Friday, June 20, 2008

Columbus Trades the Avalanche's Pick

The Columbus Blue Jackets just traded the pick they received from the Colorado Avalanche in the Adam Foote trade to the Philadelphia Flyers as part of a deal for R.J. Umberger.

So in the A-to-B-to-C line of things, we received Adam Foote and Columbus received R.J. Umberger. Hmm...I'm still ok with the deal.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Avalanche Downed 4-1 by Blue Jackets

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
There was no vindication tonight for the Colorado Avalanche who continue to have trouble winning games on the road. After the two straight wins a lot of people could certainly feel confident coming into this game. After the Blues game a lot of folks thought Columbus might be a bit afraid actually which I'm quite certain they weren't.

The Avalanche had some jump in this game and got some decent chances. Unfortunately they were hampered by mediocre goaltending and a team with more drive and physicality than the Avalanche could bring.

Continue all for all the gory details.

First Period
The game starts out with some fast-pace, end-to-end action from each team with nothing coming about on the scoresheet. Around the 3 minute mark Tyler Arnason drew a hooking penalty and the Avalanche were able to get a good scoring chance on the delayed call. Unfortunately during that chance, Tyler Arnason got his stick up so he and Klesla went off for some 4-on-4 action.

And if there weren't enough end-to-end rushes before, there were plenty during the 4-on-4. It was almost like a practice where each side got a chance to perform one rush before turning it around to defend against one. There were 3-on-1s for each side that weren't converted but it was some exciting action!

At this point, Rostislav Klesla gave us his "keys to the game". They were: shut down the big line, use speed on the D, have good special teams. His mom actually had the best one in which her key was to "score more". When was the last time that a key to the game wasn't some trite, generic bunk that can be said about any opponent? Do they ever say things like "Go high glove on Theodore" or "Put pressure on Hannan with the puck and he'll turn it over". That would be a key to *this* game. The rest are just keys to the sport of hockey in general.

Shortly after that, Arnason dogged a backcheck. If I kept making a note of those though, I'd run out of room on the Internet.

Columbus got close on a good give-and-go chance with Chimera and Zherdev but the shot went off the side of the net. Good job by Theodore on swinging over and giving him nothing to shoot at.

T.J. Hensick then gave a terribly feeble attempt at clearing the puck which led to the first goal of the game. Fritsche jumped all over it, fended off some pressure then dumped it out front to Malhotra who chipped it over Theodore's shoulder. Welcome back, Manny. Glad the Avalanche could be there for you.

Very shortly after John Liles broke up a sure goal as he stopped a cross crease pass which would have easily been deposited into a gaping net.

We were then told that Columbus is 11-2-4 when scoring first. Super.

Hensick was back on the ice for the next shift after causing that goal. And I've got no problem with that at all. I was growing tired of the "Make a mistake? You're benched" attitude that the coaches seemed to have. The idea should be "Make a mistake? Don't make it again. Now get back out there and give 'em hell."

Colorado got their best chance on a brief rush with Hlinka and Svatos. Hlinka made some good moves into the zone then fed it back to Svatos who missed the net by a country mile. Which is the same as a city mile for all you city folk. It's kind of a weird phrase actually.

Second Period
One shot on goal for Columbus. One goal for Columbus. I could just leave it at that but I'm a sucker for writing.

Early in the period Liles made a good pinch to keep the puck in play. He then fired a shot which Norrena saved but the rebound went out to Andrew Brunette who then fed a wide open Guite at the top of the paint and he got the easiest goal of his career to tie the game at 1.

The Avalanche started spreading out the Jackets with a lot of cross-ice passes and seemed to want to slow the game down a bit. After the torrid pace of the first period, I think Columbus was ok with that prospect.

Mike Peca rang one off the post which kept the Jackets off the score clock but showed they were still in this one.

Just past the halfway mark they got their first shot on goal and they made it count. Jared Boll grabbed the puck and fired a blast which deflected off Hannan's shin pad and into the net.

