Monday, December 29, 2008

Avalanche vs Predators Game Preview

Once again, I'm late.

And I don't even have a decent excuse other than a mild case of burnout.

In the time since my last post, we learned that Paul Stastny is about to have surgery on his broken forearm, Cody McCormick has been playing with a hairline fracture in his foot, Claude Lemieux has signed with the Sharks and I'm getting a bit curmudgeony.

I'll respond in order: Sigh, Of course, Good grief and Yeah, a little bit.

I just didn't have the energy not to be curmudgeony and the Avs beating the Wings twice gave me the perfect outlet.

But then I became like them. And I didn't like it.

So although I will still take an extra bit of pleasure in beating the Wings, I'll make sure I don't let the dark side seep in to my thoughts. Much.

But enough about that, there's a game tonight! In two hours!

The Avalanche have a chance for a three-game homestand sweep as they take on the Nashville Predators.

The Predators are fresh off a 5-2 loss to the Oilers last night so the Avs need to take it to them early and often.

Though I will be watching the game, I might take the analytical hat off tonight and forego a full recap.

If anyone wants to submit one in my place, feel free ;)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Avalanche Nearly Blow Lead against Detroit, Win 4-3

Due to a stacked UFC 92 card, I've only watched the first period of the game. But curiosity got the best of me and I did check on the final outcome.

After an early 3-0 lead, the Avalanche hung on and skated away with a 4-3 shootout win over the Red Wings.

As I haven't watched the final 2.3 periods, I won't pontificate too much on why the Avs gave up a a 3-0 lead.

But I will say this. Do you know who whines about terrible ref jobs?

The losers.

Hopefully I'll find the time and energy to catch the rest of the game tomorrow. But if I don't, it still won't change the fact that the Avs beat Detroit. Again.

Paul Stastny Injury a Real Bummer

I was sitting around relaxing on a Saturday when two new Avalanche videos popped up in Google Reader.

First, I checked out Ian Laperriere's video which was as enlightening as it gets with hockey players these days.

"Well, what else is there to say about Stastny's injury?", you declare.

Don't worry, the ace reporter grilling Adam Foote has the answer.

It's a bummer.

After Foote declared that you never want to lose anybody, least of all Stastny, the intrepid investigator asked the following intellectual gem:

It's kind of a bummer. How do you keep from not getting bummed. I don't know, if it was me I guess I'd be a little bit bummed.
Move over Larry King, there's a new ace interviewer on the beat!

And apparently he smokes a lot of weed.

Avalanche vs Red Wings, Game Preview

The holiday season has come and gone.

The presents are unwrapped. The chocolates have been eaten. The turkey has been stuffed and devoured.

But one thing hasn't changed.

Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny will be absent from the Avalanche lineup for the foreseeable future.

One man's loss is another man's gain
Oh, one more thing has changed.

Tyler Arnason is the new #1 center.

If that doesn't strike fear into the hearts and minds of Avalanche opponents, I don't know what will.

Did I say opponents? Sorry, I meant fans.

I didn't get much for Christmas. I didn't ask for much either. I must have suspected I would need a more important gift.

And now I want to cash it in.

Santa, if you're still around please help Tyler Arnason rise to the occasion and make us all not unproud.

Hensick also slides up
Along with the Arnason promotion, T.J. Hensick has moved up from a fourth-line winger position to become the second-line center.

Based on practice reports, he will center a line with David Jones and Wojtek Wolski.

Svatos and Salei slide back in
Marek Svatos and Ruslan Salei will make their returns tonight.

Svatos really needs to step up and provide some offensive support. It will be tough sledding as he will likely find himself on the third line tonight but he needs to find a way to get it done.

Third line pickle
Cody McCormick sat last game and may sit again while the Avs give Chris Stewart more time to showcase his skills.

If Stewart stays in he would likely play on a line with Ian Laperriere and the returning Marek Svatos which would leave Darcy Tucker on the fourth line with Ben Guite and Cody Mcleod.

If Stewart draws out, Granato would likely renew the McLappy line leaving a Tucker and Svatos to play on a line centered by Guite.

So no matter how you dice it, the third line will be quite the interesting mix.

UPDATE: AD informs us that McCormick is out.

Budaj back in net
Peter Budaj gets the start in goal and will presumably go up against Ty Conklin as Chris Osgood is still recovering from a busted vagina.

Lidstrom possibly out
Nik Lidstrom took a puck to the ankle last night and will be a gametime decision tonight.

The sweats have already started over there.

The Avs will need every advantage they can get tonight so pray to Vishnu that Lidstrom's foot is swollen bigger than [go ahead and finish this one off in your head while I keep things PG-13 ;)]

UPDATE: AD informs us that Nik Lidstrom is out for tonight's game.

Game time
The puck drops at 9:00 ET at the Pepsi Center. Denver natives, get down there and support your team!

