Saturday, December 29, 2007

Kings Charge Past Avalanche

That was a boring and disappointing game. After taking a 1-0 lead into the third, the Avalanche surrendered 3 goals in the 3rd period to the L.A. Kings and ended their homestand with a loss to the NHL's worst team.

When you're beaten by the best but play hard, you've got nothing to feel bad about. When you're beaten by the worst and don't play hard, you better feel bad about it.

The Avs opened the scoring as Jordan Leopold finished off a great pass from behind the net by Wojtek Wolski midway through the first. It would be the only time the Avalanche could get any finish into their game.

The 2nd period passed without incident. Well, save for Cody Mcleod deciding to tango with Raitis Ivanans. I think as soon as he dropped the gloves he went "Oh shit" because he essentially spent the fight trying to avoid getting punched and never really tossed any shots of his own. At the very end he tackled Ivanans down to the ice but the linesmen were already in breaking it up by then.

Theodore's shutout bid was broken midway through the third as Derek Armstrong blasted a shot past Theodore. Then before you had a chance to blink, Scott Thornton found himself wide open and put a pass from Jeff Giuliano (Rudy's son??) past a diving Theodore. It was an awkward looking dive too.

The Avalanche didn't pour it on terribly hard after that goal and ended up giving up an empty netter late in the third to seal the deal.

Phoenix is up next and if they lose to the Coyotes as well my head just might explode.

- Aubin vs Theo meant a right-handed catching matchup (I always get disoriented watching goaltenders who catch with their right hand)
- Cody Mcleod started off strong but tailed off midway through the game
- Richardson sat out the game, presumably due to his shoulder again
- Brett Clark seems to be playing more physical lately

Jack Johnson and Rob Blake, both pinpointed as having disappointing seasons thus far, were both +3 on the night

John Liles was -3 and Marek Svatos ended up with a -2 on the night.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
Lebrun: Avalanche not in panic mode
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Avalanche Attack Falls Short; Lose 4-2 to Wings

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
It was another fun hockey game against a team the Avalanche have yet to see this season. Still not the caliber of the Ranger game though. And a less desirable outcome.

Yes, the Red Wings were able to beat the Avalanche once again and on home ice no less. It was only the 4th home loss of the season for the Avalanche and it certainly wasn't due to a terrible performance. The team played well in general and, although looking a bit disoriented at times, put in a solid effort.

Detroit opened the scoring midway through the first as Valteri Filppula put a rebound home. It looked like Budaj misplayed that puck as he essentially blockered it right into the middle of the crease.

Then late in the first they went up 2-0 on another rebound goal from Filppula. This one snuck past Budaj's arm and nobody had picked up the streaking Filppula. At this point, every Avalanche fan was thinking "Oh no, not this sh*t again." Or maybe it was just me.

But hopes were restored by an unlikely source. Cody Mcleod picked off a Brian Rafalski pass, streaked in and wired a shot under a surprised Hasek's armpit for the first goal of his NHL career. He even made it look easy.

After Svatos tied the game with another Svatos style goal, things were looking up. The Avalanche were hanging in just fine with the Wings and were actually outchancing them at that point.

However Jiri Hudler broke the tie at the 11 minute mark and the Wings then proceeded to slowly start shutting the Avalanche down.

A late penalty and then a pulled Budaj were not enough to get one more past Hasek and Samuelsson - who appeared to have a stick up his ass all game - potted one in the empty net.

No, there were no points out of this game but they hung in with a superb Detroit team and that's got to count for something. Or so I tell myself.

Detroit was without some big names but I don't agree on that being a deciding factor on the outcome of a game so why should it be a deciding factor on how well the opposing team played against them?

I hope and cross my fingers that Q doesn't go back to Theodore on Saturday against the Kings. If it happens, I won't lose any sleep over it because it could be rationalized by saying "Well, it's just the Kings so why not." But still, Budaj has taken the reigns and there is no need to sit him at this point even though it wasn't his best performance tonight.

I've got company over so I won't be diving into the stats tonight. I'm sure you're all disappointed. I know Brett Clark is with his -3. Ok, that's as far as I go.

- Jeff Finger was wired for the game and had some super exciting quotes (actually half the sound bites they aired didn't even have him saying anything)
- Budaj's pads look so small on him at times (are they regulation size or what?)
- Svatos has to quite dangling and be an opportunistic goal scorer, as evidenced by the nature of his goal tonight and his failure to break across the blue line...ever...while carrying the puck
- Liles rocked Dan Cleary at one point as Liles broke into the zone at full tilt
- Clark was delivering some solid hits tonight
- Hannan showed some good speed getting back quickly to break up odd man rushes after pinching
- the PP sucked horribly tonight

Related Links Event Summary
TSN Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes
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Abel to Yzerman Live Blog (relax on the Stastny comment guys)

Sakic to Undergo Hernia Surgery

The Avalanche have announced that Joe Sakic will undergo hernia surgery. The surgery will keep him out for at least another 8 weeks and could go as long as 12 weeks.

That means the earliest we'll see him back in an Avalanche jersey will be the very end of February and as late as early April.

It makes me wonder why it took so long to make this decision. The Avalanche medical team recently had issues with hernias not too long ago from the oft-injured Jordan Leopold. He was mis-diagnosed when initially evaluated, he then had the surgery and was brought back too soon following the procedure.

Let's hope they don't make the same mistake with Sakic.

Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings

Christmas is over and it's time to put away the sugarplums and fairies and settle into some good ol' hockey action. Well, hockey never really went too far away is at was only a 2 day break before the NHL, and more importantly the World Juniors, kicked off again.

As a brief sidetrack, Canada is 2-0 so far and have allowed a grand total of zero goals as they claimed their 19th and 20th straight wins in World Junior competition. They didn't look overly sharp against Slovakia this morning but as long as they don't let any goals in, they've got a good chance of winning each game.

Well, tonight the rivalry gets renewed as it typically does around this time of the year. The Wings are back in town to face off against longtime nemesis Colorado Avalanche and I gotta say, it just doesn't feel the same as it used to.

Nonetheless, it should be a good game. The Avalanche are streaking hard at the moment, cruising to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games. The Red Wings haven't let up on the gas yet this year and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 with a league leading 57 points.

The Wings have only been defeated 7 times so far this season with 5 of those losses coming on the road. The Avalanche are of course a superb team at home with the 2nd best record in the league at the moment. Just slightly behind Detroit. Man this is almost getting depressing to write.

The Avalanche should get a boost today as Ryan Smyth is expected to return and Brad Richardson and Jordan Leopold are possibles at the moment. Well, it may not be a boost given the way the team has gelled the last few games but putting the RPM line back together shouldn't hurt.

Joe Sakic will miss this game as well as he continues to recover from his minor groin injury. Minor. The man hasn't played since November 30th so this is likely causing folks to start getting a bit antsy about the captains health.

And speaking of captains, Nik Lidstrom is fresh off the heels of a contract extension which will keep him with the Wings through the 09-10 season. He's going to make slightly less on the extension, worth $7.45M per season, than he does currently with his $7.6M salary.

Dominik Hasek gets the start in goal tonight and it should be Peter Budaj at the other end of the rink. With Tomas Holmstrom having knee troubles, Budaj shouldn't have too bad of a night. At least in terms of having a giant ass in your face. Henrik Zetterberg is not expected to play either.

The game gets underway at 9:08 ET and I'll be watching via the Altitude HD feed tonight. I can hardly watch games not in HD anymore.

Related Links
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Friday, December 21, 2007

Avalanche Brush Past Rangers 4-3 in OT

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Now that was an exciting hockey game! There were chances in both directions, great saves from both goaltenders, great passing and hitting from both teams and a couple scraps. I was so into the game that I hardly had any notes written down but I'll give it the ol' college try.

The game started off on a scary note as Paul Stastny took a stick to the eye region which resulted in a bump but no stitches. Watching the replay made me wince as Roszival's stick hit with pretty good snap behind it. Stastny missed most of the resulting 4-minute minor but was back on the bench with a smile on his face towards the end of it.

The Avalanche didn't cash in on the 4-minute chance but kept up the pressure and generated some excellent scoring chances. King Henrik matched the excellent chances with even more excellent saves. The Avs fired off 16 shots, including at least 4 on a long 5-on-3, in the first period but walked away with a goose egg on the scoreboard thanks to Lundqvist.

The Avalanche tied it up early on the PP as Brunette, Hejduk and Stastny worked some down low magic on the PP. Brunette fed Hejduk in front who put it past Lundqvist with about 3 Rangers defending against him.

Hejduk then got goal #2 of the night as Stastny fed him a perfect saucer pass and Hejudk roofed it past a pad stack by Lundqvist. The goal was started by a great keep-in play by Wolski. Really, it was more luck than anything as Roszival's clear hit Wolski's stick. But hey, you gotta be good to be lucky, right?

Unfortunately, Mr. Roszival got mad and decided to tie the game under 30 seconds later. He stepped hard into a shot that got past a screened Peter Budaj to suck the wind out of the building.

And while people were still catching their breath, Marc Staal had a Gomez shot deflect off him past Budaj for a 3-2 Ranger lead. Talk about a goal explosion!

The Rangers took the 3-2 lead into the third but I was still feeling good about the game. The Avalanche were outchancing the Rangers and sooner or later, one of those chances had to go in.

And the ever opportunistic Marek Svatos was the one to make it happen. He pounced on a Jaroslav Hlinka rebound and potted it past Lundqvist on the second try. That was Svatos' 11th of the season and he could be heading towards a 30-goal season now.

The game ended up going to OT but only thanks to Peter Budaj's heroics late in the game. He made 3 huge saves with under 5 minutes to play to maintain the tie. Lundqvist started out the game as the star but Budaj one-upped him with some amazing clutch play.

Wojtek Wolski then scored a gift-wrapped, couriered, all-postage paid goal to end the game in OT. Jeff Finger trailed in off the bench and got the puck after a 2-on-1 rush by the Avalanche. He delayed until the hash marks and fired a wrist shot that just snuck by Lundqvist. As it trickled towards the post, Wojtek Wolski gave it a little help to make sure it went home. That's right, that's your home Mr. Puck. And Wolski just needed to give it a little tap-tap-taperoo.

So with 6 regulars out, the Avalanche were still able to get past a solid Rangers team and put in a full-game effort. Injuries are never a reason to start losing and I'm glad the Avalanche pulled up their socks and turned in a great performance.

