Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Avalanche Make Two Trades

It was a day much like I expected for the Avalanche on deadline day. I didn't expect, nor really want, a big deal to happen. Instead, Giguere played it very comfortable. He sent Brad May, a soon to be UFA, to Anaheim for 21-year old goaltender Michael Wall. He then grabbed Scott Parker from the Sharks for a 5th round pick on 2008. Those are both losses I can live with.

Quick Analysis

May for Wall

- another goaltending prospect
- a return on a UFA
- a spot for Richardson on the 2nd line

- some physicality

Parker for 2008 5th Rounder

- some physicality

- not much

Slightly long-winded talking

Getting rid of May obviously left the Avalanche even less physical, if such a thing is possible. And even though Parker was on IR most of this season, the word is he's near ready to go. And Laperriere sorely needs some help on the enforcement end. All kudos to Laperriere for throwing down with anybody, but he's not big enough to be a real threat out there. And we've got some good looking rookies coming up that folks might start gunning for if there is no deterrent.

During a press conference, Giguere indicated that acquiring Wall in no way reflected on the future of Jose Theodore with this team. Which I thought was fairly obvious. Michael Wall isn't ready to be a solid backup to Budaj and so far Budaj has shown that he needs a solid backup, if anything to help mentor him. No, I'm not of the "they brought in Theo to mentor Budaj" camp.

Goaltending is very suspect for the Avalanche, both for the present and future. As good as Budaj can look, he still looks to need at least another full season or two to really develop his game. With no current franchise goaltender, they need to see what they can do about developing one for the future. Will Wall be that tender? Will Weiman? Will Budaj? I personally don't think any of the 3 are cut out to be a franchise goaltender. Solid #1? Maybe.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Post-game vs Columbus - Feb 27, 2007

It was nearly a perfect game for Peter Budaj. The Avs up 3-0 with 2 minutes left to play. Then Rick Nash decided to make a game of it. He made a nice tip to get one on the board then followed that up 1 1/2 minutes later as he buried a puck that squirted right onto his stick. 30 seconds, and one crossbar, later and the Avs pick up the 3-2 win over the Jackets. Now if they can do this about 15 more times...they might be able to make the playoffs.

Today was, fingers crossed, my last crazy work day so hopefully I can go back to actually paying attention to games. As it stands, I had nothing but radio on in the background and I barely paid attention to that! I did pay enough attention to notice one thing...Milan Hejduk can still produce without Brad May on his line. So it turns out that Hejduks' re-emergence was coincidental with Brad May coming back to the lineup. Who knew.

Wolski rejoined Sakic and Brunette on the top line and Brad Richardson moved to the 2nd line which was fairly expected. The second line ended up being a collective +3 with Hejduk picking up 2 assists and Stastny grabbing one so it seems an effective combination so far. And in another small shuffle, Svatos bumped himself onto the 3rd line with Mclean and Arnason. As to how effective that line was, I'm not sure so I won't comment. It's good to see Svatos earn himself some more ice-time though.

The Good
- 2 points
- near shutout

The Bad
- losing the shutout bid in the last 2 minutes

The Ugly
- forgetting that there was even a game today!

Pre-game vs Columbus - Feb 27, 2007

This is going to be my worst pre-game ever so let's get it over with. The Avalanche are hosting the Blue Jackets tonight in their first game since the trade deadline. One player missing from the lineup will be Brad May. He was sent off to Anaheim to join the rough and tumble Ducks this afternoon. So that leaves a slot open on the 2nd line which should be filled by either Richardson or Wolski. Not that May was spending a lot of time on that line anyways.

Karlis Skrastins will sit out again tonight, and for the next few games, with his knee injury. So the Avalanche have recalled Kyle Cumiskey for another stint. Finger and Cumiskey. And Vaananen and Sauer. This has the makings of a scary game. I feel bad for whoever is in net.

As to who that is, I have no idea. I'll go on a limb (a fairly sturdy one mind you) and say Budaj gets the start tonight. He hasn't played great but neither has Theodore. It's frustrating to cheer for a team when you're used to the best goaltender in the league. To go from that to mediocre goaltending hurts. Maybe Michael Wall will help shore that up in a couple years. Though I doubt it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Post-game vs Anaheim - Feb 25, 2007

The California roadswing was not good to this team. Following up a tough loss to the Kings, the Avalanche couldn't hold on against the Ducks and lost 5-3. The game was tied until 2 quick goals from the Twin Towers in the final 4 1/2 minutes put the game out of reach. The 4-minute penalty against Hejduk with only 3 minutes left wasn't much help either.

The game overall wasn't a terrible one but the Avalanche still seem to be missing that desire. They didn't come out looking like a team that craved a win. They came out looking like a team in mid-November where wins don't seem to matter as much to teams...for whatever reason. Maybe I've got unreasonable expectations and hope to see some insane play every game whether it be a forward or defense. A mind-boggling dangle to get a scoring chance. A huge backcheck to break up a 2-on-1. A diving shot block on a wide open net. Or maybe I just never see them when they happen.

The unthinkable also happened today. Karlis Skrastins sat out with a knee injury. He's no longer the reigning ironman in the league as that title is passed over to Brendan Morrison for the time being. However, he still is the current reigning all-time ironman amongst defensemen. Some speculated that he was scratched due to a pending trade, others that he was scratched for poor play. I'm thinking that he was scratched because his knee was injured. Call me crazy but I don't see them scratching the ironman for anything but a legit injury that would keep him from performing.

Jose Theodore got the start and was shelled for 5 goals...again. I will give it to him that 41 shots against is a heck of a number to stop and Theodore did make some good saves. However he needs softer equipment so those pucks quit flying off his body. His position did look a lot better today though and he swimmed to be doing less flopping. With the Avalanche essentially eliminated from the playoffs, could now be the time to give Theodore a run to regain form? Or have they given up entirely on him?

Wojtek Wolski was back in the lineup and is looking more and more confident each game. In the early part of the season, he looked like a rookie (Ok, that's obvious...) but lately he carries himself so much better. I'm not sure how to describe it but he seems less trepidatious in almost all situations. He's using his body to protect the puck and get in scoring lanes and he's making some pretty sweet passes lately as well.

Stastny, Hejduk, Sakic and Brunette all kept their point streaks going. Hejduk had a goal and assists, Sakic had a goal and Brunette and Stastny both had assists. It's great to see those players coming out flying like that to keep the offense going. Hopefully this isn't just raising Brunette's asking price on the trade market. Well, I'm sure it is but hopefully Giguere isn't thinking of doing it. We don't have many forwards that are as strong down low as Brunette is. Trying to knock the puck off him behind the boards is like [insert your favorite witty simile].

So with the two losses this weekend, I'd say this puts the Avalanche squarely into the seller's market coming up on Tuesday. I still don't think any sort of blockbuster will be pulled off involving the Avalanche. May, Laperriere, Arnason, Klee and Vaananen are the 5 most likely to go in my eyes. It wouldn't shock me to see Clark or Mclean go either. So keep your eyes peeled and continually refresing for the latest trades and cross your fingers that your favorite player isn't going anywhere! And don't worry yourself about Sakic leaving. He won't. If he does, every Avs fan near and far can come and give me a swift kick in the...

The Good
- decent powerplay
- youngsters continue to improve

The Bad
- 5 goals against
- 41 shots against
- penalty trouble

The Ugly
- Sakic-Selanne collision

Pre-game vs Anaheim - Feb 25, 2007

The Avalanche are coming off a tough shootout loss to the Kings and the Ducks are coming off a 4-1 thumping from the Stars. Should both teams come out hungry for a win? Yep. The better question is: who will come out hungry enough to get a win? The Avalanche seem to be having trouble winning when it really matters and its pretty much to the point where it doesn't matter. That might be enough to light a fire under their butts.

Wojtek Wolski should make his way back into the lineup tonight as he sat out one more game for precautionary reasons. As mentioned in my last pre-game, he'll likely head right back to the top line which will likely bump Richardson down to the #4 slot. However, with Brad May getting limited ice-time last night with Stastny and Hejduk, maybe it's time to try Richardson out on the second line. At this point, it couldn't hurt.

I'm going to check out with a pretty weak pre-game but hopefully I can do a good post-game tonight. Note, I'm taking a guess at Theodore and Giguere starting, I don't know for certain.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Leopold - wrist, mid-March
Wolski - concussion, day-to-day
Turgeon - calf, IR

Marchant - ab strain, IR

Sakic has 11 in 6, Brunette has 5 in 2, Stastny has 7 in 3, Hejduk has 11 in 8, Svatos has 3 in 3.

Selanne has 9 in 5, Penner has 4 in 5, Kunitz has 4 in 5.

Arnason, Mclean and Laperriere have 2 in 7.

Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Beauchemin have 0 in 8.

Jose Theodore - 11-13-1, 3.35 GAA, .889 save pct
J.S. Giguere - 28-8-7, 2.26 GAA, .919 save pct

Colorado - 29-28-5, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Anaheim -

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Post-game vs LA - Feb 24, 2007

I was just starting to write up my post-game comments and then I heard the announcers start to get excited. And just in time I look over and there's the puck going in behind Budaj with 3.9 seconds left on the clock. So off to overtime it went. Then to a shootout. Then to disappointment. The Avs lose an extended shootout and fall even farther back in the playoff race as Calgary took care of San Jose tonight.

On the positive side, not only did the Avs battle back from a 2-0 lead, but Sakic, Stastny, Hejduk and Brunette all kept their point streaks going. Brunette did it in style with 3 assists on the night. Stastny put up 2 assists to move ahead of Kopitar in the rookie scoring race. He won't catch Malkin but being #2 is no slouch either, no matter what the No Fear slogan t-shirts said. Sakic put up one assist and Hejduk grabbed himself a goal.