Related Links
Avalanche report: Arnason, Hensick take center stage against Red Wings
Avs promote Arnason to first line with Sakic, Stastny out
Arnie the new #1 center
Scouting the Avs

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Paul Stastny Fractures Right Forearm, Out Indefinitely

I don't swear often. Well, not on this blog anyways. But I'm sorry, I have to do it.

SHIT!

Paul Stastny fractured his right forearm late in the game against the Coyotes and is out indefinitely.

The Avs were already weak up the middle with the absence of Joe Sakic and now Tyler Arnason is atop the depth chart at center?

The Avs will slowly sink to the bottom of the standings during Stastny's absence which will hopefully be so short as to make everyone think Stastny is a self-replicating nano-bot.

Merry friggin' Christmas.

Avalanche Dump Coyotes in OT, Win 5-4

And playing the role of The Grinch tonight: Brett Clark.

He nearly stole Christmas away from Avalanche fans by finding himself in the box for the Coyotes late, game-tying goal.

But then he thought back on his dastardly attitude and had a change of heart.

It could have been the fresh snow on the ground. It could have been the scent of pine in the air. It could have been the little girl crying behind the glass after the Avs gave up a lead.

In the final act, Clark made a nice move past a sliding 'Yotes defender, stepped to the top of the circle and rifled the winning goal past a shell-shocked Ilya Bryzgalov.

So after giving a up a 4-2 lead late in the game - and giving many Avs fans heart attacks - the Avalanche came away with a 5-4 win against the visiting Coyotes.

And as I'm feeling a lack of Christmas cheer at the moment, I have to end this post early while I try and recharge my batteries.

I wish you all a truly merry Christmas and will see you back here on the 27th for a game against the Red Wings. Who oddly enough don't seem so formidable to me these days.

But I've likely gone and jinxed it now.

Happy holidays to all and to a good night.

Avalanche vs Coyotes Game Preview

I'm late, I'm late. For a very important date.

It's only 15 minutes to game time and I'm just getting to a preview. Shouldn't Christmas time be less stressful as we all bask in the joy and goodness?

Is it fired up again?
My main thought is that I don't see the sense in starting Andrew Raycroft tonight.

We're getting away from Tony Granato's original theory on how this goaltending rotation would work.

It was abandoned when Budaj was on a winning streak - and I endorsed it - and now it seems with Budaj playing less than stellar, we've gone to a reward-based system for goaltending starts.

I won't delve much further into this lest I not finish until after the game ends, but I don't see Raycroft doing enough to unshelf Peter Budaj.

No shutout please
I didn't say anything after the Panthers win because, to be frank, I was flipping embarassed.

Shutout? By the Panthers? Come on now.

If the Avs get shut out by the Coyotes tonight, I won't watch the Avs for the rest of the year...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Avalanche @ Panthers Game Preview

The Avalanche are in Florida this afternoon to take on the Panthers and I'm feeling pretty good about this game.

The one thing that has me a bit leery is that the Avs have won 10 straight road games against the Panthers. That sounds like a streak that's just dying to end.

Budaj back in
And if it does end tonight, it will be with Peter Budaj between the pipes.

Tony Granato has gone back to Peter Budaj after Andrew Raycroft took down the Lightning and improved his record to 5-1-0 this season.

Raycroft's record speaks more than his play and it's the right call for TG to quell any whisperings of a goaltending controversy.

He never should have let it begin in the first place.

Welcome home, baby
My TV has finally made its way to my temporary dwellings.

Was it wrong to miss an object so much?

Probably. But its smile is just so damn pretty. Especially in HD.

Game time
The puck drops at 5:00 ET which means those West Coast folks will be rolling out of bed just in time to watch.

Related Links
An easy decision: Budaj will start
Bitter over the shootout

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Avalanche Top Lightning, Win 2-1

I finally got my TV back today. Not in time to catch the whole game - of course - but I did see OT and the shootout.

Hejduk "scores"
The Hejduk "goal" was controversial but by the letter of the law, Mike Smith threw his stick. Just because the stick didn't come into play as part of the save has no bearing on the situation.

And for the Tampa announcers, the stick was most definitely out of Smith's hand before the save was made. Saying it wasn't out of his hands over and over again doesn't make it so.

It's a tough call but I'm going to agree with it while wearing my burgundy-tinted glasses.

Rayzor robs 'em
As for Andrew Raycroft's showboat at the end...I loved it.

I usually don't like that sort of play but the mood I'm in today, it struck the right chord for me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Raycroft Gets Rewarded, Budaj Gets Bombarded

From AD: Andrew Raycroft will start in goal tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Well...crap.

But I'll tell you what, I'm going to give Tony Granato the benefit of the doubt on this one.

For one reason or another, I'm in a forgiving mood today.

I don't feel like assuming it's a knee-jerk move designed to punish Budaj for a mediocre performance against the Flyers.

I don't want to presume that TG learned too much from ol' JQ over the last three years.

I hate to leap to the conclusion that Granato is panicking for no reason over Budaj's abilities.

I won't perceive that Granato is putting too much stock into Raycroft's win against the Wings.

I can't fathom that TG is going to start the fabled "win and you're in" goaltending rotation.