I have to give this game the vote as game of the year and who would have thought it would be against an Eastern Conference team? I thought all those divisional games were supposed to lead to this sort of action but it appears when you spread things around and teams play teams they haven't seen 80 billion times, it makes for some exciting games.

With an Edmonton loss in regulation and a Calgary loss in OT, the Avalanche gained a bit of space in the NW as they sit in a 3-way tie with Minnesota and Vancouver for first. And on Sunday, Vancouver's next.

- Davey Jones got some early PP time to calm his jitters and it seemed to work
- Cody McCormick continues to improve by leaps and bounds
- Davey Jones is a big beast and he uses his frame effectively
- Cody Mcleod had his first NHL fight and held his own against Dubinsky
- Lappy taught Hollweg a lesson the clean way (are you watching Mr. Simon?)
- the crowd was really into this game and for good reason!
- the D played solid tonight and limited the Rangers chances barring the late third period flurry

Hannan led with 26:18 followed very closely by Wojtek Wolski as he put in 24:59 tonight. Wolski was up on the first line in place of Smyth and also played point on the #1 PP unit to gather the massive numbers. Liles also benefited from the PP time as he was out for 23:27 in total, 5:41 being on the PP.

The call-ups Davey Jones and Cody Mcleod had the least amount of ice-time. Shocking! Kyle Cumiskey wasn't too far behind with just 10:37, 9 of those being at even strength. He's got wheels but I guess Q isn't liking his overall game at the moment.

Jeff Finger dished out 6 hits in another solid hitting game. He went into the boards awkwardly in the third but was up right away and back into the play dishing out some punishment.

Related Links Event Summary
TSN Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Hits Just Keep Coming

And so does the misinformation. Brad Richardson has been placed on the IR and good ol' Davey Jones has been called up to fill a roster spot. Richardson is on the IR due to a "minor" shoulder injury suffered against Nashville on December 13th. It's caused him to sit out the last 3 games while he was "evaluated."

They're really trying to downplay this one as the official announcement starts off talking about Jones, then lists all the call-ups the team has had then pulls out this at the end: "In related move, the Avalanche placed forward Brad Richardson on injured reserve with a shoulder injury."

This is injury #6 for the Avalanche at the moment. They currently have the following players out:
Joe Sakic - groin, day-to-day
Ryan Smyth - neck, day-to-day
Jordan Leopold - thigh, day-to-day
Tyler Arnason - wrist, IR
Brad Richardson - shoulder, IR
Kurt Sauer - neck, IR

Joe Sakic recently tested his groin on the ice but quickly nixed that idea and continues to sit out and let it heal. He has no pain walking but you don't use your groin much while walking. Unless you're doing it wrong.

Skating really puts a strain on those muscles so it's best to let them fully heal. It would be nice if they'd stop jerking us around though. He's fine, he's not, he's gonna skate, he didn't. Yeesh.

Ryan Smyth woke up with a sore neck on Wednesday and the team isn't sure what the problem is. Team doctors are going to check him out to rule out anything serious like a herniated disc. Everyone better hope that isn't the case or he could be out for the rest of the season.

Jordan Leopold, while extremely lucky to be an NHL hockey player, has been extremely unlucky with injuries. The latest one is a cut suffered during practice after coming back from a broken wrist.

I mean, you seriously can't make that stuff up. He played one game with the injury but the cut opened up and they decided to let it fully heal. Don't take this man to Vegas folks.

Tyler Arnason had successful wrist surgery and should be out 4-6 weeks. It's unfortunate that he had to have surgery although it did give my wish of having him sit a game or two to see if that would spark his interest in hockey again.

Brad Richardson is an unknown really. The team calls it a minor shoulder injury but it'll keep him out long enough to warrant going on the IR. The claim is 7-10 days and he'll be back but I don't really trust them on injury news at the moment.

Kurt Sauer was supposed to have a neck injury and it turned out to be a concussion. I could understand this one as an error as opposed to misinformation. Well, if a concussion would ever cause neck problems I suppose. They cause head problems and just because the head is connected to the neck, it don't make them the same.

Out of those six, I count 3 where there hasn't been flip-flopping or un-truthiness. We'll see what happens with the Smyth injury though. That's the one I'm not concerned about at the moment.

This is a tough period for the Avalanche as they're starting to ice a team of Monsters. However it would be nice to get straight up information on the injuries. The playoffs don't start for a few months yet.

Budaj In Against Rangers, Injury Updates

My optimism paid off and Peter Budaj is being rewarded for his hard work with a fifth straight start tomorrow night against the Rangers.

“He looks quick. He’s anticipating well and his rebound control has been very efficient,” said Quenneville. “He’s following the puck, tracking it very well.”

It's about time that one of the goaltenders went on a run like this AND Q stuck with them during that run.

In sour news, Joe Sakic is still not skating and Ryan Smyth is doubtful for tomorrow games. I hope the "neck injury" here is not like Sauer's where they suddenly realized he had a concussion.

Related Links Practice Report

Ducks Waddle Away With 2-1 OT Win

The Avalanche nearly came away with their 4th straight win and all credit for that can be given to Peter Budaj. He had his 4th solid outing in a row and appears to have shaken his early funk and grabbed the #1 goaltender reigns for the Avalanche.

The Avalanche opened the scoring midway through the second as Ian Laperriere and Cody McCormick put on a spot-on impression of Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk. Laperriere took the puck behind the net, waited for everyone to look at him, then fed a wide open Cody McCormick who had nothing but net to shoot at.

The Ducks then poured it on hard in the third looking to tie it up and they got their wish early. Peter Budaj kicked out a rebound but he didn't kick it far enough and Chris Pronger was there with his insanely long stick to poke it home. The length of the stick may or may not be compensating for something.

Budaj was able to keep holding the fort to get the game to OT but the Ducks were able to end it off a 2-on-1 and a great shot from Mathieu Schneider. The Avs took a gamble one way and gave up the odd-man rush. But that's what happens in OT so you can't blame them for the gamble.

You can blame them for mustering only 12 shots on goal against a backup who hasn't put up great stats in his limited playing time this year. You could blame them for chipping the puck out of the zone and then turning around waiting to defend. They almost seemed mesmerized that they finally figured out how to get the puck out of the zone and had no idea how to play inside the neutral zone.

It looks like the Ducks might be starting to shake off their post-Stanley Cup blues but they've got to be worried about their offense which still ranks just 27th in the league.

The only consoling factor you could use is that the Avalanche are pretty banged up. There are 2 D-men out (Sauer and Leopold), 3 centers (Sakic, Richardson, Arnason) and a left-winger (Smyth). Those are all players with solid regular minutes that had to be picked up by the rest of the guys. Heck, even Parker had over 6 minutes in ice-time tonight.

In a game where the Avs were outshot 38-12 and walked away with a 2-1 OT loss, you'd be hardpressed to not award the first star to whoever was in net for the Avalanche. Not so says the folks over at Anaheim. They awarded the first star to Ryan Getzlaf who had a ton of ice-time on the Ducks top line but only managed to record one shot on goal and no points. I can't be any more confused at that choice.

Standard operating procedure for the Avalanche after a loss is to switch goaltenders but I'm going to stay optimistic and say that Budaj will be in net Friday against the Rangers. How can you not reward your goaltender after hitching the team to his back and getting an undeserved point?

A point that brings them back atop the NW division. Sure, there's a couple other teams there but it still counts.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche @ Ducks

The Avalanche are shotting for their third straight road win in another pesky Pacific division game and guess who's not going to be there? That's right, Jordan Leopold is injured again. I think at this point some higher power is giving him a hint that he might want to get out of the hockey game. You can't help but feel sorry for him and I bet he's far more frustrated than the fans.

Cody McLeod is probably the only person mildly cheered by the news as it means he will be in the lineup tonight. I'm quite interested to get a glimpse of him as I don't know a whole lot about his style. Hockey Futures lists him as a grinder with a nose for the net and a hard forechecker. Sounds like my kind of guy.

Peter Budaj is set to make his fourth straight start and will be shooting to make it four straight wins as well. Joel Quenneville has not declared him the #1 as he sticks with the "I'm going with the hot hand" mentality. So Budaj fans better hope he doesn't let in more than 3 goals or Q will decide that he's obviously lost it and needs to switch goaltenders. Sigh.

This is a big game for the Avalanche as the entire NW division seems to be moving at breakneck pace. Last night the Wild, Cancuks and Flames won while Edmonton pulled out a point against the Stars. So after a brief stint in 1st, they're tied for 3rd, one point behind Minnesota and Vancouver. Calgary's win last night gave them a clean sweep of their six game road trip and made me jealous.

The puck doesn't drop until 10:08 ET which will make for a late finish here. However I'm off work until after Christmas so I just might be able to gut it out and get a recap up tonight. Or I'll wake up on the couch at 4:00am with a pen embedded in my cheek and drool on my notebook wondering what just happened.

Related Links
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Avalanche Dethrone Kings 4-2

(AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Ok, I'm not sure what throne the Kings were sitting on but I felt like a cheeky headline today. The Avalanche pulled off their third straight win, and more importantly their second straight road win, with a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings last night.

The game got off to an impressive start as the Avalanche pulled off two quick goals by Ryan Smyth - a rare road PP goal - and Jaroslav Hlinka while the ice was still wet. It prompted Crawford to call a quick timeout and if my lip reading is any good, I believe he said "They must pay the price!"

The Avalanche kept the pressure on though and went up by 3 before the period was out when Paul Stastny poked home a rebound in the crease. Milan Hejduk was given about 10 years to circle around the net and take a shot. Labarbera, or Barbs as I like to call him, couldn't hang on to the puck and Stastny was there like a vulture to poke it home.

The third period kicked off with the Avs still up 3-0 and you just felt that little sense of dread. Sure enough, just 36 seconds in Dustin Brown tipped home a Rob Blake point shot to get the Kings back in it early.

Then, just over 4 minutes later Michael Handzus broke down the wing while shorthanded and fired a wrist shot past Budaj. It was the type of goal that a lot of people would have filleted Theodore over if he had given it up. In the post-game comments, Budaj said he felt Handzus fanned on it a bit as the puck wasn't flat and usually Handzus goes low blocker. Usually but not this time Peter.

That's not to take anything away from another solid performance by Peter Budaj. He terribly busy facing just 21 shots but made some decent saves including some in close plays where his composure seems light years ahead of Theodore's.

After the brief scare, the Avalanche settled down and, after an empty netter by Ben guite, walked away from the Staples Center as the Northwest Division leaders. If only by 1 point.

