Friday, February 29, 2008

Forsberg to Skate with Sakic

A recent TSN article indicates that coach Q has approached Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg about skating on a line together once Forsberg returns. As TSN notes, I'm sure that was a tough sell! Those two are as familiar with each other as I am with my 5 year old computer and I'm sure the nostalgia factor alone will put them together for a couple games. Hopefully they get enough time to adjust to each other before being broken up for not producing.

It also notes something rather odd. Adam Foote is on record as saying his trade was a shock to him. He thought he was being called to Doug McLean's office to sign his name to a new contract only to be told that he was traded.

The odd part is that Adam Foote has a no trade clause and was widely speculated to have told McLean directly that he would only accept a trade if it was to Colorado. So why did this catch Foote off guard?

I'm sure being traded is always a bit of a shock but it's hard to see in this case. Most of the back and forth was surely with Foote's agent and McLean but it still had to be Foote himself who gave the final ok.

I suppose the wording of the TSN article might be a bit misleading in that Foote was called to McLean's office to ask for the ok on the trade, rather than being told the trade was done.

Maybe I'm just being a stickler for wording.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Clark Out for Remainder of Season

Adrian Dater reports that Brett Clark underwent surgery to repair his dislocated shoulder and is done for the season. With the acquisitions of Foote and Salei, this hurts much, much less than it would have a month ago. And you have to assume FG knew this was coming and that's why he shored up the D with two new bodies.

But honestly, what did the Avs say to the hockey gods this year? Or maybe the team stopped believing in them after missing the playoffs last year and that pissed them off? Oh those hockey gods are vindictive!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Avalanche Rally Late; Beat Canucks in Shootout

Scott Parker gets ready for a tilt against the Vancouver Canucks
(Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Phew! I'm going to be at an event most of the day tomorrow and it's late now but I had to get something up. Even if it's just to say "Wooo!!!!"

Ok, I'll say a bit more. After the Canucks went up by one late in the third on a reviewed goal that barely crossed the line, the Avalanche then tied the game at 2 with just 15 seconds left in the third period. Ruslan Salei displayed superb composure keeping the puck in the zone then fired it at the net where Joe Sakic banged home the rebound.

OT solved nothing and it was off to a shootout where both Joe Sakic and Marek Svatos, not the Avalanche's best SO performers, beat Roberto Luongo and Jose Theodore went 2-2 to bring home a huge W.

And given that Nashville got clobbered 8-4 by Buffalo, that means the Avalanche are back in a playoff spot as they now hold down the 8th seed in the Western conference. Who'd a thunk it?

So in conclusion, Adam Foote = warrior, Jose Theodore = superb, Scott Parker = scary, Darwin Head = millionaire and Joe Sakic = Joe Sakic (ie. god)

Gameday: Avalanche @ Canucks

Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic and Wojtek Wolski celebrate Paul Stastny's OT winnter
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)
After a much-needed win against the Flames last night, the Avalanche have to turn around and concentrate on another familiar foe in the Vancouver Canucks. And how big of a game is this one? Well if the Avalanche can win in regulation then they'll pull even with the Canucks, albeit with a couple extra games played, in the cramped Northwest division.

The Canucks are currently on a 4-game winning streak and you know what they - I - say, the more things stay the same, the more likely they are to change. This is the Canucks longest winning streak of the season and definitely has to end at some point. The Avalanche are 2-1-1 against the Canucks in the season series. and if I were to put money on it, I'd say tonight is the night the Canuck streak ends.

Fatigue factor?
The Avalanche are going to be a mildly fatigued group but I think the squad has really been invigorated by their recent acquisitions and can feed off of that energy. As soon as Foote made his way to the bench last night, you could see players eyes light up and smile like it was Christmas day and they were 10 years old all over again.

Foote effect
If anyone had any doubts on what Adam Foote could bring to this squad, I hope they started being erased last night. No, he didn't flatten anybody in front of the net or lay anybody out along the glass, but he stepped onto the ice and immediately began directing traffic.

There wasn't one time where the camera was on him and he wasn't intensely watching the play and directing someone where to go. That's the kind of leadership the back end was lacking and I can't stress how happy I am to see it. I mean, the guy bled in his first game with the team. What more can you ask for?

Ruslan Salei should be a part of the team tonight unless he has requested extra time to pack up and make the move. I highly doubt it so I fully expect to see him in the lineup and tossing some bodies around. Which would of course mean that there will be one healthy scratch and that man will be Cumiskey. I won't even quantify if with "probably" or "highly likely", I'm calling it a done deal.

Peter Forsberg is more doubtful I believe. Some reports are indicating that he is a possibility for the game but during Forsberg's press conference, he seemed to indicate that he wanted a bit more time before getting into the lineup.

UPDATE: In Dater's recap he notes that Forsberg will join the team in Vancouver but will not play tonight.

Starting Goaltender
It will be Jose Theodore vs Roberto Luongo tonight.

Related Links
TSN Preview

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Avalanche Top Flames in OT

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)
Well that was a bit too close for comfort. I was just cracking the knuckles and getting ready to write another downbeat post about an Avalanche loss. But then the team turned it into a 3-2 win!

Sure, it was an OT win, meaning they only gain one point on the Flames, but it's a huge two points which the Avalanche sorely needed.

After scoring the first goal, a Ryan Smyth backhander, the Avalanche then gave up the next two goals to head into the third period down 2-1. The team didn't look to be fighting hard enough for the equalizer in the third but that didn't stop Milan Hejduk from firing the tying goal past a screened Miikka Kiprusoff.

In overtime the Avalanche were looking good behind Joe Sakic's superb skating. Then John-Michael Liles started a rush into the zone but was tripped up by Jarome Iginla leading to an Avalanche powerplay. After continually trying for a one-timer off to Kiprusoff's right-side, it finally paid off. Hejduk's shot was deflected to Ryan Smyth who fed a behind-the-back pass to Paul Stastny. Stastny had a wide open net and finally made good on putting it home after missing a chance earlier this game as well as a chance to tie the game against Edmonton on Sunday.

Foote's Return
Adam Foote made his triumphant return to the Colorado Avalanche after an afternoon of travel on a private jet to make it to Calgary. He was on the bench with about 6 minutes left in the first period and ended the night with 18:30 in ice-time. It was his first game in so I'm not going to analyze it too hard yet but he looked very solid back there and his leadership was evident very quickly.

Odd man out?
As soon as Foote arrived at the bench, Cumiskey hardly ever left it. It's looking fairly apparent that Cumiskey is going to the odd man out once Ruslan Salei joins the team. It probably didn't help that Cumiskey backed into Theodore rather than pressuring Nolan on the go-ahead powerplay goal.

Who wants the puck?
I still want the Avalanche players to want the puck more. Don't get me wrong, they were forechecking and backchecking quite well tonight but on loose pucks they just don't seem to have that intensity and desire to get the pucks that the Flames, and other opponents, seem to have.

In any sport I've done coaching in, which is really just volleyball and hockey, the first thing I emphasize is that you need to want that puck/ball. At the end of the day, hockey is a game of puck possession. If you don't have that puck, you aren't going to win games.

Oh, Roger Millions and John Garret. You make me want to watch the hockey game in complete silence rather than subjecting myself to your biased ramblings. If I had to hear one more dose of Millions claiming interference or hooking or tripping on completely innocent plays, I might have fired up my car, drove out to Calgary and dropped him. Fortunately for him the battery in my car is dead.

The best things they had to say about the Avalanche was in regards to Jose Theodore and John-Michael Liles, who both played solid games. Other than that, you'd think the Avalanche were the cheapest team in the league with the myriad of uncalled penalties for hooking and, most notably, interference. Hey, just because a player skates in front of another doesn't make it interference.

Oh, and the best line from him, aside from thinking Q is doing a great job? "The Avalanche player interferes with Craig Conroy, knocking him off the puck." Umm...explain to me how it's interference if Conroy was in possession of the puck? You know what, since I can't drive out there, I'll mail you a copy of the NHL rulebook.

Dion Phaneuf
And how about our resident lovechild, Dion Phaneuf? Can anyone look more constipated than he does at all times? The permascowl is really growing old and certainly doesn't intimidate anyone anymore, if it ever did. But his continued cheap shots are what really set him apart from most other douches in the league.

