Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trade Winds are Blowing

Ok, I usually don't talk about trade rumours since I'm not a big rumour fan. Which is odd since I grew up in the mother of all rumour-filled small towns.

But I've heard a few related to the Avalanche lately and thought I'd briefly weigh in.

Afinogenov to Denver
First, AD reports that the Avalanche may be interested in Maxim Afinogenov. The usual "change of scenery" motive is given as Afinogenov is playing brutal in Buffalo (1 goal, 8 assists in 21 games) and I believe has been relegated to the fourth line.

Afinogenov had two excellent seasons in Buffalo but it's ot enough to make me think he can consistenly pull out that sort of production.

He certainly has the speed and skill but I think he's too much of an enigma to take a flyer on.

And if Francois Giguere gives up Brett Clark for Afinogenov, then he is officially not qualified to run an NHL team.

Lappy for Ott
Second, Bruce Garrioch (of "Malking to the Kings" fame) proposes the following trade: Colorado sends RW Ian Laperriere to Dallas for Steve Ott.

Wow. If Giguere makes that trade I vow to drive out to Denver, locate Giguere and cuff him upside the head.

Good grief, Bruce. How does it make sense to trade a heart-and-soul scrapper for a boneheaded agitator who is a detriment to his team more times than not?

Trade Smyth
Third, and this one isn't from a rumour, it's just something I've seen pop up from time to time from fans. Trade Smyth.

The no-trade clause in his contract makes that a virtual non-option. And even if he didn't have it, the only reason to trade him would be to free up cap space. The Avs have plenty of that. So no. Smyth is staying.

Something may change
The team is struggling, no doubt about it. And something may change. But bringing in Afinogenov won't solve the team's struggles. If anything, it would be a token player move to make before letting the coach go.

Avalanche Stifle Lightning, Win 4-3

(Associated Press)
The Avalanche scored three late first period goals en route to a 4-3 win against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.

Jordan Leopold opened the scoring on the powerplay at the 15:20 mark. Leopold came in from the point, took a nice feed from Marek Svatos and made a nice forehand-backhand move to put it past Olaf Kolzig.

A mere two minutes later, Marek Svatos again found himself working hard in tight and he managed to get the puck over to Wojtek Wolski who notched his first goal of the game. It was nice to see the 6'3 Wolski charging the net.

And apparently it felt good for Wolski too as barely 30 seconds later he drove hard to the net and managed to get a hold of his own rebound for his second goal of the game and third in his last four games.

That was all she wrote for Olaf Kolzig as Mike Smith came in to start the second period and did an excellent job in relief stopping 20 of 21 shots.

His only mistake was giving the puck away to David Jones who went into Datsyuk mode as he grabbed the puck, skated around one defender, then went forehand-backhand on a sprawling Mike Smith to make it 4-1. I hope any lingering Wings fans just threw up in their mouth on a comparison of Jones to Datsyuk. Because it's the only reason I said it.

The Jones goal proved to be huge as the Avalanche took a couple penalties which let the Lightning get right back in the game.

Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos scored on back-to-back powerplays to bring the score to 4-3. And the cold sweats started flowing.

But the Avalanche were able to stifle the final onslaught and walk away with the W.

Half and half
With that win, the Avalanche pull within one win of .500 hockey. Yes we can! Yes we can!

It's disheartening to be aiming to play above .500 rather than aiming for the division title. But it's still early in the season. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Break out of the breakout funk
Early in the game, I found myself banging my head against the wall. Then I decided to stop that and watch the game for a while.

Ok, I was banging my head because once again the Avalanche were collapsing against each other as they broke out of the zone.

At one point Ryan Smyth skated from the left boards to the right boards as Milan Hejduk was breaking out of the zone. It honestly looked like Smyth for a second had forgotten what team he played for and was actually trying to get the puck away from Hejduk. It was baffling.

Thankfully as the game wore on, the team started to realize how much more effective you can be if you spread out on the rush.

Hopefully one of the coaches took notes and will try and implement that style of play. It would go perfectly with a "run-and-gun" offense, don't you think?


The Arnason line was far and away the best line of the night. And yes, it feels weird typing that. But how can you argue with two goals, five assists and a combined +6?

Ian Laperriere saw his ice-time increase to 18:42 tonight. He even saw 30 seconds on the powerplay though I dont' recall seeing him out there. I'm still watching from my Slingbox feed which makes it really hard to see numbers on the ice. Oh how I miss my TV.

Even though they played limited minutes, the new Cody McJones line played very well. Jones really seemed to up his physicality and effort tonight and was rewarded with a goal. Hopefully he sees the cause-effect line there.

Brett Clark blocked nine blocked shots on the night which was 50% more than the entire Lightning squad.

John-Michael Liles returned from the flu but played limited minutes - 16:12 - and wasn't very noticeable.

Cody Mcleod pounded on Steve Downie in the third and I loved every minute of it. Except when Downie punched Mcleod after they had gone to the ice. But hey, what else can you expect from Downie?

Ruslan Salei had four shots on goal as he continues to up his play over the last few games. He's making me look like less of a fool for predicting he would be the Avs best defenseman.

Paul Stastny wore the "A" tonight but it must have weighed a lot as he didn't look to have much jump in his step. He had enough less after he took a shot to the leg and briefly went to the dressing room.

It was Raycroft's third win of the year which surpassed his season total in Toronto last year.

Up Next
It's off to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Monday as part of a three-game road trip. It will be the second meeting between the two teams. And the second chance for fans to shake their heads at management for letting Andrew Brunette go the way they did.

The game will be televised on TSN2 and Versus.

Related Links Event Summary
MHH Recap
Denver Post Recap
Rocky Mountain News Recap
AD's Post-game Thoughts

Flu Shots for Athletes

I'm still fighting some health issues which occasionally wake me up in the middle of the night. And when that happens, to get my head relaxed again, I turn to the ol' Interweb for some mindless reading.

Since I had gone to bed shortly after the Avalanche-Lightning game was over, I figured I'd get a head start on reading the post-game articles from the DP and RMN. 

One thing led to another and next thing you know, I found myself over at the official forums for the first time in a month or two reading a thread on call-ups.

At one point, the discussion turned towards John-Michael Liles, who was bitten by the flu bug recently which had people wondering if players get the flu shot. The implication being that if they don't get the shot, it's their fault if they get sick

I won't get into the ins and outs of the different strains of flu, the mercury-riddled preservatives in the shots or their questionable benefit to healthy adults.  

But I will say this: Getting a flu shot doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu. It only guarantees you'll have a better chance at staving off four possible strains of the flu out of the dozens that are floating around out there.

Athletes are extremely well-conditioned people and likely have excellent immune systems. But remember that their job involves being in close proximity with 20+ other people with ample sweat, spit and snot to go around. So it shouldn't come as a surprise when one of them gets sick.

Frankly I'm surprised they don't get sick more often.

This has been a PSA from the "up at 4:00am and bored" committee.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Avalanche vs Lightning, Game 23 Preview

I really don't know how to explain it, but I've got a good feeling about tonight's game.

Joe Sakic is out, Adam Foote is on the IR, Raycroft is in goal and yet here I sit, optimistic.

Maybe it's the country air reinvigorating me. Or maybe it was that hit I took earlier (kidding). Or maybe, just maybe, my subconscious is protecting me from an awful truth.

No matter the reason, I'm willing to accept it.

I'm not about to have a beautiful late November day ruined by fretting over whether the Avalanche will actually show up tonight.

