Game Preview: Avalanche vs Predators - Oct 4 - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Game Preview: Avalanche vs Predators - Oct 4

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The season started off on a good note as the Avalanche were able to down the Stars by a score of 4-3. Now they're off to Nashville as the Predators open their season at home.

Nashville had a fire-sale this year, leaving them without names such as Paul Kariya, Tomas Vokoun, Peter Forsberg, Kimmo Timmonen, Vitaly Visnhevsky and Scott Hartnell. However they still have a decent core of youngsters, including Alexander Radulov and Shea Weber, who should step up to fill in the gaps. It appears the oddsmakers have a similar opinion as they have pegged this contest as nearly a dead heat. I still give the edge to the Avalanche of course but not by as wide a margin as some would expect.

Last night, the Avalanche started to give a glimpse of their strengths and weaknesses in their 4-3 win over Dallas. Paul Stastny, a.k.a. Son of Stastny or SoS, showed that he has no desire to slow down in his sophomore season. He banged home 3 goals, centered the Avalanche's best line of the night, and put in a solid defensive effort. Jordan Leopold, Scott Hannan and Brett Clark put in solid defensive performances as did the rest of the Avalanche. Peter Budaj put in a Budaj-like performance where he was solid throughout and ended the night with a flurry of excellent saves to preserve the win.

However they did run into some defensive lapses where they got running around in their own zone and looked entirely confused on what was happening. They also had problems in the faceoff circle - 39% win percentage - and nearly blew a 3-goal third period lead. All 3 of those items need to change for this team to be consistently successful. The PK wasn't successful on the scoresheet but it's a bit early to judge as the goals weren't really solid PP goals. Watching the penalty kill crew, they seemed to move around a lot while not applying enough pressure. But we'll see how that one shakes out.

The first line of Smyth-Sakic-Hejduk didn't find the scoresheet and ended at a combined -2. I'm not too worried about them at the moment and the reasons are threefold. First, it was the first game of the season. Second, the line had some chances but just couldn't convert. Third, it's Smyth, Sakic and Hejduk who are 3 extremely intelligent hockey players and just need to figure each other out a bit better. I love the number 3 today in case you hadn't noticed.

The third line - there's that number again - wasn't gelling at all but I think it just needs a bit of time to find its groove. There's not much shaking up of the lines that can be done as the #1 and #2 lines should stay together for a good run. So Wolski and Arnason need to figure out how to hit each others sticks with passes rather than their skates. Give it time before getting too frustrated with them. If it doesn't work, you could see Q bite the bullet and put Svatos on the third line in place of Lappy. Most people shudder at the defensive effort that line would provide but Arnason has showed some improvement on that front, as did Wolski.

Peter Budaj will likely get the start tonight which makes perfect sense. He played well, Weiman is not here to be a #1a, and it's only the second game of the season. Wow, threefold reasons again. If Budaj can't play back-to-back games to start off the season, then I'd be worried about his conditioning. But he'll be good to go.

Joe Sakic missed out on tying Phil Esposito for 8th place and this will continue to be a storyline here until he finally ties and then passes Espo. It's inevitable but the waiting is the hardest part (just a quick Tom Petty reference for DD if he's reading this).

Related Links
TSN Preview Preview
Mile High Hockey Preview
ESPN Preview
FanHouse Predators Season Preview
Stastny's Hat Trick Magic