Ben Guite knocked Phaneuf over in his own zone in the second period and you just knew something was going to come of that. Nobody knocks over precious Dion. Nobody! And his revenge? Why it was a cheap shot boarding hit, of course. Guite was directly facing the boards, Phaneuf took a run from across the ice and plastered him from behind. Then when Sauer took exception, Phaneuf immediately came up swinging even as another Flames player tried to intercept Sauer.

There are two things I abhore in hockey. Hits from behind and Dion Phaneuf. You put those two items together and my anger knows no bounds.

Boy, I hate to seem like I'm spending the entire recap ranting but I just can't help it. Playing the Flames really seems to get my goat and most of it boils down to Phaneuf. Well, that and how every fan in attendance still wears red to the games. The Cup run is two years past guys, live in the now!

With a Wild (73 pts) loss tonight, the Avalanche (70 pts) are now 5 points back of the division leading Flames (75 pts) and are 2 points back of a playoff spot. The Wild have one game in hand on the Avalanche and the Canucks, who the Avalanche face tomorrow night, have two games in hand. The game against Vancouver tomorrow is made all the more crucial by that factor.



The RPM line was together at all times and clicking very well scoring all 3 goals. With Parker in the lineup, Q was forced to mix the other lines throughout the game. Wolski eventually found himself back with Arnason and Svatos while Sakic found some time with Guite and Laperriere later in the game. Parker played all of 1:48 tonight.

The defence changed up a bit once Foote arrived. Cumiskey didn't see the ice much after that and Sauer and Foote seemed to alternate with Hannan who hardly left the ice tonight (28:58 in total)

- Sakic stood up for Liles after Godard drilled him (cleanly) in the 1st
- he was also flying around the ice as the game wore on and making room to fire off that wrist shot
- Parker than squared off with Godard to let him know that wasn't cool
- Phaneuf goaded McLeod in the 1st but then backed off once McLeod dropped the gloves
- Liles took a Phaneuf shot in the knee but was back out after a couple shifts
- Hejduk finally found the back of the net for the first time in the last 8 games
- the Avalanche were finishing more checks than the last few games
- Jaymison Masterbuilt donates $75 to the MS Society for each check the Flames dish out
- Liles did not dive

Related Links Event Summary
Denver Post Recap
Rocky Mountain News Recap Recap

Foote Jets to Calgary to Make Game

The Denver Post mentioned in their wrap-up that Adam Foote was on his way to Calgary but the rosters are in on and Foote is listed as a scratch. So Q will be juggling 5 D tonight which should be interesting.

UPDATE: No sooner do I write this than the roster sheet gets updated and Foote is in the lineup with David Jones and Jaroslav Hlinka being the non-injured scratches. Yes, that means Parker is in the lineup tonight. Oh please let Parker crank Phaneuf at some point in the game.

Foote caught a private jet to Calgary and then had a police escort to the arena. That's right, when you're in Canada and you play hockey, we protect the shit out of you. If a car gets broken into while an RCMP office is protecting a hockey player, well that's just a risk we're willing to take. Apparently.

Related Links
Denver Post Trade Day Recap Roster Sheet for Colorado vs Calgary

Deadline Done; Avs Make Two Trades

The deadline is past, the deals are done and it's time to reminisce on what happened. The Avalanche finished the day with two tough defencemen coming over in Ruslan Salei and Adam Foote. To gain these two players, they gave up some draft picks and one player, Karlis Skrastins, who was falling more and more out of favor with coach and fans alike.

Colorado receives:
Ruslan Salei
Adam Foote

Colorado gives up:
Karlis Skrastins
3rd round pick
1st round pick in 08 or 09
conditional pick

The defence just got a lot tougher with that additions of Foote and Salei. Those two may not be spring chickens anymore but they still bring a huge infusion of physicality to a soft squad and that's definitely something the team has been missing. Unfortunately, it will cost the team a first round pick in the draft this summer or next, a 3rd round pick in this years draft and a conditional pick based on Foote re-signing.

The big question to answer is: Will Adam Foote be worth that first-round pick? We'll only be able to truly tell in hindsight but it will be tough not having a 1st round pick in this years deep draft. Of course you can view that on the flip side and say that since this draft is so talented, the 2nd round picks are damn near like late first round picks in most years.

I'm certainly not happy giving up picks, especially first rounders, for aging veterans but I'm happy that our defense won't be so damn weak. I want to seem some bodies crunched against the glass when they break down the wing, not given a little stiff arm shove they just bounce right off of. I want people to fear breaking to the front of the net. I want opposing players to know they need to have their head up at all times or they'll pay for it.

And with the toughening up of the defense, it's now or nothing time for coach Q. As DD writes, he's got 19 games left and no excuses. The "eSSeS" are back, Foote and Salei solidify the D, a weak link has been removed from the chain and Peter Forsberg might help out as well. There is now no reason that this team can't make up those 4 points and at the very least, go down fighting in the playoffs.

When you can form your top line from names like Smyth, Sakic, Stastny, Hejduk, Forsberg and Svatos with enough left over for a second line rivaling many teams first line, you are as far away from problems as you can be. But will Q make anything of this or will the organization eventually cough up some draft picks while missing the playoffs for the second year in a row?

I'm cautiously optimistic.

It's a bit late on this post but I'm going to start adding more polls to the site. The first one is basic but just wait for the one after the game tonight. It'll be tough to make a choice!

Related Links
Who sits?

Done Deal: Foote Returning

Adam Foote and Joe Sakic

After heavy rumours in the last 30 minutes, Francois Giguere has hopped in the Delorean and re-acquired Adam Foote.

I mis-heard the conditions (hey come on, I'm trying to do some actual work at the office!) The deal is for a first-round pick in 08 or 09. If the Avalanche make the playoffs, the pick is in 08 and they don't, the pick is in 09. The other conditional pick is based on Foote re-signing in the offseason.

A guaranteed first round pick for Foote? Ouch. I change my mind a bit. I'm not as pleased with this deal as I was initially, especially if the pick ends up being for this year's draft.

Again, I'll pimp out Jay Onrait's blog with this comment:
Adam Foote has indeed been traded to the Colorado Avalanche as confirmed by TSN's Darren Dreger. This really is unbelievable! They really should talk to Patty Roy about coming back. If Hasek is still playing Roy can still play. Who would you rather have in net if you are an Avs fan? Jose Theodore or roll the dice with a completely out of shape Patrick Roy? I'll take that Roy guy.

Avalanche Acquire Ruslan Salei

The Avalanche have acquired Ruslan Salei in exchange for Karlis Skrastins and a 3rd round pick.

At 6'1", 212lbs and Salei should bring in a tough veteran presence which the Avalanche blueline is sorely lacking. He leads the Panthers, and now the Avalanche, with 122 hits and has always played a pretty hard-nosed game.

He's also picked up his point production in recent years and could hit 30 points again this season. He arrives with the Avalanche in a tie with John-Michael Liles for points by a defenseman with 23.

Salei brings a cap hit of $3M and is signed through the 09/10 season. So he's a bit more expensive than Skrastins but brings more to the table than Skrastins did.

Karlis Skrastins has been a shell of his former self when he was part of the #1 line with Brett Clark. It goes to show that one solid run doesn't mean an average player has broken out of his shell. It just means they had an above average run and are set to return to form. I'm actually happier to see Skrastins gone than I am to see Forsberg back.

James Duthie just chatted with Peter McNabb live from Calgary. McNab said that really nobody saw the Forsberg signing coming (you think!) and that it was a quick deal and may have been influenced by Sundin's decision to go with his heart and stay with Toronto. He also made a good point that the Avalanche now have only 5 healthy defenceman for the game tonight.

From Jay Onrait's TradeCenter blog:
Keith Jones cracks everyone up by suggesting that the Ruslan Salei/Karlis Skrastins deal would have been announced earlier but it took both players too long to get off the ice in practice because neither can skate anymore.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Forsberg's Back!

Peter Forsberg returns to the Colorado Avalanche
Sweet bejeebers.

I thought he only wanted to come back to a contender? The Avalanche are certainly not that, even with Forsberg's return. This makes me wonder if FG is ready to pull the trigger on someone such as Arnason or Brunette.

