Leopold went down again. So good on him for waiting to see how Leopold would hold up.

The Blues came out and put 19 hits on the scoresheet. The Avs...4. That's right, 4. Now, the Avs won so most people won't care. Had they lost, people would be all over this stat. And for good reason. That's a terribly low number of hits to have. If our players don't start banging some bodies...well, I'm not sure what I'll do other than write about it again.

Let's end on a good not with Joe Sakic continuing his ways with a goal tonight. He continues to be the teams leader in all scoring categories, including PP goals. Retire is a word that Joe does not know the meaning of.

The Good
- near-60 minute effort
- defeating a weaker team (you gotta win those!)
- Turgeon lighting it up
- Stastny waking up

The Bad
- only 4 recorded hits
- giving up the first goal
- not waking up for the first 10 minutes

The Ugly
- Hejduk's nose

Pre-game vs St. Louis - Dec 13, 2006

Well, this is going to be a quick one since the game is almost on. I just got back from Chicago where I was bombarded with information about the Blackhawks. Day and night it's all they talk about up there. Ok, actually all they talk about is the Bears. With a bit of the Bulls. And some Sox talk. Then if they have time, they might remind people that they have a hockey team.

So this will be the first time the Blues play the Avs under new head coach Andy Murray. Andy lost out on his debut against the Hawks and will be hoping his team can rebound against the Avs. Should be interesting to see how the team responds to their new coach in the long run. It's working for the Jackets so far.

The Avs, in turn, are coming off a solid 5-2 win against the defending Cup champs. It was a solid win as they came back from a 2-1 deficit in the third to come away with the win. 3 of those 4 goals came on the powerplay which is great! The PP needs to click, especially since the PK isn't. The Canes were only 1 for 7 on Monday though so that's...ok.

Peter Budaj gets the start after the win against Carolina. Let's hope he doesn't lose tonight and get benched. Man, what a screwed up idea this goalie "rotation" is. He played a great game against Carolina so let's hope the team shows up to support him.

Hejduk is day-to-day with facial lacertions but may play tonight. Leopold is sidelined with a mystery injury that could be to his groin. He is undergoing tests still I believe. Svatos was out last game with the flu but I would think is back tonight.

Legace and Sanford are out so it will be Bacashihua or Schwarz. Schwarz was last night so I'd look to Bacashihua. Orszagh is out for the season after knee surgery.

Sakic has 8 in the last 3. Good grief. Brunette has 4 in 2 (told you he'd be up here soon!), Wolski and Clark have 4 in 3 and Liles has 7 in 6.

Guerin has 6 in 6, Rucinsky has 4 in 4 and Cajanek has 3 in 3.

Stastny has 0 in 5. Where'd you go Paul? Budaj is in the Cold column due to his numbers in the past 5 games, but let's see how today goes before he officially falls here.

McClement and Stempniak have 0 in 5.

Peter Budaj - 6-6-1 - 2.5 GAA, .910 save pct
Jason Bacashihua - 0-2-1 - 3.82 GAA, .882 save pct

Colorado - 14-14-2 - 5th in NW, 10th in West (man I'm sick of typing those exact standings each time)
St. Louis - 7-18-4 - 5th in Central, 15th in West

Monday, December 11, 2006

Post-game vs Carolina - Dec 11, 2006

Yes! They pull one out and take away a big win over Carolina. Sucks to be a Canes fan as they walk away from the West with one measly point. This is going to be a quick post as I could neither watch NOR listen to the game. I was on my way to Northbrook, IL for half the game, the other half was spent unsuccessfully trying to install Windows Media Player on the Mac I brought with me. Shoulda brought the PC instead.

From the sounds of it, the Avs played a decent game. They unravelled a little bit towards the end of the second and start of the third but a diving goal by Brunette brought them right back into it. They followed it up 3 straight PP goals includinga give-and-go beauty by Liles, Sakic snapping one home and Turgeon potting his 2nd in 2 games

Budaj started (much to my chagrin) and played well although the second goal was questionable. Sounds familiar. As long as the Avs get the win, I'm happy but I would have liked to have seen Theodore in net for this one. It would have been a huge win for him to get, if he would have achieved the same result. though Budaj did great and earned the first star of the game. So I guess Budaj "earns" the nod in goal for the next game. Then he'll lose at some point and the circle of life continues. I hope in the meantime, Theodore works his ass off for his next start.

Turgeon had 5 shots on net to go with his goal. To be honest with you, I'm not sure if a goal off your skate counts as a shot for you. It must b/c it counts as a goal, but the definition of a shot a stick. I'm just glad he's contributing. I wasn't looking forward to his return but he seems to be doing all right so far and could help lend some stability to the team.