Marek Svatos seems to be gaining back some confidence as he scored his 3rd goal in 3 games as well as converting on his shootout opportunity. He went high glove on Burke which typically indicates a player with no lack of confidence in his scoring prowess. Let's hope that's holding true for Svatos and he can turn it around for a good run at the end of the year to set himself up for a strong season in the fall.

Brad May found himself with significantly reduced ice-time. When he went out, it was still with Hejduk and Stastny for the most part, he just only went out with them for about half of their shifts. Hejduk and Stastny were attached at the hip in terms of shifts and its good to see. They continue to click well together and have formed a good 1-2 combo where you can basically add in any other player on the line to complete it.

Penalty trouble killed both teams tonight. There were 13 minors and 2 majors called in the game. Colorado converted on 3 of their 6 attempts and LA converted on 2 of their 7, including a 5-on-3 goal. 3 of the penalties were for shooting the puck over the glass (aka "stupidest penalty in the game") and most of the rest were for hooking. Why players continue to hook, I don't know. Just quit doing it. It's annoying.

The Good
- fighting back from 2-goal deficit to take the lead
- offense stays on track
- 50% PP

The Bad
- giving up a 2-goal lead...twice
- defense stays on track (just the wrong one)
- penalty parade

The Ugly
- losing to the Kings again

Pre-game vs LA - Feb 24, 2007

It's going to be a rough stretch of the season starting now as the Avalanche are all but eliminated from the playoffs. Unless of course they decide to go on a 16 game winning streak. And even that wouldn't necessarily guarantee a spot! Nonetheless, I'm not going to be discouraged from watching their games. This team has a lot of reasons to happy and their names are Stastny, Wolski, Richardson, Budaj, etc. It's always fun to watch young players grow into stars and, hopefully, lead their franchises to glory.

Tonight they will take another step in their development as they head to California to take on the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are (unofficially) mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The most points they can attain is 90 and that most likely will not be good enough. So it's a battle of one team resigned to its fate and another team still hoping to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible.

Peter Budaj is set to start tonight with a chance of seeing Jose Theodore in goal tomorrow against the Ducks. And although Theodore was never stellar in his play, I think this latest stretch of games showed that goaltending wasn't the problem with this team. Defensive play, more than anything, led to the situation the team is in. Even with Budaj playing fairly well until his recent slump, the team never really scraped above that .500 barrier that has plagued them all season.

A few of the Avalanche young and old will be looking to extend point streaks tonight. Paul Stastny continues his strong rookie season as he currently enjoys a 10 game point streak where he has 15 points, including 7 goals. Andrew Brunette looks to extend his 8 game point streak of 4 goals and 12 points. And Mr. Joe Sakic is going for #11 on his streak where he has netted 5 goals and 18 points. I nearly forget Hejduk's 10 in 7 as well. As you can see, there is a whole lot of offense going on for this team!

Wojtek Wolski is optimistic about playing tonight. Coach Q would only say he would "most likely" play. It turned out to be a mild concussion and Wolski was kept off the ice as a precaution. He never fully lost consciousness while on the ice so should be just fine by now. It was a smart move to keep him away from contact though to be sure he was fully cleared up.

If Wolski does play, I'd expect him to rejoin Sakic and Brunette on the the top line. And if Q continues to enjoy having Edward Scissorhands with Hejduk and Stastny, then Richardson might well drop back to the 4th line. Which is extremely unfortunate as Richardson looked to be markedly improving during his time on the #1 line. But if there's no room on the #1, the #2 and #3 lines appear set so he'll be resigned to his fate of 10 minutes a game, including some PK time.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Turgeon - calf, IR
Leopold - wrist, mid-March
Wolski - concussion, day-to-day

Cloutier - hip, IR
Ivanans - arm, IR
McCauley - knee, indefinite
Petiot - knee, IR

Stastny has 5 in 2, Sakic has 10 in 5, Brunette has 9 in 5, Hejduk has 10 in 7, Richardson has 4 in 5.

Kopitar has 5 in 3, Cammaleri has 4 in 2, Visnovsky has 3 in 2, Sopel has 3 in 4.

Avs are stable on this front

Brown has 0 in 6, Willsie and Lundmark have 0 in 4, Blake has 0 in 5.

Peter Budaj - 18-15-3, 2.82 GAA, .904 save pct
Sean Burke - 4-3-2, 2.22 GAA, .931 save pct

Colorado -
LA Kings -

Friday, February 23, 2007

Post-game vs Minnesota - Feb 22, 2007

Well, I give it about 2 more games before I let myself officially throw in the towel. Don't get me wrong, I'll still want them to win as many games as possible but I don't want to hang onto false hopes of making the postseason.

It was typical Avalanche hockey as they scored a barrage of goals in the third period but it just wasn't enough to make up for scoring no goals in the first two periods. And it wasn't Gaborik or Rolston that finished them off. Hall, Smith, White and Koivu scored for Minnesota. If you say "Who?" to the first two names and give a "Oh, him" to the last two, you're not alone. It was Adam Hall's 6th goal of the season and Wyatt Smith's eight goal...of his career...that got the Wild jump-started and off to a 3-0 lead at the end of the second. The Avs made a valiant effort in making it 3-2 but another brief defensive breakdown led to the 4-2 goal from Koivu. Svatos got them back within 1 but they couldn't get the goal to tie it.

Unfortunately, I was mired in work and wasn't paying a terrible amount of attention so I won't make too many comments regarding players or particular plays. It actually didn't seem to be too bad of a game from the Avalanche but they were just sluggish in general. No boneheaded mistakes that I saw but no real urgency in their game either. Maybe they haven't looked at the standings lately.

Paul Stastny continued his impressive run by adding 2 assists to his current point total. Likewise for Andrew Brunette. Together with an assist from Sakic, those 3 continued their latest point streaks. If it wasn't for these guys jump-starting the offense, I shudder to think of the type of games we would have been suffering through.

Brad Richardson made the most of his time on the top-line as he scored the Avalanche's second goal. He's still not a first-line player, but he's done well for the time being. I certainly think it will help his development more than playing on the fourth line. If Richardson can become even a second-line center, couple that with his penalty-killing prowess of late and you have quite a player on your hands. It should be interesting to see how he continues to grow over the next couple seasons. Hopefully it's still with this franchise.

The Good
- fighting until the end

The Bad
- needing to fight from behind

The Ugly
- Pavol Demitra (the bald head creeps me out)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pre-game vs Minnesota - Feb 22, 2007

It's do or die. A must win. The most important game of the season. And it's at home as Marion Gaborik, Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston come to town. Well, the rest of the Wild will probably be there too but really, does the rest of the team matter? The Avalanche are coming off a big win against Calgary on Tuesday and the Wild recently finished off the Stars to stay one step (ok, 5 steps technically) ahead of the Avalanche in the playoff race. With all the talk of the Northwest division and Western conference in general being so tight, I think people are overlooking just how close the race for a playoff spot in the East is. But I digress.

Paul Stastny is currently on one heck of a hot streak and recently broke the Avalanche rookie scoring record previously held by Alex Tanguay. Not that he didn't break the franchise record which was set by none other than Peter Stastny back in 80-81. Like father like son it seems and that can be nothing but good news for a team on the verge of losing their franchise player. No, likely not for another 2 or 3 seasons but it's good to see some youngsters showing they may be capable of a similar role.

And to stay on the topic of streaks and an aforementioned franchise player, Mr. Joe Sakic himself is on a tear these last few games. He has 9 points in his last 4 games and has 31 points since the the new year began. This has put him on pace for a 98 point season and could be the first time since the 01 cup season that he breaks the 90, and dare I say 100, point barrier.

And thankfully Milan Hejduk has started to light the lamp as well. He's got 10 points in his last 6 and has really shown signs of life lately. It appears that he and Statsny are really starting to click together. I'd hate to attribute the recent surge to having Brad May creating space for them on that line. It has been fairly coincidental that putting him there has seemed to spark them. Too bad that May still have no idea what to do with the puck when it comes anywhere near him. I don't think I've seen anyone look so out of place with the puck while playing at this level. It seems he thinks it's a time bomb or something.

With Manny Fernandez still down due to injury, I'd expect Backstrom to get the start again. Or they could toss Josh Harding in since he currently leads the team with a 1.0 save percentage. In the whole 18 minutes he's played with the team. But you can always give the Wild credit for having great goaltending tandems at almost all times. Starter goes down? No problem, existing backup becomes the new starter, AHL guy becomes the new backup and they're good to go, looking no worse for wear.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Leopold - wrist, IR
Turgeon - calf, IR
Wolski - head, day-to-day

Fernandez - knee, day-to-day

Sakic has 9 in 4, Hejduk has 10 in 6, Stastny has 4 in 2, Brunette has 7 in 4, Skrastins has 4 in 4.

Gaborik has 9 in 5, Demitra has 8 in 5, Rolston has 4 in 3

Walz has 0 in 3, White has 1 in 5.

Arnason and McLean have 1 in 5.

Peter Budaj - 18-14-3, 2.79 GAA, .906 save pct
Niklas Backstrom - 11-7-4, 2.25 GAA, .923 save pct

Colorado - 29-27-4, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Minnesota - 33-23-5, 2nd in NW, 7th in West

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Post-game vs Calgary - Feb 20, 2007

A much needed win to preserve the meager playoff hopes of Avalanche fans worldwide. This moves the Avalanche over top of Edmonton as they lost in a shootout to Ottawa. The Wild stayed out of reach as they were able to get past the Stars in a shootout. So the Avalanche are now in 4th spot in the NW, 9th in the West but are still 8 points back from the Flames. That could be viewed as a good thing as these two teams still have 3 more games to play against each other, 2 of those being at the Pepsi Center.