I just can't bring myself to do it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Avalanche Wheel Past Wings, Win 3-2


(outspokinbikes)
Wow. I'll come back and edit in an actual recap later. For now, I'm going to make step outside and make sure the world still exists.

Recap
The Avalanche took advantage of two quick goals in the first five minutes to finally defeat the Red Wings by a score of 3-2.

After 8 straight losses to the Wings, the Avs finally get that monkey off their back. And they did it right in Detroit's kitchen too.

The first goal was the result of a turnover by Johan Franzen which led to a Wojtek Wolski breakaway. And we all know what Wolski can do when he's in alone.

Arnason fed Wolski a super slow pass and Wolski used it to full effect to pull off an abbreviated Forsberg-esque move to put it past Chris Osgood.

The Avs then went on their first powerplay of the game and Paul Stastny made it count. He wheeled in down the left side and rifled a shot over Osgood's glove to make it 2-0 before the ice was even frozen.

The Avs had the obvious early jump but the Wings started picking up as the period drew on.

In the second period, it was all Red Wings.

But Andrew Raycroft was there to match them every step of the way.

Don't adjust your monitors. You read that correctly. Andrew Raycroft played very well tonight.

The third period started off with a penalty shot for the Avalanche. And since the grind line was on the ice at the time, the best option to take the shot was Jordan Leopold. And he did not disappoint.

Leopold went in, looked like he was going to shoot and then pulled it backhand and roofed it on Osgood. 3-1 and the living was easy.

At this point, my Slingbox started malfunctioning. Or my router. Either way, I was in and out of the game.

From what I saw the Avs kept up the pressure and speed, opting not to fall into a defensive shell. Which would have been obliterated by the Wings no doubt.

The Wings had their last push with Osgood out of the net but the Avalanche did not falter and walked away with the 3-2 win, silencing the 12 fans at Joe Louise arena.

Standouts
Scott Hannan played an excellent game tonight. Too often he's been utterly invisible but tonight he was making some excellent defensive plays, especially during the many fate tempting penalty kills for the Avs.

He didn't get credited with any hits but he made some effective rubouts along the boards.

David Jones looks one hundred times more stable on his skates than at the start of the season.

Early in the second Jones drove around a Wings defender, took a solid hip-check, stayed on his feet and nearly banged the puck in past Osgood.

He still isn't scoring at the pace I'd like to see but you can't fault his effort these days.

Andrew Raycroft looked like a different goaltender tonight.

He made some solid positional saves and when he was out of position he made some excellent reflex stops to cover up for it.

Raycroft certainly didn't show enough to unseat Peter Budaj as the #1 keeper but I now have more confidence in his abilities.

The quivering masses yearning to be free
The A2Y crowd will be crowing about the previous string of games where the Red Wings absolutely dominated the Avs - and probably complaining about Bettman fixing the game. But that doesn't matter today because the Avalanche beat the Wings.

I almost deleted that last paragraph because I know the perverse pleasure they get over being the "top dog". But that's ok. Because the Avalanche beat the Wings.

Lines
Smyth-Stastny-Hejduk
Wolski-Arnason-Hensick
Stewart-Laperriere-Jones
Mcleod-Dupuis-McCormick

Clark-Hannan
Salei-Foote
Liles-Leopold

Final Note
How glad is everyone to not hear Johan Franzen referred to as "the Mule" every 10 seconds? I actually don't recall anyone using his nickname. Until now. Whoops.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
Happy Birthday, Bill!
Avs down Red Wings 3-2

Avalanche @ Red Wings Game Preview

The title says it all, doesn't it?

Well, that and Andrew Raycroft starting in goal.

Yep, to face the ol' winged wheel we're sending in the second stringer. That's some poor timing right there (though I do have a theory).

You know what else is poor timing? Landing the wrong way during volleyball, hearing a loud pop and heading to the ER in shorts in -40 weather.

Not only is it a recipe for a severely sprained ankle - and cold to boot - but combined with the distinct possibility of a rough loss tonight, it's a recipe for self-pity.

So what do you think, Avs? Can you keep me off the self-pity bandwagon?

You didn't bend to my anger against the Hawks so maybe the compassion approach will work.

If not, I'm all out of ideas.

Game time
The game starts at 7:00 ET, 5:00 MT.

Related Links
Avs-Wings: Foregone conclusion
Why the Red Wings make me sad

Friday, December 12, 2008

Avalanche vs Blackhawks Game Preview

It has been a bitch of a week. I'm paying a mortgage + rent (long story), still can't get a decent sleep at night, had a ridiculous end to the work week, Joe Sakic nearly severed his fingers plus I still don't have my damn TV. Cable box but no TV. How messed up is that?

But do you know what could save it all? If the Avalanche could crush the Joel Quenneville-led Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

I don't want them to squeak out a win. I want them to annihilate the bastards. 6-0, 7-1, 8-3. Anything less than a 5-goal cushion just won't do it for me.