Wolski also had 5 shots on goal though none resulted in putting him up on the scoresheet. He also had 2 hits, one takeaway and one giveaway. I also heard he made a couple lazy plays in the game. So it seems he's fairly inconsistent so far. Let's try and remember that it's his first full season. He'll learn soon enough that there is no room for slacking in the NHL. Well, there is but you'd like it not to happen.

Richardson is still getting under 10 minutes a game which is unfortunate. I guess Q doesn't see the same thing that others see in him. I see a Sakic-like wrist shot and a lot of poise out there on the ice. Hence why he gets lots of PK time. I guess he may not have as much offensive upside as other players on our team right now.

Vaananen was the d scratch tonight so maybe I miscounted on the scratch rotation. Or a trade is coming. Skrastins got more ice time today than he had in the last couple games. Hmm... Or it was more likely a result of Leopold getting injured midway through the third (Liles, Klee, etc all had more ice time than usual). From what I heard on the message board, Leopold was spotted doubled-over clutching his mid-section which can't be a good sign.

It's hard to this, particularly the bad part, without having seen some of the game but here goes:

The Good
- 5 goals
- 3 PP goals
- bounceback win
- grit and determination in the third

The Bad
- Leopold injured
- Hejduk out
- Svats out

The Ugly
- not being able to see/hear the game

Pre-game vs Carolina - Dec 11, 2006

Game time is looming around the corner and the Avs have a shadow cast over their heads. They gave up a lead on 3 separate occasions and gave it up for good in the 3rd as the Kings mounted comebacks from 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3 deficits to come out with a 5-4 regulation time win on Saturday. That's a disappointing loss for any team, let alone the Avs who are mired with inconsistency lately.

Carolina is finishing up their Western swing and have lost in all 3 games (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver) and should be looking to rebound. Coming out of a 4 game roadswing with only 1 point (OT loss to Canucks) is a feeling any team will fight to avoid.

The starting goalie for Colorado is unannounced at the time I'm writing this. Although the typical course of action would be to switch goalies after a loss, whispers in the wind say that Theo gets the start tonight. If so, I completely agree with it. He played well against LA and made some big saves. He gave up two questionable (not weak, questionable) goals but made about 3 breakaway stops and some big point-blank shots on powerplays. Let him build on that.

Carolina will likely go with Cam Ward though John Grahame has played all right as of late, his last game being a loss to Calgary where he gave up 2 goals on 31 shots. Ward also played the last two games of their swing so don't be surprised if they opt to rest him and go with Grahame.

If the defensive scratch rotation stays true, Ken Klee will be the odd-man out tonight on defense. Hopefully somethings happens soon to remedy this but it's good that they're not rushing into anything. If a deal hasn't happened yet, it means the right one hasn't come along.

Carolina has a few injuries which could play to the Avs advantage. Rod Brind'amour, the man you love to hate (or is it just me?), is listed as day-to-day as is Cory Stillman. Brind'amour is the leading scorer for Carolina and apparently a source of inspiration to the team. So here's hoping that this deflates them! They are also without Frantisek Kaberle who is on the IR after shoulder surgery.

The Avs have just Brad May as a listed injury. This should mean Hejduk is in the lineup tonight after leaving Saturday's game against the Kings. Which may not mean much the way he's been playing lately. Where's the Duke of old? It can't just be missing Foppa that has him in this funk.

Sakic is on fire with 5 points in the last 2 games. Brett Clark now has 4 in 2, Liles has 6 in 5 and Arnason has 5 in 5. Brunette has 2 points in his last 2 games so here's to hoping he's breaking out of his funk.

Cole has 3 in 2 and Adams has 2 in 2 for Carolina.

I don't even know where to start in this column for either team. Both Avs goalies are cold with over a 3.00 GAA and under .900 save pct in their last 4 games. Leopold, Hejduk and Stastny have no points in the last 4 games and Svatos haas nothing in the last 3. I know people have been saying they like these line combinations but I think Wolski is wasted with Sakic due to his lack of effort and Hejduk and Stastny are not getting the time they need due to killing penalties.

Carolina has a wealth of talent in this column as well. Letowski, Adams, Walker, and Gleason have no points in the last 6,3,3, and 9 respectively. Ward is getting lit up a bit with a 3.5 GAA and .873 save pct in his last 2 games. In his last 8 games, he's let in 26 goals and is 4-3-1. I haven't seen enough of the Carolina defense to know how well they play around him.