TSN sources say that Forsberg will earn $5 million (US) prorated for the remainder of the season, approximately $1 million.

If he can reawaken a slumping Milan Hejduk, it'll be well worth the money. And I'm guessing it won't hurt ticket sales at all.

UPDATE: The NHL is certainly capitalizing early.

Related Links
Forsberg Conference Call Transcript
Scott Cullen's Numbers Game
Denver Post Article
RMN Article
Duhatschek Weighs In
Forsberg Sweepstakes Over (written after he announced he was not likely to return)
Me eating my own words

Who Won't be Returning to the Pepsi Center?

The trade deadline is right around the corner and on the heels of a tough 3-2 loss to the Oilers, many Avalanche fans are expecting changes. I suggest you not hold your breath waiting for Rob Blake to come back to town or for Mats Sundin to show up after faking out the media this morning.

If there's one thing GMs, coaches and players alike are renowned for, it's being able to look at the standings and say "We've still got a chance with this squad!" Hell, the Oilers felt they were in the playoff hunt a few short days ago.

With the Avalanche just 4 points back of Nashville for the 8th and final playoff spot, including a game in hand on the Preds, there is no way that Francois Giguere is going to write this season off and start selling the team for picks and prospects. And even if the team was 10 points back, I still don't think it's what Giguere would - or should - do. But that's not to say changes won't be made.

The rumour mill has been heavey on the Avalanche's very own John-Michael Liles as a trade candidate since the preseason. Could last night's defensive collapse help spell the end for the soon-to-be free agent? Well, that all depends on what a team would be willing to give up to get a struggling Liles out of Colorado.

If some folks had their way, it would be Liles for Kaberle straight up. Of course those people seem to forget that JFJ is no longer in charge of the Leafs so a ridiculous trade like that is not going to happen. I don't think Fletcher would part with Kaberle even if the Avs packaged him with a pick and some prospects. Who would the Leafs have left to play actual defence?

And strangely enough, the rest of the team has been pretty much left out of all the speculation. Names like Theodore, Svatos, Wolski and Clark have only come up in messages boards and fan sites as possible candidates. Actually, I don't know of any names besides Stastny who have not been brought up as people who "need to go"

But if you cast away all these players for picks and prospects, who's left to play for the team? Sure, the Avalanche have a decent farm team at the moment but it's certainly not overflowing with NHL ready players. And are any Avalanche fans actually ready for a full-on rebuild? The team hasn't been so terrible as to warrant a gutting and it would be insufferable to watch them tank the rest of the season ala the Oilers after trading Smyth.

But whatever may come on deadline day, don't forget the one truth of making these last minute trades: You always give up something you need to get something you want.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Avalanche Blow Lead Against Oilers

This team continues to amaze me. And not in a good way. Coming out of the first period with a 2-0 lead after dominating the play would seem to indicate that the strategy from that period was sound.

The Avalanche coaching staff felt otherwise. Instead of continuing to press the action, the team tried to sit back and defend the lead. That's right, it wasn't even the third period and the team tried to go defensive. That strategy blows harder than...well you fill in the analogy.

Final score, 3-0 after a 3-shot 2nd period spent trying to play defence and failing miserably.

And this is about all I feel like saying tonight. If I decide that this game wasn't the complete crapshoot I currently feel it was, I'll add some more content. Or if I feel like bitching some more.

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Sakic's return not enough
Colorado squanders fast start
Sakic happy to be back, sad about loss
We don't know anything about hockey

Sakic Activated; Hensick Demoted

Sakic activated, Hensick demoted. I'll consider that a solid tradeoff. No offense to T.J.

So unless he slips on a banana peel prior to the game, we'll see our favorite superstar play for the first time since November 30th last year.

Nearly 3 months without #19 in the lineup is far too long a time.

Gameday: Avalanche @ Oilers

(AP Photo/Roy Dabnor)
It's one of them there "critical Northwest division matchups" tonight as the Avalanche steamroll into Edmonton. Ok, steamroll might not be the right word. How about...limp?

In the month of February the team is 4-5-2 and have dropped down to 9th in the Western conference, 4 points back of Nashville for the 8th and final playoff spot. If the team wants to avoid another 15-2-2 run only to miss the playoffs again, they better start playing well above .500.

Stastny's Return!
Paul Stastny made a triumphant return against the Coyotes as he scored the teams first goal on a great individual effort. If that wasn't taken as a message to the team about how to play hockey, they obviously aren't listening.

He didn't show up in the shootout until the 4th attempt as Q opted to go with Hensick over Stastny as the 3rd shooter. I can't even begin to fathom the reason for that choice. Of course I have no idea why David Jones took a shot before Liles or even Cumiskey but what do I know, I'm not a possible Jack Adams candidate, right?

Sakic's Return?
The cautiously optimistic news which would bolster the club is that Joe Sakic is highly likely to play tonight in Edmonton. Of course the club doesn't want to rush him so I wouldn't be disappointed if he didn't play, but after watching his heroics in the 2002 Gold medal game this morning, I'm really itching to see him back on the ice.

UPDATE: Joe Sakic is 99.99% probable to play tonight after being activated this afternoon.

Starting Goaltender
Jose Theodore will get the start in goal after helping the team win a marathon shootout against Phoenix on Friday. I kept that one recorded and watched the shootout again yesterday when I was bored. That doesn't mean I agree with the use of a shootout to decide an extra point, but you've got to admit...they can be exciting.

Mathieu Garon will be in net at the other end while Dwayne Roloson continues to ride the pine. The Oilers had a mini-controversy earlier this week when the media reported that Dwayne Roloson wanted out of the city and had moved his family to Ontario. Roloson quickly clarified the comment stating that he has not asked for a trade and his family moved because of the travel schedule the Oilers have remaining. Ah, to play for an NHL team in Canada. You can't break wind without a reporter dreaming up a way to spin it as you asking for a trade or being unhappy with the coach.

I believe Jeff Finger is still out of the lineup with a hand injury so Skrastins will find himself in the lineup again. The team is already missing Brett Clark, much the chagrin of the Brett Clark haters, and losing Finger does not help in the least. Shot blocks and physicality are cornerstones of solid defence and the team is absent their top player in both categories. It looks like some players *cough*Hannan*cough* will need to step it up a couple notches.

Game time
The Avalanche have had the Oilers number so far this year and I see no reason that won't continue even with their recent struggles. The puck drops at 8:00pm ET and I get to watch on the Sportsnet feed. Joy of joys.

Related Links Preview
Smyth's return still emotional
Avs need to score at trade deadline
Ask the players: Who would you be? (I love Finger's answer)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Semi-confirmed: Finger Out with Wrist Injury

A generally highly reliable source on the Avalanche message boards just posted that Jeff Finger has been sent back to Denver with a wrist injury.

If true, that is nothing short of terrible news. With Clark out the defense is missing their top shot blocker. With Finger out, they'd also be missing their top physical player.

Seriously, could the defense be any more soft without those two?

Update: It's all but confirmed. He's off the ice, the announcers have made a vague reference to Finger's absence and has started raining frogs. That's one of the signs of the apocalypse, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stastny to Return Against Coyotes

Source: Rocky Mountain News

Of course, this assumes he doesn't wake up tomorrow with a concussion.

Oh, and Theodore is in goal but apparently that was the plan all along based on a report from a fan who attended practice on Tuesday.

Ducks Defeat Avalanche in Shootout

(AP Photo/Mark Terrill)
It was too late to muster up energy for a recap last night and I'm now at work doing actual work stuff so the recap will be short and sweet. Plus I forgot my notes at home so I'm going straight to the ol' memory bank.

Like a chicken heading to the slaughterhouse
The Avalanche managed to take a 2-1 lead into the third period against the "defending champs" (seriously Altidudes, we know they won the Cup last year) and managed to squander it into a shootout loss.

How did they do that? By forgetting that they scored their 2 goals via some solid forechecking and net presence and deciding that they better cling to the lead for dear life and hope for the best. I'm not sure how many times JQ is going to get the crew to use that strategy before he realizes it has a minimal success rate.

Does Q really think that a 2-1 lead against the Ducks is a safe lead to try and protect? Does he really think this is the team to do it with? Does he really still care about making the playoffs?