Tyler Arnason stole the puck on the backcheck and the Avs got a decent scoring chance. Arnason deflected a rebound off the crossbar but it wouldn't have counted anyways as his stick was above the crossbar. The announcers were incredulous that the whistle wasn't blown after that play. I'm not sure why. No Avalanche player touched the puck after so I don't see why play shouldn't have continued.

The Avalanche then killed off their first penalty of the game as Svatos sat for delaying the game by shooting the puck over the glass. Still the worst rule ever.

Frederik Norrena made the best save of the game late in the period as he denied a pinching Clark on a cross-ice feed. Good movement and good control while sliding across to stop the shot.

Third Period
Wojtek Wolski applied some excellent forecheck pressure, stole the puck, fed Svatos and he fired the puck wide. Adam Foote then made a good skate svae on Andrew Brunette off a feed from Wolski.

The Avalanche applied some good pressure to start off the period but the chances just didn't seem to be going their way.

Guite took a penalty at the midway point that had the announcers screaming for blood. Guite went towards Nash as if to hit him then turned away at the last second. As he did that, his skate caught Nash's and slough-footed him. Now, I'm 99.9% certain that Guite did not mean to do that. However the announcers wanted at least 5 minutes and possible a match penalty for intent to injure. Dramatic much, guys?

Theodore made a couple decent saves to help kill off the penalty and I was hoping that might help get things really going for the Avalanche.

Unfortunately it was the Jackets who got on the scoreboard next. Kris Beech had a great effort down low as he crushed and then schooled Finger along the boards. He then turned around and fired a backhander that got past a screened Jose Theodore. With a 2 goal lead and only 5 minutes left, I started planning the rest of my night.

Then to top it all off my feed cut out with 2 minutes left but I wasn't too concerned. It came back just as the game expired with C0lumbus winning 4-1 after a Federov empty netter.

- Jared Boll was a wrecking boll out there (get it? boll...ball...*gong*)
- Hlinka has some super accurate passes
- It's amazing what Hitchcock has done with Rick Nash
- Svatos missed the net on two close range shots tonight
- the FSN announcers make even simple dump in plays sound exciting
- as a consequence they're overly dramatic (i.e. the Guite penalty)
- Q will likely put Budaj in goal next game


Paul Stastny was the ice-time leader with a whopping 24:59 tonight. Hejduk was next with 23:42 and then Smyth with 22:42. Ok, Hannan had one second more than Smyth but that doesn't lend itself as well to saying "Holy crap, look at the ice-time for the #1 line tonight!" And that should happen the way that trio has played lately.

As a consequence, other players saw their ice-time drop. Hlinka and Wolski were the only other forwards to crack the 13 minute barrier with 16:05 and 13:33 respectively. Hensick had a team low 8:30. I'm sure he'll be back in Lake Erie once Sakic returns.

Hejduk, Smyth and Finger were each -3 on the night. At the other end, Guite and Richardson managed to go +1 tonight.

Columbus outhit Colorado 19-8 tonight and had a lot of good, solid checks. I would have cheered for those hits if they weren't against Colorado.

Related Links Event Summary
TSN Recap Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hitch Tells Team "Wake Up"...and they Listen

As I was subjecting myself to more articles and videos on last nights game, I came across this article linked from Kukla's Korner entitled What a Period.

I found myself a bit deflated that it had to be the team I cheer for who was on the receiving end of the third period beatdown that's the talk of Internet town. However the first thing that came to my mind was that their coach told them wake up...and they did.

Wouldn't it be nice if the coach for the Avalanche could tell the team to wake up, dig in their heels and pull out a win...and they would? It's becoming apparent that Q's tactics just aren't working and you can't continue to blame the goaltenders or the players. The coaches have a job to do and it's simple. Get the team to buy into a system of play and make the players accountable for mistakes while instilling confidence in them at the same time.

So far in all of Q's tenure here, the players haven't bought into the system being preached. And really can you blame them? You can't call "try to score more goals than the other team then cross your fingers once you have the lead" a "system."