Jose Theodore -8-8-1, 3.06 GAA, .903 save pct
Cam Ward - 13-8-3, 2.98 GAA, .893 save pct

Colorado - 13-14-2, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Carolina - 15-12-4, 2nd in SE, 6th in East

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Post-game vs LA - Dec 10, 2006

Wow. Yep, again, I start a post-game with a "Wow" but this time it's a bad one. What a poor showing by the Avs. They missed the "play a full 60 minutes" key to this game. They came out strong in the first and walked away with a 2-0 lead. Then the Kings came back and tied it up at 2, only to have Colorado go back up by one before the end of the 2nd. Then in the 3rd all hell broke loose. Giveaways, penalties, leaving pucks sitting in the slot, beating the Avs to the puck in all cases.

This team has a terrible time holding a lead and it's likely due to inexperience. Well, that's what I'd like to think. I'm not sure what else you could chalk it up to b/c they give up lead after lead, time after time and it's frustrating. We need something to stabilize the defense to not panic in our offensive zone. We also need someone to make sure the players don't give up on plays and want to have that puck on their stick. It's the same thing I preach in volleyball, you have to WANT that puck (ball, whatever).

There were a couple good news items in this game. Laaksonen got his second of the season and broke his goalless and pointless drought. Also, Avery finally dropped them with Laperriere. From the sounds of it, Lappy got the better of the fight but he didn't beat the holy hell out of him like most people hoped. Avery got booted from the game for not having his jersey strapped down which was comical. Guess he had decided that he was going to finally go with Lappy and wanted every advantage he could get.

Now for the bad. Hold your breath because this might take a while! I guess we'll start with the 2nd period breakdown. You simply can NOT let a team come back and tie up the game early in the 2nd period. I don't care what it takes but you have to shut them down. Actually, I'll rephrase, you can't let the team build up momentum, and that includes letting them score two goals! The Kings took it and ran with it from there. The Avs defended a bit but ultimately, fell over at the end.

Penalties and the penalty kill. Sigh. You can't take 7 penalties in a close game like this. Even if the opposing team doesn't score, it gives them momentum and tires out the team. In the Avalanche case however, the penalty killers probably don't get too tired since they play the most passive box I think I've ever seen. I don't know if they just figure "Hey, let them toss it around and Theo will save it" but that's no way to play. Put some pressure on them and force them to make hard passes. You might get a bit out of hustle up and get back in position! It's a penalty kill, it's not supposed to be easy.

5 goals. Count em up because that's a lot. Even in the "new" NHL. I haven't seen all of them so I'm not about to comment on whether it was a "should have had it" goal or not. I saw the first one, it was a flub shot from in close. Those are tricky. The second goal, that was a good shot, but Theo was too deep in his net. I thought he was going to challenge shooters? Once I see the other three, I might edit in some thoughts.

In Theodore's defense, he made some huge saves. I recall 3 breakaways and many 2-on-1s which ended with a save. Without him, the game could have easily been 10-4. Another defensive breakdown that should not be hung squarely on the goalie. I don't care if you question a goal or two but come on, this was a terrible team effort in the 2nd and 3rd. I hope Q comes back with Theo in net for the next game, but we all know that isn't going to happen. Heaven forbid a goalie get a chance to string together some starts.

The Good
- Laaksonen scoring
- Turgeon getting first of the season (on a nice steal)
- Theodore making some huge saves

The Bad
- Theodore forced to make huge saves
- letting in 5 goals
- giving up nearly 40 shots
- losing the lead
- not playing hockey

The Ugly
- Sean Avery's attitude

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Pre-game vs LA - Dec 9, 2006

Well it's game day again as they Avs continue their trip out on the West coast. I will have no chance of catching this on TVU since the NHL streams are shut down. Thank you very much NHL. You sure know how to attract fans to your product. So it's NHL radio for me, and thousands (hundreds? tens?) of other fans as well.

The Avs are looking to follow up on a huge win over San Jose on Thursday. They came out flying, put bodies in front of the net, and walked away with 5 goals against one of the best goaltenders in the league this season. Now, they're up against one of the worst in ol' Danny boy, so let's hope they have the same strategy!

Theodore gets the start tonight and why not, he played a great game against San Jose. I saw that second goal and it was a weird one. It was a lob shot that hit the ice right in front of Theodore who booted it to his defenseman...who turned out to be Joe Thornton. Oops! He bounced back commendably and got the W. He also brought his GAA under 3!

Rumour has it that Brisebois is the scratch tonight. Thank you! So Q is going to rotate scratches, but only amongst three of the D. The iron man reign marches on! I wonder how long this is going to continue though. I don't think we can run until the trade deadline on this sort of system. Well, I suppose we could, but I don't think that we should.

The Kings are struck with a rash of injuries. Mathieu Garon is out with a groin injury and they have four others on the IR: Macauley, Petiot, Sopel, Tverdovsky. If you're saying to yourself "Hey, that's 3 defensemen!", you're correct. They still have Blake, Visnovsky and Norstrom on the back-end though so don't count 'em out just yet.