How many periods per game?
The team actually looked decent for the first 40 minutes and played a very solid second period. Of course, as soon as they started playing good in the second the announcing crew was all over the coaching staff for how good a job they've done all year long in preparing the team for the second period. The only problem with that is that there are two other important periods of hockey to play around that middle frame and it seems those are the two that the coaching staff just can't figure out.

The third period will always be the most important period and it's the one where the Avalanche game plan (if one exists) typically goes to hell. "Dump and chase" turns into "Dump and fallback" and the players become so frightened of making a mistake that they can't even clear the puck out of the zone. I don't know how many times an Avalanche player had the puck, could have cleared it, and instead decided to try and protect it from a Duck player and ended up losing it.

I hope every single player who did that this game got an earful from someone. Anyone. Hell, I'll go in and yell at them for a while if it'll help.

And of course, the game-tying goal was off of a failed clear. I'll give them a bit of leeway there since it was Chris Pronger and his 10' leaping frame that kept the puck in the zone.



Everything including defensive pairings was changed tonight but the players didn't look too confused out on the ice. Wolski was dropped to the fourth line with Scott Parker (wha?) while Andrew Brunette took his slot with Arnason and Svatos. Guite, Smyth and Laperriere formed a grind line while Hensick, McLeod and Hejduk formed that "don't know what to do" line.

Jaroslav Hlinka and Karlis Skrastins were healthy scratches.

Without my notebook I'm a bit lost on these ones but I do remember writing the words "Pronger" and "douche" quite a few times. The first was when he popped our resident tough guy Tyler Arnason after a whistle. Arnason hadn't even done anything. Pronger knocked him down in the front of the net, Arnason wasn't on top of the goaltender and Pronger gave him a cross check while he was down. Arnason then got up and shoved Pronger to which Pronger responded by punching him in the face. Classy.

Seriously, why does Canada have to have the two biggest defensive d-bags?

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Recap
DenverPost Recap
Rocky Mountain Recap Recap
Liles Lacking Power Point Presentation
Dater's Mailbag

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sad Day in Avalanche Fandom

After last night's shellacking, there are a lot of sad and angry people in the Avalanche fandom. Can you be sad and angry at the same time? You bet. Hell, I'm sad, angry, embarrassed and a little thirsty, all at the same time.

Over at MHH, Joe and Mike have weighed in on who should stay and who should go. Some interesting lists for sure. It appears that most fans have decided that it's time for the Avalanche to becoming sellers and declare this season's Stanley Cup dreams as nothing more than high fantasy. But will the organization see it the same way?

The Avalanche are currently in 10th place in the Northwest but a win against Detroit last night would have catapulted them into 7th. So the playoffs are still within view even though the horizon is stretching farther away. At the moment, the Avalanche have a 40% shot of making the playoffs. And don't forget the most important part, every significant percentage point left to be gained rests at the hands of the Avalanche, not at their opponents. So the old cliche of "They hold their destiny in their hands" is as apt as it ever will be.

The only trouble with the idea of gutting it out and fighting for a playoff spot with the belief that "this squad can do it!" is that it reminds me a lot of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are a team that has been mired in mediocrity for many seasons and the main reason - I think - is that the organization defines success simply as making the playoffs. In other words, selling more tickets, beer and hot dogs. So if there is an outside shot at getting into the playoffs, the Leafs won't bother selling any significant assets to build for the future.

This makes them a perpetual bubble team as they just replace a few spare parts here and there for a playoff run rather than rebuilding their roster for a Cup run down the line and I fear the same is happening with the Avalanche. Of course it's only been one year that the Avalanche have missed the playoffs and they've got 2 Stanley Cups in the past 12 years to go along with that so they're a long way from becoming like the Leafs. But the warning signs are popping up.

Francois Giguere needs to make a long-term decision very quickly and I think the right choice is to sell a few assets with an eye for the future. I don't want him to gut the team but there are some expendable players (Brunette, Arnason, Skrastins, Theodore) who could bring some returns if packaged together with some other players (Liles, Svatos, Clark, Budaj) and prospects (Williams, Stoa, Galiardi). And of course my feelings on the coaching staff have been made clear. If changes don't happen there, the roster changes are a moot point.

And don't forget, becoming a seller doesn't immediately count a team out of the playoff hunt. We witnessed what a squad absent their three top dogs and filled with minor leaguers could do and it made us proud.

And frankly that's all I want from this team. The feeling of pride from being a fan of the Avalanche.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Red Wings Destroy Avalanche 4-0

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
It truly pains me to have put up that headline. Destroys is a tough word to use against your favorite team and I don't use it lightly.

If the Avalanche were to lose to the Wings, which they've a lot of experience with these days, then ok. They're a great team, albeit in a bit of a slump at the moment, while the Avalanche have been barely above mediocre all season. But to get destroyed by them is just too much.

Right foot
The game started off all right as the Avalanche looked to have some jump in their step after a tough loss yesterday. They managed to find some open ice, keep their feet moving, make some decent passes and even got a couple shots off. Then Lappy took out Nik Lidstrom and the game started changing.

Wrong foot
Next thing you know the Avalanche are falling back to their ways of not forechecking, not outmanning the other team, failing to clear the puck and being complete and utter failures on special teams. Oh, and they still aren't winning faceoffs. But that's the least of their concerns.

Honestly, how can you get only two shots off in the second period when you were down by two goals to start the frame? Maybe the team took the coaching staff too literally when they undoubtedly pulled this line out during intermission: "Two shots, two goals. That's all we need boys!"

Cody McLeod and Tony Granato Making Me Un-proud
Early in the third Lappy and Downey looked to square off a second time. Unfortunately Lappy's 10 foot run at Downey wasn't enough as Lappy bounced off him hard. And if that wasn't enough embarrassment, Cody McLeod started punching at Wings players on the bench. He then proceeded to jaw all the way off the ice after the refs decided to eject him rather than just a 10-minute unsportsmanlike.

There are two kinds of intensity in sports - the good kind and the idiotic kind. McLeod needs to learn the difference and learn it fast.

Oh and Granato, did you really start yelling at Babcock over that play? Lappy took the run at Downey and they both got the sticks up and you flip out? Geez, I never thought I'd be embarrassed watching an Avs game from the comfort of my own home but I was proved wrong tonight. The coaching staff is more upset over an altercation like that than by the awful play of their team. Unbelievable.

Because I know it's happening now and was probably happening after the second goal, I'll just say this: anyone who puts this loss at the feet of Jose Theodore has their head firmly embedded in their ass.

Super stat
The Avalanche have now gone just over 214 minutes without scoring a goal against the Wings. I believe that stat alone officially ends the "rivalry", don't you?

Fixing the team
This team can be fixed but it's very apparent that this coaching staff is not going to get it down. The team is heading towards the beginning of a non-playoff streak and as Jibble noted in his blog today, everything starts at the top.

The offseason game plan has to start with a shakeup in the coaching staff and I'm very anxious to see if Francois Giguere agrees with that line of thinking. Or if Pierre Lacroix or even Stan Kroenke take it up a notch and scrap Giguere - which I highly doubt.

Caption contest
I guess I should try and caption that Babcock picture. How about something like "Mike Babcock tries to figure out why Joel Quenneville is still coaching in the NHL" Ah, I was never great with cheeky captions.

Related Links Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes

Peter Forsberg Sweepstakes Over

UPDATE: It weren't over til the fat lady sang.

The Peter Forsberg sweepstakes are over and everybody is a loser. TSN is reporting that Don Baizley, Forsberg's agent, has begun advising teams that Peter is not confident enough with his foot to attempt a return.

He hasn't announced his retirement but it's seeming very unlikely that we'll ever see Peter Forsberg suit up for another NHL team.

With that thought in mind, here is the best Peter Forsberg tribute video I've ever seen - R. Kelly notwithstanding. It was created by Green lantern from the Avalanche forums shortly after Forsberg had signed with the Flyers after the lockout.

Blackhawks Outmuscle Avalanche

(Jonathon Daniels/Getty Images)
I woke up early for volleyball, only got in one game since one team cancelled, and I thought "Sweet, I'll be home in time to watch the game live." If only I'd known what was waiting for me on the other side of that television.