I'm not going to care that the nagging doubts I had deep down inside me to start this season are saying "I told you so!"

I'm going to forget that the Avalanche are barely better than Dallas right now.

Or that the offense can't find the back of the net.

And who gives a crap that clearing the puck is near non-existent skill on the team.

And so what if the coach seems to think the team is playing well when they obviously aren't. Big frikkin' deal.

Whoopty-friggin-do that this team looks like the worst Avalanche squad in history.

Shit, see what happens when I start writing?

Cognitive dissonance slowly dissolves away and I'm left exasperated and hoping that Francois Giguere is not dense enough to think that the only reason this team is struggling is due to Sakic being injured.

Anyways, the puck drops at 9:00 ET. But if a puck drops on the ice and nobody gives a crap, does it make a sound?

Related Links
Sakic out indefinitely, Foote on IR, MacKenzie recalled
Avalanche report: Budaj chasing 70

The "Punch" Line

I'm all alone back on the farm this weekend and to keep myself occupied, I was watching some of the DVDs out of the NHL: Greatest Games in Canadiens History DVD I bought for my dad.

As I was watching the ceremony after the Habs last game at the Forum, I realized something. The Altidudes calling the Mcleod-McCormick-Laperriere line the "Punch" line disrepects the original Punch line of Toe Blake-Elmer Lach-Maurice Richard.

So please stop doing it, guys.

Dude, where's my updates?

I've been a bit silent lately and not for any good reason. I was simply not enthused enough to write anything. Which works out well because the Avalanche have not been enthused enough to play hockey during that time.

The Avs downed the Blues 3-1 on Wednesday but it was still a less-than-stellar effort from the squad. The team is still playing with no spunk and are making Tony Granato's "run-and-gun" offense look like it's all out of bullets.

Phew. If that's not a lame joke, I don't know what is. Maybe the Avs offense? Boo-ya!

Game time
I'm going to play a game of good news, bad news, good news. See, you start with the good news which puts everyone in a good mood. Then you toss in some bad news while the people are on a bit of a high. Then, because people really only remember the last thing you say, you end with more good news.

Good News
Peter Budaj continues to redeem his slow start this season by being the only Avalanche player to consistently show up over the past dozen games.

It was widely believed by pundits that Budaj would be the downfall of the Avalanche this year. It turns out, he's been the bright spot while the rest of the team fizzles.

Color me skeptical on whether Budaj can continue this level of play for 70 games this season but I'll be more than happy if he does.

It appears keeping Jeff Hackett around was a smart move by the Avs organization.

Bad News
Joe Sakic played only 28 seconds against the Blues before leaving for the rest of the game. He won't be in the lineup tonight.

This is not a good sign.

The Avalanche have scored 19 goals in their last 12 games.

This is not a good sign.

Tony Granato felt the team played a heck of a game against the Coyotes and deserved a better fate.

This is not a good sign.

Good news
Ryan Smyth has started putting his ass in goaltenders faces and has two goals in his last two games.

You could see the relief on Smyth's face when he scored against the Blues. It was like the weight of the world came off his shoulders.

And all it took was to let him do his thing.

Who knew that would be a good strategy?

I'll be back this afternoon with a preview of the Lightning game. As a bit of a preview, I'm actually feeling optimistic about the game.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Avalanche vs Blues, Game 21 Preview

Is it time for another game? So soon? Have the Avalanche had enough time to fix what ails them? Doubtful unless calling up Kyle Cumiskey and possibly playing him at forward counts as "fixing".

Joe Sakic is "probable" tonight, just as he was before the Ducks game. Let's hope he doesn't come down with rickets before game time.

If Sakic plays, Wojtek Wolski doesn't and Granato wants to play Cumiskey at forward...which player will sit out?

Brian Willsie drew in last game and frankly I didn't really notice he was there. Of course if you read my recap, you'll notice I wasn't really paying attention.

But was Granato going to play Willsie regardless of Sakic's status? If so, who had he originally planned on sitting? David Jones? Tyler Arnason?

Or will Cumiskey end up sitting in the press box his first game up?

Unfortuantely we won't find out until about five minutes before puck drop unless AD drops some inside knowledge on us.

In the meantime, we can be intrigued by the Stastny-vs-Stastny matchup tonight as Paul squares off against his older brother Yan. Maybe not as intrigued as DD but intrigued nonetheless.

It's Peter Budaj vs Manny Legace (courtesy of

I'm a bit worried for Peter Budaj. If the team craps the bed again and needs him to bail them out, well it just might send the guy over the edge. He needs a rest at some point. You'd think resting him against a depleted Blues lineup would be an ideal time.

An alternative line of thinking is that this is an ideal game to play Budaj in as he likely won't face many shots and stands a solid chance of pulling out a win.

As for Legace, I think everyone is well aware of what he tends to do when facing off against the Avs.

I caught the end of the Predators-Blues game last night as I was in disbelief that it was 0-0 with just five minutes left in the third. Chris Mason was playing superbly and more than making up for the Blues having little to no offensive support.

And that's key for the Avalanche tonight. The Blues only fired 17 shots on Dan Ellis last night and the ones I saw weren't very dangerous.

Now is not the time for mercy. Now is the time to take it to an injury-depleted team.

Paul Stastny Pre-game comments
Ian Laperriere Pre-game comments
Tony Granato Pre-game comments

So even Lappy has to weigh in on the brother-vs-brother thing! But he's spot on with his comments of how to turn things around. Be hungry and win battles. At both ends.

Related Links
Avs lag behind in hit parade

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Avalanche Stomped by Ducks, Lose 4-1


I set the game to record as I was going to be away for the first period. When I came back and spotted the 2-0 score on, I decided to save a bit of my sanity and not watch the first period.

The second period started and I completely spaced out about five minutes in. I was more interested in watching my fingernails grow.  At one point I heard a *ping* and noticed the Ducks had scored again to make it 3-0.

During the intermission I was upstairs explaining to my mom why I would not be watching Twilight even though I'm a fan of vampire-related literature/movies. I then went on a long, snooty diatribe about the quality of some of these latest literary hits like the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series and the whole Dan Brown fiasco.  

After wrapping things up with a discussion on why A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the - if not the - greatest series in modern literature, I decided to see if the Avs could respond to a three goal deficit.

The answer? No.

Sure they got the early goal they needed and managed to fire off 12 shots in the period but did they ever appear hungry or dangerous? Rather than fighting like a wounded cheetah cornered by a tiger, they looked like a three-toed sloth with a papercut. Which of course raises the question: Can a three-toed slot get a paper cut?

Things are looking mighty grim at the moment and I'm getting mighty tired of saying "Things need to change." I'm all out of energy. This must be what it feels like to play for the Avs right now.

And though I'm all out of emotion I will be putting together another piece for Illegal Curve's "State of the Northwest Division" feature tomorrow. I could sum things up with one word. It starts with "F".  It ends with "ck". And just one of u and me is in the middle. But I won't.

Darcy Tucker was helped off the ice early in the third period due to a knee injury after colliding with Brendan Morrison.

Peter Budaj needs a rest after some valiant work for the team.

Wojtek Wolski sat out the game hopefully just for precautionary reasons.

Why do no defenders look behind them when defending the slot?

Just four shots in the second period? Four? You were down 2-0 and you couldn't find the energy to get off at least a half dozen shots?

The Da Vinci Code was trite and formulaic. And made Dan Brown a bazillionaire.