I was contemplating doing a "keys to the game" section but let's be honest, we all know what the keys are to any game. First and foremost, score more goals than the opposition. If you can't do that, you will rarely win a hockey game. I'll have to check historical stats on what the percentages are. Secondly, play a full 60 minutes. Then of course, if it goes to overtime, play those five minutes too. Thirdly, fire on all cylinders, it's a key 2 points. I couldn't find that hilarious Sportchek ad but it sums the cliches up pretty well.

Only May is left on the injured list for the Avs. Meh.

Macauley, Petiot, Sopen, Tverdovsky and Garon as mentioned.

Sakic and Clark both have 3pts in the last 2 (all in the SJ game). Wolski has 7 in 6 and Liles has 5 in 4.

Avery and Frolov each have 3 in 2 and Visnovsky has 12 in 11.

Lappy is still snake-bitten with 0 in 6. Hejduk and Stastny are in a funk with 0 in 3. Andrew Brunette has 2 in 7 but if he plays like he did in San Jose, he'll be moving back into the hot column.

Cloutier is 1-3 in the last 4 with an eye-popping 4.99 GAA and .824 save pct. Wow. Craig Conroy and Mike Cammalleri have 0 in 3, Jeff Cowan has 0 in 6 and Brian Willsie has 0 in 9. That's not typically cold by Brian Willsie standards but he did put up 41 points last season in Washington.

Jose Theodore - 8-7-1 - 2.94 GAA, .905 save pct
Dan Cloutier - 5-10-2 - 3.76 GAA, .865 save pct (yes, those are real stats)

Colorado - 13-13-2 - 5th in NW, 10th in West
LA - 10-16-4 - 5th in Pacific, 12 in West

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Post-game vs San Jose - Dec 7, 2006

Oh wow! That's all I can say about the amazing effort tonight. Huge, huge game against the Sharks. Let's start off with the story of how I got to see this game tonight. My boss, Ryan, gets Altitude, even though we live in Saskatoon. So he gave me a standing offer to watch games at his place. Even though this game had a late start, I figured why not. I like watching the Avs and I like watching Patrick Marleau so that's two more reasons than I need to watch an Avs game!

So I get there right for puck drop, we head to the basement, turn on the tv and..."This program is unavailable in your area". D'oh! It was blacked out for some reason. So we watch the Wild-Flames shootout (boo!) and I head back home. I turn on NHL Network and hey!, they're tuned in to the Avs game right now. Good sign. Then the Avs score! Awesome. Then they go to commercial. And come back to the game. And stay tuned in for 5 more minutes. Wait a minute...I check the schedule and...the game was on NHL Network! So I missed the first 10 minutes b/c I didn't check the bloody schedule for the channels that *I* get before heading elsewhere. Sigh.

Ok, now on to the actual game. The offense comes alive! The defense comes alive! Theo comes alive! They were like a living, team. It is absolutely amazing what you can do with a little effort and chemistry. Oh, and also traffic in front of the net. Toskala couldn't see half the goals that were scored on him thanks to bodies crashing the net. Final shot count - 25, Final goal count - 5. Compare to last game where shots were 42 and the goals were ZERO.

Turgeon made a reasonably successful return to the lineup. Took a penalty which cost the Avs their first goal but was all right otherwise. He only played for 7 minutes though so wasn't tested much. Break him in slow folks, he's rusty...and a bit um...not young.

Vaananen was scratched tonight so Q holds true to his word that it will be a rotating system. However, I'd like to see who he picks to sit next. Only choice right now is Skrastins I think. And man, I'd be so disappointed for Skrastins iron man streak to end being a healthy scratch. Rycroft was also a scratch tonight.

Theodore was very solid tonight. I won't say he stole the game, but he made some "keep em in the game" saves. The second goal was a weird rebound so I want to see it again. Theo basically kicked it right to Thornton which is obviously a terrible idea. He made a huge pad stack save at the end of the second and held his ground well when the Sharks crashed the net. At one point I think all the Sharks players were in the crease but the puck never made it in. He also improved his record to 7-for-8 on penalty shots when Mike Grier was denied by the blocker. I love how Theo reacted to that save too. Gotta get into it and get a bit excited. It's a fun game and don't you forget it!

Joe came out on fire. 2 goals, 1 assist. Great stuff. Is there any doubt that he is one of the best and classiest players to ever play the game? And Sharks announcers, if you're reading, his first goal was absolutely a goal. The net has to come off the moorings, not just lift up a bit. The net was not off until after the puck was in. Damned if I could find the official rule but I'm pretty sure that's what it is. Lifted up = goal, lifted off = no goal.