The Blackhawks ran circles around the Avalanche and just for good measure, they pushed them around like schoolyard bullies too. I found myself more frustrated by the lack of response to the Hawks physicality than I was by the Avalanche's lack of offense. If the freight train that is Dustin Byfuglien steamrolling Milan Hejduk doesn't get the team pissed off and fired up, then what will?

It feels ridiculously ironic that after getting Ryan Smyth back, supposedly signed for grit and offense, the team loses all its grit and a good chunk of its offense. I'll tell you what, I doubt this sort of turnaround would happen with solid coaching.

Coaching Prowess
But once Sakic and Stastny are back and the team continues to underachieve, the media story will either turn completely away from the Avalanche or gloss over the idea that the coaching squad is limiting the capabilities of the team. Whether it comes to the powerplay or to line matching or to the overall strategy of this team, not a lot appears to be working.

Hell, Guite and Lappy were the only two players with any jump yesterday and they only played 11 and 13 minutes respectively. A coach needs to recognize what works and roll with it during a game, not go with the old, tired routine no matter the situation. You have to be flexible and adjust to different teams gameplans and styles.

Dump and chase is a reasonable strategy for a team to employ. But you can't employ a dump and chase while playing a four-man back trapping system. It's just basic mathematics that one person in the corner won't be able to attain or maintain control of the puck against two or three opposing defenders.

The same theory holds true on the powerplay. The Avalanche continuously have one person on each corner, 2 players at the point and another circling in the high slot. And what happens when the puck is down in the corner? The penalty killers collapse on that one player forcing a pass, which is typically short pass to a player who has snuck behind the net and the other forward goes high on the boards to block clears. But if that player never chips in to outnumber the penalty killers down low, the penalty killers will always win. And I won't even get into the audacity the team has to continue putting a forward on the point no matter how many times they get burned by it.

Low end of the stats scale
The Avalanche are 29th on the powerplay, 22nd on the penalty kill, 15th in goals against, 16th in goals scored and 29th in faceoff percentage. Those numbers are going to make their playoff hopes a 50/50 shot at best. And as a matter of fact, they lie just below the 50% line at the moment according to the Sports Clubs Stats playoff picture numbers. The loss yesterday was a huge blow to their chances.

Upcoming Games
The Avalanche have a nasty schedule coming up with 6 games in the next 10 days including contests against the Wings today and the Ducks on Wednesday closing out with games against the Flames, Oilers and Canucks. Oh, and after the Wings game today, the rest of the games are on the road. This team needs to wake up and they better do it yesterday.

Related Links Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Denver Post Recap
Confidence Starts at the Top

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy Friggin Valentine's Day

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Valentine's Day. That time of the year to celebrate with the loved one. So I go pick up a gift, we head out to a movie, then we come back home in time to watch this crap. I'll put up more tomorrow but for now, I'm going to bed and will hopefully forget about this game.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Theodore and the Elephant

In my post-game wrapup after the Canucks game, I pondered what the deal was with the #33 and elephant on the back of Jose Theodore's mask. I speculated that he was a closet Republican who still had feelings for Patrick Roy but today Adrian Dater sets the record straight.

Someone submitted the same question for Dater's weekly mailbag and the answer is thus:

Theodore has an elephant on the back of his mask because there was a time in our world's history when a picture of the great beast, with his trunk upturned, was considered a good-luck charm...

Interesting. And if the trunk is downturned that probably means you should back away from the elephant as quickly as possible.

As for the number 33:
...As for why he has the No. 33 with the elephant, it is NOT an homage to Patrick Roy. When he played in juniors and the minors, Theodore wore the No. 33. But when he made it with the Canadiens, that number was no longer an option - as Roy was still with the team when he had his first training camp with Montreal - and it was not available when he was traded to the Avalanche, either. So, he chose the No. 60. But he considers 33 his "real" number, so he said he wanted to at least have it on his mask.

Well, I guess he is neither a Republican nor a Patrick Roy fan. He is a bit superstitious though so fits in quite well with goaltenders everywhere.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Smyth in the Lineup Tomorrow but Clark...Not So Much

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Two things became official today, one good and one bad. Of course since we're talking about the Avalanche, that means some injury updates!

Ryan Smyth will be in the lineup for tomorrow's game against St. Louis. That absolutely blows me away. lately I tend to tack on a couple weeks padding to the announced return dates but they got this one right so I'll tone back my slagging of the medical crew a bit.

And in the bad news, it is a dislocated shoulder for Brett Clark and he is out indefinitely. Regardless of whether people think Clark is a top-notch defenceman, he is needed on the Avalanache blue line. The oft-scratched Skrastins will become a regular in the lineup while both Clark and Cumiskey are on the IR.

Also, in what might put an end to the "Q for Adams" folks, when talking about Brett Clark's injury he stated:
"Guys have gotten through it...It’s up to that crew to continue to do the same."

There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. The players pick up the slack when others go down to injury, not the coach.

Related Links
Denver Post Report

Ducks Waddle Past Avalanche

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Avalanche were less than 5 minutes away from snagging a point but it wasn't meant to be. With just 4:21 left in the third, Sammy Pahlsson broke the 1-1 deadlock as he found a lose puck in the crease and put it past Jose Theodore.

The Avalanche played a good game and were in this one right to the end. Unfortunately the team looked a little too content to just make it to OT rather than pushing to win it in regulation. Well, that worked out well didn't it? I wonder what the Avalanche's record is when the game is tied midway through the third. I'd guess not so good since it seems they get burned every time by playing for the extra point.

I'll open with some fight details as this one had a lot of festivities at the end of the second period. Some of it comical, some of it annoying. It all started when Ian Laperriere dished out a solid check on Kent Huskins (if memory isn't failing me). Shortly after, Ryan Getzlaf decided he needed to teach Lappy a lesson for some reason. So, after clearing a stick out form between their feet, those two squared off and danced for a while. Lappy mostly caught Getzlaf on the back of the head and then took the bigger man down to the ice.

Shortly after this happened, Ben Guite and Kent Huskins then decided to go at it. I'm guessing Guite said something like "What, you need your mommy to stick up for you?" At least, that's what I would have said. So those two go at it with Guite catching Huskins with a couple rights and taking him to the ice. Those two earned misconducts for fighting during a stoppage in play.

So with Guite and Lapperriere in the box, Carlyle sent out the goon squad including George "Borat" Parros and Brian "Douche" Sutherby. Sutherby had already fought Cody Mcleod earlier in the second but this time he decided to line up against Milan Hejduk. He actively tried to goad Hejduk into a fight which I'd guess is like trying to goad a nun into a strip club. You could actually see Hejduk say "Why me?" at one point which actually mad me a bit sad. Sure, Hejduk has never fought in his career but I'd like to think he'd man up a bit about it.

Oh and in case you missed it, yes, Quenneville responded to Carlyle sending the goons out by sending his #1 line out. Are you freakin' kidding me? I understand that a couple tough guys were in the box but you could at least put Mcleod out there and toss out Hannan, Finger, Sauer and Brunette (he may not be a fighter but he's a big boy). Yes that's 3 defenseman but there was only 3 seconds left in the period. Was nothing learned from the Buffalo-Ottawa brawl last season?

It's those little coaching battles that seem to get misjudged by Q which would keep me from ever considering him coach of the year. No offense to the Versus crew who have jumped on the Q for Jack Adams bandwagon that has recently started up.

When the team was underachieving there was no mention of it being a coaching issue. But now that the team is overachieving, it's all coaching? It's similar to Theodore's run as of late. While it's been nice, it makes you go "Where the hell has that been?"

One good run does not make up for two years of underachieving.

Theodore again played a solid game and really couldn't be blamed for either goal. The first goal was a 5-on-3 and I'll give any goaltender the benefit of the doubt on a 5-on-3. The second goal was more bad luck than anything. A centering attempt popped free and Pahlsson was in the right spot to clean it up.

JS Giguere put in a good performance at the other end. And by "good performance" I mean "let pucks hit him and hoped his defense would clear it out". Have you ever seen a goaltender play the way this guy does? He does a great job at getting in front of the puck but it's almost like he closes his eyes and hopes for the best once he goes down.

