Friday, October 19, 2007

Avalanche Fight Back But Come up Short; Lose 5-3

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Good grief. This better not be indicative of how the Avalanche will play most of their games this year. Come out flat, give up a big lead, come back firing, catch up and then late fate take over to decide the game. It's going to get real old, real fast. In fact, it already is old as the Avalanche were prone to this last year and we've now seen back-to-back games played out in this style.

Quenneville better learn how to light a fire under his team. And quick. Yes, they're calm, they're experienced, they can score. That doesn't help when the other team is already up by 3 or 4 goals though. And it's no excuse for shoddy play.

First Period
Flipping brutal. It was a complete repeat of the performance against the Flames. Turnovers at will, lack of intensity, odd man rushes galore and lack of goaltending to bail them out.

The Avs got an early powerplay and they were fairly effective. If by "effective" I mean "giving up 2-on-1 chances". Sure, they got a shot or two off on Khabibulin, who did make some nice saves, but it was nothing that felt dangerous. Even the "backdoor" play they tried wasn't crisply executed.

Arnason had a bit of jump in him in the first and a couple times he stole the puck and got a scoring chance. On the first one, it was apparently the most brilliant steal ever as McNab remarked "When Arnason is on, he's one of the best in the world". Expletives cannot define what went through my head but I'll just say this: Is McNab on crack all the time? Or just some of the time?

The expletives that came next were out of sheer amazement and awe. Jonathon Toews scored the goal of the year as he broken down the left side, slipped past Hejduk, split past our shutdown guys Clark and Hannan, and deposited the puck past a surprised, and fairly stationary, Theodore. Now, it was absolutely gorgeous. But behind every gorgeous goal there is typically an act of boneheaded idiocy on the part of a defending player. In this case, it goes to both Hannan and Clark. Hannan for doing his stupid "lean over at the waist and try to block the pass" move - which has yet to work this year - and then Clark for deciding he'd sweep the ice off for Toews. Maybe he thought if he made it a bit slicker that Toews would slip and fall? That's all I've got to explain how terrible that play was by those two defenders.

The announcers marvelled over the brilliance of the goal - we all did - and then proclaimed "Not that I want to point out when anybody does anything wrong..." and proceeded to point a finger at Hannan and Clark. Are you kidding me? Honestly. If you can't be realistic in your assessment of the game, you should take your ball and go home. These two announcers nearly crap their pants at the beauty of every opposing teams goal in the hopes that us simple-minded fans don't notice that somebody must have screwed up to lead to said goal. It's like listening to Tony Snow.

And as I was ranting on about this in my head...the Hawks went up 2-0 on a Guite giveaway and Theodore bobble. Guite laid out a nice hit but had a pass - which I think would have ended up in the slot anyways - deflected right to Jason Williams. He tossed a quick shot on Theodore to which Theodore replied with "Good one. Hey Patrick, want to try?" and tossed the rebound out. Sharp gobbled up the huge rebound in the slot and buried it up high.

Feeling left out, Jordan Leopold decided he wanted to get in on the action. So he gave the puck away at the blueline which led to a 2-on-1 with Kane and Patrick Sharp. Sharp fed Kane and Kane put a beauty of a shot high glove on Theodore. 3-0 Blackhawks and they haven't broken a sweat yet. Also, "Kane" is an awesome name. Whether it's your first or last name. But if it's your first AND last name, that's a bit weird.

The Avs then got another PP chance which meant a couple more Hawks 2-on-1 chances. They couldn't cash in but at this point, they were likely just feeling sorry for the Avs. The period ended 3-0 for the Hawks. Just like the other night against the Flames. Sigh.

Second Period
The Avs had a bit more jump to start this period. Svatos had a brief shift with Sakic and the two worked well together. Not well enough to put the puck in the net of course. The Avs put a couple big point shots on net but Khabibulin got a hold of both. There were rebounds on each but he was able to keep them out as well. *hint, hint*

The Avs kept pressure on and the Hawks eventually iced the puck. Q tried to hurry up the faceoff but Savard called a timeout to give his players a break. So Savard has used up his only timeout but he had to be thinking there would be no need for one later on in this game the way things were going.

Patrick Sharp got another chance on another Avalanche turnover and Karlis Skrastins defended him the best way he knows how. Yep, he just sprawled on the ice as big as he could, closed his eyes and hoped for the best. Sharp didn't score, but Skrastins managed to trip him and take a penalty. Defence. It's what's for dinner.

The Avs looked ok on the PK but Leopold decided there weren't being tested enough. So he smashed Toews into the boards from behind and headed to the box. Although McNab tried to be an apologist and do the "He turned at the last second" bit, Leopold had plenty of time to let up and he didn't. It didn't help that Toews was off-balance when he got shoved but that's about the only saving grace for Leopold on that play. Thankfully they killed off the 5-on-3 and the remainder of the Leopold penalty to keep the game from running away. Farther away I mean.