EDIT - Found it:

Brett Clark had his first ever two goal game and what a great couple of goals. The first was a booming shot off a pass from Sakic. We need to see that on the PP more often! The second was a waiting game as he waited for Brunette to crash the net and screen Toskala, then blew it between his blocker and body. He also added an assist on the night.

This guy is worth every penny he's paid. Led the team in ice-time, 3rd most ice-time on the PK for defensmen, scored on both his shots in the game. The guy is solid and has emerged as our #1 d-man in my mind. Solid, reliable, level-headed and well-seasoned. Who'd guess that he's 30 years old and has 7 seasons under his belt. Most people never heard of him until late last year. Must be the altitude.

The boarding call on Steve Bernier was absolutely the right call. I'd say the same thing if it was Leopold that did it. To all players out there, QUIT PULLING THAT CRAP! At some point you will hurt somebody. If you see a player turn and give his back, let up. Call him a chicken shit after for all I care but don't shove them head-first into the boards. You need to do as much as you can to avoid pile-driving other players. It's for the good of the game.

The Good
- big win
- lots of quality shots
- traffic, traffic, and more traffic
- 3 point night for Sakic and Clark
- killing the 5-on-3

The Bad
- penalty trouble nearly costing them

The Ugly
- Bernier boarding shot

Pre-game vs San Jose - Dec 7, 2006

Oh boy. That's all I can say right now. The Avs are in a precarious position in which they could respond in one of two ways. They will have a fire lit under their ass and come out flying to put it out...or they could have a fire lit under their ass and decide to stop, drop, and roll to put it out. Right now, I sense a S,D,R coming. I don't know if the Avs have enough inner strength to rebound in a huge way. They may make some improvements, but it could be slow going. Here's to hoping I'm wrong though!

Jose Theodore makes his return after recovering from a hip flexor injury suffered in Saturday's loss to Vancouver (it pains me to write "loss to Vancouver"). This should completely end any trade rumours that flared up that night when both he and Forsberg were "injured". Foppa's not coming back folks, face facts. He's got a no-trade clause and has said that he will override any trade request b/c he doesn't want to go anywhere. I guess he likes playing on a losing team...

The Sharks, once they decide on a goalie, will have one of the hottest goalies in the league in net. That's right, no matter who they choose, it's a great choice. Nabokov and Toskala are on fire this year and show no signs of letting up. Nabokov is 7-6-0 with a 2.12 GAA and .923 save pct. Toskala is 13-2-0 (holy crap!) with a 1.98 GAA and .929 save pct. That's ridiculous. If they stay true to their rotation, then Toskala will get the nod tonight.

The healthy scratch on D tonight is unannounced. So far Brisebois and Klee have sat. If Q wasn't lying, someone new should sit tonight and the only person I could see it being is Vaanenan. However, if you're actively shopping a D, you don't sit him. So I could see Klee or Brisebois sitting again actually.

May and Turgeon are still out with shoulder injuries but I've heard unconfirmed reports that Turgeon is off the IR.

Mark Smith is the only injury of note for the Sharks.

Liles - 4pts in last 3
Svatos - 3pts in last 3

Bernier - 12pts in last 12
Pavlevski - 3pts in last 4

Where to start! The Avs and Sharks have a wave of cold hitting them.

Lappy - 0pts in last 5
Wolski - 0pts in last 3
Brunette - 1pt in last 6

Thornton - 0pts in last 4
Marleau - 1pt in last 5
Hannan - 0pts in last 5

Jose Theodore - 7-7-1 - 3.00 GAA, .903 save pct
Vesa Toskala - 13-2-0 - 1.98 GAA, .929 save pct

Colorado - 12-13-2 - 5th in NW, 10th in the West
San Jose - 20-8-0 - 2nd in Pacific, 4th in the West (pointwise though, they're 2nd in the West)

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Sakic Leading Western Conference Forwards in All-Star Votes

Joe Sakic continues to lead all Western Conference forwards in all-star vote getting with 260,397 at last count. Did anyone mention that he's 37 years old and has been playing in the league for 21 seasons now? That's 1,264 games in a fast-paced, then crash-and-bang, and then fast-paced again league. Lesser men may have crumbled under the pressure but Joe is a god amongst men in the NHL.

He came into the league straight out of the WHL, where I had the pleasure of watching him play with the Swift Current Broncos for two seasons. I'll never forget his last home game where he and Theo Fleury were racing for the scoring title. They bounced back and forth that night until Joe set up a goal that tied the two at 160 points (in 64 games!). Joe won out though b/c he had one less game played AND more goals than Fleury (78 to 68). At least I think that's how it went. Give me a break, I was eight years old!