It was a back and forth first period that saw 5 goals scored in total. Paul Statsny got the Avs off to a good start as he buried a PP goal. However Tony Amonte answered right back to tie it all up again. Not to be outdone, Stastny one-upped Amonte with his second of the night, banging in a loose puck in the crease. Double Dion himself scored his 11th powerplay goal to tie it all and once again, Paul Stastny helped overcome that deficit as he was able to get the puck to Milan Hejduk who fired a backhand through Kiprusoff.

The only goal in the second saw Kristian Huselius score the Flames 2nd powerplay goal of the night. I'm not sure just who Kristian Huselius thinks he is with all these points lately but it's getting tiresome. Then an untimely penalty on Jarome Iginla led to Liles putting Marek Svatos on a breakaway. Svatos made no mistake on this one and buried it top-shelf as Kiprusoff tried to poke check him. That held up to be the winner even with a brief 5-on-3 chance for the Flames.

Svatos' goal was scored during one of the mere 13 shifts he took. Hopefully this goes a ways to boosting his confidence again. He's still got wheels out there but he's not making the moves and getting those dirty goals in traffic like he used to. He's become a perimeter player and that's not going to get it done for him. He needs to be down low, sneaking around and making himself available. Unfortunately, it worked well when Turgeon was feeding him from down low or behind the net. It doesn't work so well when you're playing on a line with Ben Guite. No slight to Guite, who I am liking more and more, but he's not going to help Svatos break his slump.

Jeff Finger had his debut tonight and played well in the limited ice-time he had. And the limited times I looked up at the tv while trying to do some work. He was only out there for 8 minutes but I saw some good fight and decent physical play from him. Q may have seen something I did not since he saw limited ice-time. Or he didn't want to push him too far in his first NHL game.

Peter Budaj started shaky but really got into it by the end. He was a big part of killing the 3 third period powerplays. If a goalie is going to be shaky in a game, I'd certainly prefer it to be at the start rather than at the end. Of course, I'd prefer to not see it at all but I can let it slide since the team got the win.

The Avalanche tonight were actually the more physical team, at least by the stats sheet. They threw 19 hits to the Flames 11. I saw Klee finishing a lot of checks and Guite is also never scared to throw the body around. It doesn't mean that they played much better at digging pucks out of corners or getting to pucks first. I still saw a lot of defensemen let up on a puck and have the Flames forward get to it first then try to get it away. That's backwards if you ask me. If you get to the puck first then you don't have to take it away...because you have it. See how that works?

The Good
-3 PP goals for
- big 2 points
- against a divisional opponent

The Bad
- 2 PP goals against
- shaky start by Budaj

The Ugly
- Budaj taking one off the chin again

Leopold out for 4 Weeks

It's now been confirmed that Jordan Leopold sustained a broken wrist in Thursday's game against the Flames and will be out for 4 weeks. So in his first game back against his former team, he gets slammed into the boards and breaks his wrist. Welcome back!

He should return just in time for about the last 10 games of the season. That will bring his total this season up to a staggering 25 games played and doesn't bode too well for contract talks going into the summer.

He is only an RFA so I wouldn't think he'll get anything more than a QO. The main question is how long he will sign for. I'd like to see a two-year deal, at his current salary. If he overcomes his injury issues, he could be a very solid top-four defenseman and that's not too steep a salary to handle. Nor would too long of a contract to get hampered by should he develop the plague or tear a hammy.

Pre-game vs Calgary - Feb 20, 2007

The trifecta of games between Calgary and Colorado will come to a close today. I'm sure both teams will be glad to see it end. Facing the same team 3 times in 6 days can get a bit frustrating as troubles from previous games don't have time to subside. If Colorado can pull out a win, it's another step towards clawing back into the playoff hunt. The hill gets steeper and steeper each game though so the chances of them slipping are pretty high at the moment.

Neither Wojtek Wolski nor David Moss are expected to be in the lineup tonight. Moss is still recovering from the hit by Vaananen on Saturday and likewise for Wolski from Conroy's hit. Given that those are both highly promising rookies on each team, the odds of someone looking to exact revenge is fairly high I'd say. Let's hope nobody acts like an idiot and causes any more injuries.

I'm taking a stab that Peter Budaj will start tonight. Sure, he gets lit up by the Flames but you can always pull him and see if the team can sneak out a win again. Angry sarcasm aside, if I was the coach, it would be a tough decision. Budaj has faltered but Theodore hasn't looked stellar himself. And since it is still a bit too early to call the season done, I'd likely go back to Budaj and keep a close eye on him. Mentally, he's just not there yet but give him another year or two and he should become more consistent.

If the Avalanche can pull out a win against the Flames and then against Minnesota on Thursday, they will keep their meager playoff hopes alive. And with a slew of divisional games coming up, they do still have a chance at climbing back into it. They need to get more consistent on the back end though both in terms of goaltending and defensive coverage. It seems the team can score on anyone (not many teams get 4 on Luongo) but they just can't back it up with adequate defensive coverage. Great defensive coverage would be better but I'd settle for adequate right now.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Leopold - wrist, day-to-day
Wolski - head/shoulder, day-to-day
Turgeon - calf, IR

McCarty - hip, IR
Richie Regehr - concussion, IR

Sakic has 7 in 3, Brunette has 6 in 3, Hejduk has 8 in 5, Stastny has 9 in 7, Skrastins has 4 in 3.

Iginla has 7 in 3, Tanguay has 7 in 4, Huselius and Conroy have 5 in 3, Langkow has 4 in 3.

Arnason, Laperriere and Mclean have 1 in 4.

Amonte has 0 in 8, Friesen has 0 in 3

Peter Budaj - 17-14-3, 2.78 GAA, .906 save pct
Miikka Kiprusoff - 29-17-7, 2.34 GAA, .920 save pct

Colorado - 28-27-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Calgary - 31-20-8, 2nd in NW, 7th in West

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Post-game vs Vancouver - Feb 18, 2007

Another nail got hammered into the Avs coffin tonight. There are still a few nails left to go in but that lid is sealed fairly tight right now. The game was going all right and was even tied up at 2 heading into the third. That was very short lived. Klee and Theodore had a miscommunication which ended up with one of the Bobbsy twins getting a gift. Then with Tyler Arnason in the box for a hook, Morrison sealed the deal. Oh sure, the Avs came back and made it a 1 goal game but you knew how this one would end after the early third period goal.

Although the Avs called up Jeff Finger, he was resigned to making his debut up in the press box as Q decided to go with 6 defensemen. A dubious choice as 7 D was working fairly well for the team it seemed. I'm not sure why you call up someone to make them sit in the press box. It would seem obvious that he was called up when Leopold was injured again but maybe he was called up because Leopold was injured *and* a deal was almost done for one or our defensemen. Let the speculation begin!

With Wolski being out, it paved the way for Brad Richardson to play on the first line and for Marek Svatos to be re-inserted into the lineup. Richardson made an impact tonight as he scored another shorthanded goal, fired off 4 shots, blocked 2 and was +1 on the night. Marek Svatos managed one shot, took a roughing penalty, and was on the ice for just 9 minutes. Two promising youngsters but it's really tough to see Svatos hit such a rough patch. After a 32 goal performance in an injury shortened season, he looks set to follow that up with a 15 goal performance in a healthy scratch shortened season.

Well, there is a GM meeting tomorrow so who knows what could come of that. Giguere was likely reluctant to make a move when there was still a chance to claw back in. Now, the chance is pretty slim and he just might pull out a deal or two before the deadline. I don't expect any blockbusters but some of our UFAs could be on the way out (Arnason? Klee?) in return for picks or some non-UFA depth players.

The Good
- 4 goals for

The Bad
- 5 goals against

The Ugly
- losing to the Canucks

Pre-game vs Vancouver - Feb 18, 2007

Another day, another game against a divisional rival. This time the Avs are rolling into Vancouver to see if they can solve the riddle that is Roberto Luongo. They haven't had much trouble solving him in the past but lately he's playing like a man possessed. If not for him, and the Sedins, Vancouver would likely be battling with Colorado and Edmonton to not end up last in the division.

Jose Theodore should get the start in goal tonight. Not because Peter Budaj was shaky against Calgary, which he was a bit, but because it's a back-to-back game and Theodore has a good record against Vancouver. Budaj didn't get pulled last night and if Theodore manages that feat tonight, then my dream of two straight games with no goalie being pulled will become reality. Isn't it sad that that is my hope this late into the season? Maybe it's just me.

Wojtek Wolski is not going to play tonight after getting rattled by Craig Conroy late in Saturday's game. He'll be evaluated once he's in Denver and I'd say they'll tell him "You got clocked in the head" or something along those lines. If it's his first time getting his bell rung, it likely looked worse than it was. Hopefully he's not out for a signifant amount of time.

Jordan Leopold, our anti-ironman, is out with a wrist injury and is day-to-day. It appears he took an awkward fall into the boards on Thursday. If he was anything like a certain ironman, he'd strap a cast on and get his ass back on the ice. Jeff Finger will be in the lineup tonight so there should be enough d-men, but it's about quality, not quantity. We'll see how the blue line holds up, especially if Vaananen ends up with a suspension. If it hasn't happened by now though, I don't see it happening.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Leopold - wrist, day-to-day
Wolski - head, day-to-day
Turgeon - calf, IR

Kesler - hip

Sakic has 6 in 2, Hejduk has 8 in 4, Brunette has 4 in 2, Stastny has 8 in 6.

Naslund has 10 in 9, Morrison has 4 in 3, Salo has 3 in 2, Cooke has 3 in 3.

Laperriere, Arnason, Mclean, and Wolsi have 0 in 3.

The Sedins have 1 in 4, Bieksa has 0 in 8.