EDIT: After fully reading the Inside the Kings entry, I found it quite amusing how similar their thoughts echoed most Avalanche fans thought not too long ago:
"The talent is forced to play a system they're not capable of playing."
"If you fire Crawford, who replaces him?"
"Why do I continue to watch?"

Fear not Kings fans, you're not alone. But quite calling for retribution on Smyth. Last time that happened with Crow behind the bench, it wasn't pretty.

- a couple Kings players took pseudo-runs at Smyth but nothing serious
- Jack Johnson managed a couple elbows as he challenges Phaneuf for the Cheap Hit Artist of the Year award
- there was a smattering of "We Love Lappy" signs which shows just how much Laperriere means to the teams he plays for
- I hate Pacific Division games as they don't end until midnight

Brett Clark logged 28:24 in ice-time which is a bit surprising given that they're running with 7 defensemen. The speed demon Kyle Cumiskey was limited to just 9:33 last night and Jordan Leopold had a game low 8:37 for the Avalanche.

Scott Hannan was +2 on the night as he starts trying to dig himself out of +/- hell. Brett Clark was also +2, Liles and Skrastins were +1, Finger was even and Cumiskey and Leopold were -1. Tonight the +/- stats were closely correlated with ice-time for defensemen.

Shots were in abundance for the Avalanche tonight as they fired 40 shots at Labarbera. Wolski led the way with 6 while Smyth, Guite and Hejduk each had 5 as those four combined for over half the shots.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche @ Kings

The Avs are shooting for a third straight win, and a second straight road win, as they take on the Los Angeles Kings tonight in sunny California. Sunny, warm California. Sigh.

Fresh off a home-and-home sweep, the Avalanche are looking a bit more like the team everyone expected them to be. Sure, the Predators took it to the Avalanche for a good part of those games but they walked away with a pair of wins thanks to some solid goaltending from Peter Budaj. Who knew the Avs could win games with just 2 or 3 goals in their favor?

And it's back to Peter Budaj tonight as he gets his chance at 3 straight starts for the first time since Jose Theodore came back from injury. He's also got a chance to be the #1 star for the third time in a row as well. He was chosen by the Nashville media as the #1 star on the 13th and then by Norm Jones as the #1 star on the 15th.

Jason Labarbera has declared himself the starter tonight but it's not a 100% certainty as he's still in some pain. In case anyone forgot, it was Ryan Smyth's stick to the ribs the last time these teams met that caused Laberbera to miss time. So I'm thinking he might be anxious to get back in and get some redemption. In the form of a W of course, not some ridiculous cheap shot.

As far as injuries, not much has changed since the last report. The only news is that Tyler Arnason is now on the IR and the Avalanche have recalled Cody McLeod to fill the roster spot. I'm unsure if McLeod will see the ice tonight or not. The team has been going with 7 D and 11 forwards and it's been working out pretty well. So McLeod might be watching from the press box, at least for this game.

With Arnason probably out for 4+ weeks, Brad Richardson with a possible shoulder injury and Joe Sakic still mending his groin, McLeod should get a chance to showcase his stuff in a few games with the big club.

This is also a chance for the Avalanche to climb atop the NW division as no other NW teams are playing tonight. The logjam in the division is at the "freakin ridiculous" point again with just 4 points separating top from bottom thanks to some solid runs by both Edmonton and Calgary lately. So feel free to "thank" the nearest Flames and/or Oilers fan that you know.

Just try not to get caught.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Avalanche Power Past Predators 3-1

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
The Avalanche made it a clean sweep of their home-and-home series against Nashville last night with a solid 3-1 victory at the Pepsi Center. Anchored by the solid goaltending of Peter Budaj, the defense managed to put in another solid effort while the offense made sure to cash in on their opportunities.

After a first period which saw no goals but a ton of pressure from the Preds, the teams exploded for 3 goals in the second period. Paul Stastny opened the scoring with a beautiful quick out play which Ryan Smyth read beautifully and delivered a perfect pass for a one-timer. Marek Svatos then gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead as he followed up on his own rebound to put it past Mason. Two things to learn from that goal. When you throw things at the net, good things can happen and you should never, ever give up on a play.

Before the period was out Nashville was able to pull within one as Martin Gelinas tracked down the puck in a crease scramble and cut the lead in half. Taking a 2-1 lead into the 3rd while on home ice still had me feeling pretty good about this game.

Then midway through the 3rd period, Jordan Leopold sealed the deal with a hard point shot. Man I love saying that. A hard point shot. That goal was made possible by some hard work and puck retention by Wojtek Wolski and Andrew Brunette.

It was another game where the Avalanche managed to keep themselves out of the penalty box for the most part. They only took 2 minors in the whole game with both being in the first period. The only other penalty was a fighting major on Lappy as he went postal on Vernon Fiddler. It took him a whole length of ice to convince Fiddler to drop the gloves and Fiddler regretted it immediately. I didn't catch what set Laperriere off but maybe he just felt like fighting.

John Liles had a scary moment in the first when he and Brunette collided on the ice and Liles leg got tweaked. He had trouble getting off the ice and I was ready to mark him out for the game but he was back on the ice not long after. Of course that caused McNabb and Haynes to proceed to tell us just how well conditioned these athletes are, that a normal man would have broken his leg in 8 places on that play and that Liles contracted and overcame mononucleosis just that very morning.

As well as Budaj played, I still give the save of the game to Chris Mason. He had just begun going post to post on a cross-ice Avalanche feed when Greg Zanon got a stick on the puck and it was headed the opposite direction Mason was. However he alertly flashed out the leather and snagged the puck. You've gotta love seeing that save.


The RPM line continues to carry this team as they logged an average of 21 minutes each with Smyth leading the way with 21:36.

The third/fourth line wasn't too far behind as they logged huge minutes. McCormick had 16:49, Lappy had 17:47 and Guite had 18:55. That's got to be season highs for all 3 of those players and it's a classic example of hard work being rewarded.

T.J. Hensick and Marek Svatos saw minimal ice-time again with just 7:26 and 7:30 respectively.

The D were spread out more evenly while still giving Leopold limited time out there. Clark led the way with nearly 21 minutes, Cumiskey and Finger were the low end of the regulars with 14:03 and 14:55 and Leopold had just 10:55 on the night.

The Predators badly outhit the Avalanche by a 22-9 margin. But again, it didn't shut the Avalanche down as that style of play has in the past. Cody McCormick led the way for the Avs with 3 hits.

Hlinka may be a natural center but his faceoff stats were brutal last night going just 3 for 11. Paul Stastny had a solid night winning 12 of 21 while Scott Nichol schooled everybody with 9 wins out of 12 draws.

- Shea Weber is a non-dirty version of Phaneuf with a bit less offensive upside
- Brett Clark had some key shot blocks that took guts to perform
- where's the potent Alexander Radulov from last years playoffs?
- Karlis Skrastins must have been a swimmer before becoming a defenceman
- Peter Budaj was a non-rebound machine tonight

Related Links Event Summary Recap Recap

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Avalanche Injury News - Dec 15

Not sure how I missed that while checking the online papers this morning but Dater has a comprehensive injury update in his All Things Avs blog.

Of all the news, Sauer and Richardson are likely the worst. Sauer has concussion symptoms, not just a neck injury as previously reported, and Brad Richardson could have a serious shoulder injury.

Tyler Arnason has a possible broken wrist which was being evaluated last night. We should hear more from the announcers during the game.

Joe Sakic did not skate this week and I'm starting to get a little tired of the team downplaying his injury. If he's hurt, just say he's hurt and don't sugarcoat it. I guess they could be doing a worse job with injury disclosure though.

Gameday: Avalanche vs Predators

It's Saturday and it's time for some hockey! I'm not a morning person at all but waking up on a nice winter morning with just a bit of snow on the ground and a slight chill in the air (it's only -12°C today) puts me in a good mood. Of course there's the general Christmas cheer in the air these days as well.

But enough sappy junk, let's get down to tonight's game against the Nashville Predators. After a near-shutout victory over the Predators on Thursday, the Avalanche will look to make it a clean sweep of this home and home matchup against the Preds.

Thursday saw a solid performance from all sides for the Avalanche. The offense, while not generating a lot of goals, was still there getting chances, the defense was solid under the pressure Nashville was putting on them and Peter Budaj stood tall in goal when he needed to.

"I thought it was a very complete game," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said about the win.

In regards to Budaj, "He was very competitive. It is nice to see him get a win." said Quenneville. Competitive. That's definitely one word to describe the difference between Theodore and Budaj's play.

With Joe Sakic still out nursing a groin injury, Ryan Smyth has stepped up to help lead the club, tallying 8 points in the last 5 games. Tyler Arnason is still having wrist troubles and is not going to play tonight either. I'm not happy he's hurt but I am glad he's out of the lineup for a couple games. Kurt Sauer is still out with a neck injury.

I haven't seen any mention of going with 7 D again tonight or not. It worked last game but I wouldn't be surprised to see Hensick back in with one of the D being a healthy scratch. It would likely be Liles or Cumiskey at this point. Skrastins still hasn't impressed me much this season but as DD points out in his recap, Skrastins ice-time has been increasing so it's unlikely that he would sit.

Oh, and Budaj is probably starting though it's not official as far as I know. Hell, Budaj and Theodore probably don't even know yet.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Avalanche Dump Predators 2-1

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
The Avalanche got their fifth road win of the season with a 2-1 defeat over the Nashville Predators. It was nearly a perfect performance from Peter Budaj but Alexander Radulov was able to beat him with just 20 seconds left in the game.

The Avalanche needed some solid goaltending tonight and they got it from Peter Budaj. He was calm and collected all night and was able to stay composed even while scrambling in the crease to locate the puck.

He had to do that on a few occasions as the Predators were really putting pressure on the Avalanche for most of the night. They spent a lot of time passing the puck in the offensive zone though the Avalanche defenders did well in keeping the Predators mostly to the outside.

Ryan Smyth opened up the scoring midway through the third period as he fired a shot from the wing that got past Mason. Earlier in the game Smyth had taken a harmless shot from the wing and I thought "Man, knock it off. You're not going to score from there." He must have heard me and decided to prove me wrong!

Ian Laperriere then scored the eventual game winner as he returned to the lineup from a knee injury. Jaroslav Hlinka demonstrated ultimate patience with the puck as he circled the net then fed a perfect pass to Laperriere who was right on the doorstep. That's where you need to be to score goals. Nobody was happier than Laperriere as he had joked with Mike Haynes in pre-game about how his return would provide an offensive boost to the club.