The PP has struggled this year and Q's idea to remedy things was to take Sakic off the point and put Wolski there. Ok, Wolski hasn't looked too bad there but why is Quenneville so adamant on having a forward play the point? We've got Liles, Cumiskey and Clark who are all capable of playing an offensive role. Put Hannan out on the second unit as a filler and shot taker and there you go.

The PK hasn't been terrible statistically but at 81.5%, 17th in the league, they should definitely be looking to improve. I'm still not a fan of the "no pressure" style of penalty killing as it gives the other team far too much time to pass the puck around. With PKers like Hejduk, Stastny, Richardson and Sakic, they should be pushing the other team for a turnover at the blue line to take advantage of.

And the defense. Where to begin. Well actually, it's simple. The first thing I was ever taught when playing defense was that you took the man first and the puck second. From novice all the way up, that's what the minor hockey coaches preach. So why is it that in "the" league, all the defenseman on this team tend to go for the puck? And I'm not talking taking a swipe at the puck and missing. It's more this idea of flopping to the ice to break the pass/block a shot. If you lay the opposing player flat on his ass, he's not about to pass or shoot the puck. It's a much more efficient system.

Oh, and just to throw one in for offense. What in the holy hell is Ryan Smyth doing taking shots from the outside? What happened to the in-your-face, garbage goal scoring, goaltender interfering, heart and soul player that he was in Edmonton? He's shown flashes of those abilities but he's also shown flashes of trying to be a bit of a finesse player. And that's a fault of the coaches.

When are the coaches going to wake up and take responsibility?

Related Links
The Coach Q Factor
Pair of Goalies is None

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blue Jackets Post 5-4 Come From Behind Win Over Avalanche

Skeletor mad
Way to go Avalanche, you managed to make Skeletor cry. And why did you make him cry? Because you had a 3-1 lead going into the third, a 100% winning percentage when leading after 2, and you lost 5-4. Well done.

And to top it all off, I had to watch this via an online feed fed to my 13" tv upstairs. Well actually, I wasn't too upset about that because really, if that's the worst thing that happened to me today, it's been a good day. I think I'm watching that new show "Life" a bit too much.

I completely missed the first period while I stared at my tv willing the Center Ice feed to cut in. I phoned Shaw and they said "Yes, we are aware of the problem. Thank you." You're welcome...I guess. I wasn't calling to inform you of the problem though, I wanted to know that it was going to be fixed.

Second Period
The Avs evened up the game early on a powerplay goal by Wojtek Wolski. That's right, a rare PP goal on the road. And Wojtek Wolski isn't looking too bad on the point during powerplays actually.

Let's cut all the way to the end of the period where the Avs exploded for 2 goals and were on their way to what looked like a sure win. The first goal was a "garbage" goal where Smyth and Stastny were crashing the net and the puck snuck under Leclaire. Foote almost stopped it but upon review it was clear that the puck crossed the goal line.

Then under a minute later, with Ryan Smyth kneeing Pascal Leclaire in the head, Jeff Finger put a shot past him to give the Avalanche a 2 goal lead late in the third. The Avs then basically killed off the remainder of the period.

Third Period
Fredrik Norrena came in for an obviously flustered Pascal Leclaire. After the third goal, Leclaire was quite upset and I can't say I blame him so he was likely out of the zone.

The Jackets got within one before the halfway mark of the third. Rick Nash outmuscled Tyler Arnason behind the net and wrapped the puck in past Budaj. Nash has a ridiculously long stick so that's probably a tough one for a goaltender.

Columbus then exploded with pressure and drew an Avalanche penalty. With Finger in the box, the Jackets tied the game as the announcers said things like "That's what the doctor ordered. Dr. Powerplay." and "Kaboom!". Seriously? Kaboom? *shakes head*

The Jackets then killed off an Avalanche powerplay and looked very good doing it. Things were not looking good at this point but I still had hopes of the game going to OT.

Nik Zherdev then dashed those hopes with a beauty of a goal. He took a feed at the top of the circles, made a beauty drag and buried a wrist shot past Budaj's blocker. I'm sure an Avalanche fan somewhere had a mini-stroke at this point. Oh, and Clark really should have...I don't know..."defended" against Zherdev rather than falling down trying to block the shot.