Jose Theodore - 11-12-1, 3.28 GAA, .892 save pct
Roberto Luongo - 33-18-3, 2.32 GAA, .922 save pct

Colorado - 28-26-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Vancouver - 33-21-4, 1st in NW, 3rd in West

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Post-game vs Calgary - Feb 17, 2007

It was tough to watch another loss on CBC. I stuck with it until the bitter end but it was hard to do. The team came out well and the game was completely different from last game. 0-0 going into the second but then each team had a quick two-goal outburst towards the end of the 2nd. Unfortunately, the Flames had already scored one early in the second so they were going into the third with the lead. One more PP goal by the newest Avalanche killer Kristian Huselius and that was pretty much all she wrote. With a Minnesota win tonight, the Avalanche are now 9 points back from a playoff spot and it's looking bleaker and bleaker.

Jordan Leopold was scratched due to an as-yet-undisclosed injury. Given that Jeff Finger was recalled this afternoon, I'd say Leopold is out for another set of games. With Liles still recovering from his foot injury apparently, the Avs defense is looking depleted again. Not that it was ever stacked to begin with but still. Unless Finger comes in and puts up some Rob Blake circa 2002 style play, then I'd hate to be a goaltender for this team.

The first goal by Huselius illustrated the type of defensive lapses this team has. Huselius found himself wide open in front of Budaj for a good 2 or 3 seconds, until someone fed him the puck. He then dialed up his dad and said "this ones for you" before potting it past Budaj. It must be terribly frustrating as a goaltender to look up and see opposition jerseys all around you and no burgundy to be found nearby.

The penalty kill started out pretty good, and they have been so far these last few games. They killed off the full 5 minutes of the Vaananen major (more on that later), as well as killing the two other penalties surrounding that one. However, the Avalanche continued to head to the box and sooner or later, you're going to pay. Stastny took a tripping penalty, giving up a brief 5-on-3, which then led to the go-ahead goal by Phaneuf. Then Clark, one of the main PK men, took a tripping call of his own and that sealed the deal as Huselius potted his second, going top-shelf on the short-side.

Brad May continued his play on the 2nd line and, while doing a good job of being a gritty player, it's fairly apparent that he's got cement for hands. Every time he got the puck, it ended up in his skates and he was doing the old dog-chasing-tail move. And my goodness, the breakaway was painful to watch. It wasn't the best pass but he should have been able to corral it and at least get a shot off. Instead, he bobbled it off his skate and gave Regehr a free pass to poke it away. But, I give May credit for battling well with Phaneuf and laying him on his ass at one point with a clean check. Phaneuf was caught looking the other way, much like he catches other players the other way.

Ossi Vaananen was ejected from the game towards the end of the first after he delivered a nasty looking hit to David Moss. Moss turned to gather in the puck and Vaananen kept right on coming. After watching the replay twice, it became pretty apparent that Ossi had all kinds of time to at least let up. He didn't and Moss ended up going face-first into the boards and was bleeding pretty well. He didn't return to the game. That kind of hit has no place in the game and I'm glad that Vaananen got the major. The, I don't agree with that unless it was to protect him. I abhor seeing hits from behind and think they should be dealt with very severly, no matter if it was "my team" or not. And I don't believe for one second that Moss "turtled". He was simply trying to take, and keep control of, the puck.

However, if the Vaananen hit gets called like that, then the Conroy hit has to be called as well. Again, after seeing the replay, it was clear that the puck was not close to Wolski, nor was the hit unintentional. Conroy tossed his shoulder right into Wolski's head (which I'm sure wasn't the intent) and Wolski went down and it looked bad. He was very wobbly and laid face first on the ice for some time. Yet there was absolutely no call. I'm at a loss on that one. Conroy is not a dirty player but that was a hit that should have been punished in the same way as Vaananen's hit, as unintentional as it may have looked.

Now the Avs have to try and rebound from this in a game against Vancouver tomorrow evening. As I mentioned, and should be pretty apparent, Theodore should get the start. He is 3-0 against them this year and, aside from the game where he injured his hip, has been very good against the Canucks this year. Hopefully that can hold true b/c the Avs need to go on a 10-game winning streak right about now if they want to see the playoffs this season.

The Good
- good start
- May owning Phaneuf

The Bad
- bad ending
- 5 goals against
- poor defensive coverage

The Ugly
- Vaananen and Conroy's hits

Pre-game vs Calgary - Feb 17, 2007

It's deja vu time as the Avalanche and Flames are set to do battle again. This time, it'll be on Hockey Night in Canada. Ah, how I love the soothing sounds of the HNIC theme song. It will be the second of three meetings over a 6 day span as they are due to battle it out in Colorado this coming Tuesday as well. Obviously the Avs are happy with the outcome so far but they really need to pick up the remaining 4 points between these teams if they want to remain in the playoff hunt until the bitter end.

Joe Sakic scored his 600th goal on Thursday in unceremonious fashion. But empty net or not, it was still a remarkable feat that only 17 other players have done. I wonder how many of them did it while putting on a 5-point performance, carrying their team to a much needed win. Throughout his entire career he has put up consistent numbers, no matter who the supporting cast is. No Forsberg? No problem. No Tanguay? Who cares. He saddles up, sticks the team on his back and gets it done.

And how about Milan Hejduk getting it done. A hat-trick on Thursday and 5 points in his last 2 games. He is now on pace for a 30-goal season which would go a fair ways to deflecting critiscism of him being nothing without Forsberg setting him up. Not that having Forsberg isn't a huge benefit, but it appears he's starting to show he can get it done without him.

Unfortunately, Marek Svatos hasn't been able to get it done without Pierre Turgeon this year. At least, that's how I'd like to see it. I'd hate to think that Svatos is simply too tiny and fragile to put up a 30+ goal season anymore. Maybe a two (possibly three) game streak of being a healthy scratch will give him a little incentive to get out there and prove some folks wrong as well. I like to think there is nothing as motivating as proving everyone wrong about your capabilities.

Peter Budaj gets the call in goal tonight after a shaky start which saw him yanked after 4 goals. Jose Theodore stepped in for the win and will likely start tomorrow against Vancouver. It appears lately that both goaltenders have leveled out in terms of performance. Budaj is still the better of the two, but not by much. This week, I have have a dream. And in that dream, I see two straight games where an Avalanche goaltender won't have to be pulled. Can that dream be achieved?

Brisebois - back, LTI
Turgeon - calf, IR

McCarty - hip, IR
Richie Regehr - concussion, IR

Sakic has 6 in 2, Hejduk has 5 in 2, Brunette has 4 in 2, Stastny has 7 in 5, May has 3 in 3.

Tanguay, Iginla, and Conroy have 5 in 2, Hamrlik has 6 in 4, Huselius has 18 in 15.

Clark has 1 in 4.

Amonte has 0 in 7, Yelle has 0 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 17-13-3, 2.75 GAA, .907 save pct
Miikka Kiprusoff - 28-17-0, 2.35 GAA, .920 save pct

Colorado - 28-25-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Calgary - 30-20-8, 2nd in NW, 7th in West

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Post-game vs Calgary - Feb 15, 2007

What a roller-coaster ride that was! I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I cried some more, I jumped for joy, I had a heart attack (I'm ok now), and finally was able to exhale a sigh of relief. The Avalanche walk away with a huge 2 points against a team that they have had nothing but trouble with lately. It was no different tonight, except for the result.

The Flames jumped out to a 2-0 lead and had me hanging my head. Fortunately, I remembered I didn't have my hat on. So I shoved it on real tight and the Avalanche were able to feed off that and get within 1 before the period was out as Sakic scored his 599th goal. Early in the second, Brunette took a great feed from Sakic and tied the game up. As I stepped away from the tv for a brief moment, the Flames promptly took the lead again as Lombardi made Sauer look like a lumbering dinosaur. Then Tanguay and Iginla connected again and that spelled the end of Budaj's night. That, and me putting on my Avs jersey, was just the spark the team needed. Milan Hejduk had had enough and buried two goals in two minutes to tie the game up going into the third.

Then, a trickler headed towards the Calgary goal line and prompted my heart attack. I thought it didn't make it but on the replay it was clearly in and the Avs had their first lead of the night. It was short lived as Lombardi showed he not only has speed, but a hell of a shot. I guess if you have all the time in the world, you can really put some mustard on it. As I fumbled for some more Avalanche memorabilia, Milan Hejduk decided that he felt like getting a hat trick. So Ken Klee fed him a beautifl slap-pass and he redirected it past a shell-shocked Kiprusoff. Theodore decided to shut the door as he made a few key saves and Joe Sakic capped it all of with an empty-netter for his 600th career goal.

Joe Sakic had a 5-point night, which included 2 goals. So, I'll give myself a win for my prediction of 2 goals and 1 assist. I've got to. I'm never right on my point predictions...that's why I never do them. But it was great to see and, although I'm sure he didn't want it to be an empty-netter, it certainly was a great milestone for Joe. The entire team came out to congratulate him and to Sakic, it appeared to be just another day at the office. His calm, collected demeanor is one of the prime reasons he's one of the best leaders in the league.

As mentioned, Milan Hejduk grabbed himself a hat-trick tonight and has hopefully silenced the doubters. Night in and night out, Hejduk has been flying out there. Unfortunately, he just wasn't putting the points up so he looked to be underachieving. In any game I saw, I was still impressed with his play. He's got wheels, he's out there on the PP, he's out there on the PK and he's providing some leadership on the ice. For 3 1/2 million, I'll take him any day. Especially since he looks to be regaining his scoring touch with 5 goals in his last 3 games.

The Lappy-Arnason-Mclean line really showed some spark tonight and ended up with some great puck possession in the Calgary zone. Unfortunately, it resulted in no goals and that line was a collective -6 on the night. Wojtek Wolski joined those 3 in the minus category with a -2 on the night. Those results had him bumped down to the fourth-line for a while and he ended up with just 11 minutes in ice-time tonight.