Lappy skated on the "4th line" with Guite and McCormick. I put "4th line" in quotes as it was really the third line tonight as the Avs went with 7 D and 11 forwards. Ryan Smyth was double-shifted with Marek Svatos and Brad Richardson to form a makeshift line from time to time.

Scott Hannan pulled in monster minutes with 27:52 in ice-time tonight. Ryan Smyth was just behind him with 26:09 thanks to the aforementioned double-shifting. Marek Svatos saw a lowly 6:50 in ice-time. It's not that he's not trying when he's out there. It's just that he hasn't been terribly effective.

Tyler Arnason sat out the game but it was supposedly due to a hand injury rather than being a healthy scratch. Jordan Leopold also made his return and looked ok in just over 9 minutes on the ice.

Coach Q was seen smiling behind the bench shortly before the buzzer. I'm guessing it's because he was able to keep his job for one more day.

So now it's back to Denver for a game on Saturday against...the Nashville Predators. Gotta love the schedule.

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Gameday: Avalanche @ Predators

The road trip continues as the Avalanche are in Nashville tonight to play the Predators. Coming off a loss against Columbus last night, I can only hope the team is fired up enough to put in a solid performance and grind out just their 5th road win of the year.

Not that last night was a terrible performance by the team. It was actually a fun game to watch with some good end-to-end rushes and some solid defensive play. Unfortunately Theodore let in some softies that changed the tide of the game in the wrong way.

I'd expect Peter Budaj to start tonight though I haven't seen any official mention of it. DD has a good open letter to Joel Quenneville as part of his recap from last night. I think it's safe to say he speaks for 100% of true Avalanche fans at this point.

Joe Sakic didn't make the trip but is still expected to hit the ice this week. Ian Laperriere and Jordan Leopold are both probables to be in the lineup tonight. Sakic was moved to the IR list to make way for Leopold's return so I'd say there's a really good chance of seeing him play tonight.
I'm curious to see who Quenneville picks as the scratches tonight if both those players are in. If I had my way I'd go with Skrastins and Arnason. Of course it wouldn't surprise me to see Hensick sit out as his ice-time has been pretty low lately.

With a Vancouver win last night against Anaheim, the Avalanche have 33 points and are now 4 points back of 1st in the NW with one game in hand. However they are currently out of a playoff position, though only by 1 point. There are actually four teams at 34 points right now so things are pretty clogged up in the West.

I remember running into Tim Cheveldae at a Blades game early in the season and I asked him what his thoughts were on the Avalanche. The response was "They'll make the playoffs with consistent goaltending."

Not spectacular or superb. Just consistent. This season reminds me so much of last season that I wonder if it won't end in disappointment this year as well.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Avalanche Downed 4-1 by Blue Jackets

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
There was no vindication tonight for the Colorado Avalanche who continue to have trouble winning games on the road. After the two straight wins a lot of people could certainly feel confident coming into this game. After the Blues game a lot of folks thought Columbus might be a bit afraid actually which I'm quite certain they weren't.

The Avalanche had some jump in this game and got some decent chances. Unfortunately they were hampered by mediocre goaltending and a team with more drive and physicality than the Avalanche could bring.

Continue all for all the gory details.

First Period
The game starts out with some fast-pace, end-to-end action from each team with nothing coming about on the scoresheet. Around the 3 minute mark Tyler Arnason drew a hooking penalty and the Avalanche were able to get a good scoring chance on the delayed call. Unfortunately during that chance, Tyler Arnason got his stick up so he and Klesla went off for some 4-on-4 action.

And if there weren't enough end-to-end rushes before, there were plenty during the 4-on-4. It was almost like a practice where each side got a chance to perform one rush before turning it around to defend against one. There were 3-on-1s for each side that weren't converted but it was some exciting action!

At this point, Rostislav Klesla gave us his "keys to the game". They were: shut down the big line, use speed on the D, have good special teams. His mom actually had the best one in which her key was to "score more". When was the last time that a key to the game wasn't some trite, generic bunk that can be said about any opponent? Do they ever say things like "Go high glove on Theodore" or "Put pressure on Hannan with the puck and he'll turn it over". That would be a key to *this* game. The rest are just keys to the sport of hockey in general.

Shortly after that, Arnason dogged a backcheck. If I kept making a note of those though, I'd run out of room on the Internet.

Columbus got close on a good give-and-go chance with Chimera and Zherdev but the shot went off the side of the net. Good job by Theodore on swinging over and giving him nothing to shoot at.

T.J. Hensick then gave a terribly feeble attempt at clearing the puck which led to the first goal of the game. Fritsche jumped all over it, fended off some pressure then dumped it out front to Malhotra who chipped it over Theodore's shoulder. Welcome back, Manny. Glad the Avalanche could be there for you.

Very shortly after John Liles broke up a sure goal as he stopped a cross crease pass which would have easily been deposited into a gaping net.

We were then told that Columbus is 11-2-4 when scoring first. Super.

Hensick was back on the ice for the next shift after causing that goal. And I've got no problem with that at all. I was growing tired of the "Make a mistake? You're benched" attitude that the coaches seemed to have. The idea should be "Make a mistake? Don't make it again. Now get back out there and give 'em hell."

Colorado got their best chance on a brief rush with Hlinka and Svatos. Hlinka made some good moves into the zone then fed it back to Svatos who missed the net by a country mile. Which is the same as a city mile for all you city folk. It's kind of a weird phrase actually.

Second Period
One shot on goal for Columbus. One goal for Columbus. I could just leave it at that but I'm a sucker for writing.

Early in the period Liles made a good pinch to keep the puck in play. He then fired a shot which Norrena saved but the rebound went out to Andrew Brunette who then fed a wide open Guite at the top of the paint and he got the easiest goal of his career to tie the game at 1.

The Avalanche started spreading out the Jackets with a lot of cross-ice passes and seemed to want to slow the game down a bit. After the torrid pace of the first period, I think Columbus was ok with that prospect.

Mike Peca rang one off the post which kept the Jackets off the score clock but showed they were still in this one.

Just past the halfway mark they got their first shot on goal and they made it count. Jared Boll grabbed the puck and fired a blast which deflected off Hannan's shin pad and into the net.

Tyler Arnason stole the puck on the backcheck and the Avs got a decent scoring chance. Arnason deflected a rebound off the crossbar but it wouldn't have counted anyways as his stick was above the crossbar. The announcers were incredulous that the whistle wasn't blown after that play. I'm not sure why. No Avalanche player touched the puck after so I don't see why play shouldn't have continued.

The Avalanche then killed off their first penalty of the game as Svatos sat for delaying the game by shooting the puck over the glass. Still the worst rule ever.

Frederik Norrena made the best save of the game late in the period as he denied a pinching Clark on a cross-ice feed. Good movement and good control while sliding across to stop the shot.

Third Period
Wojtek Wolski applied some excellent forecheck pressure, stole the puck, fed Svatos and he fired the puck wide. Adam Foote then made a good skate svae on Andrew Brunette off a feed from Wolski.

The Avalanche applied some good pressure to start off the period but the chances just didn't seem to be going their way.

Guite took a penalty at the midway point that had the announcers screaming for blood. Guite went towards Nash as if to hit him then turned away at the last second. As he did that, his skate caught Nash's and slough-footed him. Now, I'm 99.9% certain that Guite did not mean to do that. However the announcers wanted at least 5 minutes and possible a match penalty for intent to injure. Dramatic much, guys?

Theodore made a couple decent saves to help kill off the penalty and I was hoping that might help get things really going for the Avalanche.

Unfortunately it was the Jackets who got on the scoreboard next. Kris Beech had a great effort down low as he crushed and then schooled Finger along the boards. He then turned around and fired a backhander that got past a screened Jose Theodore. With a 2 goal lead and only 5 minutes left, I started planning the rest of my night.

Then to top it all off my feed cut out with 2 minutes left but I wasn't too concerned. It came back just as the game expired with C0lumbus winning 4-1 after a Federov empty netter.

- Jared Boll was a wrecking boll out there (get it? boll...ball...*gong*)
- Hlinka has some super accurate passes
- It's amazing what Hitchcock has done with Rick Nash
- Svatos missed the net on two close range shots tonight
- the FSN announcers make even simple dump in plays sound exciting
- as a consequence they're overly dramatic (i.e. the Guite penalty)
- Q will likely put Budaj in goal next game


Paul Stastny was the ice-time leader with a whopping 24:59 tonight. Hejduk was next with 23:42 and then Smyth with 22:42. Ok, Hannan had one second more than Smyth but that doesn't lend itself as well to saying "Holy crap, look at the ice-time for the #1 line tonight!" And that should happen the way that trio has played lately.

As a consequence, other players saw their ice-time drop. Hlinka and Wolski were the only other forwards to crack the 13 minute barrier with 16:05 and 13:33 respectively. Hensick had a team low 8:30. I'm sure he'll be back in Lake Erie once Sakic returns.

Hejduk, Smyth and Finger were each -3 on the night. At the other end, Guite and Richardson managed to go +1 tonight.

Columbus outhit Colorado 19-8 tonight and had a lot of good, solid checks. I would have cheered for those hits if they weren't against Colorado.

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Gameday: Avalanche @ Columbus

It's payback time! Or at least that's what everyone, players and fans alike, are hoping for. After the Jackets posted a 5-4 come-from-behind loss a week ago, everyone was dis-spirited. Even Skeletor. And it would appear the Avalanche were too as they did not upload any videos to the portal following the game.

That game also caused me to go on a bit of a rant about players listening to a coach and buying into what he's saying. Even after two straight wins, including one near-blowout, I'm still not convinced that the Avalanche are playing to their potential. And I still feel the blame for that can be laid at the skates of the coaching staff.

Jose Theodore will get his third straight start in goal tonight which might surprise some after he let in 5 goals against the Blues. Quenneville had this to say of the performance against the Blues:
"They had high quality (shots), two one-timers there that were nice shots," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We can't give up those type of goals, particularly at the start of the third (period)."

Note the "we", not "he", part of that quote. So I guess Q has at least stopped pointing fingers at the goaltenders. And maybe he's looking at sticking with one as well. I just hope it's the right one.

Milan Hejduk was named the NHL's first star of the week after his 6 point performance against the Blues on Sunday. He and Paul Stastny have been red hot with 14 points each in the last 7 games. Ryan Smyth has also been contributing on the RPM line with 10 points in his last 5 games. Some flashes of the Ryan Smyth we all knew and despised from Edmonton have been popping up lately.

