Wild Take 2-1 Series Lead Over Avalanche - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wild Take 2-1 Series Lead Over Avalanche

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Three games. Three Overtime periods. Three 3-2 results.

The Minnesota Wild got their second straight 3-2 OT win over the Colorado Avalanche last night to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home ice advantage.

The Avalanche now have to win tonight so they can head into Minnesota with a fighting chance to extend this series.

This game was the complete opposite of the previous two games. Both teams came out looking tentative, unenergetic and completely lacking of physicality. After the previous two games, I actually found myself about to chant "Boring" at the television screen.

First period
Once again the Avalanche got on the board first. Wojtek Wolski broke down the wing, pulled up short and fed a streaking Sakic. The puck was a bit behind Sakic but he managed to quickly get it in position to take a shot off. Nik Backstrom stopped it easily but he fed the puck straight to Andrew Brunette who had all day to bury it.

That goal brought some life to the Can and things were looking good. If the Wild didn't want to play a defensive game, the Avalanche could continue to stretch out their trap and get some quality chances.

Second Period
In the second period, the Wild had a goal disallowed after Aaron Voros completely bowled over Jose Theodore on his way to the net. The refs immediately waved it off but the guys at CBC were so confused they actually started complaining that it was a bad goal. Voros was in the box and the puck was being dropped in the Avs zone before they finally realized the refs had waved it off. I guess the ref waving his arms and pointing to the penalty box just wasn't enough for them.

Third period
Unfortunately in the third period, the Avalanche pulled their usual work. They gave up a goal midway through after Mikko Koivu found himself unmolested in front of the net. Kurt Sauer and Adam Foote had both gone fishing for the puck in the corner, forgetting that only one of them needed to do that.

Then, while the Avalanche were on a powerplay, Joe Sakic made a terrible pinch leading to a 2-on-1 and the Wild made no mistake. As soon as I saw Sakic take a step towards the puck my heart sank a little bit. That one was so easy to see coming that I don't really know what Sakic was thinking.

However leave it to Joe to make up for it. Barely 3 minutes later, Sakic found a loose puck and backhanded it past a prone Nik Backstrom to tie the game. The Can was alive and we were headed to overtime.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that this game only made it to overtime thanks to Andrew Brunette. With only seconds left on the clock, Brunette dove to break up a pass that surely would have led to a Wild goal. The Wild had been buzzing, passing the puck around with ease in the Avalanche zone and Jose Theodore was down and out after trying to follow the puck for what must have felt like an eternity.

Both teams traded chances with the Wild having an edge in energy it seemed. And sure enough, the game was ended after an Avalanche mistake. Jeff Finger went down to touch up for an icing except he decided to go around the left side of the net while Brian Rolston was heading straight down the right side. The puck then bounced off the boards, off the net and right to Rolston. He fed Pierre-Marc Bouchard who rifled a beauty shot home to end the night.

Now, granted that nobody really expected the puck to bounce like it did there, but Finger should never have gone around the opposite side of the net with Rolston so close on his tail. It's just asking for trouble to leave so much space between yourself and the opponent deep in your own zone, no matter what the situation may be.

Stretch it out
The Avalanche started off this game and were breaking the Wild's 5-man back system by running stretch passes up the middle. Then about halfway through the game they inexplicably started trying to dipsy-doodle through the neutral zone to get the puck to the red line and shoot it in.

I'm really not sure why the change of strategy. Heck, Kelly Hrudey spent 5 minutes talking about how effective the Avalanche had been with the stretch pass and chip-in move. For them to abandon it really makes no sense. The best way to break a trap is to keep the puck moving quickly through the neutral zone, not trying to stickhandle past 5 players.

Sakic slumping?
I know Joe is putting up the points in this series and of course had the huge game winner in game 1 but...something feels off. He's making some odd decisions and looking a bit slow lately. His shot has fallen off again to where it's rolling off the heel of his stick and he just doesn't feel like a threat.

Stastny stuttering
Paul Stastny needs to pick up his play quick, fast and in a hurry. He's been virtually invisible (0pts, -3) this series and looks to be very tentative. For a young player who has always seemed so composed, it really seems like the playoffs are weighing on him.