John-Michael Liles and Ossi Vaananen ended up with very limited minutes tonight with 8:22 and 7:45 respectively. Now, I know Liles is struggling a bit at the moment and Ossi is a bit slow he really slower than Kurt Sauer? The same Kurt Sauer who, after Lombardi blew by him, was back on the ice for the next shift? Does Sauer deserve special treatment for his mistakes or did Q feel the doghouse was full with Svatos, Liles and Wolski?

The Good
- comeback win
- 7 goals!
- 5-point night for Sakic
- hat-trick for Hejduk

The Bad
- 5 goals against
- another sleepy start

The Ugly
- another goaltender swap

Pre-game vs Calgary - Feb 15, 2007

It's that time of the year again. Time to nervously hold your breath as the Flames and Avalanche do battle. I have terrible memories of last time these two teams faced each other. It was what was marked as the wake-up call the Avalanche needed on the season. Unfortunately, I don't think they've answered the alarm yet. It was also the night that this site received record hits. The reason: Flames fans stumbled across my post-game rant, found it amusing, and linked to it from their forums. Now, as "neat" as it is to see lots of people coming here...I don't want that to happen again tonight! I want to see lots of people coming because they're celebrating an Avalanche win.

Recently, the Flames bolstered themselves by adding Brad Stuart to their already impressive defensive line along with re-acquiring Craig Conroy to center their top line with Iginla and Tanguay. If Conroy and Iginla can get going again, that will be one of the best #1 units in the league. Combine that with a hard-nosed, hard-hitting team, you've got just the kind of opponent that the Avalanche, and the rest of the league, don't like to face.

After a 39 save shutout performance against the Ducks, Peter Budaj will be in net again tonight. I still won't say he stole the game but he did put in a great performance and was certainly worthy of the praise he received, which included being the #1 star of the night on I'm pretty stingy lately on game-stealing performances by goaltenders. It must be the winter air.

Joe Sakic will continue his quest for 600 goals tonight. He's had a lot of success against the Flames in the past, scoring 33 times and notching 48 assists in 66 career games against them. And given that he's scoreless in their 2 games this season, I'd say that qualifies him to be a part of the ol mantra: the more things stay the same, the more likely they are to change. I'm calling a two-goal performance from Sakic tonight. If he doesn't get that...I'll edit my post and pretend I never said it.

The rookie duo of Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski is getting a lot of treatment lately. They were both recently feature in articles as well as in the sports sections of various newspapers. Today, they are both in the Crashing the Net article which ranks them as #6 and #3 respectively. I'm going to get up on my soapbox for a second and say "Are you kidding me?". If one of them should be top 3, it should be Stastny in my book. Not only does he have more points than Wolski, he has shown himself to be a more complete player so far. Yes, Wolski is improving, but he still hasn't caught up to Stastny in my eyes.

Patrice Brisebois - back, LTI

Darren McCarty - hip, IR
Richie Regehr - concussion, IR

Sakic has 7 in 4, Stastny has 6 in 4, Arnason has 4 in 4,Brunette has 3 in 3, Mclean has 4 in 5.

Tanguay and Iginla have 4 in 2, Langkow and Conroy have 3 in 2, Huselius has 12 in 9.

Svatos has 0 in 4.

Amonte has 0 in 6, Regehr has 0 in 5.

Peter Budaj - 17-13-3, 2.67 GAA, .909 save pct
Miika Kiprusoff - 28-16-7, 2.27 GAA, .923 save pct

Colorado - 27-25-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Calgary - 30-19-8, 2nd in NW, 7th in West

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Post-game vs Anaheim - Feb 13, 2007

The Avalanche continue their winning ways against the Ducks but this time they didn't need no stinkin' shootout! They were able to take care of this one in regulation time as they came away with a 2-0 victory. It was an important win as Edmonton lost tonight so the Avs were able to make up some ground on them and idle Minnesota. It's not over yet...nor is it in the bag yet! This must be what it feels like to be a Leafs fan. *shudder*

It's not easy to shut out the Ducks and I think credit has to go to both Peter Budaj and the defense around him for giving them the goose egg. Budaj's night started off as any other night but it really picked up towards the end of the second and in the third and he made a few big saves to keep the team going.

Hejduk had a two point night with a goal and an assist. He continues to fly out on the ice and it's finally converting to points. It has certainly helped to have Paul Stastny crashing the net to gobble up any juicy rebounds off a Hejduk wrister. These two are really flying along nicely which really makes me wonder why Brad May is on their line.

I couldn't watch the game and was only half listening while I worked so I have to assume that May is out there to create some space for those two. I really don't think May can keep up with that high-flying duo though. Richardson was on the ice with those two for the second goal. Coincidence?

Karlis Skrastins put in some real iron man minutes tonight with 24:24 spent out there including 5:38 on the powerplay. He was again a shot-blocking machine with 7 on the night. Combine that with Clark's 5 and they blocked more shots than the entire Anaheim team did tonight.

Even with the shot blocks, the Ducks still managed to fire off 39 shots. And Peter Budaj was still able to chalk up a shutout! Peter Budaj put in some big saves, got some lucky bounces, and most importantly, got help from the defense tonight. Take note folks, when the defense does their part, the goalie does his and vice-versa. It's some sort of weird circle of life.

The Good
- shutout!
- 100% PK

The Bad
- took 5 penalties against the #3 PK team
- lots of shots against

The Ugly
- two hooks on Arnason in one period

Pre-game vs Anaheim - Feb 13, 2007

The season is teetering on the brink right now and Avs fans are distraught. Thankfully, the players still seem to have some hope left. Hopefully transfer that hope into energy as they head to the Pond at Anaheim. The Avs have pulled off two 3-2 overtime wins against the Ducks this season so it's not improbable to give them a fightnig chance tonight. Both teams are on a bit of a downturn right now. It's somewhat inconsequential for the Ducks though as they remain atop the Pacific division. Maybe they'll give the Avs a mercy win tonight?

Two different milestones are possible tonight. Joe Sakic is 2 goals away from 600 in his career and Andrew Brunette needs one more goal to post back-to-back 20 goal seasons for the first time in his career. To think our second leading scorer is making only $800,000 is almost laughable. I remember rubbing my eyes after reading the news of his contract extension to ensure that yes, that is what the Avalanche offered and, more importantly, what Brunette accepted.

Peter Budaj gets the start in goal tonight and he will need to be at his best to thwart the high-powered Ducks offense. They are 5th in the league in goals for and they get a lot of help from the defensive tandem of Pronger and Niedermayer. With those 2 manning the point, it's not hard to see why the Ducks have one of the top powerplay units in the league. And of course, let's not forget the penalty kill as well. Then add in the fact that the Ducks are one of the more physical teams in the league and it could lead to some defensive breakdowns. Those seem to come fairly easily for the Avalanche at the best of times!

Brisebois - back, LTI

Sakic has 6 in 3, Stastny has 5 in 3, Wolsk has 8 in 8, Hejduk has 3 in 2, Laperriere has 3 in 3.

Svatos has 0 in 4, Leopold has 1 in 4.

Perry has 0 in 8, Selanne has 1 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 16-13-3, 2.76 GAA, .905 save pct
J.S. Giguere - 26-6-5, 2.15 GAA, .924 save pct

Colorado -26-25-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Anaheim - 33-15-8, 1st in Pacific, 2nd in West

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Post-game vs Dallas - Feb 11, 2007

Well that was a ridiculous game. If you weren't a fan of the Avalanche and weren't watching them slowly let the playoffs slip out of reach...then you might have actually enjoyed watching this one. As it stands, I was left to comment, on more than one occasion: "What the hell is going on in this game?". It was a wild affair that saw Dallas survive with a 7-5 win after nearly giving up the lead on 2 separate occasions.

The Stars flew out to a 3-0 lead before the Avalanche tied it up with under a minute left in the first. You'd think that would be the kind of play to send you to the dressing room and come out firing in the 2nd. Not if you're the Avalanche. Just over 3 minutes in to the second they went up 4-1 and that ended Peter Budaj's night as Quenneville tried to shake up the team. It worked as the Avs scored 2 goals in under a minute shortly after. Unfortunately Dallas answered back about 20 seconds later. So it was 6-3 going into the 3rd. In typical fashion, the Avalanche decided to show up for the third and played a bit better and were able to pull within 2 again. But Jeff Halpern dashed any hope as he put the Stars up by 2 with just 2 1/2 minutes left. And you can only pull a Florida-style win so many times.

Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny, Wojtek Wolski, Milan Hejduk, Brad May, and Ken Klee should be commended for actually showing up tonight to play. Everybody else should be ashamed of themselves for the effort they put in. That doesn't include either goaltender who really must have felt as though the team hated them tonight. I'm not sure how many more times this team can not show up for either goaltender before one of them snaps on the team and screams "Why!!!" at the top of their lungs.

It wasn't just the Avalanche goaltenders tonight who were having troubles. The Avs chased Turco, again, after 3 goals and promptly decided that Mike Smith was worthy of a few soft short-side goals. Unfortunately, Smith was able to pull off a game-turning save when he made a huge glove save to deny an Avalanche 2-on-1 opportunity. If that had gone in, the Avs would have tied the game and got a point, I have no doubt. And why would I? It's a hypothetical so I can feel whatever I want!

Pierre Turgeon made his return to the lineup tonight and was on the ice for an outstanding 3:41. What made Q think putting a slow, soft Turgeon in would be better than having a speedy Richardson or gritty Rycroft? I suppose maybe he hoped some veteran leadership and craftiness could help out the team. Instead Turgeon had rusty legs and had 4 shifts in total in the 2nd and 3rd periods. I'll say that putting Turgeon in the lineup was a flat out mistake by Q.