Kurt Sauer has still not started skating yet but Joe Sakic will resume skating this week according to the Denver Post. Best not rush Sakic back, even if he is superhuman. Ian Laperriere made the trip to Columbus but is doubtful to be in the lineup tonight.

Can the duo of Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk on fire tonight against a defensive minded Jackets team? Find out at 6:08 ET. I hope to be able to watch this one on Center Ice and not from an Internet feed where I can't even make out where the puck is.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Avalanche Defeat Blues in 9-5 Goal Extravaganza

Hejduk and Stastny celebrate Hejduk's hat trick against the Blues
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
That was an insane game! With a 6-2 lead heading into the third, the Avalanche came away with a 9-5 win. There were 2 goals scored in the 1st and 6 goals scored in both the 2nd and 3 periods in what was the highest scoring game in the NHL this season.

I had a brief heart attack when the Blues made it 6-4 inside the first two minutes of the third period. Thankfully Q called a timeout and told the team to relax and keep playing their game which they did. Hey, maybe they started listening to the coach.

Since there was so much action in this game, my description of the game could either be brief to keep from rambling...or end up being the longest post I've ever written. Let's find out!

First Period
The Avs got the first powerplay of the game as Ryan Johnson, one of the 3 Johnson's the Blues have, took a hooking penalty. The Avs were moving the puck around much better and utilizing the point well. Kyle Cumiskey broke up the best chance of the game as he rushed back to stop a streaking Mayers who broke out after Smyth whiffed on the puck at the blueline.

Jay McClement got the Blues on the board first as Stempniak beat Tyler Arnason around the net and fired McClement a great cross crease pass. Theodore nearly had it but really had no chance on that one.

Ryan Smyth then put on a performance that made me exclaim "That's why the Avs signed you!" He forechecked hard, got the body on Backman and then fired a pass to Hejduk. Hejduk took a millisecond to corral it and fired it past Toivonen. Just a classic example of how to forecheck and get the puck away from your man.

Ben Guite got crunched shortly after by Backes. He got right back up, got back into the play, knocked Erik Johnson off the puck, took a crosscheck for his efforts, then helped ensure the puck got out of the zone. I loved it.

The period ends with the Blues on the PP.

Second Period
And the Avs finish killing off the penalty and started applying some pressure. Hejduk had a great chance to get his second of the game but couldn't get a hold of a feed from Smyth.

Ryan Johnson then took his second hooking penalty of the game and the Avs made him pay this time. Brett Clark took a shot from the top of the circle and Hejduk banged home the rebound. So I guess he made up for missing the Smyth feed earlier.

Just 42 seconds later Jay McClement busted out on a breakaway and I wasn't too worried. Skrastins hooked him from behind though and even though McClement got a shot off, the ref awarded him a penalty shot. So in goes McClement on Theodore who has been stellar in 1-on-1 confrontations. Unfortunately this time he was beaten on a beauty shot by McClement to tie the game.

Although I agree with Haynes that I like the call, I didn't realize that was a change made this year. Typically the rule for awarding a penalty shot was predicated on whether the player got a shot off or not.

But not to fear. A few minutes later Jaroslav Hlinka found himself with all kinds of time low on the side boards. He waited, waited, waited...then fired a rocket pass across the crease to Stastny who tipped it home. All the goals so far have been of the "No chance" variety.

Barely a minute and a half later, Wojtek Wolski starts putting the rout on as he bangs home a goal off of Brunette's hard work down low. Drive the net and you get rewarded!

On the bench after, Budaj was seen talking to Wolski and whatever he said caused Wolski to titter like a schoolgirl. Which in turn made me titter like a schoolgirl.

3 minutes later, Brett Clark trailed in behind a 2-on-1 with Stastny and Hejduk and again, driving to the net paid off. Stastny waited too long to pass to Hejduk but the puck bounced out in front and Clark was there to take advantage of it.

And if that wasn't enough, Smyth decided to again remind us why he was signed as he scored on a wraparound goal which was probably the weakest goal of the game but definitely not a bad goal. That gave Colorado the most 2nd period goals of any team in the NHL.

Third Period
The third period starts with a goaltender change. Oddly reminiscent of the Columbus game I thought. Toivonen played fine but 6 goals against would be enough to make me not want to play anymore too.

And holy crap, just 24 seconds in Doug Weight puts a rebound past Theodore. I never had a good angle on this one to see how the rebound came to be but I'll give Theodore the benefit of the doubt on it.

And exactly a minute after that David Perron circled the net and fired a shot past Theodore to make it a 2-goal game. And cause Avalanche fans everywhere to reach for the Maalox. It looked like that puck may have been redirected slightly but it was hard to tell for sure.

Quenneville wisely took a timeout to settle and gather the troops together. While this was happening, Hannu Toivonen was getting back into goal for the Blues. Which either means he had equipment troubles earlier - maybe he pulled a Luongo? - or Murray really likes to screw with his goaltenders. Sure, the Blues were back in in now but is Schwarz incapable of playing at the NHL level at this point or what?

The timeout did its job as the Avalanche settled down and kept playing their game. Stastny took a hit from behind to give the Avs their fourth powerplay. Wolski was not in the point for this one as Liles and Clark were out there. Shocking!

Ryan Smyth then displayed some excellent patience behind the net. And also displayed that the Blues D needs to help their goaltenders out. He had a year and a day to feed Paul Stastny who put it past Toivonen and Avalanche fans everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The Avs then got another powerplay chance on a hit from behind and again they made the Blues pay. Milan Hejduk netted the fifth hat trick of his career and chased Toivonen from the net once again.

A couple minutes later the Avalanche were on the PP again and got their third PPG of the game. T.J. Hensick fed Bruentte who then tipped it over to Wolski who buried it past Schwarz for a 9-4 lead.

The Blues got one final goal on the powerplay as Perron fed Stempniak a great cross ice pass and he buried it to bring the goal total to 14. I hope nobody took the Under on this game!

- Jose Theodore was in net for his second straight start
- Sakic and Laperriere were out with injury
- when Sakic is back, I want to see Arnason sit out some games
- St. Louis has (had?) the #1 PK in the league
- I again found myself yelling "SHOOT!" to Clark at a couple points in the game
- the #1 and #4 lines for the Avs were on fire again tonight and should not be broken up for anything
- Hannan is really jumping into the rush the last few games
- Hejduk had his 300th career assist and his 100 and 101st power play goals
- the Avalanche were only penalized 3 times as the continue to play disciplined hockey
- Stastny leaps into 6th place in scoring on his 2nd career 5-point night
- Richardson and Guite are a great PK combo

It was a balanced night in terms of ice-time. Liles (!?) led the way with 22:57 and Hannan was just behind with 22:18. Marek Svatos had the least time with just 9:56. The 4th line of McCormick, Guite and Richardson averaged 13 minutes. Not bad for an energy line.

Hejduk led the way in the points category with 6 (3g/3a), Stastny had 5 (2g/3a) and Smyth had 3 (1g/2a). Now that's some point production from the first line if I ever saw it. Wolski had a 2-goal game, Clark had a goal and assist, Liles had 2 assists as did Brunette and Hannan and Hlinka and Hensick each had one helper.

This was Brunette's 400th consecutive game which is 3rd in the league at the moment. Cory Sarish and Brendan Morrison lead the way. I can't recall their numbers but I want to say 481 for Sarich and 527 for Morrison. But maybe that's my old high school locker combinations.

And the ultimate stat on tonight...this was the franchise's 1,000th victory.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Avalanche Bounce Back With 2-1 Win Over Flyers

(Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Now that's what I call a hockey game. From start to finish the Avalanche, led by the fourth line (that's right), played a solid hockey game. And I would have said that even if the Flyers got the tying goal in the third.

Theodore was solid in goal including making a game changing stop on a Mike Richards breakaway to keep the game knotted at zero. Hannan and the defense played a solid game, the fourth line provided tons of energy and offense and the first line were always a threat.

The penalty kill was superb in killing off 5 penalties against the 4th ranked PP in the league. The powerplay still left a bit to be desired but they didn't look terrible.

So nearly every aspect of the game was solid from start to finish and that's how you win hockey games. Nothing complex, just getting the basics right.

First Period
The Smyth-Stastny-Hejduk line stayed together and were the opening line tonight. Good to see Q keeping this crew together.

Ben Guite took an early holding penalty to send the Avs onto the PK. And it was good. They put pressure on the puck carriers and never gave them a second to get set up. At that point, I felt very confident about this game.

About halfway through the period, the Avs started tossing the body around as a pre-emptive strike against the Flyers. Led by McCormick, Finger and Smyth, the Avs knocked a few Flyers to the ice and gave the fans something to get excited about.

Ryan Smyth generated a solid chance bulling in towards the net and feeding a good pass to Richardson. Biron was up to the task as he was for much of the night. Shortly after Brett Clark then blocked a hard shot off the front of his foot but it didn't seem to bother him. I guess those extra guards some defencemen wear work pretty well. Oh, and Steve Downie totally fanned on a great drop pass. I laughed.

The team then took a too many men penalty and got another chance to showcase their skills. The best skill showcased was when Hannan absolutely flattened Jeff Carter as he tried to get past him along the boards. Carter lost his helmet on the play and looked a bit shocked at what happened. The crowd was really getting into it at this point and it was another solid kill.

Sami Kapanen then took a hooking penalty to give the Avs their first powerplay chance. It was...ok. Hensick made a great play on the way into the zone dropping to Liles but Biron was there with the glove. Liles made a terrible pass at one point that went directly to a Flyers D - under no pressure - and the D then dumped it down the ice.

Second Period
Scott Hartnell started off the period by running over Jose Theodore and heading to the sin bin. And then good ol' Jimmie Dowd took a hooking penalty to give the Avs a 5-on-3 opportunity for about 30 seconds. They didn't get much done and shortly after going back to a 5-on-4 chance, Mike Richards nearly turned the tide of the game. He made a terrific read on a pass to Hejduk and sprang open. And I mean O.P.E.N. He had all the time in the world but Theodore stayed right with him and denied him from going five-hole. A huge, huge save.

McCormick then turned into McCrusher and laid out a Flyers D after an outlet pass. And the crowd roared their approval and it made me smile to see the fans into the game like that.

Karlis Skrastins then played Daniel Briere very oddly but Theodore was there with a save. Skrastins looked almost scared and not sure whether he should take the man (YES!), take away the pass, or get the hell out of the way. So he kind of did all three at once and failed at all of them.

Shortly after those 2 solid saves by Theodore, Hlinka broke down his off wing on a nice feed from Brunette and buried a shot on the near side over Biron. It was a pinpoint shot and was a very Hejduk-style goal. *Ding* off the post and in. Love that sound.