Related Links
Anaheim bares fangs as root canal delays Sakic return (do ducks have fangs that I don't know about?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Zeiler Suspended Three Games for hit on Foote

TSN is reporting that Los Angeles Kings forward John Zeiler has been suspended for three games for his hit on Adam Foote.

I'm not sure when the league is going to start trying to actually deter this kind of play because three games frankly doesn't seem like much.

I wasn't in outrage when the hit happened due to the plethora of similar plays that happened lately causing a bit of indifference. I can't think of the darn psychological term for it but I know there is one. Psych 101 is almost a decade behind me so can someone help me out?

Anyways, the hit was dirty, dangerous and could have been debilitating. And it wasn't a hit that had to happen. Yes, Foote saw him coming and kept his back turned the whole time. That's the key point. He never once showed Zeiler anything but his numbers.

Remember kids, when you see the numbers, you let up. Even if your coach gives you shit over it.

Which would you prefer? Your dick of a coach to get a bit pissed at you or to paralyze someone for the rest of their life?

Related Links
Kings' Zeiler only gets three games for Foote hit

Sakic to Miss Ducks Game Due to Root Canal

Ok, this is just bizarre.

Joe Sakic will miss tonight's game but not due to his back. No, he underwent a root canal - presumably this afternoon.

I've never had to have a root canal myself but does the need pop up that quickly?

Strange, strange news.

Given that they haven't recalled anybody from Lake Erie, I would guess Wojtek Wolski will be good to go tonight.

Avalanche @ Ducks, Game 20 Preview

We're at approximately the quarter-way point of the season and the Avalanche sit just below .500 with a 9-10-0 record. That's good enough for 18 points, 13th in the Western Conference, 5th in the Northwest division and 10 points back of the division leading Vancouver Canucks. I won't even mention how far back they are of the Conference - and League - leading San Jose Sharks.

Identity schmidentity
So what's going on? Terry Frei thinks - as Tapeleg noted before the season began - that it's an identity crisis:

The word "identity" is overused and often misused in sports. But in this case, I think it applies. This still looks like a team trying to figure out how it wants to and can play, and still trying to forge a collective personality.
I don't think anyone can argue with that statement. When the defense tightens up, so does the offense. When the offense goes full-bore, the defense tails off. When the goaltending is there, the goals aren't. When the goaltending takes a night off, the lamp stays lit at both ends.

What will it take to get all three factions running at top speed? Coaching, that's what.

In that same article, Tony Granato conceded that attention to defensive detail "shouldn't take that much away from our offense."

Amen. Just because you tighten up on D doesn't mean you start hanging five guys back in the neutral zone. It means the players back to backcheck harder when the rush is broken up.

It also means the coach has to let the players know what their responsibilities are. I still get the feeling Granato hasn't done that well enough.

Injury updates
In some good news, the injuries that Adam Foote and Wojtek Wolski sustained in the Kings matchup on Saturday don't appear too serious. At least not as serious as they could have been.

Foote will miss the game tonight while he continues to be evaluated to determine the extent of any neck, back and/or head issues but he sounds fairly optimistic. Daniel Tjarnqvist will get his first taste of action this season in place of Foote.

Wolski's status will be decided after the morning skate. Adrian Dater reported that Wolski was walking and talking just fine after the Kings game. He rode a stationary bike yesterday which is usually a good sign for someone with a possible concussion.

And in the biggest news, Joe Sakic should be in the lineup for tonight's game.

It's time for a line change
Here's where things get a bit odd. Now, I'll give it to Granato that shaking up the lines seems necessary the way the offense is going. I don't feel the line combinations are the root of the problem but nonetheless, they will be changing.

The first change is that Paul Stastny was centering a line with Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos. If Paul Stastny can come out of his funk and start making some plays, this line could work well. Smyth can create havoc in the crease while Svatos can pounce on rebounds. Of course, that relies on Stastny and the defense getting the puck to the front of the net.

Next, T.J. Hensick was centering a line with Brian Willsie and Darcy Tucker. The chemistry with Tucker and Hensick was undeniable as Hensick seems to find ways to get the puck to the net and Tucker has no problem charging in. But wouldn't it be nice if Hensick was setting up someone who has scored 30+ goals before? Just a thought.

And finally, Joe Sakic was centering a line with Milan Hejduk. Their partner? It will be either David Jones or Cody McCormick. Hmm. Cody McCormick on a line with Joe Sakic? Well, if anything McCormick will play the hardest he's ever played if he gets a chance to go with the big boys.

But if he does, that leaves a fourth line of Ian Laperriere, Cody Mcleod and either David Jones or Tyler Arnason. Jones is a much better fit for that line which would mean Arny would watch from the press box.

But is putting Arny in the press box worth having McCormick on a line with Sakic?

McCormick might put in the game of his career playing with Sakic but don't kid yourself, he's not a full-time first liner.

To be honest with you, I haven't followed the Ducks much this season. They got off to an awful start but have turned it around and are looking like a solid club again.

J.S. Giguere's stats (3.13 GAA, .904 save %) are somewhat underwhelming but I'm not sure if that's due to his play or the team's play.

Losing Francois Beauchemin won't help but when you've got Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermyer as your top two, you can't complain too much.

The key to beating the Ducks seems to be to contain their big three: Ryan Getzlaf, Cory Perry, and Teemu Selanne. Doesn't it sound easy?

I'm not sure if they all play on the same line but they are 1-2-3 in scoring on the team and, looking at the stats, the Ducks don't have much forward scoring depth behind them.

Starting Goaltenders
Peter Budaj is in for the Avalanche and will likely square off against Giguere. (

Game time
The puck drops at 10:00 PM ET which is just friggin ridiculous. It's only two games in and I'm already sick of West coast games. No offense, jib.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wojtek Wolski Injured, Leaves Avalanche-Kings Game

Wojtek Wolski just left the Avalanche-Kings game after taking a crunching shot to the head from Sean O'Donnell.

It was an unfortunate play as O'Donnell was going to finish his check and Wolski lost an edge, putting his head exactly in line with O'Donnell's tucked in elbow.

Wolski looked a bit wobbly as he was helped off the ice but seemed to be communicating fine with the trainer and players.

Wolski had a goal and an assist up to that point.

Avalanche @ Kings, Game 19 Starting Lines

The Colorado Avalanche lines at the outset of the game were:

Ryan Smyth-T.J. Hensick-Milan Hejduk
Wojtek Wolski-Paul Stastny-Marek Svatos
Cody Mcleod-Cody McCormick- Ian Laperriere
Darcy Tucker-Tyler Arnason-Brian Willsie

Adam Foote-Scott Hannan
John Liles-Ruslan Salei
Brett Clark-Jordan Leopold

So Willsie draws in and David Jones sits for a game.

Avalanche @ Kings, Game 19 Preview

The Colorado Avalache face off against the Los Angeles Kings tonight and Joe Sakic is doubtful to be in the lineup.

The Avalanche have recalled Brian Willsie after placing Ben Guite on injured reserve and I would love to see him in the lineup tonight.

I think any shakup, even one as minor as this, could provide a much needed spark to the offense. I'm not saying Willsie will stroll in and put the Avs on his back but the team is playing complacently. A little reminder that there are hungry folks below couldn't hurt.

And who should sit if Willsie draws in? Well the Rocky Mountain News reports that Tyler Arnason was the fifth center in practice. Would Granato sit Arnason again?

Probably not since Willsie is a RW and if Arnason sits, that leaves just three centers on the team. Since Sakic was at practice, Granato would be running the lines on the premise that Sakic would be in the lineup.