Jordan Leopold had a terrible, terrible night. He took 3 minor penalties and was a -3 on the night. He looked lost out there on the ice. That was fairly evident when he closed his hand on the puck at one point rather than just batting it out of the air. And since Q went with 6 D tonight, scratching Ossi Vaananen, there wasn't much he could do to tune back his ice-time. He was still the least of all d-men but tallied 16:47 altogether which is pretty high for someone crapping the bed.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do tonight or I could actually go on for quite a while about this game. There was a lot of interesting things, good and bad. More bad than good. But hey, the youngsters were looking good so the future is bright! Too bad the playoffs are a dimming light for this season's future.

The Good
- 5 goals for
- chasing Turco is always good

The Bad
- 7 goals against
- 2 horrid games in a row
- apparently not wanting to make the playoffs

The Ugly
- Skrastins effort on the first goal

Pre-game vs Dallas - Feb 11, 2007

It's an afternoon game on NBC as Colorado rolls into Dallas for the last meeting of the year between these two teams. So far, Colorado is 0-2-1 in the series and will be looking to remedy that situation. After a tough 6-3 against the Thrashers on Thursday, I hope the Avalanche come out p*ssed right off. If they don't, Dallas is going to toss them around and walk away with a win. The Avalanche buckle against physical teams and Dallas has some grinders out there who are always willing to finish their checks.

The overwhelming response from the Avalanche locker room was that the team came out absolutely flat and couldn't recover, even after a decent third period. Giving up a 4-0 lead pretty much counts you out of the game even in the "new" NHL. The players had nobody to blame but themselves and realize that they simply need to buckle down and fight out there. There's no point to team meetings or calling anybody out. They just need to gather up as a team and get it done on the ice or they'll be getting it done on the greens very soon.

The odds are that Peter Budaj gets the start after back-to-back starts for Jose Theodore. It's now official according to the Denver Post. I wrote most of this up last night and get a gold star for predicting the goaltender ;) As I've said before, I don't think Theodore played terrible lately, but he did nothing to earn the #1 job back. Hopefully Budaj has rested up and is ready for the stretch run b/c if this team doesn't get some solid-to-stellar goaltending, they're not going to make it. No pressure Peter!

It should be interesting to see if Q keeps running with 7 defensemen or decides to prune it back to 6 and have a D be a healthy scratch instead of 3 forwards. Turgeon, Richardson, and Rycroft were the scratches last game. I can't see Turgeon making his way back into the lineup so it's between Rycroft and Richardson. If it were me, I'd go with Rycroft. He's second on the team in hits and is the only other player to have a fighting major this year. He brings more grit than Richardson and I thought he and Guite played well together.

Brisebois - back, LTI

Morrow - wrist, IR
Barnaby - concussion, IR
Ott - ankle, IR

Stastny and Sakic have 4 in 2, Arnason and Mclean have 3 in 2, Hejduk has 5 in 5.

Jokinen has 3 in 2, Miettinen, Hagman, and Zubov have 2 in 2.

Svatos has 0 in 3, Klee has 0 in 18.

Lindros, Ribeiro, and Lehtenin have 0 in 3, Sydor has 0 in 9.

Peter Budaj - 16-13-3, 2.67 GAA, .908 save pct
Marty Turco - 26-17-2, 2.33 GAA, .908 save pct

Colorado - 26-24-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Dallas - 33-20-2, 2nd in Pacific, 6th in West

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Post-game vs Atlanta - Feb 8, 2007

Sigh. A 6-3 loss against Atlanta. I had hope after the Florida game but I'm slowly losing it. Sure, they still have a chance but let's be honest, can they really make it the rest of the way and lose 8 or less games? It doesn't seem terribly likely. However, as dismal as I am feeling about missing the ain't over 'til it's over! We've been spoiled by a decade of playoff births and 2 Stanley Cups. Try to remember that if the team ends up teeing off in mid-April instead of fighting for the Cup again.

It was Jose Theodore's second start in a row and after 3 goals on 11 shots in the 1st, Peter Budaj was put in net to start the 2nd. The goals were not weak goals and I'd say pulling Theodore was a mercy move as much as it was a move to wake up the team. The first 2 goals were complete defensive breakdowns and the third goal was off a deflection. I can't really blame a goaltender for those goals. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop some people from doing so.

It's likely the last start for Theodore for a while but not due to mediocre play. It's simply due to him losing the #1 role earlier in the season. Unless of course the Avalanche do decide the season is lost, which it won't be for at least 5 more games, and stick Theodore in and ride him until the season ends.

It was another one of those nights where the Avs fired off a trillion shots (48 actually) and just couldn't get anything past Lehtonen. He made some great saves but there were plenty of times where the shots were right into his chest. It seems that at times the Avs get very tense and starting seeing the goaltender rather than the twine in the back of the net. It's frustrating to watch and is even more frustrating for the players out there.

Brad May made a successful return to the ice. And by successful I mean he managed to take 2 penalties. However you can't fault the guy for trying. It's too bad he doesn't have softer hands as he had a few chances tonight but just couldn't finish. I'm sure he was a bit jittery in his first game back so I'll wait another game to see what his play will be like this year. Hopefully he fights for the puck in the corners harder than the man who was scratched to make room for him, Brad Richardson. Not to knock Richardson much because not many Avs fight for the puck in the corners.

Karlis Skrastins successfully broke the iron-man record for defensemen tonight and did it while blocking 3 shots and logging 20:03 of ice-time. Clark was again the #1 man in ice-time, followed by Leopold then Skrastins who were a mere 9 seconds apart. Clark was -3, Skrastins -2, Leopold, Liles, and Vaananen were -1, and Sauer was even. Yep, Kurt Sauer was not on the ice for a single goal tonight and he had 18 minutes in ice-time. The rest of the defense should hang their heads in shame at that. Even Ossi managed to go -1 with a mere 8 minutes in ice-time. This loss, to me, hangs squarely on the defenses shoulders. Not a single person, just the defense as a crew.

The Good
- 48 shots (I guess it should go here)
- 3rd line showed a pulse
- May delivered some grit

The Bad
- flat start after a huge win
- 6 goals against
- the whole "forgetting 60 minutes" for the umpteenth time

The Ugly
- Guite's hit (he left his feet, it was not a legit hit)

Pre-game vs Atlanta - Feb 8, 2007

The Avalanche end their five-game homestand as they welcome the Atlanta Thrashers, Bob Hartley et al., to the Pepsi Center. It's been 4 years since Atlanta was last at the Pepsi Center and that was one month into Hartley's tenure as the Thrashers new head coach. Atlanta is heading into a six-game roadswing hot on the heels of a six-game homestand that ended with a shootout loss to Buffalo on Tuesday. As I'm sure all here are aware, the Avalanche are coming off a huge 5-4 overtime win over the Panthers on Tuesday. From the sounds of how practice went the next day, spirits were pretty high after that win.

They'll need to make sure their spirits remain high and their defence comes out to play. Atlanta is a high-scoring team but the majority comes from their top 3 scorers: Hossa, Kovalchuk and Kozlov. The point production of players below them drops off by half so if those 3 can be shut down, the Avalanche have a good chance at coming away with a win tonight. Although Kari Lehtonen is starting to show he can be a #1 goalie, he doesn't have a great defense in front of him which has led to Atlanta being one of the bottom 10 teams in goals against.

Brad May is tentatively scheduled to return to the lineup tonight. To make room for him, Antti Laaksonen was put on waivers yesterday. As far as I've heard, no team has picked him up yet so he may be destined for the minors. It's unfortunate but at the moment I would take May over Laaksonen. Something is missing with Laaksonen this year as he seems to have lost a step in his game. Brad May is no quicker, but he will bring more grit and heart to the team than Laaksonen does. I'd look for May to take an early penalty though as he's likely going to be pretty fired up in his first game back. I'll say he gets called for roughing at the 5 minute mark. Any other bets?

This will be John-Michael Liles second game back from his broken foot. If Adrian Dater was not exaggerating, then Liles had a foot that was flowing with blood after the game was over on Tuesday. However Liles was all smiles as he explained that while the game is on, he doesn't feel a thing. I would say that if blood was actually flowing from his's probably not a good thing. Hopefully he wasn't rushed back too soon.

And in another repeat, it will be Jose Theodore's second start in a row. It's the first time he's started back-to-back since late December. Given the way Quenneville has played goaltenders to this point, I'd say that he feels confident with Theodore in net, otherwise he would have went back to Budaj. It's not unheard of for a backup goaltender to make 2 starts in a row (Aebischer in Montreal) so I don't think this is any sort of move saying that Theodore is set to resume #1 responsibilities. I'd say it's more a day-at-a-time approach based on his play in practice and games. If it means that Theodore regains enough form to be shopped, great. If it means he regains enough form to become a full-fledged #1, great. If not, then that will be the end of Theodore's chances this season I would say.

Brisebois - back, LTI
May - shoulder, IR (likely to be activate

Vigier - groin, IR

Sakic has 4 in 2, Stastny has 3 in 2, Wolski has 6 in 6, Clark has 7 in 7, Hejduk has 4 in 4.

Kovalchuk has 11 in 9, Slater has 4 in 3, Sim and Mellanby have 3 in 3.

Holik has 0 in 7, Metropolit has 2 in 8, Ruchin has 1 in 4, Kapanen has 0 in 5.

Laperriere has 1 in 5, Klee has 0 in 17.

Jose Theodore - 10-11-1, 3.16 GAA, .898 save pct
Kari Lehtonen - 24-15-8, 2.85 GAA, .909 save pct.

Colorado - 26-23-4, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Atlanta - 29-18-9, 1st in SE, 3rd in East

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Post-game vs Florida - Feb 6, 2007

It's possible if you believe! The Avalanche had yet to win after being down headed into the 3rd period. Well tonight they ended that streak with a 5-4 OT win against the Panthers. Things looked bleak as the Panthers pulled out to a 3-1 lead early in the second. Tyler Arnason answered back but was trumped by Jozef Stumpel as Florida took a 4-2 lead into the third. The Avs came out flying and quickly chopped it down to a 1 goal game early in the third. It then took them 17 long minutes, until the 19:23 mark, to tie the game while on a 6-on-3 powerplay. Then OT had just begun and who other than Joe Sakic to streak in and seal the deal!

