Saturday, October 13, 2007

Avalanche Bury Blue Jackets; Win 5-1

(AP Photo/Will Powers)
Well that was much better. The Avalanche came out ready to play, and the ended the game ready to play some more. That's what you need to win games. Luck never hurts either but the Avalanche didn't need any of that tonight. From start to finish they worked hard. It doesn't mean they won all the battles but it means they were there for every battle and that half the battle. Hmm. 1..2..3..uses of "battle" in that sentence. Nicely done.

First Period
The Avalanche got an early 5-on-3 with Mike Peca and Adam Foote in the box but failed to capitalize. It wasn't for lack of chances though. They fired off 6 shots but Pascal Leclaire was up to the task.

Shortly after Leclaire had snagged the Blue Jackets franchise record for a shutout streak, Joe Sakic fought for position in front of the net and had a puck bounce in off of him as he was being dumped to the ice. A good, hard-working goal.

The Avalanche were then hit with some penalty trouble of their own. Andrew Brunette was shoved into Leclaire, then cross-checked from behind, then kicked while he was down...and got sent off for goaltender interference. Interesting. The Blue Jackets were not able to capitalize as the PK continued it's solid work.

Jiri Novotny was finally kicked out of the faceoff circle on a draw around the midway point of the period. He had been cheating on every faceoff he was taking and it was driving me batty. And speaking of faceoffs, the Avalanche came out flying in that category. More on that later.

Jeff Finger continued his hard-nosed play with twosolid checks in the span of a couple minutes. The announcers said it best. If Finger keeps playing like he has, he's going to force Quenneville to keep him in the lineup. Unfortunately I still don't see Q sitting Skrastins or Sauer regularly in favor of Finger.

After the way Clark played Nash towards the end of the first - belly diving to stop a power forward - maybe he should sit.

The period ended 1-0 for the Avalanche with a much improved effort.

Second Period
The second period didn't start out quite as well. The Blue Jackets were able to tie up the game fairly quickly. Rostislav Klesla shot the puck from the point and it was headed well wide. Until it hit Kurt Sauer's skate and found it's way behind Budaj. The announcers were all over this as a screened goal but Budaj saw it. He just expected it to go wide and got surprised by the deflection.

The Avalanche didn't let that goal get them down and they kept plugging hard. They were rewarded when Milan Hejduk corralled his own rebound, hesitated for a split second and buried it under Leclair's outstretched arm. Just a supremely confident play by Hejduk.

Ian Lapperriere was working hard out there, as always, and when he skates you can tell he's trying so hard. Some people are naturally smooth skaters and some have to work really hard. Lappy works really hard for his speed.

Milan Hejduk then cashed in for his 2nd goal of the night. He and Smyth appeared to get mixed crossing the blue line but Smyth headed for the net - like he should - and Hejduk tossed the puck towards the net. Leclair was distracted by Smyth, and likely playing for the tip, but it went right under Smyth's stick and into the back of the net. That's how Smyth will pay off for this team. A distraction for goaltenders.

The period ended 3-1 for the Avalanche as they continued a solid effort.

Third Period
Heck of a start to the third period. The Blue Jackets took an early penalty and Super Joe made them pay. With Smyth causing havoc in front of the net again, Sakic crept in and fired a hard wrist shot past Leclaire. Fired a hard wrist shot off his front foot. Unlike the shot he took in the first which missed by a country mile which he shot off his back foot. I have never seen Sakic shoot off his back foot before and I hope he never does it again unless he has no other option.

I then took a break from intensely watching the game and started writing up my post. The game was well in hand and my response to my girl asking "Will they win" was "If they don't, my head will explode".

It needed not explode as Sakic put the icing on top of the frosting that he had put on the cake earlier. Wolski and Sakic were sprung on a 2-on-1 thanks to some hard work by Bruno and they played it perfectly. Sakic swept in, sucked back to the outside, Wolski held onto the puck long enough for Leclair to commit, then fed a beauty backhand to Sakic who buried it into an open net.

That completed the hat trick for Sakic and the hats were raining down. Do they get to get their hats back after the game? I've always wondered. Cause when I'm there when they play the Pens, no way I'm tossing my hat on the ice for anybody. Sakic could get 6 goals and I wouldn't toss it. I like my hat.

Ryan Smyth and Tyler Arnason both had great chances in the period but Leclair flashed some quick leather to deny them. 5 goals against sounds bad but boy did Leclaire play well.

The Avalanche then got a late powerplay which say Lappy and Smith getting some PP time. Lappy had a great chance but whiffed on the slap shot. I think I read his lips saying something like "Oh darn" after the play

I read Parker's lips real well after he took a cheap cross-check from Duvie Westcott and I won't repeat what they said. Man, Parker had fire in his eyes and I was a bit frightened myself. Lappy helped keep Parker from tearing someone's head off but I think the devil himself would have been frightened of Parker at that moment.

He then ripped open the penalty box a minute later to give Tollefsen a piece of his mind after Tollefsen started jousting with Sauer. He was promptly escorted out of the game before he ended up beating someone over the head with their own appendage. My goodness. Why would anybody want to piss that guy off?

Budaj played a solid game from start to finish. On the first goal, I think he should have followed the puck towards the corner rather than standing there but what can you do. He made some good solid saves, controlled his rebounds, and did a decent job at controlling the tempo of the game.

Brett Clark, though I yelled at him when he flopped on Nash, had a decent game overall. Finger put in a hard hitting game though he finds himself out of position at times. Skrastins was a "meh" to me. He's not hard enough on the puck in the corners or on clears. Hannan put in 24 minutes to lead the Avs in ice-time. Liles is impressing me with his game this year.

Faceoffs. They finally started putting things together in the circle. However they got progressively worse as the game went on. They won 55% in the first, 44% in the second and 33% in the third. So they finished at 50% which is much improved from swimming in 40%-30% land in previous games. Stastny put in a great showing winning 7 of 11 draws. Wyatt Smith was 0 for 5.

I hope the Avs don't turn into the Flames where they win with ease at home but struggle on the road.

- Nash is incredibly strong on the puck
- Wolski using his size much better to control the puck
- Leclair looked sharp even though he gave up [X GOALS]
- Smyth is starting to look like the Smyth I remembered
- Budaj had his rebounds under control tonight
- Wolski had a 2 point night as did Brunette and Hejduk
- Parker in, Guite out
- Leopold should be good for Tuesday's game against Calgary

The Good
- solid effort from start to finish
- not letting up after the 3 goal lead

The Bad
- umm...

The Ugly
- Westcott's cheap shot on Parker

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Recap Recap Gamesheet
TSN Recap
Denver Post Recap
Mile High Hockey Recap