I want to see pain on the face of their players. I want to see rage in Quenneville's eyes. I want their fans to feel this loss for years to come. I want Wolski to undress Khabibulin the way Toews did Theodore.

I want a hug.

Lines
Marek Svatos is day-to-day with a back injury and will sit out this game. The Avs have called up Phillippe Dupuis from Lake Erie to fill the vacant roster spot.

With Darcy Tucker not at 100% yet, Dupuis could find himself in the lineup tonight which should be interesting. It's always fun to see someone play their first NHL game even if that player comes with no hype.

On defense, Adam Foote is back in the lineup and Daniel Tjarnqvist finds himself back in the press box. It's unfortunate as Tjarnqvist put in a decent relief effort while Foote was out.

Foote skated with John-Michael Liles during practice which would bump Ruslan Salei back over to a line with Jordan Leopold who was previously paired with Tjarnqvist. Man, that was a confusing sentence, wasn't it?

I'll re-word:
Foote-Liles
Clark-Hannan
Salei-Leopold

Goaltending
Quenneville is clinging to his "lose the right to play in goal" motto with an iron grip as he is starting Nikolai Khabibulin tonight.

Who cares if Cristobal Huet has won 3 of his last 4 starts. So what that he shut out Ottawa on Wednesday? Big deal that he seems to play better with more starts. What difference does it make that his confidence seems to be rising?

It's all about the competition. And healthy competition at that. right? They have to be scared to lose. They have to be afraid to make a mistake. They have to know that if they screw up, they're benched.

Because nothing inspires confidence and trust like making people scared to make a mistake.

For the Avs, Tony Granato will likely continue to ride Peter Budaj. I thought Budaj was going to tire out a bit but he appears to be going strong.

I just hope Granato and Budaj will be honest enough with each other to know when he does need a rest.

Game time
Puck drop is at 9:00 ET, 7:00 MT at the Pepsi Center.

Related Links
Leading resurgent Chicago, Quenneville at peace with himself (Was he at war before? Because that could explain a lot)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm Freakin' Out Man!

Ok, I just had a bad last hour here at work and thought I'd calm my mind by checking out the latest news.


For world news it was "economic crisis" this and "recession" that so I turned to the old trusted standby: hockey.

It's always there to comfort you. Stories about refs swearing at players, legends nearly severing their fingers in a snow blower and former team owners looking at PMITA prison time for securities fraud.

It's always enough to give you a chuckle, if only out of exasperation.

But today I damn near lost it. And it only took the headline to do it. Are you ready for it? Here it is.

"Hossa has no regrets signing one-year deal with Wings despite economy"

Are you *bleeping* kidding me? He signed a contract for $7.45M - that's "M" with an "illion" after it - and you think he'd be worried about the economy?

He's got a better debt-to-asset ratio than most banks in the US. Hell, he might even be able to single-handedly take one over (I'm looking at you Bear Stearns).

He has 29 points in 27 games and has been the Red Wings best player up to this point. Considering he's on  a team with names like Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Lidstrom, that's saying something.

I'm sick and f'n tired of hearing about the "economic crisis" and I certainly don't need to hear it in some sort of ridiculous tie-in to hockey that an intern thought up in the shower this morning.

Teams might need to buckle their belts a little bit next year but do you really think the superstars won't get paid?

*bleep*!

Related Links

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sakic Injures Hand with Snow Blower, Out 3 Months

It's just a comedy of errors for what is shaping up to possibly be Joe Sakic's final season in the NHL.


Sakic, already out with a herniated disc, injured his hand in a snow blowing incident which required surgery by a hand specialist.

He is projected to be out for three months while recovering.

My only positive thought out of all this is that maybe with all these injuries he will end up essentially having a year off and might decide to come back again next season.

Because we all know he wants to play for Canada in 2010. This might be "darkest before the dawn" part of that plan.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Avalanche Dethrone Kings, Win 6-1

Remember how last game I only got to see bits and pieces? Well this game I saw jack squat.

The cable is hooked up but I haven't had time to move my TV over yet. Couple that with playing volleyball most of the evening and it just wasn't my night for hockey watching.

Thankfully the Avs proved they didn't need me rooting for them every night as they finally did the unthinkable: win a game by more than a goal.

That's right, the Avalanche defeated the Kings tonight by a score of 6-1. That's a friggin' 5-goal cushion!

Talk about winning the games you should win and doing it convincingly.

Svatos injured?
Unfortunately it sounds like Marek Svatos got hurt in the second period and didn't return.

Svatos has been on fire lately and often times has looked like the only guy who showed up to play. Hopefully keeping him out of the game was just a precaution.

Banging out the positives
On the positive side of the equation,  Cody Mcleod banged home two goals and Ian Laperriere banged around John Zieler. And he did it without sucker punching anyone. Who knew you could do that?

Add in Chris Stewart's first NHL tally and you've got a solid night of hockey that everyone can enjoy.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Avalanche Dump Canucks in Shootout, Win 5-4

I'm currently in a temporary apartment and without my TV/PVR/Center Ice trifecta. And though I have a Slingbox, the wifi I'm pilfering has been hit-and-miss.