And though Wolski has played center before, he hasn't spent one lick at center during practices - I assume AD would have noted it at some point if he had - so I can't see Granato moving him there at this point.

UPDATE: David Jones is out, Willsie is in. Good. I was just saying that Jones should head down to the AHL to regain some confidence. I don't think sitting in the press box is enough for him at this point but at least we'll get a hungry player in the lineup.

Will the Avalanche break out of their slump? I don't know. What I do know is that if this team doesn't start supporting Peter Budaj's efforts with some goals, I wouldn't blame Budaj if he were to take his pads and go home.

The puck drops at 10:30 ET, 8:30 MT. I'll be watching via my new Slingbox while I'm back on the farm. It's not great quality but it's still awesome to be able to control my PVR from 360 km away. That's about 220 miles for you non-metric folks.

Related Links
Practice report: Budaj shoulders load
Avalanche report: Looking for some offense Game Preview

Canadiens Retire Patrick Roy's Number Tonight

Patrick Roy raises the Stanley Cup
Tonight Patrick Roy joins possibly the greatest set of hockey legends when the Montreal Canadiens raise his jersey to the rafters at the Bell Centre.

As a former Canadiens fan - what can I say? I was born into a French-Canadien family - I'm looking forward to it. I'm not one of the talking heads who can't stop wondering whether he will cry or not tonight but I am curious on the reception he will receive.

We all know the less than graceful exit he made with the team but has enough time passesd to  heal the wounds?

I hope so because tonight is about Roy's legacy with the Habs and the positives have got to outweigh the negatives.

I'm anxiously awaiting Hockey Night in Canada tonight and it's been a while since I've said that.

As for the time leading up to the ceremony? Well I just bought my dad the Greatest Greatest Games in Montreal Canadiens History DVD so we might have to pop in the '86 Cup final game to see how many memories it stirs up. And then we'll finish off by watching him take out the Gretzky-led Kings in the '93 final. Nothing finer.

And I'll probably pontificate on what this jersey retirement will do the value of my two Patrick Roy rookie cards.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Avalanche Punked by Flames, Lose 1-0

Once again, Peter Budaj showed up and the rest of the team decided to take a vacation. How does that saying go? Fool me once, shame on...shame on you. But fool me can't get fooled again. Or something like that. Either way, the Avalanche are looking like fools with their latest efforts.

How is it that a team can come out with the same piss-poor effort two games in a row? Players can keep calling it an accountability issue all they want but at some point they have to *bleeping* do something about it. Talk is cheap, actions win games.

And where has Tony Granato's "up-tempo" offensive style been? I see no life from the offense. They look like they're going through the motions. The wrong motions. This is what was such a sure hire that no other candidates were even interviewed for the job?

And how about the defense? Can I get a clear? Or a rebound clear? Or a time when you're not all overloading one side of the ice? Or a time where you don't look as confused as a pee-wee team on what your defensive assignments are?

If I was Peter Budaj right now, I'd be right pissed off at my teammates. At one point midway through the third, Curtis Glencross coasted past Scott Hannan - and it wasn't hard to do - forcing Budaj to make a big save. You'd think that would spark the team right? Nope. TJ Hensick picked up the rebound in the corner and promptly turned it back over to the Flames.

Where is the emotion? Where is the will to win? They're playing like they could give a rats ass about being in the NHL right now and it's completely unacceptable. And it shouldn't require some giant movie-style speech from the coach or captain. It requires the players to wake the hell up and play some damn hockey.

If things don't change soon, then things are going to change. Whether it's a roster shakeup, a staff shakeup or just a good, hard kick in the ass for every player in the room, this team needs something to wake them up. You'd think their pride would do it but apparently not.

And in keeping with my angered mood, I once again have to get annoyed at the Flames announcers. Not for being overly biased - they were as biased tonight as any other home announce team - but for saying things that make no sense. The ultimate one was when they stated:
"You can tell how disciplined the Flames have been by the number of penalties they didn't take".

Yeah, ok, umm...NO SUCH NUMBER EXISTS! if you really must put a number on it, your best choice is infinity. As an example, I ate 4 eggs today but there were INFINITY EGGS I DIDN'T FLIPPIN' EAT!

Damn the Avs for putting me in this foul of a mood.

- Svatos left with an abdominal injury midway through the game
- the Avalanche fired off a gigantic 18 shots on the night
- the Avalanche won 31% of their faceoffs
-the Avalanche are directly responsible for global warming
- Joe Sakic skated in practice but was out of the lineup for the fourth game in a row

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Avalanche Crunched by Flames Again, Lose 4-1

51 shots against, 23 shots for. Do I really need to go any further?

Good, because I'm tired.

Related Links Event Summary

Monday, November 17, 2008

Paul Stastny Signs Five-Year Extension

Adrian Dater just reported that Paul Stastny has signed a five-year contract extension. This is huge and somewhat unexpected news. Not unexpected that he would re-sign, but unexpected that it would be so early in the season.

Maybe Francois Giguere seized on a downturn in Stastny's production - 4 assists in his last 9 games -to drive the cost down a bit.

And that cost? $33M over five years for a hit of $6.6M/year. I think those are excellent numbers when compared to similar contracts.

As DD noted when Kopitar signed, that set the bar and Giguere managed to limbo under it but not by an amount that would be insulting.

Does it mean Stastny won't be an Avalanche for life? No, it just means he'll get a raise for the 2014/15 season.

An excellent signing IMHO.

Related Links

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Never trust in hope

At least not when it's hope instilled by the Avalanche medical team.

In the DP and RMN recaps from last night's SO win over the Oilers, it was mentioned that the Avalanche were hopeful Joe Sakic would join the team for their game against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. I mentioned that they were also hopeful he would be with the team last night and we saw how that worked out.

My pessimism - I like to call it realism - was the correct way to go as Joe Sakic will miss Tuesday's game.

He skated yesterday and it "went well" according to Avalanche vice-president Jean Martineau. And by "went well" I assume he means "he didn't break any appendages"

Related Links
Sakic out Tuesday for Avs
Sakic to miss Tuesday's game

Avalanche Streaking Again, Down Oilers 3-2 in Shootout

(Associated Press)
When I woke up this morning I had a great opening line for this recap. Unfortunately I promptly fell back asleep and forgot it. Something about wanting to be called Ishmael while a man in black fled across a desert.

Anyhoo...last night the Avalanche grabbed their fourth of six possible points on their current road trip - and third win in a row - with their 3-2 shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Heading into the third period, the Avalanche were down 2-1 and didn't appear poised to score the tying goal any time soon.

But then the rarest of rarities happened. The Oilers took two penalties leading to a 6-on-3 advantage for the Avalanche with just 25 seconds left.

It started when Fernando Pisani got called for hooking at 18:01. The Avalanche pulled Peter Budaj for the 6-on-4 advantage but couldn't get anything together.

Then Marek Svatos decided to take matters into his own hands and stickhandled past half a dozen Oilers and their moms leading to an Ethan Moreau tripping penalty.

So in a smart - if not obvious - move, Granato sent out Smyth and Tucker to stand in front of the net and annoy Roloson. Roloson was frustrated and distracted by Smyth all game long so why not toss an extra body in front of him and see if he snaps.

It worked superbly as Jordan Leopold fired a shot from the point and while Roloson was hacking, slashing and punching at the pesty pair, Tucker managed to get a stick on it and tip it past Roloson.