Hannan then took a holding penalty and gave the Flyers yet another chance on the PP. Joffrey Lupul ran into Theodore but got away with it. Ben Guite put in a supreme effort to kill off some precious extra seconds by diving at the puck and the continuing to go after it. Theodore then sent the puck towards the glass and Hejduk got it with his stick and sent it over the glass. And he ended up the in the box.

Now, I understand the whole delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass penalty. Understand. Not agree. But I need to go read exactly how that rule is worded. If the puck has already been shot and gets tipped over, then that's a tip over the glass and not a shot over the glass. Whatever, Flyers 5-on-3 and the Avs were up to the task and killed it off.

Later in the period, Clark took a hooking penalty and the Flyers finally cashed in. After Timmonen had blasted a few shots, he faked this one and fed a wide open Briere who had all the time in the world to feed the puck into the open net.

The Avs then had a late PP opportunity and I thought "Wouldn't it be great if..." and before that thought had run through my head...they did it! Smyth fed Hejduk from behind the net and Hejduk buried it past Biron to put the Avs up by one heading into the third.

Third Period
This was a different third period for the Avalanche. After giving up a two goal lead on Wednesday, they seemed determined to not let that happen again. Marek Svatos, in one of his limited shifts, had a great chance early but Biron denied him.

Wolski had an even better chance but Biron snow eagled for the save. On the replay, you could see the puck went right under Biron and into the crease and a Flyers D then directed the puck back under Biron for the whistle.

Rory Fitzpatrick nabbed himself a delay of game penalty as he blatantly knocked the net off while Stastny was circling around. And then during the powerplay, Timmonen knocked the net off even more blatantly and got away with it. That was a case of the ref putting the whistle in his pocket and not wanting to "help decide the game."

The Flyers then started to pour on some pressure but the Avalanche were up to the task. Theodore made some solid saves and the Avs were able to maintain composure and not start running around too much in their own zone.

The Avs then applied some pressure of their own, mostly thanks to the fourth line, and had a couple decent chances.

They continued to kill time well while not getting too lackadaisical and sitting back on the lead. However the Flyers were still confident enough to pull Biron with over a minute and half left to go. And who was there to help out? The fourth line of Guite-Richardson-McCormick. And it wasn't just a reward for that line, it was actually the best line to have out there at the time.

After Mike Richards made a rather odd play by trying for a shot from his own blueline with nearly 10 seconds still left, there was a Flyers zone faceoff with 5 seconds left. The Flyers bench wanted to make sure that the clock had been stopped at the right moment and got a full 0.2 seconds added back to it. It was ridiculous as they would need at least 7 seconds to get up the ice and the timekeeper was not that slow.

And so the time runs out and the Avalanche have a solid rebound game after a devestating loss.

- Laperriere sat out after tweaking his knee against Columbus
- Smyth was creamed by Hatcher late in the 2nd and was slow getting up and off the ice
- Hatcher also snapped on Richardson which made him look like a giant bully
- Cumiskey has some amazing wheels when he turns the jets on
- I still wish Richardson wouldn't be on the fourth line all the time
- Hannan was a decent choice for mic'ing up as he actually said things other than "Yeah!" and "Whoo!"
- Downie had a full 5:38 on the ice and really did nothing with it
- Scott Hannan had a very solid game tonight
- Ben Guite showed tonight why he is valuable to this team

Scott Hannan was the ice-time leader with 25:21 in ice-time. Paul Stastny was just behind him with 24:48 as he also had a monster game. T.J. Hensick and Marek Svatos were on the low end of the scale with 8:31 and 8:24 respectively.

Ben Guite fired off 5 shots while Richardson and Hejduk had 4 each. Paul Stastny didn't actually register a shot tonight but he was still a force out there.

Finger and McCormick dished out 3 hits but Ryan Smyth led the way with 4. But I trust those hit statistics less and less each game.

Related Links Event Summary
TSN Recap Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes

Like It Never Happened

Coach Q spoke to the media before the game today and I wanted to hear what he said. So I mosey on over to the new player and launch the Avalanche portal. This was the first time I'd been there where they had anything in the Game Day tab which was nice. But something seemed weird and it only took one double-take to figure it out. Check out the screen grab below and let me know if you notice.

I guess they want to forget as much as we do.

Gameday: Avalanche vs Flyers

You know what the biggest thought on my mind is for this game? Not who's in net (which never is my biggest thought anyways) but whether the Flyers are going to continue their run of questionable hits and possibly send an Avalanche player to the sidelines.

After Riley Cote became suspension #5 on the season for the Flyers, the team itself was "put on notice." Whatever the hell that means. In the circle of suspensions, Steve Downie has been called up from the AHL to replace Cote. And if you think Downie has learned his lesson, think again. Check out the scoresheet from a recent AHL game between the Phantoms and Monsters and total up his penalty minutes. Good grief.

Anyways, there'll still be a hockey game to watch tonight so let's get down to it. First off, Jose Theodore is in net. I usually don't weight in too much on goaltending but...are you kidding me? After each had 2 consecutive starts, Budaj now gets one shot and it's back to Theodore. And if the team is to win, does Theodore get the next start? Or is the rotation still on? Does Q even know what his own plan is for goaltending or is he just tossing darts at names on the wall?

Joe Sakic will sit out this game as well and be re-evaluated this weekend. In other words, as was speculated here and elsewhere, it's not a minor injury as initially reported. Jordan Leopold participated in full contact practice yesterday but isn't quite ready to return yet. And Kurt Sauer is still out with a neck injury.

I'm still looking forward to this game as I'm a Mike Richards fan and it's not often we see the Flyers come to town. Puck drop is at 9:08 ET and it should be a good game. But I think that every game.

Related Links
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Liles as Trade Bait?
Rocky Mountain News Avalanche Report
Terry Frei on the Avalanche's Underachievements

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hitch Tells Team "Wake Up"...and they Listen

As I was subjecting myself to more articles and videos on last nights game, I came across this article linked from Kukla's Korner entitled What a Period.

I found myself a bit deflated that it had to be the team I cheer for who was on the receiving end of the third period beatdown that's the talk of Internet town. However the first thing that came to my mind was that their coach told them wake up...and they did.

Wouldn't it be nice if the coach for the Avalanche could tell the team to wake up, dig in their heels and pull out a win...and they would? It's becoming apparent that Q's tactics just aren't working and you can't continue to blame the goaltenders or the players. The coaches have a job to do and it's simple. Get the team to buy into a system of play and make the players accountable for mistakes while instilling confidence in them at the same time.

So far in all of Q's tenure here, the players haven't bought into the system being preached. And really can you blame them? You can't call "try to score more goals than the other team then cross your fingers once you have the lead" a "system."

The PP has struggled this year and Q's idea to remedy things was to take Sakic off the point and put Wolski there. Ok, Wolski hasn't looked too bad there but why is Quenneville so adamant on having a forward play the point? We've got Liles, Cumiskey and Clark who are all capable of playing an offensive role. Put Hannan out on the second unit as a filler and shot taker and there you go.

The PK hasn't been terrible statistically but at 81.5%, 17th in the league, they should definitely be looking to improve. I'm still not a fan of the "no pressure" style of penalty killing as it gives the other team far too much time to pass the puck around. With PKers like Hejduk, Stastny, Richardson and Sakic, they should be pushing the other team for a turnover at the blue line to take advantage of.

And the defense. Where to begin. Well actually, it's simple. The first thing I was ever taught when playing defense was that you took the man first and the puck second. From novice all the way up, that's what the minor hockey coaches preach. So why is it that in "the" league, all the defenseman on this team tend to go for the puck? And I'm not talking taking a swipe at the puck and missing. It's more this idea of flopping to the ice to break the pass/block a shot. If you lay the opposing player flat on his ass, he's not about to pass or shoot the puck. It's a much more efficient system.

Oh, and just to throw one in for offense. What in the holy hell is Ryan Smyth doing taking shots from the outside? What happened to the in-your-face, garbage goal scoring, goaltender interfering, heart and soul player that he was in Edmonton? He's shown flashes of those abilities but he's also shown flashes of trying to be a bit of a finesse player. And that's a fault of the coaches.

When are the coaches going to wake up and take responsibility?

Related Links
The Coach Q Factor
Pair of Goalies is None

Crawford Ordered Moore Attack?

It's something that was rumoured to be true as soon as the incident happened but nobody could come out and say it. However CBC's The National is now reporting that Marc Crawford may have ordered Steve Moore to "pay the price" in that infamous game. This is according to recent court documents so it would appear to be a reputable source.

It's not hard to believe either as Crawford is known for flying off the handle and yelling obscenities for days at a time. If you can't picture Crawford in that dressing room, down 6-2, telling his team that Moore needs to pay, then you mustn't watch Marc Crawford's coaching style all that much.

The shit is starting to hit the fan in this slow-running case as Brian Burke is also in the rumour mill as giving the thumbs up on teaching Moore a lesson. And he most certainly didn't condemn the act once it had happened. Oh, and where does Todd Bertuzzi play now? Brian Burke's Anaheim Ducks. Geez Brian, I thought you were a bit smarter than that. At least that's what TSN would have me believe.

Ah, revenge. Ain't it great?

Related Links
James Mirtle Weighs In
Marc Crawford's Comment is "No Comment"
Marc Crawford, Man of the Year
Crawford Fingered but Not in a Good Way

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blue Jackets Post 5-4 Come From Behind Win Over Avalanche

Skeletor mad
Way to go Avalanche, you managed to make Skeletor cry. And why did you make him cry? Because you had a 3-1 lead going into the third, a 100% winning percentage when leading after 2, and you lost 5-4. Well done.

And to top it all off, I had to watch this via an online feed fed to my 13" tv upstairs. Well actually, I wasn't too upset about that because really, if that's the worst thing that happened to me today, it's been a good day. I think I'm watching that new show "Life" a bit too much.

I completely missed the first period while I stared at my tv willing the Center Ice feed to cut in. I phoned Shaw and they said "Yes, we are aware of the problem. Thank you." You're welcome...I guess. I wasn't calling to inform you of the problem though, I wanted to know that it was going to be fixed.

Second Period
The Avs evened up the game early on a powerplay goal by Wojtek Wolski. That's right, a rare PP goal on the road. And Wojtek Wolski isn't looking too bad on the point during powerplays actually.