He has five 100+ point seasons, and only 3 seasons where he was under a point per game. His rookie season, 97-98 where he had 63 in 64 games, and 2001-2002 where he had 79 in 82 games. "Isn't as prolific as he used to be." my ass TSN. When you're 37 years old and leading your team in scoring, that's about as bad as the criticism can get I suppose. I wonder if I should stop pointing out that he's 37. He might not like that. Because I'm sure he reads my blog every day.

Back on topic, the next closest vote-getter is Joe Thornton with 245,083. That's about double what Patrick Marleau is getting. Even though Marleau has more points (ok, one more) and a better plus/minus (+9 compared to -5). Oh, and don't forget that he leads that damn team and plays on a line with 2 rookies who he's helped light it up this year. The guys the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL. Minus the whole "overweight" thing. I voted for you Pat!

Milan Hejduk and JM Liles are the other two Avs getting a decent amount of points, but they won't be making it to the show. Hejduk is 23rd amongst forwards and Liles is 12th among defensemen. Nash, Cheechoo, and Zetterberg are some of the folks ahead of Hejduk which can only be described as riding on the coattails of your last name since they are all off to slow starts this year.

Teemu Selanne, one of two Western conference players in the top 20 in points, is behind Martin Havlat. Martin Havlat has played all of SEVEN games this season! So you reward the guy who got off to a great start but not the guy who hit his stride a bit late? Come on voters, what are you doing? Quit hearing names and then voting. Think a bit before you cast a vote. No wonder G.W. is in office (oh no he didn't just go there!)

I can't argue with the votes for defensemen though. Niedermeyer, Lidstrom, Pronger and Phaneuf are the top four easily. Rory Fitzpatrick is benefitting from some viral marketing (who's his PR man!) and is comfortably in fifth place. Zubov, Ohlund and Hannan are battling it out for sixth.

As for goaltenders, Turco, Kipper and...Luongo?, are leading. How Luongo is ahead of Roloson or Giguere, I don't know. Vancouver fans must be behind the scenes here as they've got 6 players in the running and...well...they suck. Ok, they don't suck, but they certainly aren't good enough to warrant the most representation out of any team in the west. I will begrudgingly admit that the Sedin twins are having another stellar year though. And Luongo is picking up his play. But come on, be objective! I didn't vote for Hejduk OR Liles so you Nuck fans can do it too.

Oh, and to everyone voting for Turco...keep going. Let him have his fun at the all-star game. The poor guy deserves it after the last two playoff series. Who was it that beat them in the last two series anyways? Hmm...

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Post-game vs Columbus - Dec 5, 2006

Ouch. That's about all I can say. When you get blanked by the Blue Jackets, something is wrong. Once again, Q is right. If you don't score on your 5-on-3 chance, you don't win the game. Shortly after the BJs killed one off, they got the first goal of the game. Riding that momentum they buried one more. Then, for good measure, they sealed the deal with 4 seconds left in the second. That third goal was the back-breaker. There was no recovering after that b/c this team doesn't have the experience for that yet. Actually, very few teams would come back from that sort of deficit.

With a Calgary win, the Avs are now all by their lonesome in the bottom of the NW division. It's a sad, sad state of affairs for the Avs but no cause to toss away the season just yet. There is still a lot of hockey left and a lot of time for the Avs to turn it around. A quick win streak will get them right back in the thick of things. Unfortunately, their next game is against the Sharks who are flying this season. Which of course begs the question: can Sharks fly?

Klee was the healthy scratch tonight and Brisebois was back in. I couldn't watch the game so can only go by what I hear, and from what I hear, Brisebois did nothing wrong. He also didn't do anything spectacular. Tough to fault him for that though when the entire team did sweet f' all.

The Avs fired off a ton of shots again and, again, they couldn't cash in on enough (any!) of them. It's sad when you see a shot column that large but only half a dozen were quality chances. A shot on goal is useless if the goalie can just cover it up and force a face off. Particularly since the Avs are dismal on the face-off (ok, 50% tonight is ok but in general). So the MO lately is: get in the zone, fire at first chance, lose face-off, try not to get scored on. Call me when that strategy actually wins you a game.

As has been said time and time again by myself and many others, we need a banger of a forward to get those dirty goals, force those rebounds and generally be a pest to goaltenders. If you don't have someone doing that, and you let opposing goalies see all your shots, you're never going to score. This isn't junior C hockey anymore and someone needs to remind the team of that fact. You can't just take a shot on net and hope to score. Cycling behind the net only gets you so much. Actually, so far it's just getting the team too tired to give a good effort is seems.