Then hope came again! Scott Hannan picked up a loose puck in the slot and rifled a shot past Norrena. Holy smokes! Tie game with under 5 minutes left. OT!! A single point at least!

Those things were not to be. 30 seconds later, Dan Fritsche scored the game winner. A goal which I didn't get to see as it FSN Ohio cut out at that moment.

Odds and Ends
- Liles crunched Fritsche with a great open ice hip check in the 2nd
- Nash is a beast so why was Arnason lined up against him a few times?
- where was this Rick Nash during the '06 Olympics?
- Clark continues to flop for a shot block rather than taking the man
- Skrastins made a huge shot block early in the third

Clark led the team with 27:18 spent on the ice. Nobody else was even close, particularly for defencemen. Hejduk and Stastny each put in over 23 minutes while Kyle Cumiskey had a lowly 9:39 in ice-time.

Ryan Smyth had 8 shots on the night, Stastny had 5 and Skrastins had 4. That's right, Skrastins fired off 4 shots which is great to see. Point shots, point shots and more point shots.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes
JibbleScribbits On the Lack of Focus

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Avalanche Bury Blue Jackets; Win 5-1

(AP Photo/Will Powers)
Well that was much better. The Avalanche came out ready to play, and the ended the game ready to play some more. That's what you need to win games. Luck never hurts either but the Avalanche didn't need any of that tonight. From start to finish they worked hard. It doesn't mean they won all the battles but it means they were there for every battle and that half the battle. Hmm. 1..2..3..uses of "battle" in that sentence. Nicely done.

First Period
The Avalanche got an early 5-on-3 with Mike Peca and Adam Foote in the box but failed to capitalize. It wasn't for lack of chances though. They fired off 6 shots but Pascal Leclaire was up to the task.

Shortly after Leclaire had snagged the Blue Jackets franchise record for a shutout streak, Joe Sakic fought for position in front of the net and had a puck bounce in off of him as he was being dumped to the ice. A good, hard-working goal.

The Avalanche were then hit with some penalty trouble of their own. Andrew Brunette was shoved into Leclaire, then cross-checked from behind, then kicked while he was down...and got sent off for goaltender interference. Interesting. The Blue Jackets were not able to capitalize as the PK continued it's solid work.

Jiri Novotny was finally kicked out of the faceoff circle on a draw around the midway point of the period. He had been cheating on every faceoff he was taking and it was driving me batty. And speaking of faceoffs, the Avalanche came out flying in that category. More on that later.

Jeff Finger continued his hard-nosed play with twosolid checks in the span of a couple minutes. The announcers said it best. If Finger keeps playing like he has, he's going to force Quenneville to keep him in the lineup. Unfortunately I still don't see Q sitting Skrastins or Sauer regularly in favor of Finger.

After the way Clark played Nash towards the end of the first - belly diving to stop a power forward - maybe he should sit.

The period ended 1-0 for the Avalanche with a much improved effort.

Second Period
The second period didn't start out quite as well. The Blue Jackets were able to tie up the game fairly quickly. Rostislav Klesla shot the puck from the point and it was headed well wide. Until it hit Kurt Sauer's skate and found it's way behind Budaj. The announcers were all over this as a screened goal but Budaj saw it. He just expected it to go wide and got surprised by the deflection.

The Avalanche didn't let that goal get them down and they kept plugging hard. They were rewarded when Milan Hejduk corralled his own rebound, hesitated for a split second and buried it under Leclair's outstretched arm. Just a supremely confident play by Hejduk.

Ian Lapperriere was working hard out there, as always, and when he skates you can tell he's trying so hard. Some people are naturally smooth skaters and some have to work really hard. Lappy works really hard for his speed.

Milan Hejduk then cashed in for his 2nd goal of the night. He and Smyth appeared to get mixed crossing the blue line but Smyth headed for the net - like he should - and Hejduk tossed the puck towards the net. Leclair was distracted by Smyth, and likely playing for the tip, but it went right under Smyth's stick and into the back of the net. That's how Smyth will pay off for this team. A distraction for goaltenders.