So what does that mean? It means I only saw bits and pieces of the game so I'll do this recap in point form.

See, individual points have less chance of making me look like an ass than if I pontificate on a "trend" based on one observation.

And here...we...go!

Notes
Daniel Tjarnqvist is making his case for staying in the lineup. Could he be making another defender expendable?

Milan Hejduk lived up to his "Canuck killer" moniker as he potted one goal, assisted on two others and sealed the Canucks fate with a goal in the shootout.

David Jones found the twine tonight as he continues to improve from earlier this season. He's got a ways to go to hit 30 goals though.

What was with Steve Bernier tonight? He potted two goals and only the post kept him from ending the game in overtime.

Wojtek Wolski is the new Jussi Jokinen. But his moves are even sweeter.

Could Wolski, Marek Svatos and Hejduk be one of the most potent shootout lineups this year? Seriously, I'm asking.

Related Links
NHL.com Boxscore

Friday, December 5, 2008

Avalanche Outshined by Stars, Lose 2-1

Marek Svatos was the hero, tying the game in the final minute, but the Avalanche couldn't complete the comeback and were handed their first OT loss of the season.

Unfortunately I'm lacking the energy to do a full recap after a long week so I'm going to bow out gracefully tonight and hopefully be back in full force for Sunday's game against the Canucks.

I'll end on this note: Why did Turco pick tonight to start stopping pucks?

Note to Coaches: Quit Arguing Hit from Behind Penalties

I've got the Blues-Flames game on while the Avs-Stars are in intermission and something just happened which pissed me off to no end.

Mark Giordano was heading in to touch the puck for icing and he had David Backes a good step or two behind him.

Giordano touched the puck, hugging himself against the glass and that should have been the end of the play.

Instead, Backes kept on going and tossed a check which connected with Giordano squarely in the numbers.

Giordano was a bit shaken up but all right and the refs correctly sent Backes to the penalty box.

No problem, right? Bad behavior was punished and everybody learned a lesson. Wrong.

The camera cuts over to Andy Murray who is beside himself on the Blues bench calling it a bull$&^! call among other things.

And that's exactly the kind of response from coaches that will keep those kind of "Play hard and finish your check" plays in the game.

Murray should have shut the [email protected]#$ up or, alternatively, told his players "See the numbers and you let up or you get a penalty."

Instead, in arguing the call he's given his players the impression that what Backes did was perfectly acceptable.

And it was not.

I don't know how people can make it more clear but I'll try the all caps + bolding + multiple exclamation points method.

IF YOU SEE THE NUMBERS, LET UP!!!

It's really that simple. And don't let your coach tell you otherwise.

UPDATE: And the Flames just scored to tie the game. Poetic justic.

Avalanche Pounced by Predators, Lose 3-2

I only caught the first half of the first period so I have no useful observations on the Avs loss to the Preds last night.


Instead, I'll leave the recap up to Forechecker who has done the first ever hockey recap in verse. 


Related Links

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Avalanche @ Predators, Game 25 Preview

The Avalanche are in Nashville tonight to take on the Predators and my current mood is somber.

The Avalanche are on a two-game winning streak, have scored 10 goals in those two games and shut out the Predators the last time the two met. So why the sour face?

Well, Joe Sakic being sidelined for at least six more weeks doesn't help but it wasn't shocking news by any means.

I guess you could say I've just got "one of those feelings" about tonight. And I hope I'm wrong.

Starting Goaltenders
Peter Budaj will be in net for the Avs and will face down Pekka Rinne at the other end.

Apparently Rinne gets the start due to an informal rule the Preds have of giving a goaltender who earned a shutout - 2-0 over the Sabres Monday- the start in the next game.

Budaj earned a shutout last time the two met so really, can we expect anything less this game?

Scouting
Look out for Shea Weber who is currently a shoo-in for the Norris Trophy IMHO. He leads all defenders with 10 goals, 13 assists, has a +12 rating and plays just over 24 minutes per game.

Does anyone have another candidate who can beat that? And please don't say Dion Phaneuf. Weber has surpassed Phaneuf as a the premiere young defender in the league.

UPDATE: I was perusing other stats and noticed a huge difference between the two. Weber has 3 giveaways on the season. Phaneuf? 28. I don't regard RTSS stats as 100% accurate but that's a large enough difference that you can't attribute it to bias.

In good news, the Predators are cellar-dwellars (27th) on the PP so hopefully the Avalanche won't get shelled like they did against the Wild while down a man.

Injuries
Sakic, Adam Foote, Ben Guite and Darcy Tucker all remain out. That means the lines should remain as they were last game which is a good thing.

Steve Sullivan is the lone injury for the Preds as he remains out following back surgery.

Game time
The game starts at 8:00 ET, 6:00 MT.

Related Links
ColoradoAvalanche.com Game Preview

nhLOL - Where Have You Been All My Life?