Marek Svatos continued his hot streak early as he scored just 1:37 into the game. Again, he picked up a rebound behind the defenders and got it past Giguere for his 25th of the year. That puts him on pace for 36 goals this season and if he keeps it up, he's got a shot at breaking the 40 barrier.

Svatos fired off 7 shots in the game followed by Wolski with 6 and Hejduk with 5.But other than the Wolsk-Arnason-Svatos line, there wasn't a ton of chances after the first period. Hejduk still looks real smooth with the puck but he doesn't seem to be clicking with his linemates.

If having Paul Stastny sit out with a groin injury wasn't enough to annoy everyone, Brett Clark went very awkwardly into the boards and came away hurting. From the way he held his arm it would appear he dislocated his left shoulder. Super! At least Q was forced to dress 7 defensemen tonight.

Oh, and when I edited my post yesterday noting I spotted McCormick being listed on the injured reserve? It wasn't a mistake. He was out with a shoulder injury. Did somebody take Thor's name in vein or call Poseidon a pussy or something? Cause the gods really have it out for the Avs this year.


What?! Skrastins on wing? Well, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Scott Parker was out with the flu and Kyle Cumiskey is still bothered with a groin injury so that forced Q's hand.

Odds & Ends
- Jeff Finger, as solid as he's become, still makes some boneheaded defensive moves from time to time
- Wolski was out killing the 5-on-3 and was on when the goal was scored
- the Pepsi Center fans were still booing Bertuzzi (and anyone with a 4 in their jersey number it seemed)
- I admire Q's confidence to go off the map with his tie choices but he's missing more than he's hitting lately
- TSN's TradeCenter starts at 8:00 am ET deadline day which is a waste of air time if you ask me
- Francois Beauchemin is solid but gets lost in the stardom of the rest of the Ducks blueline

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stastny Not Suiting Up

Stop the organs and send the choir back home. The Denver Post is reporting that Paul Stastny is now bothered by a groin injury. Does this team have issues with stretching or something? Do they need to introduce some pilates to their training regiment?

Maybe the team just needs new trainers who can tell the difference between a broken and sprained ankle. Or whether hernia surgery has successfully healed or not. And could help prevent recurrence of groin injuries.

EDIT: I was just looking at the Avs roster page and Cody McCormick is listed as being on the IR. I'm going to assume it's a mistake at the moment as I've seen no news about him being injured. He was in the lineup against Vancouver putting in about 10 minutes of ice-time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Smyth, Sakic and Stastny Strap on Skates

The alliteration in that headline is almost too much to bear but I'm guessing nobody will complain!

Yes, Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny were all on the ice today with Smyth and Stastny participating in the practice - with contact - and Sakic doing some light skating before the practice started.

Paul Stastny is still listed as questionable for Tuesday's game against Anaheim but Smyth might be back with the team for Sunday's game in Chicago.

If I hear hear a church choir singing "Glory, glory, hallelujah" in my head, is that blasphemous in any way?

Related Links Rink Report

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ho-say? No way!

Last night we were treated to some Jim Hughson commentary for the Vancouver Canucks-Colorado Avalanche matchup. I love listening to Hughson and think he's one of the best in the game. His partner was Craig Simpson whose performance was not terribly profound but not dreadful.

My main beef with Simpson was that he lacked the ability to correctly pronounce José Theodore's name. Typically I don't care too much but it had been so long since I'd heard anyone refer to José (Zho-zay) as "Ho-say" that I assumed the matter had been settled.

In case anyone wasn't aware, Mr. Theodore is of Francophone decent, not Spanish. I'm not sure who ever decided that Ho-say was the proper way of pronouncing his name but I'd guess it was a person who didn't know the difference between Spanish and French.

Also, his last name is Thee-uh-door, not Tay-a-dore. I know Tay-a-dore sounds like a French phrase but it's wrong. Again, Tay-a-dore sounds more Spanish than French. At least he didn't combine "Ho-say" and "Tay-a-dore" as that combination might have caused me to have an embolism.

So the lesson is this: if you aren't French and don't know any French, don't try to pronounce a Francophone name as a French-speaking person would. And really, that goes for any other nationality. Either find out from someone who knows or butcher it with an English slant. Don't butcher it by trying not to butcher it. The irony makes it all the more annoying.

Just call him "Joe-say Theo-door" and nobody will complain.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Avalanche Beat Down Canucks

The Canucks have to be hurting tonight after the Avalanche laid the smack down on them in a 6-2 drubbing to cap off Hockey Day in Canada. With the win, the Avalanche stay just one point back of the Northwest division leading Wild. Who would have thought that with Sakic, Smyth and Stastny gone, this team would be contending for the Northwest division crown?

We'll start this one off on a bad note. Paul Stastny did not make his triumphant return to the lineup tonight as he remains on the IR list. So what exactly does that mean? Yes, it's yet another misdiagnosis. I know I'm kind of beating a dead horse but honestly guys, no news is better than fake news. Or you could just give us the truth.

How about that second line of Wolski, Arnason and Svatos? That line had a combined 9 points on the night including 3 hard working goals.

Marek Svatos continues his rise as he put in two typical Marek Svatos goals to bring his total on the season to 24. He is on pace to break his rookie goal scoring mark of 32 and is well on his way to signing a longer-term contract this summer. As long as he never forgets that he's an opportunistic goal-scorer and not Alexander Ovechkin, I'm all for it.

Tyler Arnason, sporting a visor tonight, racked up 3 more points (1g, 2a) and he now has 12 points in his last 7 games. It's about time he started picking it up as he did virtually nothing for the first half of the season after being re-signed to a two-year contract over the summer.

And to everyone's hopes, Milan Hejduk's two goals tonight could be the start of him breaking out of his goal-scoring funk. Of course we all think that every time he scores a goal in any game but dreams never hurt anybody. Unless you live on Elm Street.

And any day you chase Luongo from the net has to count as a good offensive day.

Jose Theodore put in another solid performance as he stopped 23 of 25 shots to get his 15th win of the season. He now sports a GAA of 2.43 and a save percentage of .908. That means he's more likely to let in 2 goals in a game than 3. When was the last time we could say that?

Kelly Hrudey did a brief "rise and fall and rise again" on Theodore during his Behind the Mask segment. Some of you may recall that last year Hrudey said that Theodore may have become the worst goaltender in the NHL. He also clarified that it gave him no joy to say this. Well last night it gave him joy to say that Theodore is no longer the worst goaltender in the NHL - Welcome back Dan Cloutier! - and that he is starting his rise back to the top.

Whether he'll ever reach the top again is impossible to say but for now, he's making the saves he should make, a few that he shouldn't and he's putting up big fat "W"s in the standings.

There were plenty of these tonight as the Canucks were obviously a frustrated team. Ian Lapperiere had the first fight as he met Nathan McIver coming out of the penalty box and nicely told him to not mess with Marek Svatos. McIver had roughed up Svatos in front of the net after he scored the 3-0 goal and I guess Lappy thought was it was a classless move that needed to be rectified.

Then early in the third period Cody McCormick and Luc Bourdon went at it after McCormick laid a fairly innocent hit on Bourdon. Bourdon won the fight but took away the "Doucheback of the night award", typically reserved for Dion Phaneuf, as he continued to wail away on McCormick after McCormick was down. McCormick got back up and threw a few shots while the linesmen were in there which earned him a 10-minute misconduct.

And finally Nathan McIver again got into it only this time it was with our other Cody. I'm not even sure what caused this one other than Vancouver being all "Vancouverish" about being blown out.

Also, Alex Burrows should have got a beating after he ran Scott Hannan at the end of the game. I mean come on, 6-2 and the games almost done. Just let it be over, don't stat running people.

And in the same vein but for an unrelated game, what was with the Senators being pricks in their 6-1 win over Montreal? Is it really necessary to deliver big hits in the final 5 minutes when you're up by five goals?


No surprises here as there isn't really anything else Quenneville could do with this lineup. TJ Hensick continues to center the fourth line but also plays on the #1 PP line which he has helped spark as of late.

Vigneault did his best to line match but it actually ended up backfiring as the Sedin line was on the ice for the first two goals against.

