Thursday, February 8, 2007

Post-game vs Atlanta - Feb 8, 2007

Sigh. A 6-3 loss against Atlanta. I had hope after the Florida game but I'm slowly losing it. Sure, they still have a chance but let's be honest, can they really make it the rest of the way and lose 8 or less games? It doesn't seem terribly likely. However, as dismal as I am feeling about missing the ain't over 'til it's over! We've been spoiled by a decade of playoff births and 2 Stanley Cups. Try to remember that if the team ends up teeing off in mid-April instead of fighting for the Cup again.

It was Jose Theodore's second start in a row and after 3 goals on 11 shots in the 1st, Peter Budaj was put in net to start the 2nd. The goals were not weak goals and I'd say pulling Theodore was a mercy move as much as it was a move to wake up the team. The first 2 goals were complete defensive breakdowns and the third goal was off a deflection. I can't really blame a goaltender for those goals. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop some people from doing so.

It's likely the last start for Theodore for a while but not due to mediocre play. It's simply due to him losing the #1 role earlier in the season. Unless of course the Avalanche do decide the season is lost, which it won't be for at least 5 more games, and stick Theodore in and ride him until the season ends.

It was another one of those nights where the Avs fired off a trillion shots (48 actually) and just couldn't get anything past Lehtonen. He made some great saves but there were plenty of times where the shots were right into his chest. It seems that at times the Avs get very tense and starting seeing the goaltender rather than the twine in the back of the net. It's frustrating to watch and is even more frustrating for the players out there.

Brad May made a successful return to the ice. And by successful I mean he managed to take 2 penalties. However you can't fault the guy for trying. It's too bad he doesn't have softer hands as he had a few chances tonight but just couldn't finish. I'm sure he was a bit jittery in his first game back so I'll wait another game to see what his play will be like this year. Hopefully he fights for the puck in the corners harder than the man who was scratched to make room for him, Brad Richardson. Not to knock Richardson much because not many Avs fight for the puck in the corners.

Karlis Skrastins successfully broke the iron-man record for defensemen tonight and did it while blocking 3 shots and logging 20:03 of ice-time. Clark was again the #1 man in ice-time, followed by Leopold then Skrastins who were a mere 9 seconds apart. Clark was -3, Skrastins -2, Leopold, Liles, and Vaananen were -1, and Sauer was even. Yep, Kurt Sauer was not on the ice for a single goal tonight and he had 18 minutes in ice-time. The rest of the defense should hang their heads in shame at that. Even Ossi managed to go -1 with a mere 8 minutes in ice-time. This loss, to me, hangs squarely on the defenses shoulders. Not a single person, just the defense as a crew.

The Good
- 48 shots (I guess it should go here)
- 3rd line showed a pulse
- May delivered some grit

The Bad
- flat start after a huge win
- 6 goals against
- the whole "forgetting 60 minutes" for the umpteenth time

The Ugly
- Guite's hit (he left his feet, it was not a legit hit)

Pre-game vs Atlanta - Feb 8, 2007

The Avalanche end their five-game homestand as they welcome the Atlanta Thrashers, Bob Hartley et al., to the Pepsi Center. It's been 4 years since Atlanta was last at the Pepsi Center and that was one month into Hartley's tenure as the Thrashers new head coach. Atlanta is heading into a six-game roadswing hot on the heels of a six-game homestand that ended with a shootout loss to Buffalo on Tuesday. As I'm sure all here are aware, the Avalanche are coming off a huge 5-4 overtime win over the Panthers on Tuesday. From the sounds of how practice went the next day, spirits were pretty high after that win.

They'll need to make sure their spirits remain high and their defence comes out to play. Atlanta is a high-scoring team but the majority comes from their top 3 scorers: Hossa, Kovalchuk and Kozlov. The point production of players below them drops off by half so if those 3 can be shut down, the Avalanche have a good chance at coming away with a win tonight. Although Kari Lehtonen is starting to show he can be a #1 goalie, he doesn't have a great defense in front of him which has led to Atlanta being one of the bottom 10 teams in goals against.

Brad May is tentatively scheduled to return to the lineup tonight. To make room for him, Antti Laaksonen was put on waivers yesterday. As far as I've heard, no team has picked him up yet so he may be destined for the minors. It's unfortunate but at the moment I would take May over Laaksonen. Something is missing with Laaksonen this year as he seems to have lost a step in his game. Brad May is no quicker, but he will bring more grit and heart to the team than Laaksonen does. I'd look for May to take an early penalty though as he's likely going to be pretty fired up in his first game back. I'll say he gets called for roughing at the 5 minute mark. Any other bets?

This will be John-Michael Liles second game back from his broken foot. If Adrian Dater was not exaggerating, then Liles had a foot that was flowing with blood after the game was over on Tuesday. However Liles was all smiles as he explained that while the game is on, he doesn't feel a thing. I would say that if blood was actually flowing from his's probably not a good thing. Hopefully he wasn't rushed back too soon.

And in another repeat, it will be Jose Theodore's second start in a row. It's the first time he's started back-to-back since late December. Given the way Quenneville has played goaltenders to this point, I'd say that he feels confident with Theodore in net, otherwise he would have went back to Budaj. It's not unheard of for a backup goaltender to make 2 starts in a row (Aebischer in Montreal) so I don't think this is any sort of move saying that Theodore is set to resume #1 responsibilities. I'd say it's more a day-at-a-time approach based on his play in practice and games. If it means that Theodore regains enough form to be shopped, great. If it means he regains enough form to become a full-fledged #1, great. If not, then that will be the end of Theodore's chances this season I would say.

Brisebois - back, LTI
May - shoulder, IR (likely to be activate

Vigier - groin, IR

Sakic has 4 in 2, Stastny has 3 in 2, Wolski has 6 in 6, Clark has 7 in 7, Hejduk has 4 in 4.

Kovalchuk has 11 in 9, Slater has 4 in 3, Sim and Mellanby have 3 in 3.

Holik has 0 in 7, Metropolit has 2 in 8, Ruchin has 1 in 4, Kapanen has 0 in 5.

Laperriere has 1 in 5, Klee has 0 in 17.

Jose Theodore - 10-11-1, 3.16 GAA, .898 save pct
Kari Lehtonen - 24-15-8, 2.85 GAA, .909 save pct.

Colorado - 26-23-4, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Atlanta - 29-18-9, 1st in SE, 3rd in East