The first line, which had been buzzing all period long finally broke though and got rewarded for their effort. Wolski was holding the puck in deep and decided to get rid of it and head to the front of the net. Andrew Brunette saw him heading there, fed him a great pass and Wolski buried it past the Bulin wall. Sakic was factor in that he had 2 Hawks players defending him in front of the net, freeing up Wolski to pull the trigger.

Theodore made a few more saves on which he looked very shaky. He's really bobbling rebounds and not looking confident. He's not kicking them out far or to the corner, but he's not putting them close enough for him to cover up. He nearly made a huge save on a 3-on-1 but turns out...the post did it. He likely wasn't there for it anyways judging by the reverse angle.

Third Period
It was a good start to the third. Svatos worked hard to keep the puck in, raced to the net, got the puck and made a beauty of a backhand that got up high past Khabibulin. A sweet, sweet shot. Not as nice as the Selanne backhand on Theodore in the 06 playoffs - remember that one? - but very nice. Anyways, 3-2 Hawks at that point.

The Avalanche then went back on the PK which again looked pretty good. Brett Clark was able to negate the penalty after he lost an edge and the trailing referee called Robert Lang for a hold. It was not, but I'll take it. Liles successfully defended the inevitable Hawks chance on the PP as he broke up a HUGE up ice pass to Kevyn Adams. The Avalanche then did the unthinkable.

Joe Sakic circled back in the neutral zone, took a slash to the wrist, put on the after burners, broke in past the Hawks blueline, dished it to Brunette who immediately fed it to Smyth and Smyth made no mistake as he redirected it past Khabibulin's outstretched pad. Yep, the Avs have fought back from deep deficits twice in two games. Be still my beating heart. Wait...that can't be right. I want it to keep beating, don't I?

Wojtek Wolski then got sprung on a breakaway, was in the clear and being hooked by two Hawks players, didn't get the shot off... but was not awarded a penalty shot. I thought the NHL wanted to call more penalty shots this year? Well, maybe these refs didn't get the memo. Maybe it didn't have had a cover sheet. Unfortunately the Avs couldn't take advantage of the penalty but were able to generate some chances.

Brett Clark decided to make it a perfect repeat of the Flames game as he took a silly holding penalty late in the game. My heart may have stopped beating during this PK, I'm not sure. Thankfully they killed it off so Clark won't be the scapegoat of this game.

The Avalanche than took an ill-timed icing call and they paid for it. Savard quickly put out the young guns and they were flying. Kane circled the net, fired it out to the far point, Johansson blasted it and Ruutu deflected it home. With just 1:25 left to play, that one definitely ended the game.

And just to make sure, the Hawks put in an empty netter and that was that. 5-3 Hawks and the Avs still don't have a road win. Minnesota is up next. Good luck guys.

Brunette and Sakic had 2 assists each, Svatos, Wolski and Smyth were the goal scorers and Stastny got his 9th assist of the year.

Wolski and Sauer were the only players in the + column. Hlinka was at -3. Clark, Hannan, Guite, Lappy and Stastny were at -2.

Clark led the team with 24:10 in ice time. Sakic was next with 22:06 followed by Stastny with 20:49. Liles put in 20:08, a shade more than Hannan's 19:59. I don't want to look it up, but that sounds like the least ice time Hannan's had so far. He still managed 34 shifts which tied with Clark for tops in the game and put in 6:22 on the PK.

Stastny and Svatos got off 5 shots while Wolski had 4. Laperriere, Guite and Sauer were the only Avs not to record a shot.

Yanic Perrault was 100% in the faceoff circle. 12 for 12 including a crucial defensive zone faceoff against Sakic late in the game.

- Toews faced off against his hero Joe Sakic to start the game
- Svatos was all over the ice with tons of energy
- Toews and Kane are dynamite
- Kane is only 5'9" and 160lbs (that's as "big" as me)
- Guite had some good energy and hits (but a terrible giveaway on 2nd goal)
- Leopold turned the puck over a lot (don't trust the scoresheet)
- every Avs PP led to a 2-on-1 for the Hawks at some point
- Liles unloaded some good point shots
- Stastny took a hard shot to the back of his leg but didn't miss a shift
- Pierre Turgeon is coaching the Women's Select hockey team in Denver

The Good
- fighting back from a lead again
- decent PK (killed all 5, now 30 for 31)

The Bad
- in a deep hole early on
- lack of stand-up defensive play (flopping is not defending)
- I think I've said enough in the rest of my comments

The Ugly
- Brian Engblom (get a haircut!)

Related Links Scoresheet Recap
In The Cheap Seats Recap
Toews Goal on Youtube