Roloson quickly went screaming over to the refs to protest the undoubtedly legal goal. Smyth and Tucker stayed out of the crease, the tip in happened well below the goal line and nobody had touched Roloson.

Seriously Dwayne, grow some stones and quit whining to the refs whenever opponents get within a meter of you. And don't think we didn't notice your dive when Smyth breathed on in the third period. We noticed and we loved it.

That tied the game with 11 seconds to go and as OT solved nothing, it was off to the shootout.

Wojtek Wolski and Sam Gagner both scored to start things off but the next six shooters couldn't get anything past the keepers.

Then Darcy Tucker stepped on the ice. And I said "WTF?" Then Tucker scored. And I said "WTF?" Then Budaj stopped Horcoff. And I said "Yippee!"

The Avalanche now head into Calgary to complete their trip. The Flames got spanked 6-1 by the Sharks on Thursday and don't play again until Tuesday. I think it's safe to say that they will come out pretty fired up. Of course you never know what Iron Mike has up his sleeve.

Peter Budaj stood tall in net once again. He has allowed just three goals in his last three games. Coincidentally, those all equated to wins. He is on his way to proving what many believed all along - he has the technology. He can play bigger, stronger, faster.

Liam Reddox drew in tonight as Dustin Penner and Kyle Brodziak were in street clothes. And in true Avalanche fashion, he scored the first goal of his NHL career. Is somebody willing to look up how many players scored their first career goal against the Avs? Because feels like a lot.

Ryan Smyth got his first goal against his former team as he drove the net hard and banged in a rebound. Remember kids, it's never a bad idea to go hard to the net. And it's always fun to score against your former team no matter what anybody says.

Darcy Tucker is getting back into everyone's good books as he scored the game tying goal as well as the winner in the shootout.

Joe Sakic sat out for the second straight game. The Avalanche are hopeful he will join the team in Calgary. But don't worry, they were hopeful he would join the team in Edmonton too.

Brett Clark was the ice-time leader with 24 minutes last night. He shouldn't be playing that many minutes as it became evident late in the game that he was gassing and making poor plays.

Late in the third, he was circling behind the net being chased by an Oiler when another Oiler started coming at him from the other direction. Rather than dump the puck past the oncoming Oiler, he tried to cut out in front of Budaj which was nearly disastrous. Mostly because my eyes nearly fell out of their sockets.

David Jones spent a grand total of 6:41 on the ice tonight, most of that in the first and second periods. What happened to the dynamo from the preseason? If he doesn't wake up soon, he'll be heading back to Lake Erie to hopefully regain some confidence. He's got none at the moment.

Milan Hejduk took the draw to start off the 6-on-3 advantage and won it handily. Paul Stastny was on the ice but had only won 8 of his 20 draws while Hejduk was a perfect 3-for-3 leading up to that crucial draw.

Ian Laperriere, Cody Mcleod, Cody McCormick, Zach Stortini, Jesse Boulerice...and no fights? Bizarre.

Game highlights

Post-game Comments

Related Links Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Rocky Mountain News Recap
Denver Post Recap
Budaj, Avalanche stun Oilers in SO
Avalanche defeat Oilers in shootout

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Avalanche @ Oilers, Game 16 Preview

It feels like a decade since the Avalanche last played hockey. Of course that could be because I was stuck in my house battling a cold for the last couple days. Days really drag out when you're being forced to choose between Oprah or Dr. Phil on TV. Thank goodness I have a lot of books that need reading including Winning. Nothing Else.

But I get a reprieve from the reading tonight as tthe Avalanche are in Edmonton to take on another underachieving team in the Edmonton Oilers.

Craig Mactavish is frustrated enough with his team that he's sitting Dustin Penner and Kyle Brodziak in favor of Liam Reddox (who?) and Jesse Boulerice. Penner's contract is working out well, eh?

For the Avalanche, Joe Sakic is still in Denver trying to fix his ailing back which means Tyler Arnason will again get a chance to showcase his skills.

After being a healthy scratch against Nashville, he came roaring back in the Avs 2-1 win against Vancouver. And by "roaring back", I mean it appears he could not have cared less about the possibility of being benched again. Maybe he knows something about Sakic's back that we're not being told.

Peter Budaj will be in net for the Avalanche in his sixth straight start. His last two performances have been gold star outings and I'm expecting more of the same tonight.

It is the first of two appearances on HNIC for the Avs. Game time is 10:00 ET, 8:00 MT which means a late 9:00 start for myself. Why oh why must we not change times with the rest of the world?

Related Links
Budaj helping Avs' in power shortage
Avalanche report: Goals anyone?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sharks Crushing Flames

The game isn't half over but already the Sharks are up 5-0 on the Flames and completely dominating the play. The Sharks are good but the Flames are just playing terribly. 

Let's hope they keep that up when the Avs are in town on Tuesday.

Best Captain in the NHL - Sakic vs Lidstrom

Sean Leahy over at Going Five Hole has been running a contest to determine who fans feel is the best captain in the NHL.

The final round starts at midnight tonight (unsure of which timezone) and pits Joe Sakic against Niklas Lidstrom.

It's time to rock the vote!

Avalanche @ Canucks, Game 15 Thoughts

Here's a few more thoughts from last night, in no particular order.

Ruslan Salei played his best game of the season last night. I watched him more closely than any other defender as I was getting tired of seeing him underperform. Early in the first it was apparent his positioning was much better. He wasn't allowing players to skate past him while he brushed them on their side with a "check". Tonight, he was stepping in front of them and preventing them from going around him. His head was moving much better tonight as well and he always seemed to be aware of where the nearest Canucks players were.

The McLappy line had a new ingredient last night as Darcy Tucker joined the line while Cody Mcleod found himself on the third line with Tyler Arnason. Tucker ended up spending some time with Hensick including a shift during OT. The weird chemistry those two had in their past two games may be wearing off a bit. It never made much sense to begin with frankly.

If T.J. Hensick gets sent down, everybody sharpen up your pitchforks. Though he didn't get any points tonight - tough to get any in a one-goal game - he still looked good out there. Coach Granato agreed as he played him for 18 minutes which could be a career high for Hensick. Contrast that with the 8:20 Arnason played tonight in his triumphant return after being a healthy scratch.

Ryan Smyth continues to do a great job fighting in the corners and being a pain in the ass for the opposing team. He's currently on pace for a 23 goal, 53 point season which is not spectacular. Someone could certainly argue it's not worth over $7M/season. But his work along the boards is invaluable and if Granato keeps sticking him in front of the net on the PP, more points will come. He did make one bonehead behind-the-back pass in his own zone but I'll forgive him. Just this once.

Early in the first period while the Avs were shelling Roberto Luongo, Ray Ferraro said "This is what a great goalie can do for you when you struggle" Amen, Ray. We saw it from both sides tonight and it was exciting as hell to watch.

Marek Svatos has been awarded the game-tying goal that originally went to Paul Stastny. In the first view I saw, I was elated as it looked like Svatos had scored. But from the "in the net" view, it looked like Svatos had wiffed on it and Stastny put it in. I'll take this decision as I've got Svatos in my pool and he's been underwhelming so far to say the least.

Chris Cuthbert mentioned on the air. Now go buy a shirt and support Ronald Macdonald House!

Now, for my main beef with the game tonight. And it's been a beef of mine since the season started. The Avalanche are running a "wide open" offensive style, right? Then why in the world do they do they try and hold hands through the neutral zone?