The Good
Lots of shots (I'm inclined to move this to the "The Bad" section)
Svatos and Hedjuk had some jump
Only penalized twice

The Bad
Missed 5-on-3
0-4 on the PP
No quality chances
Being booed in your own arena

The Ugly
Adam Foote (it's the nose)

*post may be revised if I can get a download of the game*

Pre-game vs Columbus - Dec 5, 2006

The Avs had a two day break after Saturday's game and are back in action against the Blue Jackets. The Jackets also haven't played since Saturday when they took care of the Oilers by a final score of 4-0. Maybe Hitch has his new team motivated a bit. Or maybe they beat up on a depleted Oilers team. Either way, I'm sure it gave a bit of confidence to the worst team in the league.

I fully expect the Avs to come out firing and take this game and move themselves back into a playoff position by leap-frogging Vancouver. It's time to take advantage of a weakened Oiler team and struggling Minnesota club in this tight division. .500 hockey is good enough to keep you hovering around a playoff spot until late season, but it certainly isn't going to get you in a playoff spot.

Peter Budaj gets the call in net tonight as Theodore takes a precautionary day off to rest his hip. Budaj blanked the Jackets 3-0 nothing the last time he played them. Theodore will likely get the call against the Sharks and Kings. Unless of course Budaj gets a shutout, in which case the MO is to leave him in net for the next game and ride the snot out of him.

The healthy scratch on D has not been announced yet but I'm going to take a stab at it being Vaananen. Although he's picked up his play recently, I don't think they'll sit Brisebois two games in a row and I don't see them sitting Klee just yet. I think a trade will come before the game against the Sharks on Thursday and solve this difficulty once and for all.

The Avs are still without Brad May and Pierre Turgeon. Columbus is missing Zherdev, Modin, Westcott and Berard. Both Zherdev and Modin are day-to-day so they could be in the lineup tonight.

The Avs have quite a few offensive streaks going. Liles has 4 pts in the last 2, Stastny has 6 in the last 4, and Arnason, Svatos, and Klee have 3 in the last 2. Sakic has 13 in the last 13 but that's not a streak, that's just Joe.

For Columbus, Anson Carter has a awoken a bit lately with 5 pts in his last 4 games. Dan Fritsche has 3 in 2 and Frederick Norrena has a 1.50 GAA and .930 save % in his last 2.

On the downside, Andrew Brunette only has one point in his last 5 and Lappy and Laaksonen are goose egged in the last 4 and 7 games respectively.

Columbus has many of those goose eggs going on with Fedorov, Nash, Vyborny and Malhotra empty over the last 3,4,5, and 9 games respectively.

Peter Budaj - 1-2-0, 3.79, .863 in his last 3 - 2.5 GAA and .912 % on the season
Frederik Norrena - 2-0-0, 1.50, .930 in his last 2 - 2.4 GAA and .905 on the season

Colorado - 26 pts - 5th in NW - 10th in Conference
Columbus - 16pts - 5th in Central - 15th in Conference

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Post-game vs Vancouver - Dec 2, 2006

I was at a Christmas party dressed as a pirate so I didn't catch much of the game. I was able to get a tv tuned in to the game but pirates don't like hockey so I tried not to spend too much time watching.

Well, the Avs couldn't get it done tonight against the Canucks. They had their number so far this season but couldn't solve Luongo tonight. So the jockeying for position continues in the Northwest. The Avalanche are now last in the division and 10th in the Conference. They're also only 3 points away from leading in the division.

The outcome wasn't all bad though as it saw the return of Jordan Leopold who, up until now, we had to only assume still existed. He looked fairly solid in his first game back. He uses his body well and seems to be able to clear the zone. Except on the second goal. Hopefully he doesn't start picking up on the little nuances the Avs have like "not clearing the zone" and "not dumping the puck". They aren't cute little things we do, they're things we need to solve.

Brisebois was the healthy scratch to bring the D down to 6 on the lineup. And sooner or later, someone's going to make themselves the odd man out. I personally hope it's Brisebois b/c I don't think his skill set is needed anymore. The most trade talk though has been around Vaananen, with some Liles sprinkled in here and there (please no!)

Unfortunately, Jose Theodore got the start but had to sit out the last two periods with a hip flexor injury. He did not seem to be a happy camper. Hopefully he's all right and can recover by Tuesday to play against the BJs. If they wanted to rest him one more game to be sure, I coudln't fault them since this month sees the Avs playing 14 games, including a home-and-home with St. Louis to close it out.

Sakic and Hejduk ended the night with 6 shots and Svatos and Liles had 5. So those 4 players account for half of the shots the Avs took. Lots of shots, not enough cashing on the chances. Oddly enough, when the Avs get lots of shots (35+) they tend to lose. When they get less than that, they tend to win. So how do you explain that one to your players? Actually, it's pretty simply. Don't give Luongo easy ones to cover up on. Fire some tough ones at him and get some dirty goals!