He needs to wake up and help lead his line which includes Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk because that line is falling apart.

The Avalanche strategy of "Give Forsberg the puck and something will happen" has been easily picked up on by Minnesota so they're draped all over Forsberg. And Milan Hejduk isn't helping by skating around the perimeter and never doing anything useful with the puck.

Stastny needs to tie that line together and he needs to start tonight.

Power play
I think Jibble_cribbits might have jinxed the powerplay yesterday when he wrote an article on the Avalanche powerplay improving. Last night they were 0-for-6 and looked brutal. Overpassing, not keeping the puck in at the line and not showing any desperation.

Rolston shooting it up
Brian Rolston's strategy this series is easy to sum up. "Shoot the puck." No matter where or when this guy gets the puck, he winds up for a big slapper.

I know the old adage of "Shoot the puck and good things happen" but this is getting to be a bit ridiculous.

And of course tonight he's going to score on some weirdly redirected goal after taking a shot from an impossible angle. Sorry for the jinx guys but I just had to say it.

Wrap up
I do have more to say about this game but I've got to head in to work at some point. For some quick notes: Smyth is still being Smyth, Finger needs to smarten up and Tyler Arnason needs to hit something...anything...to get engaged in this series.

Good enough
One last thing to add actually. While linking to Dater's recent blog entry, I decided to give it a read first. You know, I don't want to link to it if it's not a good piece...heh, kidding. Down at the end he made a point I've been bitching about for a while now.

He was bemoaning the Avalanche's style of play where "they overpass and don’t finish that extra check and, well, just think what they’ve already done will be enough to win."

Just enough to get by. Where have we heard that before? Oh right, that's been a motivating theme from the coaching staff all year.

Game time
The series continues tonight at 10:00pm EDT, 8:00pm MT and the Avalanche better come to play. If they don't win this game, they'll have a tall order ahead of them if they want to make it to round 2.

Hopefully Burns and Johnsson are worn out after playing 30+ minutes last night.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
Denver Post Game Recap
Theodore solid in losing effort
Finger or Leopold?
Brunette's magic isn't enough
Foote's defensive feat isn't enough
Wild's Backstrom a saving grace


Jay Veaner said...

Just a few thoughts...
I honestly don't think Sakic is 100%. He needs a summer off, and I hope that summer doesn't come anytime soon, to get better. You're right, he doesn't look quite right out there still.

Paul Stastny has been outplayed by Todd Fedoruk in this series. If that doesn't change we all know what's going to happen.

And I really don't like talking like this about any player on my favorite team, but Tyler Arnason flat sucks. He's killing me. Does he ever even skate hard? I can't watch him anymore.

Anyways, we'll learn a lot about this team tonight. Let's Go Avs!

Shane Giroux said...

Jay, it definitely wouldn't surprise me if Sakic was still ailing a bit. Be it from the surgery or something else, he's just not right out there. And I don't think it's just age catching up with him.

If Q made one change, I'd love to see him replace Arnason with Hlinka. Arnason has been less than useless this series and really doesn't appear to care. He waves his stick at a player in a vain attempt at defensive play and that's about it.

I hope tonight has a more exciting start than last night but this is a couple of tired teams after 3 OT games that included a lot of banging and crashing.

But they need to pull it off or the season is in dire jeopardy heading back to Minny.

Jed said...

1) I would love to be able to see the start of the game, and the whole game through. I am getting tired of having to watch the tail end of the previous game (which I normally watch anyway). And lord forbid the 1st game go into overtime. This is a huge oversight on the NHL's part.

2) I would love for someone to remind the Avs that hockey is at minimum 60 minutes. They keep seeming to stall in the third.

3) How about we win tonights game in regulation (No there are not 4 periods everyone) so that way I can go to sleep and manage to get more than the 3.5 hours I have been getting by staying up to watch them :(

4) Stastny is gonna come up huge tonight, and we *are* going to win in regulation, not before they pull the normal 'give everyone a heart attack' play.