There were half a dozen occasions where on a breakout, the player on the opposite side of the ice would skate over and actually get in the puck carriers way. What is the deal with that? Are they trying to use the flying V?

I'm getting frustrated watching the puck carrier try to manoeuvre the puck through his teammates skates while heading into the zone so I can't imaging how the puck carrier feels. It makes negative sense to me.

Related Links
Wolski, Svatos deliver in shootout for Avalanche
Avalanche cracks Luongo in shootout

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Avalanche Down Canucks 2-1 in Goaltending Duel

Peter Budaj outdueled Roberto Luongo tonight as the Colorado Avalanche downed the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in a shootout.

The Avalanche started off strong but Robert Luongo was up to the task and shut the Avs down at every opportunity. The Avs fired off 16 shots in the first period but Luongo made it look like a day at the beach.

In the second period, it was the Peter Budaj show as the Canucks turned up the pressure. It took a penalty shot for the Canucks to finally get one past him.

In the third, it was a bit more give-and-go and both Budaj and Luongo came up huge for their teams. Budaj's most memorable save was robbing Henrik Sedin on a cross crease pass on the PP. For Luongo, he saved his team's bacon with just 1.9 seconds left as he robbed Wojtek Wolski on a one-timer off a great pass from T.J. Hensick.

The OT solved nothing and it was off to a shootout. I think I heard Jib let out a stifled roar. But the Avs took the win off of goals from Wolski and Marek Svatos while Budaj turned away 2 of 3 attempts.

It was a whale of a game and great way for the Avs to kick off their three game road trip. I'll put up more notes tomorrow but the one extra thing I will add...Ruslan Salei had his best game of the year tonight.

And Blaine won the bet. But his team still lost. So I win.

Related Links Event Summary

"Lost wind" = "broken ribs"

Dater just reported that Ben Guite has possibly broken some ribs.

After leaving practice in visible pain yesterdray, coach Granato claimed he "just lost his wind". I love the smell of a good lie in the morning, don't you?

It looks like we'll see the McLappy line together again tonight.

Avalanche @ Canucks, Game 15 Preview

The Avalanche offense has been anemic mustering ten goals in their last seven games with including a miserly two goals in their last two games.

Robert Luongo hasn't been scored on since November 2nd and has posted three straight shutouts.

Will one of those give tonight?

With Joe Sakic out of the lineup, Tyler Arnason draws back in after being a healthy scratch against the Nashville Predators.

Will Arnason respond to coach Granato's challenge?

Peter Budaj gets the start in goal and is coming off a shutout of his own. He looked calm, cool and collected in net against the Preds and is looking to build on that performance.

Will this be the night that Peter Budaj turns the corner and proves his detractors wrong?

The game starts at 10:00 ET, 8:00 MT on TSN (Canada) and Altitude (USA) which means the game doesn't start until 9:00 for me.

Will I be able to battle off the flu and stay up for the whole game?

Sidenote: Though I told Alanah the shutout streak would end before the 10:00 mark of the first period, I don't actually believe it will happen that soon. Ssshhh. Don't tell her.

I actually have a bet with a 'Nucks fan at the office that it will end before the 5:00 mark of the second period. And though he thinks the streak will end tonight, he thinks it won't be until 3:10 of the third period.

So I decided to toss up a quick poll to get a general consensus on when the streak will end. If you want to get more specific, leave a comment. I believe they're working for everybody again.

If not, feel free to contact me at thebatlab {at} gmail dot com.

Related Links

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Names on paper

I'm a bit late getting this out but I was taking in Remembrance Day ceremonies.

A few years back I was vacationing with a friend out East and we ended up in Ottawa for a couple days. Ottawa is our political hub and while neither of us are huge politics nuts, it would have been remiss of us not to head to the Parliament buildings and take the tour.

While up at the top we had the somber pleasure of seeing a couple books which contained the names of fallen Canadian soldiers from the (too many) wars that have been fought.

Seeing their names captured in that document and reflecting on their ultimate sacrifice put me in an "artistic" mood. I hope we always remember those people as more than just names on paper.

a name writ down on paper
encased in shining glass
a glimpse of some old memory
enshrined within our past
the few who still remember
feel sorrow to this day
the proud still walk among us
their future in decay
the young do well to know them
so past avoids remand
the future writ on paper
encased within their hands

Monday, November 10, 2008

My bad...

As we all know, the Avalanche have been in a bit of a rut to start the season. Inconsistent defense, offense and goaltending have led to 6-8-0 record, good for 13th in the Western Conference. They're behind Los Angeles for crying out loud.

And today I realized it's all my fault.

I recently rearranged my office and in doing so my Avalanche banner ended up falling behind my desk. It lay there, sad and forlorn for quite some time until today when I noticed it as I rearranged some cables (the bane of my existence).

It has reclaimed it's rightful place in full sight of anyone who sets foot inside the room.

It might take a game or two for the good fortune to make its way to the team but once it does...look out!

The Goaltending Debate is Over

The goaltending debate surrounding Peter Budaj has finally been quenched as his stop on Patrick Kane has been named the Avalanche's Play of the Week.

Finally, we can put this one to rest.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Coyotes End Sharks Seven Game Winning Streak

The San Jose Sharks have been running roughshod over their opponents but tonight the Phoenix Coyotes ended their seven game winning streak.

Down 3-2 with two minutes left, the Sharks tried a surprising tactic to tie the game up. They decided to cram the penalty box like clowns in a phone booth.

It was a fail of epic proportions. But they had to lose at some point so might as well make it memorable, right?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Avalanche Snap Skid, Down Predators 1-0

It's ok, you can say it now. You know you want to. Still superstitious? Ok, I'll do it for you....SHUTOUT!

Peter Budaj backstopped the team to its first shutout of the year and the Avalanche broke a 5-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over the visiting Nashville Predators.

I'll have a bit more to say tomorrow morning but here's some quick thoughts:
- T.J. Hensick is here to stay
- Tyler Arnason's new home is in the press box
- Budaj was lights out and looked like the 15-2 Budaj from 2 years back
- Joe Sakic left after the first period due to a stiff back
- Darcy Tucker scored his 200th career goal
- But I'm still pissed at his low-bridge on Schultz
- But I'll still take the goal
- Does that make me a hypocrite?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Avalanche Continue Losing Skid, Downed 3-1 by Wild

Last night the Avalanche looked to still be reeling from the switch to Daylight Savings Time. The game started at 7:00 MT but they didn't pull their heads out of their asses until about an hour later when Darcy Tucker finally contributed to the team with his second goal of the season.

By then it was too late as the Wild had already run up a 3-0 lead. And if you thought the Avalanche would be able to come back, here's an interesting stat the Altitudes mentioned: in Niklas Backstrom's last 114 games, he has allowed 3 goals or less in 97 of them.*

That prospect in hand, I didn't have high hopes for the remainder of the game. Credit the Avs for fighting hard in the final minutes but it's getting a bit old to see them fall behind early and then spend the remainder of the game playing catchup. 

Are they timing their meals or afternoon naps incorrectly? I'm at a loss to understand how they can continue to come out so ill-prepared to start every game. 

Tucker making us proud
Darcy Tucker must not even be getting his naps because he made an absolutely boneheaded move. Apparently at the end of the second period, he told Wild defenceman Nick Schultz that he was going to take out his knees. And then he actually tried to follow through on that promise.

If that's the case, the NHL should suspend him and Tony Granato should plant his ass in the press box for a few games after the suspension. There is no room for that in the game and it should not be tolerated in the slightest by the league or the team.