- what does the elephant and #33 on the back of Theo's mask mean? Is he a Republican who cheered for Patrick Roy?
- Mick McGeough (I think that's all that needs to be said)
- while some may not like Hrudey's analysis, there's no doubting that he's an all-around nice guy
- Jim Hughson called Theodore "wrong-handed" which could be taken as offensive to all the lefties in the world
- Ian Lapperiere was still blocking shots with a 6-2 cushion
- Byron Ritchie is annoying

Related Links Event Summary Recap
Denver Post Recap

Friday, February 8, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche @ Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks host our beloved Avalanche tonight in game #3 of CBC's Hockey Day in Canada. That's right, an entire day dedicated to the glorious sport of hockey. Given that it's -31°C here - without the windchill - I just might cozy up on the couch and watch every minute of it.

The first game has the unbeloved Wings heading to Toronto for an Original Six matchup followed by a battle of Northeast division rivals as the Montreal Canadiens head to Ottawa. That should be an intense game as Montreal is making a push to take over 1st place in that division.

And finally, the Avalanche are in Vancouver for a game which doesn't start until 10:00PM ET and you know what the means. Yep, lots of Avalanche fans falling asleep before the final buzzer has sounded. Thank goodness for PVRs.

Paul Stastny was tentatively set to return tonight but Adrian Dater provided an update where he thinks the chances of Stastny being in the lineup tonight are pretty slim. So it could be another case of us getting our hopes up only to have them punctured like a cheap bike tire on a gravel road.

Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth are inching closer and closer to returns as well. At least based on the "no news is good news" theory. Dater has a piece up talking about the blasphemous thought of this injury ending Sakic's career. The longer he has to sit out, the more retirement thoughts will pop into his head so I hope he's ready to go soon. The ice sheet is calling you, Joe!

Jose Theodore is back between the pipes after a win against the Sharks on Wednesday. I still find it hard to believe that Q has chosen a #1 this early in the season. And yes, I said "early" even though the season is almost 3/4 over.

A long time ago I went searching for an Avalanche podcast. You know, back when podcasts first started appearing and became the new sliced bread of the Internet. The one I did find was unfortunately a little disappointing and I never went searching for one again.

But a couple days ago, one came calling. A fellow named Jay Vean left a comment on my Remembering a Tragedy post which pointed me over to his site. So I checked it out and I have to tell you, I loved it.

It sounds and feels professionally produced and Mr. Vean has a voice made for radio, that's for sure. I highly encourage you to subscribe to it via iTunes or whatever podcast software you use.

Related Links
Remembering a Tragedy
Avs Hockey Podcast
The Return of Foppa
Dater's Mailbag
Finishing First as Good Guy
TSN Gameday

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Remembering a Tragedy

Earlier in January, Bathurst, N.B. had to come to grips with a painful experience. A van carrying a load full of high-school basketball players crashed into a tractor-trailer, killing seven players as well as the coaches wife.

The tragedy of that incident prompted Ray MacGregor to remember a similar tragedy from 2 decades ago. This one involved a WHL hockey team, the Swift Current Broncos, and the Avalanche's current captain, Joe Sakic.

I grew up not far from Swift Current which opportuned me the pleasure of watching Joe Sakic during his junior years. Always the quiet, consumate leader, it wasn't until much later that I truly grasped the impact that accident had on shaping who he was as a player, as a person and as a leader.

I don't have many memories of when I heard of the accident as I was still fairly young at the time but I do still remember the memorial set up at the Civic Centre. Once I was old enough to understand the concept of death, passing by that memorial drew a brief chill and a moment of reflection on those players.

Mr. MacGregor's article brought that feeling back and then some.

Click here for the whole article.

Stastny Returning Soon; Theodore Returning Now

The Avalanche are soon to get one of their stars back from the IR list. Paul Stastny skated for a full practice today and should join the team on their upcoming road trip against San Jose and Vancouver.

This is just terrible news. I mean, how many more players can the Avalanche afford to...oh sorry, that was just a kneejerk reflex there. Having Stastny, the teams leading scorer, back in the lineup is nothing but good news. Hell, it's amazing news. It's the best news I've heard since I found out Raine Maida was coming to town.

Sure, other players are stepping up but when you lose your leading scorer, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that it's a huge blow no matter how the players slice it to the media.

JM Liles showed confidence in the current lineup in not needing to rush Stastny back and displayed some extreme confidence in the team's playoff hopes:

“We have to make sure he’s healthy and that there’s not any lingering effects so we can have him for the stretch run and the playoffs.”

No quantifiers or qualifiers there. It's playoffs or bust!

In other news from today's practice, Joel Quenneville stated that Jose Theodore will get the start against San Jose on Wednesday night. I'm sure this will start another round of "OMG! Theo teh suxorz/r0xorz!" across Internet forums which is always good for a chuckle.

In the end, aside from a stellar performance against the Red Wings, Budaj looked ok in his other two starts and if we want Quenneville to stick with one guy then going back to Theodore is the right choice.

On paper.

Related Links
Tuesday's Rink Report

Coyotes Steal One from Avalanche

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Boy did that ever leave a sour taste in my mouth. Phoenix stole an extra point from the Colorado Avalanche when midway through OT, Shane Doan crashed the net and either gloved the puck in, or put it in with his broken stick to give the Coyotes a 4-3 victory.

This one is going to leave a sour taste for fans and players for quite some as well. There were a multitude of factors that should have led to this goal being called back but it appeared that the Coyotes clearing off the ice right away may made all the difference.

No matter how you cut that goal though, this game should have never made its way to overtime in the first place. After grabbing the lead midway through the third period, the Avalanche gave up a goal which could have been avoided.

In an offensive zone faceoff, the crew lined up were Tyler Arnason, Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos. Not exactly the strongest faceoff trio. It got even worse when Tyler Arnason got booted from the draw and Marek Svatos took his place. Now, I have no idea who decided Svatos should go as opposed to Wolski but that was also a bad move.

Svatos ended up losing the faceoff due to his skates being cemented to the ice and Radim Vrbata streaked to the net in what appeared to be a set play. Reinprecht fed him the puck and Peter Budaj stood there watching Vrbata put it into the wide open net.

Now, I'll give it to Q that Hlinka and Guite had just finished a shift so weren't a great option. However it's late in the game, you're nursing a one-goal lead and you put out your least defensively responsible line? In the immortal words of the Internet..WTF?

The Disputed Goal
A lot of people have already broken this one down already including DD and AD so I won't detail it too much. What I will say is what I said previously, for that puck to go in Doan had to either poke it in with a broken stick, with his hand or by shoving Budaj into the net. Last time I checked, those were not legal ways of scoring a goal.

The refs - and the Coyotes who ran off the field quicker than a doctor diagnoses Britney Spears as batsh*t crazy (sorry, the Patriots analogies were too easy) - disagreed. After a token review, not only was the goal counted but it was awarded to Radim Vrbata. Of course, there's no way they could call it Doan's goal as that would be admitting a mistake.

The other issue is the whistle heard shortly after the puck crosses the goal line. Now, this is of course speculative but on watching and listening to the replay, I have a hard time believing that the referee did not intend to blow his whistle before the puck crossed the goal line. And the rule isn't about when the whistle was blown, it's about when the referee intended to blow the whistle. Of course, that's tough to conclusively determine via a replay and you have to rely on the referee's word.

And which referee blew the whistle anyways? I never could tell but it didn't look like the ref behind the net did it. Which draws even more credence to this being a non-goal as there is no way the trailing ref could have seen the puck cross the line but he definitely could have been whistling the play dead.


Hensick started out centering the top line again but was demoted to the fourth line as Hlinka got promoted to the first line.

Brad Richardson has been making a case to stay with the big team as he's skating hard, hitting hard and playing some solid defense. Once the roster regains some health, it'll make for some tough decisions on who stays and who goes.

Next Game
The Avs have landed themselves in 2nd spot in the NW after Edmonton destroyed Calgary 5-0 last night. Who saw that one coming?

The Avalanche head off to San Jose to face the Sharks on Wednesday. It's a late game which likely means my head hitting the pillow once the final buzzer sounds so a recap won't be up until Thursday.