The period ended 3-1 for the Avalanche as they continued a solid effort.

Third Period
Heck of a start to the third period. The Blue Jackets took an early penalty and Super Joe made them pay. With Smyth causing havoc in front of the net again, Sakic crept in and fired a hard wrist shot past Leclaire. Fired a hard wrist shot off his front foot. Unlike the shot he took in the first which missed by a country mile which he shot off his back foot. I have never seen Sakic shoot off his back foot before and I hope he never does it again unless he has no other option.

I then took a break from intensely watching the game and started writing up my post. The game was well in hand and my response to my girl asking "Will they win" was "If they don't, my head will explode".

It needed not explode as Sakic put the icing on top of the frosting that he had put on the cake earlier. Wolski and Sakic were sprung on a 2-on-1 thanks to some hard work by Bruno and they played it perfectly. Sakic swept in, sucked back to the outside, Wolski held onto the puck long enough for Leclair to commit, then fed a beauty backhand to Sakic who buried it into an open net.

That completed the hat trick for Sakic and the hats were raining down. Do they get to get their hats back after the game? I've always wondered. Cause when I'm there when they play the Pens, no way I'm tossing my hat on the ice for anybody. Sakic could get 6 goals and I wouldn't toss it. I like my hat.

Ryan Smyth and Tyler Arnason both had great chances in the period but Leclair flashed some quick leather to deny them. 5 goals against sounds bad but boy did Leclaire play well.

The Avalanche then got a late powerplay which say Lappy and Smith getting some PP time. Lappy had a great chance but whiffed on the slap shot. I think I read his lips saying something like "Oh darn" after the play

I read Parker's lips real well after he took a cheap cross-check from Duvie Westcott and I won't repeat what they said. Man, Parker had fire in his eyes and I was a bit frightened myself. Lappy helped keep Parker from tearing someone's head off but I think the devil himself would have been frightened of Parker at that moment.

He then ripped open the penalty box a minute later to give Tollefsen a piece of his mind after Tollefsen started jousting with Sauer. He was promptly escorted out of the game before he ended up beating someone over the head with their own appendage. My goodness. Why would anybody want to piss that guy off?

Budaj played a solid game from start to finish. On the first goal, I think he should have followed the puck towards the corner rather than standing there but what can you do. He made some good solid saves, controlled his rebounds, and did a decent job at controlling the tempo of the game.

Brett Clark, though I yelled at him when he flopped on Nash, had a decent game overall. Finger put in a hard hitting game though he finds himself out of position at times. Skrastins was a "meh" to me. He's not hard enough on the puck in the corners or on clears. Hannan put in 24 minutes to lead the Avs in ice-time. Liles is impressing me with his game this year.

Faceoffs. They finally started putting things together in the circle. However they got progressively worse as the game went on. They won 55% in the first, 44% in the second and 33% in the third. So they finished at 50% which is much improved from swimming in 40%-30% land in previous games. Stastny put in a great showing winning 7 of 11 draws. Wyatt Smith was 0 for 5.

I hope the Avs don't turn into the Flames where they win with ease at home but struggle on the road.

- Nash is incredibly strong on the puck
- Wolski using his size much better to control the puck
- Leclair looked sharp even though he gave up [X GOALS]
- Smyth is starting to look like the Smyth I remembered
- Budaj had his rebounds under control tonight
- Wolski had a 2 point night as did Brunette and Hejduk
- Parker in, Guite out
- Leopold should be good for Tuesday's game against Calgary

The Good
- solid effort from start to finish
- not letting up after the 3 goal lead

The Bad
- umm...

The Ugly
- Westcott's cheap shot on Parker

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Recap Recap Gamesheet
TSN Recap
Denver Post Recap
Mile High Hockey Recap

Game Preview: Avalanche vs Blue Jackets

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Well, it's time for the Avs to pick themselves up, brush off their jerseys, and pull out a big win at home. After being mildly embarrassed last night against the Blues, they better come out pissed off and hungry for a win.