If you're worried about who would replace him, don't be. T.J. Hensick came up last n ight and played superbly. In fact, it was Hensick's hard work and great pass which led to Tuckers goal in the second period. He also won key faceoffs all night long and made an excellent case for keeping him in the big leagues.

The upside?
The only redeeming point of the night for me was that I had a bet against the Avs. That's right, I bet against a team on a 4-game losing streak. It's completely counter to my strategy but I have zero faith in the team at the moment.

Side note
People talk about Pavel Datsyuk being a late-round steal but how about Backstrom? The guy wasn't even drafted and now he's among the top-10 goaltenders in the league.

* Numbers may be slightly off as I'm going off the top of my head this morning but you get the idea.

Related Links

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Brunette still wonders: why?

Rick Sadowski has an article up in which Andrew Brunette wonders what more he could have done to keep his job with the Avalanche. Don't worry, Andrew, we all wonder that too.

Cumiskey up, Hannan out, Tjarnqvist double out

Kyle Cumiskey is on his way up along with T.J. Hensick. Why? Scott Hannan has flu-like symptoms (ie. a broken leg) and Daniel Tjarnqvist can't sub in as he has a foot injury (ie. a concussion).

To make room on the roster, David Jones has been "loaned" to Lake Erie (ie. demoted)

Have the injury floodgates started to buckle?

Avalanche vs Wild, Game 13 Preview

Well that was a long layoff. The Avalanche haven't played hockey since their 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on October 23rd so I expect them to be well rested for tonight's home game against the Minnesota Wild.

Sakic hurt?
The big question tonight is whether Joe Sakic will be in the lineup or not. He left yesterday's practice with a strained back but Tony Granato claimed it wasn't serious.

It sounds like his status depends on the morning skate which - as I'm late writing this - should have already happened.

Has anyone heard the latest?

This cloud could have a silver lining. If Hensick shows he's ready for the big leagues, it could make a certain someone expendable.

We can keep hoping, right?

Home sweet home
Tonight will also be a chance for Francois Giguere to come face-to-face with his bonehead move of the offseason - bringing in Darcy Tucker to replace Andrew Brunette.

Brunette: 11 games - 4 goals, 4 assists
Tucker: 12 games - 1 goal, 3 assists

And let's not get started on the character that Brunette brought to the locker room as noted in this DP article.

Is it too late to start a grassroots "Bring back Bruno" petition?

Comment issues
Apparently some folks are having trouble posting comments on the site. I've added a poll to see how many people are having troubles. If it's more than just a couple people, I'll roll back to the old, sucky comment system until things start working again. 

Come on, Google! Roll out a solid, working embedded comment system. It's been a long time coming.

Game time
The puck drops at 9:00 ET, 7:00 MT, 8 CBLT (crazy backwards land time)

Related Links
Pre-game video: Paul Stastny

Monday, November 3, 2008

Avalanche in a spiral, downed 6-2 by Hawks

The game started off great. By the end of it, I was "giving advice" to my TV screen. So much for proving something to the old coach, eh?

Call me a negative Nancy but I'm going to cover a few bad things before I ram my head into a wall to try and forget the last couple games.

Salei light
Ruslan Salei has been brutal the last couple games. Tonight, the second goal was all on him. It was Salei vs Brouwer in front of the net and Brouwer shrugged off Salei so easily it was like a baby kitten was trying to stop him from scoring. Unacceptable.

What happened to the beast we got at the trade deadline? He was great in the playoffs leading me to proclaim he would be one of the Avs best defenders. He's turned into their worst. He needs to shape up or be shipped out.

PK like it's 1895
Ok, if you have 5 defenders on the ice and the opposing team has 5 defenders on the ice, it seems logical that you should be able to clog up a lane if only by accident at some point.

However there were long stretches in the third period where you could have sworn the Hawks had a 5-on-3 advantage the way the Avs were attacking the puck.

When you have 4 guys behind you, you can take the extra stride to attack the puck carrier. It's ok. You don't have to stay a stick blade away, scared they'll pass the puck behind you. Your teammates are supposed to take care of that. You trust them, right? Right?

I'm sure my blood pressure rose to unsafe levels during those stretches. Utterly, utterly awful.

Clear it...please...just once
Once again, the Avalanche were weak on clears. Adam friggin' Foote, the toughest badass this team has, couldn't even muster up a backhanded clear if his life depended on it.

When you're trapped in your zone for 3 straight minutes, fire that flippin' puck out like it's a live grenade that had it's pin pulled three seconds ago. Who cares about icing it at that point? That's the least of your damn worries.

Bear down and clear the puck out of your zone!

I'm bleeding!?
The delay after the icing call that happened right after Brouwer hurt himself checking Jordan Leopold? That was complete and utter <insert favorite phrase>.

If Brouwer was hurt, then he should have gotten the hell off the ice. If he wasn't hurt, he should have been lined up for the faceoff right away.

Instead, he slowly made his way to to the bench, stood on the bench for a while to see if he was bleeding and then slowly made his way back out.

All the while, the linesmen were right there holding his panties for him while he checked his lipstick.

Was the team tired? Obviously based on the way their play deteriorated as the game wore on.

Does that evoke any sympathy from me? Not much. And the players better not fall behind that safe haven in trying to explain how this one got away.

But hey, I got tired too. Of watching. I got so tired I didn't even watch the final two goals.

Actually, that's not true. I caught the highlight of the sixth goal.

Clark slowly backed towards Budaj leaving Patrick Sharp completely free to wind up like Kathy Bates with a sledgehammer before blasting home a pass from Patrick Kane.

Close the gap! What in the name of holy hell was he thinking there? Sharp winds up and he backs away to further screen Budaj? Amazing.

I might put up some of my game notes tomorrow but I don't have the energy to filter out all the profanities and I do want to keep this blog rated PG-13 as best I can.

Related Links Boxscore

Brodeur Injured, Devils Forgo Goaltending

With Martin Brodeur injured, the Devils have apparently decided to forgo having a goaltender, as evidenced by the screencap above from

It's Brodeur or bust for the Devils this season!

Peter Budaj's Mask(s)

SportsIllustrated has a feature on NHL goalie masks and it gives a nice view of Peter Budaj's mask(s).

As noted by Joe @ MHH (I think), Peter Budaj is sporting two masks this year - one for home games and one for away games.

The shots at SI include left and right side views of both masks as well as a shot of the back which I believe is the same for both masks.

I prefer the home mask myself. What's your choice?

NHL Moves to Real-time Balloting for All-Star Game

Fire up your voting scripts and get ready for thousands of people to "back the winner" as the NHL moves to "as many as you want style voting" with real-time results for the All-Star game.

The NHL has announced that from November 12 to Jan 2, fans will be able to vote early and vote often to determine the starting lineups for the NHL All-Star game. And all the while, you can watch the results in real-time as they roll in. And watching those numbers magically move around makes the process "transparent".

But when you show just the results, it's not too hard to cook the numbers. Anyone remember Diebold machines?

Something as simple as the logic below would take care of it:

if(vote not in approved_list) {
add one vote to submitted player
add 10 votes to random player in approved list

And there you go. You can even get more complex and evenly distribute extra votes among the people you want to be in the lineup, ensuring that what fans want doesn't matter.

I'm not suggesting that happens *cough*Scott Niedermayer in the lineup after playing only a dozen games last year*cough* but to say real-time results brings transparency is a tad disingenuous.