We need some people to get in there and plant in front and bang some goals in. Svatos does a good job finding the garbage but he's too small to be a pest in front. Brunette used to, but now he plays behind the net more (which he also does well). We need a grinder in the vein of Kono to step up and create some traffic. Wolski, Richardson, Stastny and Lappy are the biggest forwards, aside from Brunette. And I can see Statsny getting into grind mode and fighting for some goals in front.

The Good
Lots of shots
Leopold debuts

The Bad
Missed opportunities
Terrible PK
Theo injury

The Ugly
Rick Rypien owning Lappy

Friday, December 1, 2006

Trade Rumours Heat Up

Well, it's 99% confirmed that Jordan Leopold will make his season debut on Saturday against Vancouver. The Fan 950 radio station says that Brisebois may be the odd man out for that game. The latest trade rumours however are centered on Ossi Vaanenan and teams such as Philadelphia. It's an interesting jam to get out of so let's figure out who should go.

Let's start by counting the defensemen we have:

The first 3 are untouchable right now, even though Liles and Leopold are similar players. I think having them as a one-two combo could do great things for the team. Liles just needs to keep picking up his defensive play which he has as of late.

Klee has been surprising this season. He's not terribly quick but he has played very well. He leads the team in +/- and gets the 2nd most ice-time of the defenders. He's also one of the more physical defensemen on the team which is sorely needed.

Brisebois is his usual inconsistent self. He makes great breakout passes but often breaks out an opposing team player. He also tends to be soft in one-on-ones and players can usually jump around him pretty easily. However, he is a veteran presence and likely has a lot of knowledge to impart on the team. You know what they say, mediocre players make better coaches than great players.

Which leaves Vaananen and Sauer. Vaananen by far gets the least ice-time and Sauer, in the one game he played, got even less time. They're both physical defensemen but neither engages contact often enough. And they tend to be a bit slow.

So it would be entirely reasonable for the team to get rid of Vaananen and/or Sauer (who is a perpetual healthy scratch anyways). It would leave the team with a lot offensive minded defensemen so that's something the coaching team would have to work on.

Who would take these guys though? Well, the Flyers are ailing for defense right now. And we know they like big slow guys. Who would we take back? Pitkanen? Doubtful. Esche? No way. Forsberg? Keep dreaming (or having nightmares, whichever). It would likely end up being draft picks or a depth player. I'd rather the picks.

Two other teams in need of some defensive help (along with help in general) are the Panthers and Coyotes. Once again though, who do we take back that's any use to us?

Frankly, I don't envy the GMs job. He knows what needs to be done but putting together a deal to actually get something beneficial in return seems like a tough one. It might involve more than just Vannenan. It should be interesting to see what happens but no doubt about it, a trade is going to happen soon.

Post-game vs Edmonton - Nov 30, 2006

My prediction was wrong...but in such a right way! The Avs offense came out flying and took down the Oilers 7-3 in the end. Roloson had a shaky start but he didn't have a ton of help from his defense. For his part, Budaj looked fine in goal but I'm not sure about goal #3. I think I need to lean my armchair back a bit more to analyze it.

It was an overall solid effort by the Avs who responded as I'd hoped they would from a terrible game against the Flames. Now let's hope they keep this rolling when they coast into Vancouver for an HNIC game on Saturday. Unfortunately I'm at a staff party that night so I'll have to tape the game and watch it Sunday.

An unfortunate incident happened towards the end of the game. Ryan Smyth derailed Brad Richardson in a terribly unclassy move. Smyth has these habits of brain lapses when he gets ticked off (remember him hacking Chara's foot in Canada's loss to Slovakia?). No matter how much Ray Ferraro tried to defend it, or the post-game folks on Sportsnet, Smyth saw Richardson coming the whole way and did nothing to avoid the hit. In fact, he took a second to toss his elbow up into Richardson's face. No penalty on the play but hopefully it's reviewed by Colin "inconsistent" Campbell. Maybe Smyth will get a sternly worded letter.

Of course, we'll hear about this all day tomorrow and everytime you see the highlight, it will be preceded/followed by the Liles hit on Smyth which is ancient history since Liles apologized to Smyth. Don't get fooled by the hype, it was a dirty play by Smyth but at some point, he'll get his. Ah, revenge.

The Good
Tons off offense! Arnason, Liles, and Klee all had 3 points tonight.
Liles looked great defensively.
Svatos had wheels tonight and cashed in twice!
Hejduk's flu is gone it seems as he was flying all night.

The Bad
Brisebois directly cost two goals against and ended at -1.
They didn't let Lappy destroy Torres.

The Ugly
Ryan Smyth