Sean Leahy over at Going Five Hole had a post up today that introduced me to the nhLOL blog.

It's pure comedy gold and I can't believe I hadn't heard of it before.

So it's not just the Avs

Flyers rushing injured players back too soon?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Backstrom Rebounds with Shutout

Two short days after the Avalanche lit up Niklas Backstrom for six goals, he turns around and shuts out the St. Louis Blues 4-0.

I guess the Avs poked the bear and he got angry. Sorry, St. Louis.

Oh, and Andrew Brunette scored a goal. But who cares.

Joe Sakic out Six Weeks with Herniated Disc

Joe Sakic will be out for six weeks with a herniated disc and my first thought was: "At least now we know."

My second thought was: "Didn't that show up the first time?" 


I'm obviously not a doctor but it seems to me that this should have been spotted when he got his initial MRI done. 

It's unfortunate and likely extremely frustrating for Sakic as he is in the twilight of his career.

When he was on the ice this season, he was flying while he racked up 12 points in 15 games.

But his body might be starting to say "No mas"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Avalanche @ Wild, Game 24 Thoughts

In the last two games, the Avalanche have scored 10 goals and it's due to two reasons.

Reason the first: The Avalanche are spreading out in the neutral zone.

This has been so critical to letting them break into the offensive zone with speed rather than playing a dump-and-chase.

And that is what a run-and-gun strategy should look like.

Reason the second: The Avalanche are driving hard to the net.

The second component of a run-and-gun offense is to be able to capitalize on the changes generated.

There's no better way to do it than by being in front of the net looking for rebounds.

Reason the third: The Avalanche are working hard in the corners

A bonus reason! The Avalanche have started to forecheck much better down low. And when they do get the puck, they don't endlessly cycle along the boards. Ok, they did it once in the third but it isn't a part of their gameplan the way it was last year.

Notes
If I could marry Milan Hejduk's shot, I would. Then I'd divorce it just so I could marry it again.

David Jones really seems to have benefitted from playing with McCormick and Mcleod. I'm loving his new nose for the net. It's what I expected out of him from game one.

Ian Laperriere has two goals and four assists in his last five games. If he would just get in a fight or two this week, he'll be fantasy gold for me!

And how about Marek Svatos' recent awakening? Granato may have found paydirt with his current line combos.

According to Versus, that a career-high in goals against for Nik Backstrom and it was also the most goals ever in an Avs-Wild contest.

On average, the Wild scored within 28 seconds on their three powerplay goals (6, 71, 7)

Cody Mcleod yipping at Derek Boogard was awesome. Sure, Boogard would destroy Mcleod in a fight, but you've got to love his moxie.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Avalanche Break Scoring Slump, Down Wild 6-5

My goodness that was an exciting game! I'm still a bit amped up and am having a hard time collecting my thoughts.

The Avalanche put down the Wild with an intense 6-5 win at the Xcel Energy Center.

Right from puck drop the Avs had their legs flying and they kept it up throughout most of the game. It's amazing how much free ice you have to skate when your teammates give you room to breathe.

The Wild drew first blood but the Avs didn't let that get them down. They kept applying the pressure and were rewarded with two quick goals.

Marek Svatos and David Jones answered back for the Avs and you started to get the feeling this one was going to escalate.

The Wild then got their first of three goals on the powerplay with Ryan Smyth in the box.

Smyth then promptly headed right back into the box after lipping off to the referee. It was a bold move. And by "bold", I mean "boneheaded". The Wild scored again with Smyth in the box to make it 3-2.

I suppose it's the Wild's fault really for scoring 6 seconds in to the first powerplay and not giving Smyth a chance to cool down in the box.

But then the Avalanche really opened up.

Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and T.J. Hensick put the Avs up 5-3. And then Stastny potted one more for good measure to make it 6-3.

Stastny's secong goal was due to some hard work down low by Ryan Smyth that helped make up for the two penalties he took earlier. But it was the equivalent of saying sorry after cheating on your girlfriend. The damage was already done and no amount of work could make it the same again. Once a cheater, always a cheater!

The Avs gave up another PP goal to close out the period after a weak, weak, weak, weak tripping call on David Jones. How weak was it? ...Dang, I thought I had a good joke there but I blanked after seeing a De La Hoya-Pacquiao promo.

Josh Harding replaced Backstrom for the third period and did an admirable job stopping all five shots that were sent his way.

Then, for the second game in a row, the Avs had their fans on edge after the opposition pulled within one goal.

It was a goal that never should have counted though. Brent Burns, playing as a winger, drove wide on Brett Clark and beat him to the goal. And then proceeded to push Budaj out of the way while the puck slowly slid into the net.

The goal was reviewed to see if Burns had kicked the puck in and during the review, the announcers stated "See, Budaj tried to make a play with his stick. That didn't work."

My response was "Because Burns skate was pushing his stick out of the way!"

I mean, my goodness. If that's not the definition of goaltender interference, I don't know what is. I'll watch the highlights again to make sure I'm not overreacting on that goal but I'm quite certain I'm not.