The Avs came straight from their afternoon nap it appeared as Florida managed to fire off 16 shots in the first period alone and followed that up with 12 shots in the 2nd. Florida was taking advantage of Colorado's turnovers, of which there were many, and had so many 2-on-1 chances it was almost unbelievable. The D appeared to be sleep-skating and felt it was not their responsibility to get the puck out of the zone. But Q must have pulled out his trump card, whatever that is, during the 2nd intermission because the Avalanche kept Florida to only 4 shots in the third and really put some pressure on Florida. Maybe he finally convinced them to give their goaltender a hand by not turning the puck over in their own zone every third play.

Tyler Arnason had an incredible night. He started off by firing off 5 shots on goal through the first half of the first period and ended up with 9 on the night. He unfortunately coughed up the puck in the slot leading to the Panthers second goal but he made up for that by pulling the Avs within 1 in the 2nd and then contributing to the game-tying goal by firing a backhand on Belfour, who kicked a rebound straight out to Paul Stastny who buried it to tie up the game. I heard Arnason's name more times than I could count as he really seemed to have his wheels out there. He's been mired in a cold spot lately but wasn't playing terrible during that stretch, save for lazy backchecks, so it's good to see him break out of that in style.

Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic were the tandem that closed out the game tonight. It was well deserved as they both put in a good effort tonight. Sakic won a crucial draw to set up the game-tying goal of Stastny's and then Stastny was in on the game-winning goal by goal. A credit has to be given to Brett Clark as well who pulled the team within one and started the game-winning play and got an assist out of that deal. Clark has been putting up some big points out there lately.

The Avalanche went with 7 D tonight as Liles was placed in the lineup after the morning skate. Liles took it easy with only 14 minutes of ice-time which left the bulk of the ice-time to Clark and Leopold. Although it shifts a bit from game to game, it looks like Clark is providing #1 minutes on the back-end. That's both good for Clark and bad for the Avalanche. Brett Clark is not a #1 quality d-man, no matter how hard he works out there. I'm glad he's been playing well but the Avs are stuck with a group of top-four defenseman and no bonafide #1. But you have to give credit to Clark for trying!

Jose Theodore played a good game, even with 4 goals against. He was left to dry in the first period and first half of the second period but came up with saves when they were needed and the team found a way to get the win. Once I get a chance to watch the whole game I'll form better opinions on the goals, however 4 goals against doesn't scream "he's back!" but him being in net for a win is likely a huge confidence boost for him.

The biggest problem this game...well lots of games that the Avalanche gave away the puck 15 times. 15. Let that sink in. 15. Those are the "official" giveaways which didn't even count Arnason's cough up on the 2nd goal. If the Avalanche want to win games, they should really concentrate on having the puck more than the opposition does. The majority of the giveaways came in the first and second and seemed really to be just a lack of focus and intensity. Players seemed to not care that they had the puck on their stick. Maybe that's because they knew it would soon be taken away?

Let's not even mention the amount of 2-on-1s the Panthers had. It makes me sad to think about it and I want to stay happy with the win tonight!

The Good
- coming back for a big win
- Arnason looking like he had something to prove
- no PP goals against
- a couple PP goals for

The Bad
- having to come back for a big win
- forgetting about the whole "60 minutes" concept
- defense asleep at the wheel for

The Ugly
- the accidental high-stick from Vaananen (ouch!)

Pre-game vs Florida - Feb 6, 2007

The Florida Panthers head from balmy Florida into blustery Colorado to take on the Avalanche tonight. The Avalanche have won 5 of the last 6 games against the Panthers but are taking a 2-game losing streak into the building tonight. The Panthers are coming off a tough 7-0 shutout loss to the Kings on Saturday so it looks like both teams have something to prove tonight.

Jose Theodore also has something to prove as he gets the nod in net. Coach Q said that Theodore was slated to start tonight no matter the result of the Edmonton game. I guess that's why he said "I haven't decided on a starter for Tuesday" at the practice after the Edmonton game. Either way, I think it's the right decision (which is of course all that matters) as Budaj has slowed down a bit and I think it's simply fatigue brought on more by pressure than the schedule.

As for the Panthers starting goaltender, it's tough to tell. Auld and Belfour both got shellacked in the game against the Kings. Belfour gave up 3 on 6 and Auld gave up 4 on 17. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Auld gets the start tonight. If you want to know my reasons why, well I just can't give them to you. It might be that Auld comes before Belfour alphabetically. Who's to say.

Karlis Skrastins will play in his record-tying 486th consecutive game. That will tie Tim Horton for the iron-man streak for defensemen. Don't confuse Tim Horton of the donut fame with Tim Horton of iron-man fame. If the Versus announcers are credible...then those are two very different people. Ah, Versus. Where you never hear a second of play-by-play as it gets in the way of their witty banter.

John-Michael Liles and Brad May are both game-time decisions today. Liles being back would be a great benefit and Brad May could very well have a positive effect. The team has been lacking physicality and grit and, as much as people may dislike him, they can't say that May doesn't go out and give it his all. Sure, it leads to penalties from time to time but he wears his heart on his sleeve (whatever the heck that means) and the team can feed of of that energy.

Brisebois - back, IR
Liles - foot, day-to-day
May - shoulder, day-to-day

Bertuzzi - back, IR
Mezei - shoulder, IR
Roberts - hip, day-to-day
Van Ryn - hand, day-to-day

Stastny has 13 in 14, Sakic has 11 in 10, Brunette has 10 in 10, Wolski has 5 in 5, Hejduk has 3 in 3.

Stumpel has 6 in 4, Gelinas has 5 in 5, Salei has 4 in 4, Kolnik and Bouwmeester have 2 in 2.

Laperriere has 0 in 4, Arnason has 1 in 6, Klee has 0 in 14.

Horton has 0 in 4, Jokinen has 1 in 4, Peltonen has 1 in 4.

Jose Theodore - 9-11-1, 3.12 GAA, .899 save pct
Alex Auld - 7-13-5, 3.35, .888 save pct

Colorado - 25-23-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Florida - 20-24-10, 5th in SE, 14th in East

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Post-game vs Edmonton - Feb 3, 2007

Give me an "H". Give me an "E". Give me double-hockey sticks and what do you have? The Avalanche's season up until this point! That is a tough, tough loss. But the Avalanche must be used to it by now so they're likely no worse for the wear. The Avalanche outshot the Oilers and outplayed them in the third but lacked finish tonight. They paid for it dearly when the Oilers buried two quick goals in the last half of the third to come away with the 3-2 win. The Avs nearly battled back in the last minute but just couldn't get it done.

Although it was a loss, there were some good points for the Avalanche. They did outplay the Oilers in total and their energy line was on fire. The PK did well and the D did a good job of clearing an abundance of rebounds. They outshot the Oilers, largely in part to blocking 16 shots, 4 from Skrastins alone. The bad points were that the PP was ineffective and nobody could finish any plays. If I could count the number of open nets that were missed...well then I could count to about 6 or 7 I guess.

The Richardson-Guite-Rycroft line was a terror on the ice today. Richardson scored the first goal on a great diving effort by Guite after he deftly side-stepped a check to get the puck in the zone. Guite and Richardson were rewarded with slightly above average ice-time but I would like to have seen them even more out there. They fought hard, hit hard, and displayed energy and passion. All things that the Avalance lack in general. Giguere better sign Guite before he gets too good and asks for too much money!

Brett Clark and Karlis Skrastins were the #1 pairing tonight (26:51 and 21:35 respectively) and although they both came away with a -2 rating, there's a reason they are out there. Skrastins blocked 4 shots alone and made a great pass to put Guite on a breakaway (damn post!). Clark contributed 3 blocked shots and got a couple shots of his own in on Roloson. They certainly aren't an elited defensive pairing but you can't fault them for the effort they put in. I just wish Skrastins would stop getting turned inside out by players. He needs to put the body on them rather than fishing for the puck. That's the main weakness I keep seeing in his game.

Peter Budaj had an all-right game but he was fighting the puck and giving up some big rebounds. One thing Q has to watch out for is lumping too much on Budaj. It's fine to make him the #1 but you've got to give him a break so he doesn't try and take the entire team on his shoulders. I'm no psychologist but it seems that might be what's causing his struggles lately. 15 starts in 16 games is a lot of starts for a sophomore goalie trying to get his struggling team into the playoffs. Losing games like these will really start to wear on him b/c nobody made any bones about this being another "must-win" game. And he needs to play the puck much less!

Wojtek Wolski was flying again tonight and made some great plays but nobody could bury his setups. He made a great pass to Stastny from behind the net but Roloson came up huge to keep the game tied. Wolski again got time on the PK and did quite well. He nearly got a chance while short-handed but, when forced to the outside, calmy circled the Oilers net and brought the puck back out to the neutral zone which killed off the remainder of the Avs penalty. He also got off 5 shots tonight but none of them could find the back of the net. He does need some work on his 1-on-1 play as he seems to come in a bit slow and off-balance against the defender. If he wants to get around them, he needs to be moving his feet. He's playing great behind the net though.

Joe Sakic, although ending up with 2 penalties on the night (one a very marginal call), was dangerous out there again. He had 7 shots on the night but couldn't get them past Roloson. And that doesn't count a couple shots which barely missed the far side. Or the open net he missed when the puck rolled on him out front. What was with the ice at the start of the third? The puck was bouncing every which way but in. He still is hustling out there on the backcheck and showing some leadership out there. I haven't seen him dog it on a backcheck once this year.