Let's cut all the way to the end of the period where the Avs exploded for 2 goals and were on their way to what looked like a sure win. The first goal was a "garbage" goal where Smyth and Stastny were crashing the net and the puck snuck under Leclaire. Foote almost stopped it but upon review it was clear that the puck crossed the goal line.

Then under a minute later, with Ryan Smyth kneeing Pascal Leclaire in the head, Jeff Finger put a shot past him to give the Avalanche a 2 goal lead late in the third. The Avs then basically killed off the remainder of the period.

Third Period
Fredrik Norrena came in for an obviously flustered Pascal Leclaire. After the third goal, Leclaire was quite upset and I can't say I blame him so he was likely out of the zone.

The Jackets got within one before the halfway mark of the third. Rick Nash outmuscled Tyler Arnason behind the net and wrapped the puck in past Budaj. Nash has a ridiculously long stick so that's probably a tough one for a goaltender.

Columbus then exploded with pressure and drew an Avalanche penalty. With Finger in the box, the Jackets tied the game as the announcers said things like "That's what the doctor ordered. Dr. Powerplay." and "Kaboom!". Seriously? Kaboom? *shakes head*

The Jackets then killed off an Avalanche powerplay and looked very good doing it. Things were not looking good at this point but I still had hopes of the game going to OT.

Nik Zherdev then dashed those hopes with a beauty of a goal. He took a feed at the top of the circles, made a beauty drag and buried a wrist shot past Budaj's blocker. I'm sure an Avalanche fan somewhere had a mini-stroke at this point. Oh, and Clark really should have...I don't know..."defended" against Zherdev rather than falling down trying to block the shot.

Then hope came again! Scott Hannan picked up a loose puck in the slot and rifled a shot past Norrena. Holy smokes! Tie game with under 5 minutes left. OT!! A single point at least!

Those things were not to be. 30 seconds later, Dan Fritsche scored the game winner. A goal which I didn't get to see as it FSN Ohio cut out at that moment.

Odds and Ends
- Liles crunched Fritsche with a great open ice hip check in the 2nd
- Nash is a beast so why was Arnason lined up against him a few times?
- where was this Rick Nash during the '06 Olympics?
- Clark continues to flop for a shot block rather than taking the man
- Skrastins made a huge shot block early in the third

Clark led the team with 27:18 spent on the ice. Nobody else was even close, particularly for defencemen. Hejduk and Stastny each put in over 23 minutes while Kyle Cumiskey had a lowly 9:39 in ice-time.

Ryan Smyth had 8 shots on the night, Stastny had 5 and Skrastins had 4. That's right, Skrastins fired off 4 shots which is great to see. Point shots, point shots and more point shots.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes
JibbleScribbits On the Lack of Focus

Gameday: Avalanche @ Columbus

The Avalanche are in Columbus tonight to take on the Jackets and the biggest question on most people's minds, other than "Who's in net?", is "Who's still injured?" The Avs have had a bad run of injuries/illness hit the team but thankfully some good news is coming.

Ian Laperriere has been activated off the injured reserve list and could return to action tonight. Marek Svatos, out with a groin injury, is also a probably to play tonight after missing a couple games. Andrew Brunette is battling the flu but made the trip to Columbus and is expected to play as well.

Unfortunately, Joe Sakic is scheduled to miss his third straight game with groin issues. It was described as minor the day it happened but, unless you're being an overprotective mother, a minor injury doesn't keep someone out of the lineup for 3 games.

Kurt Sauer will also miss the game due to a neck injury and Scott Parker has succumbed to the flu bug as well. For a man whose tears cure cancer, you'd think the flu would be no problem.

Peter Budaj gets the start in goal after two straight games from Jose Theodore and Pascal Leclaire will be in goal at the other end. Hopefully he's used up all his shutouts this year because you only get so many before it becomes unfair. Or at least that's the way it should be.

Puck drop is at 7:08 ET which is a welcome relief after a rash of games starting past 9:00 ET.

Related Links
Sakic Out Again

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wyatt Smith Put on Waivers

TSN is reporting that Wyatt Smith has been placed on waivers today. The reason for Richardson being demoted and recalled within couple days is now clear. They meant to put Smith on waivers but someone clicked on the wrong player name. It happens. By the time FG noticed the error, Richo was already on a plane to Cleveland so he figured he'd give him some time there to work on his game while resubmitting the waiver form for Wyatt Smith.

But seriously, this is likely what should have happened in the first place. Not that Wyatt Smith was a terrible fourth-liner by any means but Laperriere is coming back soon and I'd rather see McCormick and Guite stay in as the grinders than Wyatt Smith.

Smith's PK time dwindled over the last couple games as Guite/Richardson/Stastny/Hejduk carried the load and his overall ice-time started going downhill as well. He had a game low 6:34 against the Sharks last night which made me go "Hmm..." but I didn't want to jump the gun and claim shenanigans.

If no team claims him, he'll be off to Lake Erie which is where I expected him to start the year. Who knew Richardson would get injured and then toyed with like a yo-yo before making the roster full time?

And on a side note, the term "Wyatt Smith" is the most common player name popping up in the keyword stats for this site. Bizarre.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sharks Grab Another 3-2 Win Over Avalanche

(Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
"Oh my." That's the polite version of what came out of my mouth on the third goal let in by Jose Theodore. And wouldn't you know it, that was the one that was the eventual game winner. A stinker of a goal caused the Avalanche drop just their third home loss of the season and has likely caused fans everywhere to start calling for Theodore's head. Again.

In an otherwise even hockey game, tilted slightly in the Sharks favor but not much, Theodore was the difference in the wrong way. He could very well be playing his way back onto the bench for a long stretch of time.

The Oilers are about the win their 3rd straight game and will pull within 2 of the Avalanche who remain 3 back of division-leading Minnesota. Who knew Calgary would be the cellar dwellers in the NW this year?

First Period
The Sharks got on the board early off a bit of a flukey goal. Michalek fired a shot during a scrum in the low slot, it took a bounce off Scott Hannan and got past Theodore. I thought that one was mildly weak but was willing to give a mulligan on it.

Milan Hejduk answered back just 12 seconds later. He took a beauty feed from Kyle Cumiskey, broke down the right wing, forced the defenders to the middle, then buried a shot short side on Nabokov. He made the exact same play against Nabokov not too long ago but I can't recall the exact game. Vintage Hejduk.

T.J. Hensick took his first penalty as an Avalanche as he went off for hooking. I was a bit concerned as the Sharks lit the Avs powerplay up last game. This time though, the Avs did a good job focusing on Thornton but not losing focus on the rest of the Sharks. They got a bit of help from a quick whistle. The ref though Theo had scooped a bouncing puck but he'd whiffed on it and it was still in play. Hensick was nearly sprung out of the box but the Sharks D was there to break it up.

The Avalanche got a few chances including a nice give-and-go between Stastny and Wolski but Nabokov stood tall. Devon Setoguchi then gook a penalty giving the Avs their first powerplay chance on the night. Nabokov made a couple nice saves and the Sharks kept the #1 penalty kill in the league going strong.

Late in the period, Nabokov tossed a pick on an Avalanche forechecker by leaving his crease almost completely. Of course, if the Avalanche player hits Nabokov, he'll get whistled for goaltender interference/tripping/whatever as Nabokov was still partially in his crease. A pretty crafty play there.

Second Period
The Avs opened up with an early penalty as they were caught with too many men on the ice. Cheechoo negated that penalty halfway through on a trip. So it was 4-4 for a minute and the Sharks nearly cashed in. Pavelski took advantage of a Liles turnover and broke in alone on Theodore but Theo turned him away with a nice pad save.

Bernier then put the Sharks up again on a goal that went under Theo's arm again. Remember me bitching about that a few games back? Well, I wasn't any more pleased with it this time.

Smyth took a stupid hooking penalty a couple minutes later but the Avalanche were able to kill it off. It's like playing with fire when you take penalties against San Jose but the Avalanche were able to come away unscathed.

Third Period
The Altidudes had stats ready before the game for when the Avalanche led after the 1st and 2nd periods. I guess they were unprepared for the possibility that the Sharks might have the lead going into the second. Well, they're now 9-0-1 when leading after 2.

The Avalanche came out with some jump and were putting some good pressure on the Sharks early as they pressed for the tying goal. Richardson had an amazing chance but rang one off the post. The play started when Skrastins banged a shot off the end boards, something the Sharks had been doing all game long. Never let the visiting team use your home surroundings better than you do!

And then a terrible thing happened. Mike Grier tossed a puck at the net from just inside the blueline. It was flipping, took a bounce just in front of Theodore and jumped over his pad. Inexcusable. He had all the time in the world to get in front of that puck but choose to try and redirect it. Just a complete misread on Theodore's part.

Haynes and McNabb tried as hard as they could to find a reason why this wasn't a bad goal but gave up as the evidence was overwhelming. A puck moving 10mph with an unimpeded path from the hashmarks in made it past a Vezina-winning goaltender. It deflated me so I can't imagine what it did to the team

The Avalanche, to their credit, kept right on trucking. They fought hard, got more chances, but just couldn't get anything past Nabokov. That is until the 16:55 mark. Brad Richardson won a faceoff and Andrew Brunette, a left-handed shot on the right wing, fired the puck over a shocked Nabokov's blocker.

The Sharks then really put the defensive pressure on the Avs and it seemed to fluster them a bit. They got trapped in their own zone with possession of the puck for a long time and couldn't seem to break out. Coach Q then tossed some choice words at the ref after they called a faceoff in the Avalanche end as Q, and everyone watching the game, argued that the puck was out of play off a Shark.

Theodore then got pulled as the Avalanche gained possession in the Sharks zone. Nothing was going past Nabokov but they got a late faceoff in the Sharks zone. The Sharks called a timeout and Q drew up the play. It involved putting Hejduk, a right shot, on the right wing with Brunette and Smyth, two left shots, on the left wing. Now, if you recall the 2nd Avalanche goal was scored from a left-handed shot on the right wing right off the faceoff.

Now, I'm not saying it's a guaranteed goal but it maybe might have possibly been a good idea to try again. And if it didn't go in right away, maybe possibly arguably they could have gone for a rebound. This is all speculation of course.



Odds and Ends
- Joe Sakic and Marek Svatos sat out with groin injuries
- the Sharks used the end boards as a playmaker
- which begs the question of why the Avalanche don't (they did once and it nearly worked)
- Craig Rivet destroyed Arnason in front of the net in the first
- early in the first Roenick tripped over the back of the net and landed on his ass...I laughed
- Ben Guite later knocked Roenick to the ice...I laughed
- it seemed like Thornton never left the ice tonight (24:10 in ice-time)
- Nabokov's equipment gives him the worst beer belly I've seen

Brett Clark and Scott Hannan led the team in ice-time with 24:30 and 23:39 respectively. Wyatt Smith had just 6:34 on the night.