Either way, the Wild ended up shooting themselves in the foot as Bergeron ended up tripping Milan Hejduk with just 54 seconds to go.

Phew, that was a mouthful. I'll come back tomorrow with some overall thoughts on the game.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary

Avalanche @ Wild, Game 24 Preview

After my Hockey Talk Day post, combined with a bunch of technical and process documentation writing at work, I'm near all writ out. I don't know if there's a word I haven't used today. Maybe discombobulate. Ok, now that's all of them.

But I'll soldier on so I don't get jaded. And because I'm kind of bored after work.

Preview
After hanging on for a 4-3 win against the Lightning, the Avs are now in the hockey hotbed of St. Paul, Minnesota. And no, that wasn't facetious. Minnesota loves their hockey and I love them for it.

The Avs are on a five-game road losing streak in the regular season to the Wild and I think it's high time they put an end to it.

But a win against the Wild won't come as easy as a win against the Lightning.

The Wild are 14-7-1 this season and are only in 2nd place in the Northwest because Vancouver has played two more games.

They give up a stingy 2.14 goals per game which is second only to the surprising Boston Bruins (by 0.02 g/g)

Couple that with Colorado's 2nd-last goal scoring pace of 2.41 goals per game, and this could have disaster written all over.

But I remain confident in the Avs ability to overcome this. Why? Because it's Hockey Talk Day where nary a bad thing should be said about hockey.

Goaltending
After a day off for both team's starters, it will be Peter Budaj vs Niklas Backstromg tonight. And remember, Peter Budaj has already out-dueled on elite goaltender this year. And I bet he's just itching to do it again.

Injuries
Nothing new here. Joe Sakic and Adam Foote have not made the trip. And of course Darcy Tucker and Ben Guite remain on the IR.

Scouting
The Wild's no-name line - and again, I don't mean that in a derogatory way - of Andrew Brunette-Mikko Koivu-Antti Miettinen have combined for 58 points on the season. Stop them and you have a good shot at taking out the Wild. Ok, a better shot.

And Andrew Brunette is scoring on over 25% of his shots so it's imperative to keep an eye out for the crafty vet. I think we all know what he can do around the net.

Game time
Puck drops at 8:00 ET. And if you aren't local to Minnesota or Colorado, you might want to check out MyP2P. For no reason. Just to browse.

Related Links
Tjarnqvist gets inside scoop on Wild

Happy Hockey Talk Day

Today is Hockey Talk Day where Paul Kukla of Kukla's Korner has asked everyone to spread the good word on hockey.

In that light, I thought I'd share a few short stories of my experiences with our beautiful game.

Bridging Nations
The first story is the most interesting to me. And unfortunately I'm going to have to condense it so I don't overload everyone on the first go.

My longtime girlfriend is originally from Pakistan by way of Afghanistan and came over to Canada to attend the University of Saskatchewan back in 1998.

And though she adopted the Canadian culture possibly even better than myself, the one thing always missing for her was that most of her family was still in Pakistan.

In 2006, that changed as she was able to sponsor her mother, sister, brother, sister-in-law and two nephews to join our great country.

The nephews were 3 and 5 years old when they came here and didn't know a lick of English. But they learned quick. A couple months into their stay, we had gone to pick up the oldest from school during a snow storm.

As the car was fogging up on the inside and icing up on the outside, I exclaimed "Son of a bitch, I can't see shit." The reply from her 5-year old nephew in the back seat was "Me either." Whoops.

Kids pick up on things so quickly when they're surrounded by it. And it was never more evident than when, a short 3 months into her families stay here, my girlfriend came home and told me that while the kids were running around playing in the house, the oldest randomly declared: "Go hockey!"

He had yet to see a hockey game live or on TV yet it had already managed to permeate his thinking. Now that's an education I can be proud of.

Safety First
I'm from a small town and if there's one thing most small towns have, it's a laid back attitude towards rules and safety. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

One of the rules our local skating rink didn't have was a requirement to wear a helmet when on the ice, even if sticks and pucks were involved.

Well, one early winter morning I headed down to the rink with my dad. And lo and behold, the rink was empty save for the caretakers. I had the ice all to myself.

So I laced up my skates, grabbed my stick and gloves, put the nets on the ice and tossed out a bucket of pucks. It was heaven.

I grabbed a puck at one end of the ice and went racing towards the other end. I felt like Guy Lafleur the way the wind was blowing through my hair.

I pulled wide and circled for a deke on the non-existent goaltender. Unfortunately I was still to young to have the "Keep your head up!" adage ingrained in my brain.

*Ping* went the goalpost. But it wasn't a puck that had hit it. No, it was my face. More specifically, my two front teeth.

While concentrating on my insane deking skills, I had put my head down for too long and only looked up a split second before colliding with the post.

And even though my dad was inside the lobby at the other end of the ice, he said he heard that sound clear as day.

So it was off to the dentist to fix me up. And the next day I was back on the ice. With a helmet.