-Skrastins was a scratch tonight as Sauer took his spot with Brett Clark
- Wall was recalled to replace Tyler Weiman who injured his foot (good grief)
- the Avalanche again were penned in their own zone early and couldn't generate sustained pressure
- Leopold does a good job at not forcing a shot (and a subsequence block) and just dishing the puck to an open corner
- Jeff Finger was on the ice for every goal against
- T.J. Hensick with two straight two-goal games (could he be breaking out?)
- reading his lips during the reviewed third goal revealed a conclusive statement of "It's a f*cking goal"
- Richardson's slashing call in the 1st was karma for the call he "drew" earlier when his own stick caused Boyton's to ride up and clip him in the face
- is anybody happier than Lappy after scoring a goal?

Related Links Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Denver Post Recap
Rocky Mountain News Recap

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Red Wings Shut Out Avalanche

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
This was a hard game to watch. Not only was the blood pressure up watching the Wings dominate the Avalanche but it was further boosted by the hope that maybe, just maybe, the Avs could pull out one point by taking the game to OT on the back of Peter Budaj.

Those hopes were dashed with only a couple minutes left to play as Henrik Zetterberg finally got one past Budaj. Kris Draper then iced it with an empty-netter for the 2-0 final.

I didn't find out about those two goals in the normal sequence of things though. I began watching my recording of the game after about half of the live game was over. I was slowly catching up to the live action as I fast-forwarded through Pierre's awesome between-whistle insights though. At about the 10 minute of the third period I figured the game had likely been decided but I was so into the hope for OT that I didn't want to spoil myself and zoom ahead to the end.

Then my mom called. I answer "Hello" and she says "Yeah, I know it's not a good time since your team is losing 2-0..." D'oh! I told her she didn't ruin it for me as the team was obviously going to ruin it for me anyways but in the future, the first words should be "Are you watching the game?"

And that goes for anybody. If you've got a die-hard Giants fan in your office, then come Monday morning do not give them a high-five or, more likely, a conciliatory pat on the back. First ask "Did you see the game?" Maybe the poor soul was called in to work and had to record the game, delaying the inevitable disappointment.

But let's get back on track.

Peter Budaj? Rusty? Those two words do not belong in the same sentence. Peter Budaj shook off whatever rust he might have accumulated on the bench and turned in an absolutely stellar performance last night. He made some flat out amazing saves and ended up turning aside 34 of 35 shots which earned him "Monster of the Game" from Pierre McGuire. No wait, he gave that to Nik Lidstrom who he was polishing off all night long.

There were some folks who thought that Budaj would get shellacked since he "doesn't have enough experience" and "couldn't handle Detroit". Well, how does the crow taste this morning folks?

On the other end, Dominik Hasek put in his usual performance. He made the easy saves he needed to make, flopped when he needed to flop and pulled out a 15 save shutout. I guess my poke at him being a flopper in my pre-game was a harbinger of things to come. Not that it was an "off the wall" prediction.

I will say this, the team certainly paid attention to defense. Unfortunately it wasn't controlled and relaxed. It was more like "Oh crap, Zetterberg has it, I gotta get him...Oh wait, he dished it to Datsyuk...Wait, where'd Datsyuk go? Oh, the front of the....wait, he passed it back to Lidstrom..."

The Wings moved the puck around so well that the Avalanche were continually scrambling to cover their assignments in the defensive zone. Then when they got the puck away, they dished it out to center ice, changed lines, rinsed, lathered and repeated.

Wait, you're supposed to play offense PLUS play defense? Ridiculous.

I won't really touch on the waved off goal other than to cough out *bullpucky* under my breath.

Pierre McGuire
Yep, he gets his own category. I'll preface this by saying that I don't doubt the man's hockey knowledge. It's more about the ass-kissing and WWE promo style that he uses while dishing it out.

First, there was the issue of his "Monster of the Game". From about the second period on, McGuire and Miller (who I don't mind) had pounced on Nik Lidstrom and all but declared him the next President of the U.S. of A and possibly the second coming of Jesus. They showed the same stretch pass on at least 3 occasions and used to show how aware and smart and handsome he is. But that same play gets made in almost every game on any given night.

Next, his berating of the Avalanche for not winning faceoffs. Look, we all know the Avalanche are not the best faceoff team in the league. We also know that Detroit is one of the best. So combine those together and let me know what logic would dictate. But instead of saying "Wow, Detroit is just outworking the Avalanche in the faceoff department", he starts ranting that "The Avalanche HAVE to win those faceoffs and that's something the coaching department NEEDS to work on." all the while gesticulating wildly from his tiny little box between the benches.

Yeah, because the Avalanche didn't have bigger issues than faceoffs in the game. Hell, even if they did win the faceoffs, Detroit would have just taken the puck away anyways. It's no wonder he doesn't coach anymore. There's no way I'd listen to the man if he yelled at me for not winning a crucial faceoff when the odds are nearly 50-50 on the best of occasions.

Andhere are some quotes from the man himself:
"There'll be physical play. The Avs are young and don't know any better." - Um...what? That would imply that they are doing something wrong by playing physical. In fact, they were doing something very much right but don't let that stand in the way of trying to make some sort of moot point.

"There's not an empty seat here unless they've gone to the men room, ladies room or concession stand" - What a bizarre statement. He couldn't have just left it at "There's not an empty seat in the house!" Why clarify some of the reasons that a seat may be empty? Just to show how smart he is that he can figure out the reasons someone may not be at their seat? Well guess what hotshot, what if someone went out for a smoke? Or had to take a phone call? Or started having contractions and had to go give birth to their baby?

I could have had more quotes but I try to enjoy hockey games and not have them ruined by inane commentary that never, ever ends. Seriously. Miller can't do play-by-play for more than 20 seconds without McGuire interjecting with some "facts" and "opinions".

Upcoming Game
The Avs finish up their back-to-back road swing with a game in St. Louis tonight. Puck drop is at 8:38 ET.

- Pavel Datsyuk has a tendency to be too fancy at times
- Henrik Zetterberg has a tendency to be too awesome at times
- what was with Holmstrom whacking Budaj in the junk but getting away with it in the second?
- Brett Clark knocked Aaron Downey on his keester even though Downey had a half-sheet of ice run at him (Saskatchewan FTW!)
- Q said that the 5-on-3 was "A big moment to dodge" Dodge? Dude, GMC FTW!

Related Links Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes
Mike @ MHH Gives an Inside the Locker Room Scenario
Denver Post Recap
TSN Recap

Friday, February 1, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche @ Red Wings

The Avalanche head into Detroit tonight as they open up a brief, back-to-back road swing. The last time these two teams met was just before the new year and the Wings came away with a 4-2 road win.

If the Avalanche can come up big tonight and get a W against the top team in the league, it will be their fourth consecutive road victory. If the Avalanche are going to get it done, they're going to have to do it on the back of a goaltender who hasn't started a game in nearly a month.

Peter Budaj gets the call in net as Jose Theodore did not make the trip with the team. He is still undergoing testing but the preliminary results indicate it's nothing serious. I won't believe it until I see him back in the lineup but I digress.

Budaj stepped in for the third period of Wednesday's game against the Blackhawks and didn't fare too well. He gave up 2 goals on 4 shots and almost looked like he had a sinister plan of letting in one more goal so he could get credit for the W. If the thought has crossed his mind, I'm sure he asked himself WWNFD and decided against it.

Tyler Weiman has been recalled to back him up on the night. Heck, Weiman has a 1.00 save percentage so why not start him? It's obvious he'd be a shoo-in to get a shutout, right? Stats don't lie people!

Dominik Hasek will be in net at the other end so have your score cards ready to rate his swan dives. I kid, I kid.

Well, aside from the previously mentioned Theodore, there are no new injuries to account for. In fact, the team has activated Kurt Sauer as he is apparently not getting dizzy while skating these days. Gotta stop turning those tight loops, Kurt.

Game time
The puck drops at 7:38 ET time and here in lovely, frigid Canada it is nationally televised on TSN in glorious HD. Of course, that means I'll be subject to the un-glorious Pierre McGuire. At least James Duthie's antics on the panel help even things out a bit.

Related Links
Terry Frei on Theodore Stepping Up
Tapeleg Isn't Done With the Attendance Coverage Yet Gameday Report
On the Wings Blog Gameday Report