Clark also had 4 blocked shots and 2 shots on the night. Jeff Finger had 4 shots and 2 hits on the night and Ben Guite had 2 hits and 3 blocked.

Kyle Cumiskey ended up being on the ice for both Avalanche goals and no Sharks goal to come away with a +2 rating and one assist.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
TSN Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes

Gameday: Avalanche vs San Jose

The Avalanche continue their bouts against Pacific division opponents as they face off against the Sharks at the Pepsi Center tonight. Thanks to a 5-2 win against the Kings on Saturday, the Avalanche are now 3-2 against the Pacific division.

The last game was a solid, energetic, bang-em-up game and I'm looking forward to the same thing tonight. There's nothing quite like a game where, for stretches at at time, players forget that the goal is to put the puck in the net and concentrate on dishing out bodychecks.

On Friday night, the Sharks won on the physicality end but not by much. The Avalanche dished it out in return and, while often still on the losing end of those hits, showed they have some fire down in their bellies.

They're going to need that fire tonight as Joe Sakic (groin) is possibly out of the lineup again along with Andrew Brunette (flu) being questionable and Ian Laperriere (knee) still recovering. So in case you're keeping track, that is the captain and both assistant captains possibly out of the lineup.

The Avalanche have recalled Brad Richardson from Lake Erie to fill up the roster in case Sakic and Brunette sit out tonight. If one of those two still plays, I hope they don't make McCormick the healthy scratch. He tosses his body around well and needs to be used against the Sharks on the presumption that they'll come out and play like they did Saturday.

Kurt Sauer is on the injured reserve now, joining Jordan Leopold, so there won't be any scratches on D tonight. I'm thinking (hoping?) Finger gets moved up and paired with Clark but Q might fall back on the comfortable Clark-Skrastins pairing.

It should be a fun game and I am definitely not forgetting to record this one if I can't watch it live. And what would be a reason I couldn't watch it live you ask? World War III breaking out or spontaneous dental hydroplosion. Anything short of that and I'm watching the game.

Related Links Preview
TSN Preview
Hensick Earns a Souvenir

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Avalanche Finally Win One on the Road

The Avalanche pulled off a 5-2 victory over the Kings last night and I wasn't able to watch it. Well, I was "able" to watch it. I just forgot to record it. Last night was our staff Christmas party and while I was playing the British cop from Austin Powers during our dance routine (seriously) the Avalanche were busy beating a team that they should beat. The iPod nano everyone received at the end of the night made it all worthwhile.

It appears, based on other articles, that the Avalanche got themselves into a bit of a hole early on, falling behind 2-0 on a couple turnovers. I can only imagine what was going through people's minds at that point. However the Avs scored 5 unanswered goals, including T.J. Hensick's first NHL goal, to produce another come from behind win.

Ryan Smyth scored a couple Ryan Smyth style goals. He bounced one in off Labarbera's skate and got another one a wraparound after having his helmet knocked off. He also knocked Labarbera out of the game with a rib injury. While Labarbera was down, Smyth went fishing for the puck and broke his stick on Labarbera's ribs. Ouch. I guess even with all the padding they have, there's still a few open spots on goaltenders these days.

Joe Sakic missed the game with a groin injury as did Marek Svatos. Kurt Sauer was out with a neck injury, paving the way for Karlis Skrastins to return to the lineup. And to top it all off, Andrew Brunette was on the ice for just 4 minutes when he had to leave due to the flu. Yowzah. I wouldn't call the lineup "decimated" but that's a lot of injuries/illnesses.

DD has the lines up and we can give each other virtual high-fives on one of the line combos. Which one? Well you'll have to go check out his recap to find out!

Oh, and the Senators lost again yesterday. What's up with that?

Brett Clark was the ice-time leader with 23:14. Jeff Finger had big numbers with 22:48 spent on the ice. Smyth, Hejduk and Stastny had big numbers with about 22 minutes each with both Sakic and Brunette being out.

Smyth had a 3-point night with 1 goal and 2 assists, Stastny had a goal and an assist and Scott Hannan had 2 assists on the night. Hey look, Stastny can score on the road. As long as the team is playing half decent that is.

Cody McCormick laid out 5 hits on the night in just 11 minutes of ice-time. Liles blocked 5 shots, Hannan blocked 4 and Skrastins blocked 3 on the night. Jaroslav Hlinka even had 2 blocked shots.

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Recap
TSN Recap Recap
Denver Post Recap

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sharks Outmuscle Avalanche to 3-2 Victory

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
You know, this was actually a good hockey game to watch. I mean, if you weren't an Avalanche fan hoping for one measly road win at some point before the year is out. If you were a San Jose fan or just a casual fan, this game had some fast-paced hockey with lots of juicy checks. Not the cheap kind either - I'm looking at you Phaneuf - but legit, solid, finish-your-man checks.

However even the smash-mouth style hockey wasn't able to keep me up for the entire game. Due to a 9:30 start, friggin' Pacific games, the game still wasn't over by the time time I went down for the count. I woke up, checked the score online, silently cursed, then headed for bed deciding that nobody would be in the mood for a recap that late in the evening.

But everybody's ready now, right?

First Period
The game really got off on a sour note as Jaroslav Hlinka took an uber-lazy holding penalty on Joe Thornton. Midway through the penalty, Thornton found himself wide open in the low slot and you could read Budaj's thoughts: "Oh man, he's going five-hole. I know it. But if I go down, he's going high blocker. I know it. Oh man." And while he was thinking that, Thornton potted a quick wrister through the five-hole. You can't give Thornton a microsecond alone in the slot let alone a full 3 seconds by himself.

Jeremy Roenick then welcomed Hannan back to HP Pavilion with a stick to the face. Accidental for sure, but a penalty nonetheless. Then when Kyle McLaren got called for tripping just a minute in, the opportunity was ripe for the Avalanche to tie the game on a 5-on-3.

They squandered that opportunity though as they moved the puck around well but forgot that you don't get points for puck movement, only for goals. The team looked very flustered after the penalties were over and San Jose really got a boost out of that kill.

The Sharks really started laying on the body at this point but to the Avs credit, they dealt it right back. Of course it looked a bit like a comedy caper where the bad guy knocks the cop down, the cop then tries to knock the bad guy down but still gets knocked on his ass.

The teams most diminuitive player, Kyle Cumiskey, was one of the few to actually get a knockdown as he laid out Mike Grier at the end of a rush. Of course, Mike Grier then returned the favor on the same shift by plastering Cumiskey into the boards. I both hated and loved that moment. Hated because an Avalanche got plastered, loved because it was a perfect example of the way the game should be played and the way retribution should get dealt out. Legally.

Second Period
Joe Sakic has an uncharacteristic moment where he got a bit pissed off. It led him to take a bonehead penalty by slashing Devon Setoguchi on the hands. And guess who was there to make the team pay for it? That's right, Joe Thornton.

It was actually a funny goal to watch. Thornton was again alone down low and Budaj, having gone through this one already, was down and covering the corner. However the endless patience of Thornton wore out Budaj who decided to stand up and maybe get ready for a pass. The second he started moving up, Thornton buried it between his legs. I laughed and cried all at once.

Jeff Finger got called for a hook late in the 2nd and you could feel the walls closing in. The Sharks were already 2-for-3 on the powerplay and a goal at this point would essentially cement the win. However it was not to be as Paul Stastny took advantage of a misplay at the blueline by Craig Rivet. He streaked past him, drawing a penalty, and went in on a 2-on-1 with Hejduk. It was a perfectly played 2-on-1 as Hejduk basically kept his stick on the ice to redirect Stastny's perfect pass into the net. Shortie! That kind of goal can really turn the tide in a game.

But fret not! Less than 2 minutes later the Sharks restored their 2-goal lead on a bit of a fluke goal. Well, I don't want to say fluke as it was the result of going to the net and never giving up on the part of Mike Grier. Thornton broke down the wing, flipped a pass out front which Liles tried to bat out of the way, but instead batted it off Grier, then off of Budaj's pad and in. A brief review ensued but this was definitely a goal.

Christian Ehrhoff then took a late penalty but who cares, right? The Avalanche PP is terrible on the road. Well, they had a bit of a redeeming moment as only 8 seconds into the penalty, Andrew Brunette scored a goal off of Kyle McLaren's skate to make it a one goal game again.

Third Period
I missed pretty much the entire third period as I was drifting in and out and finally out for good about halfway through. I did catch the scrum that ensued after Mike Grier crosschecked Andrew Brunette behind the goal, leading Sakic to take offense and wrestle a bit with Marc-Edouard Pickles Vlasic. Wojtek Cherries Wolski and Patrick Rismiller got the gate as they wrestled for a bit too long.

Oh, and you might be saying "Cherries?" Well, the other day while shopping at Extra Foods, I noticed a brand of canned cherries with a name of "Wolski's Canned Cherries". So if Vlasic can be known as "Pickles", I shall now refer to Wolski, on and off, as "Cherries". Nobody else in the hockey world has a similar name, right?


Odds and Ends
- T.J. Hensick was in the lineup for Marek Svatos who was out with a groin injury
- Doug Murray is one tough SOB
- Marleau picked up his game tonight even though he was held off the scoreboard
- Hannan played another solid game
- Budaj was solid even though he didn't make any flashy saves
- Drew Remanda is the most opinionated announcer I've ever listened to
- I hate Joe Thornton, but in a respectful, I-don't-want-to-play-against-him kind of way
- Sharks fans booed Hannan which I thought was terribly unclassy

Scott Hannan and Brett Clark were the ice-time leaders with 24:35 and 24:25 respectively. Both were playing some good physical hockey tonight. No huge open-ice hits but some solid finishing checks along the boards. Kurt Sauer only had 10:29 in ice-time tonight and according to the TOI chart he only had one shift in the third. Hmm...

The teams dished out a combined 57 hits on the night. McLaren and Rivet led the way with 4 each for the Sharks. Guite and Sauer dished out 4 each on the Avalanche end while Hannan and Clark had 3 each. 3 D-men helping lead the way in hits. What a novel idea.

The Avalanche were beaten in the faceoff circle which hasn't been happening lately. Sakic was a dreadful 2 for 11 and Stastny was 6 for 18. Smith was 3 for 4 and Arnason was 6 for 11 to help boost the average.

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