I'm pissed off and I'm not even on the team. The effort put in last night was reminiscent of last season's team and I really really really hoped that was all behind them. I truly don't understand how a team with players such as Sakic, Hannan, Smyth and Laperriere can be lacking drive, passion and intensity. My mind is boggled.

They'll be coming up against a hot goaltender in Pascal Leclaire. Leclaire has shut out the Ducks and the Coyotes and has yet to let in a goal this season. But as they say - or is that just what I say? - the more things stay the same, the more likely they are to change.

Colorado will have Peter Budaj between the pipes as the plan all along was for Budaj and Theodore to split time in goal this weekend. Theodore put in a non-brilliant performance against the Blues while Budaj is coming off a back-and-forth set of games.

So again, the Avalanche are seeing hot/cold/lukewarm goaltending from their duo and that's another thing that must change. Budaj should put in a solid showing tonight as he tends to rebound well.

Jordan Leopold is likely to sit out again with a hip injury. I don't often buy in to the "injury prone" moniker but this guy is fitting it to a "T" with the Avalanche. Just look at his injury history. That's just since March of '06.

The Avalanche are unbeaten at home this season (2-0) while the Blue Jackets lost their only road game this season against the Wild. However those don't feel like long enough streaks for the aforementioned "change philosophy" to come into play. Or so my brain is telling me.

Related Links Preview
TSN Preview
Mile High Hockey Preview

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Post-game vs Columbus - Feb 27, 2007

It was nearly a perfect game for Peter Budaj. The Avs up 3-0 with 2 minutes left to play. Then Rick Nash decided to make a game of it. He made a nice tip to get one on the board then followed that up 1 1/2 minutes later as he buried a puck that squirted right onto his stick. 30 seconds, and one crossbar, later and the Avs pick up the 3-2 win over the Jackets. Now if they can do this about 15 more times...they might be able to make the playoffs.

Today was, fingers crossed, my last crazy work day so hopefully I can go back to actually paying attention to games. As it stands, I had nothing but radio on in the background and I barely paid attention to that! I did pay enough attention to notice one thing...Milan Hejduk can still produce without Brad May on his line. So it turns out that Hejduks' re-emergence was coincidental with Brad May coming back to the lineup. Who knew.

Wolski rejoined Sakic and Brunette on the top line and Brad Richardson moved to the 2nd line which was fairly expected. The second line ended up being a collective +3 with Hejduk picking up 2 assists and Stastny grabbing one so it seems an effective combination so far. And in another small shuffle, Svatos bumped himself onto the 3rd line with Mclean and Arnason. As to how effective that line was, I'm not sure so I won't comment. It's good to see Svatos earn himself some more ice-time though.

The Good
- 2 points
- near shutout

The Bad
- losing the shutout bid in the last 2 minutes

The Ugly
- forgetting that there was even a game today!

Pre-game vs Columbus - Feb 27, 2007

This is going to be my worst pre-game ever so let's get it over with. The Avalanche are hosting the Blue Jackets tonight in their first game since the trade deadline. One player missing from the lineup will be Brad May. He was sent off to Anaheim to join the rough and tumble Ducks this afternoon. So that leaves a slot open on the 2nd line which should be filled by either Richardson or Wolski. Not that May was spending a lot of time on that line anyways.

Karlis Skrastins will sit out again tonight, and for the next few games, with his knee injury. So the Avalanche have recalled Kyle Cumiskey for another stint. Finger and Cumiskey. And Vaananen and Sauer. This has the makings of a scary game. I feel bad for whoever is in net.

As to who that is, I have no idea. I'll go on a limb (a fairly sturdy one mind you) and say Budaj gets the start tonight. He hasn't played great but neither has Theodore. It's frustrating to cheer for a team when you're used to the best goaltender in the league. To go from that to mediocre goaltending hurts. Maybe Michael Wall will help shore that up in a couple years. Though I doubt it.