Although Joe Sakic and Wojtek Wolski were a dangerous pair on the ice, they were out-dangered ( word?) by the pair of Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth. Hemsky tied it up at 1 in the second off a Smyth screen, Smyth got the go-ahead goal, and then Hemsky and Smyth were in on the Horcoff goal which stood up as the game winner. I said, in an obvious statement, that if you shut Smyth and Hemsky down, you win the game. The Avs didn't and the outcome was obvious. Now Hemsky has 10 points in his last 4 games and Smyth has 8. To anyone who says Smyth is over-rated...well I'll agree that he's not worth 5+ million, but he is a very important piece of this Oiler team.

The Good
- 4th line energy
- youngsters playing well
- decent PK

The Bad
- late 3rd period penalties
- ineffective PP
- losing it in the third again

The Ugly
- seeing the Oil be so overprotective of their goalie

Pre-game vs Edmonton - Feb 3, 2007

It's a CBC matinee game between two teams in precarious positions. The Avalanche and Oilers are tied for last in the NW division with 54 points. It's a mere 6 points back of Minnesota so a win for either team would be huge. Both these teams are in playoff mode now as they fight to actually make the postseason.

The Avalanche are coming off a loss to Minnesota where they had battled back from 1-goal deficits all game but couldn't overcome the final one. The Avalanche didn't play a terrible game by any means but they could stand to play better no doubt. The Oilers are coming off their own loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks who are tied with Calgary for the lead in the division.

Peter Budaj is now "penciled in" as the start tonight after rumour was that Theodore might get the start. It's not a bad move as Budaj didn't play terrible last game. However, I would expect to see Theodore get a start at some time during this homestand. If anything, just to give Budaj a break. He played spectularly in a few games but has come somewhat down to earth as of late and played solid, but not great. Which is certainly fine by me, as long as the team shows up to help out!

Marek Svatos broke his goal-scoring drought on Thursday when he channeled every ounce of energy he had to blast a slapshot past Niklas Backstrom. You could see the relief on his face after he scored! Let's hope that he continues up on that performance tonight. Pairing him with Milan Hejduk has really seemed to put a jump in both their steps. They haven't pulled the trigger much on any "magic plays" with each other but you've got to give them time to find each others grooves. I think they could form a great combo, regardless of who's at center. It sure doesn't hurt that the center now is Paul Stastny who's more than willing to work hard to get those two the puck.

The Avalanche need to put an end to the recent streaks of Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth. They have 8 and 6 points respectively in the last 3. Shutting down Smyth is a near impossible task but with Hemsky you've got to throw the body on him. He has such slick hands and moves but always leaves himself open to some bone-crunching hits. To his credit, he never stays down on them, but after a few of those it will certainly make him tentative of doing any toe-dragging moves.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Liles - foot, IR
May - shoulder, IR

Moreau - shoulder, IR
Tjarnqvist - groin, day-to-day

Wolski, Hejduk, and Brunette have 3 in 2, Sakic has 10 in 9, Stastny has 12 in 13, Clark has 5 in 5.

Hemsky has 8 in 3, Smyth has 6 in 3, Reasoner and Pisani have 3 in 2.

Arnason has 1 in 5, Laperriere has 0 in 3.

Bergeron has 1 in 6.

Peter Budaj - 16-11-3, 2.64 GAA, .909 save pct
Dwayne Roloson - 20-20-4, 2.78 GAA, .906 save pct

Colorado - 25-22-4th in NW, 9th in West
Edmonton - 25-23-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Post-game vs Minnesota - Feb 1, 2007

The Avalanche are defeated by the Wild and fall to 1-1 on their current five game homestand. The good news is, they could win their next 3 and get 8 out of 10 points! If they do that, they're right back into a playoff spot. As it stands now, they've fallen 4 more points back. It looks as though Vancouver will do the Avs a favor tonight and take care of Edmonton to keep those teams even in the standings.

4 goals on 37 shots doesn't scream of an amazing performance by Budaj. He played decent but was a bit shaky on a couple goals. Could he be faltering a bit in the stretch run? He sat out one game and came back with a great performance against Nashville. It could be that he needs a few more days off sprinkled in with his starts. Not many goaltenders, save for the true elite, start 10+ games in a row.

Jordan Leopold and Brett Clark came away with identical minutes and the main difference between them is Leopold's +2 versus Clark's -2. Seems to me that Leopold is ready to step into the #1 job for the Avalanche. He looks very solid on the back end and has made some great offensive contributions with 3 points in his 4 games since coming back from injury. The defenseman suffering in ice-time since Leopold returned is Ossi Vaananen. When Kurt Sauer is getting more ice-time than you are, you might want to look at picking up your game a bit.

And to stay on the ice-time bandwagon, Wojtek Wolski logged just shy of 20 minutes out there tonight. That's a full 1:20 ahead of Joe Sakic to lead all forwards in ice-time. He's getting both PP and PK time and it looks like Q is really showing some confidence in Wolski's game. It's well deserved as he really has improved as the season has gone on. He's looking much more confident and has started to use his size to his advantage. He's not laying out any bone-crunching checks, but he's been more willing to get dirty in front of the net than he was at the start of the season.

The trio of Svatos-Stastny-Hejduk has really been flying out on the ice lately and that line gathered up 3 points tonight. Milan Hejduk grabbed 2 assists and Marek Svatos contributed his first goal since January 11th. The January 11th goal was his first since he scored 2 on November 30th. So for those keeping track, that's 4 goals in a span of 2 months. Ouch. But he has had some wheels lately so I've got my fingers crossed that he's going to find his groove sooner than later.

That trio was out-dueled by Gaborik-Rolston/Walz-Demitra. When any combination of 2 Minnesota Wild players + Marian Gaborik were on the ice, bad things tended to happen. Gaborik came away with 2 goals and 1 assists, and Rolston, Walz, and Demitra each had an assist. If there is anybody in the league faster than Gaborik, I'd like to know who it is. As soon as he touches the puck the afterburners come on and there's not a defenseman in the league who can skate backwards well enough to keep up with him.

Unfortunately, the team in general just couldn't get it done tonight even though there were players that had flashes of brilliance. I've said it before, you can only come from behind so many times until you lose the game. It's been the story of the season so far for the Avalanche. They do a great job battling back but just can't put that extra spark in their game to overtake the lead. Or if they come away with the lead to begin with, they can't maintain the bloody thing long enough to actually get a regulation win.

So with a Saturday afternoon game against Edmonton looming, on CBC no less, I'd be looking for Theodore to get another start. It isn't that I want to see a goalie carousel going, but I also don't want to completely wear out one goaltender. Particularly a sophomore starter who has stumbled a bit lately.

The Good
- 3 goals on a hot goaltender

The Bad
- inopportune penalties
- ineffective penalty kill
- soft goals against

The Ugly
- losing a 4-point swing game

Pre-game vs Minnesota - Feb 1, 2007

It's the most important game of the year! At least until Saturday's game against Edmonton. Then that will be the most important game of the year! Maybe the problem with Avalanche up til now is that they forgot that every game is the most important game of the year, no matter who it's against or where you are in the standings. They all matter and you have to play like every single point matters, not just the ones down the stretch.

As I glance at the TSN standings page, much to my surprise, the Avalanche are in a playoff spot. After a brief moment of wondering if I'd entered an alternate dimension, I realized that all the division leaders are missing which bumped Colorado, Edmonton, and Phoenix into playoff contention. Interesting idea. Division leaders aren't allowed to make the playoffs. It makes sense as division leadesr tend to have lousy success at winning Cups. I wonder if Bettman will go for it or at least put it to a vote.

Going into this game, the Avalanche are 5-3-2 in their last 10 and have a 9-5-1 record against their division. Numbers that, if kept up, will surely have them back into playoff position in a few weeks. The real question is whether they can keep those numbers up. Some of those points were stolen from other teams just as other teams stole points from us. So maybe it's all a wash in the end! The team needs to improve their home record though if they really want to start jumping in the standings (and putting butts in the seats). A 14-10-3 record isn't abysmal but it sure has room for improvement.

Manny Fernandez is sitting out tonights game with a knee injury he re-aggravated. So that puts Niklas Backstrom between the pipes. With a 0.98 GAA and .957 save doesn't put a smile on my face. Hey, maybe they'll call up Harding and put him in net tonight to see how the kid handles pressure. It could happen.

Peter Budaj should be back in goal tonight after recovering from a shaky performance against the Coyotes. His performance in the Avs 4-minute PK against Nashville was likely the turning point that gave the Avs the momentum to finish off that game. When asked about the importance of the remaining games, Budaj gave it straight up. Essentially his comments were that there aren't as many games left as you might think the way the NW division is and preparation starts right from him (or Theodore) and filters down to the team. Nothing like seeing a goalie step up and say "It all starts with me".

Wojtek Wolski had a heck of a game against Nashville save for his blunder in the final minute. When asked about it, Wolski made no excuses. He owned up to it and said it won't happen again. Ah, refreshing to see that sort of attitude. Actually, it seems that most players on the team are willing to own up to their mistakes. Too bad they have to do it so often.

Brisebois - back, out for season
Liles - foot, IR
May - shoulder, IR

Foster - knee, IR
White - knee, IR
Fernandez - knee, day-to-day

Sakic has 10 in 8, Stastny has 12 in 12, Brunette has 6 in 5, Clark has 4 in 4, Wolski has 3 in 2.

Gaborik has 10 in 9, Rolston, Nummelin and Bouchard have 3 in 2, Demitra has 3 in 3.

Svatos has 0 in 7, Hejduk has 1 in 4, Arnason has 1 in 4.

Johnsson has 0 in 4, Radivojevic has 0 in 5.

Peter Budaj - 16-10-3, 2.6 GAA, .910 save pct
Niklas Backstrom - 5-5-3, 2.01 GAA, .909 save pct

Colorado - 25-21-4, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Minnesota -27-21-4, 3rd in NW, 8th in West