I will give it to them on the "engagement" issue though. It's going to be fun to watch the numbers as they roll in. I just hope my easily distracted intellect will be able to hey look, a blue car!

Avalanche @ Blackhawks, Game 12 Preview

The sub-.500 Avalanche are set to face the Joel Quenneville-led Blackhawks tonight and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to "stick it" to coach Q a little bit.

But after last nights performance against the Sharks, I'm not riding a wave of optimism.

Sleep on it
I don't think the defensive issues will be fixed within the span of a plane ride and morning skate so look for more of the same tonight.
Of course, Ian Laperriere's tongue lashing of the the team's defensive efforts might be enough to fire the team up for at least one game.

Line it up
As mentioned in the comments of the Avs-Sharks recap, it would be great to see Svatos move up to one of the top-2 lines - preferably with Sakic to keep the RPM unit together - while moving Tucker to the third line.

So far Tucker really hasn't contributed anything when playing with Sakic so why keep going back to him? Or continually backing Arnason to the press when everyone and their dog feel he is underperforming?

Ok, I understand that one to a degree because you don't hang a player out to dry to the media. But saying he's an important player is incorrect. His role is an important one and there's a big difference.

Pipe it in
Peter Budaj will be back in the pipes after a horrendous performance last night. The giant rebound he tossed out all night long were a key component in the Sharks win. If he doesn't pick up his play, he could find himself riding the pine in favor of Andrew Raycroft.*

Game time
The puck drops at 8:30 ET, 6:30 MT and will likely be to another sellout crowd at the United Center.

*Just seeing if I can rile Mike up again.

Related Links
Avalanche-Blackhawks Preview

Finally some vindication for David Jones

The Dallas Stars are the talk of the town today. In a post by the Forechecker, he takes another look at the penalty +/- stat with regard to Brendan Morrow.

In the one game between the Avs and Stars, I noted Morrow was not acting like a captain should and the numbers are certainly backing that up.

But what does this have to do with David Jones?

Well the youngster finds himself near the top of the list with a +4 rating after drawing five penalties and committing just one.

Ok, three of the five likely came from just one game but I'm trying to use a little cognitive dissonance here.

I predicted a 30-goal season for Jones and so far he's got a grand total of one goal which puts him on pace for an amazing eight goal season. 

At least it would be a career high...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Avalanche Swim with the Fishes, Lose 5-3 to Sharks

If there's one lesson the Avalanche have yet to learn this year, it's how to clear the damn crease.

In tonight's 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks, 4 out of 5 goals can be attributed to an inability to clear the crease of the puck and/or opposing players.

Goal #1 - The Sharks came screaming across the blueline, moving the puck from one side of the ice to the other and Michalek roofed it with a great shot. Solid play by the Sharks and the Avs appeared unready for their speed.

Goal #2 - Ehrhoff broke in, Budaj made the save but the puck sat on the goal line and Setoguchi tapped it in unimpeded as Foote had put himself out of position trying to toss a big hit.

Goal #3 - Salei lays down on the ice - literally, he just laid down like it was nap time - and can't get back up in time to help out in front. Hannan was caught off to the side after a flop of his own trying to block the pass to make up for his giveaway. Setoguchi has an easy tap-in for his second of the game.

Goal #4 - Tucker lost his stick, Foote felt it was a good time to pass him the puck and things went downhill from there. Blake read the play, fed the puck to Cheechoo who fired it on net. Budaj made the save but the rebound hung around in the crease and as David Jones and John-Michael Liles couldn't clear the puck or Michalek from the crease, Michalek banged home his second goal of the game.

Goal #5 - Patrick Marleau fed Mike Grier who fired it on Budaj from the hash marks. Budaj made the save but the rebound again hung in a very bad area and Leopold had terrible positioning on Clowe who buried it past Budaj quite easily.

The Sharks are a hell of a team, but this was a poor defensive effort from the Avs in their own zone. It needs to change because I'm tired of bitching about it.

EDIT: Just reading through the game thread @ MHH and texacogirl notes:
"Since I’m the only one here who can see the post game, Lappy just called out the D for not playing the game they are supposed to. Lappy noted the D is not making the right plays and is backing off instead of jumping in. He even went as far as to say it is an issue of individual preparation. He looked kinda pissed."

Finally Laperriere had enough of saying "Everything is fine" and blew off some steam. Some truth steam.

TSN turning point
Goal #4 was the real killer of the night, not goal #5 IMHO. The Avs had come out firing and cut the lead to one early in the third but the Sharks were able to answer back within five minutes to keep the game two goals out of reach for the Avs. It was like watching Sisyphus trying to push a rock up a hill.

When a team gets a two goal cushion to start the game, they'll win 95% of the time, every time. 

Pinball machine
Though Budaj played a sharp game and made some excellent saves, he was not very Hoover-ish tonight. He left some juicy rebounds sitting in front and as much as the D need to clear those, he needs to work on gobbling up more shots.

Line switching
Tony Granato pulled a page from the Q-book as he shook up the lines late in the second and all throughout the third.

Let's just say the shift chart from DD for the third period should be interesting. 

David Jones was a -3 on the night and was planted on the bench for most of the third period.

Liles was the ice-time leader with 23:54.

Ryan Smyth fired off 6 shots and was working hard all game long, as per usual.

Patrick Marleau won only 33% of his draws tonight. His overall percentage is above 60% so tonight was a bit of an anomoly for him.

Joe Sakic went 11 for 16 for a 69% winning percentage. Heh.

There were only 5 total penalties in the game.

The Avs got off 36 shots to the Sharks 29. The difference? The Sharks cleared rebounds/bodies from the crease.

Next game
The Avs will roll into Chicago late tonight as they face the Blackhawks tomorrow at 8:30 ET. 

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Mats Sundin Leaving Canada for a Tax Loophole?

I'm sitting at a coffee shop with free wi-fi and while watching my fantasy football team go down in flames, I decided to check out the latest sports headlines.

A link from Kukla caught my eye due to the excellent line of:

"Why Ron Wilson is the coach of the month in the NHL: Name another coach who has fixed two teams, one by arriving and one by departing"
So I headed on over to the Toronto Sun article to see if there were any other gems hidden inside. And it didn't disappoint.

It started off with an interesting piece on the unsavory relationship between Bob Goodenow and David Frost and then capped itself off with this nugget:
If Mats (Toronto is my home) Sundin has his house up for sale, don't bet on him playing for any Canadian team. It has to do with a tax loophole foreign athletes get. When he gets out of Canada, he gets a big cheque from the government. But if he stays, he gets nothing.
Interesting. So if Mats leaves the country, we give him money. If he stays, we keep his money.

But what do we do once he gets to the border, has one leg in the States, one leg in Canada and says "I can't make up my mind"?

Avalanche vs Sharks, Game 11 Preview

I don't call any game a must-win game unless it's a situation where if you lose your season is done. But today's game against the San Jose Sharks is certainly a big one for the Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado is coming off two straight losses and sitting at .500 while the Sharks have won three straight and sit atop the Western Conference. To say it will be a tough game would be an understatement.

After a dismal outing by Andrew Raycroft against the Blue Jackets, Peter Budaj will be back between the pipes. Budaj needs to build on his solid outings from last week to bring the Avs back above .500.

The Sharks two losses this year have come at the hands of Florida (what?) and the Ducks. It's time for Colorado to put another "L" on their record.

The puck drops at 8:00 ET, 6:00 MT and, as we're a bassackwards province who feel DST is beneath us, game time is 7:00 at my house.

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