Coaching Love
Again, being in a small town can limit options, especially when it came to being coached for sports. You don't pick a coach from a group of candidates, you just take what you can get.

But fortunately for us we always had some solid coaches to help us out.

I was too young to remember when my dad did the coaching but I do have memories of a few other coaches.

There was our French-Canadian police constable who always implored us to "Take the shoot! Take the shoot!' I still yell that at the TV from time to time.

Then there was our club coach who decided pronouncing my last name the way it was intended was no fun. Instead, I became known as Gi-rocks to him. Always and forever. Even to this day.

And of course there was our power skating coach. He was having trouble getting kids to remember to lower their stance when skating backwards. So he employed the "shock" strategy and told a bunch of 10-year olds that the proper stance for skating backwards was to "pretend like you're taking a crap". I never forgot that advice.

And of course, nothing says "small town coach" better than when your pee-wee coach misses a game because he was out birthing a calf.

Small Town Kid Makes it Big
The best part about small town hockey is when a local kid makes it big. And no local kid in our area has ever made it bigger than Patrick Marleau.

He hails from Aneroid which is about 10 minutes away from my hometown and we never feared anything more than having to make that 10 minute jaunt to play a game.

Part of it was because Aneroid didn't have an ice plant, making their ice more like slush. But the majority of it was because even though it felt like skating through a Slurpee, Patrick managed to skate like the wind and make us all look like fools.

Every morning he would be up at the crack of dawn and out practicing on that sludge. And thanks to that horrendous ice, he now has the most deceptive speed in the NHL.

Building Friendships
Is there no end to my "small town" stories? Not yet.

When you're in a small rural area, there's only so many teams you can play against and quite often, you'll end up playing against friends from a neighbouring town.

In my second year of pee-wee, I found myself facing off against one friend many times throughout the year. He was a pest to end all pests. Small and loaded with unending energy. Any time he was on the ice against you, you could be sure to end your shift thinking: "I'm going to kill that little bastard."

But he was quick and just when you thought you had him, he was gone. Until the very last game of the season.

It was midway through the third period of a tight game and I was on the ice trying to defend a lead. Of course, the little pest was out there too since he knew how to find the back of the net. And it was my job to keep that from happening.

And glory of all glories, he made a great pass which he admired for one split-second too long. I caught him with a full head of steam while he was looking off to the side and planted him on the ice. And then I stood over him for a second before skating away, just to rub it in.

For the rest of the game, when he was on the ice, so was I. And in all that time, he spent more time trying to catch me with my head down than trying to tie the game. It's funny how individual egos can sink a whole team sometimes, isn't it?

Once the buzzer sounded and we did the obligatory handshake, I got a quick shake and a brief "Nice hit" out of him before we headed to our respective locker rooms.

When I finally popped my head out, it was just as he was heading into the lobby himself. He looked at me. I looked at him. Then he grinned and said "Want to share a load of fries?"

Building Communities
If you count up the number of outdoor rinks in any state in the US, I think Saskatoon alone will have you beat.

There are more outdoor rinks than you can shake a stick at in this city of 200,000 and I love it.

If you carry your skates and a stick in your car, then you can make an impromptu stop in any neighbourhood and be less than 60 seconds away from getting your skate on.

But my best experience with an outdoor rink is within the Brevoort Park neighbourhood, which is where my boss lives.

Every year, the community hosts the Brevoort Park Shinny Tournament as a fundraiser for the community. And every year, we put a work team in to take on the locals.

It's an all-day event which ends with a mixer at the local community center with all the fine folks from the area. And the kicker? It's on ice but with no skates. That's right, to level the playing field, skates have been removed from the equation.

Needless to say, it makes for some hilarious moments. And though you can feel the competitiveness, the entire tournament is all in good fun.

There are some people who I only see once a year during that tournament but when I do, it's as if we'd known each other our whole lives. All communities should strive to be as welcoming as Brevoort Park.

Every year, as soon as the snow hits, my mind drifts to the tourney and the glories that lie ahead. D-side runner-ups baby!

Building Relationships
And of course, what more can you say about hockey than the bonds it forms.

My dad's side of the family was French-Canadian which meant he, his brother, his uncle and his father all were Habs fans. In fact, his uncle passed away in bed right after watching the Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins. Not a bad note to end on.

Of course, being surrounded by Habs fans meant that by default, I too was a Habs fan. Then I became a teenager and the "rebellion" phase kicked in. I decided it was time to choose my own path. And what more antagonistic path can you take than to start rooting for the Quebec Nordiques?

Not only were they the Habs biggest rival but it allowed me to retain a bit of my French-Canadian roots at the same time. That the Nords had Joe Sakic, whom I had idolized during his junior career in Swift Current, was just icing on the cake.

I still follow the Habs closer than any team outside of the Avalanche as they retain some sentimental strings in my heart. In fact this weekend I spent a lot of time rewatching their '86 and '93 Cup wins along with a few other Canadiens classics.

As for my dad? Whenever he sees me watching an Avs game, his first question is "So are we winning?"