Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Free Agency Final Thoughts

Well, I think that'll do it for the Avs today. They picked up Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker, both cast-offs from Toronto, and officially announced the signing of Per Ledin. So now we have to wait for a decision from Joe Sakic and the RFAs to truly see where this team stands for next season.

At the moment, the team is a slight bit weaker in goal for a much lighter price tag and have improved the toughness on their forward lines. If you count the signings of Liles and Foote yesterday as part of this, then the defense is solid and I would say within the top-10 in the NHL. Possibly top-5 if Liles wakes up and Leopold stays healthy.

Overall, I'm ok with how things went down today as I actually didn't expect any signings other than a backup goaltender. But it could have been better.

Tucker Train
Tucker, as much as I hate the guy, has a ton of heart and has some skill to go along with it. He can light the lamp while playing on the 3rd and 4th lines and he won't back down from battles in the corner. I absolutely love that style of play and that mindset so I hope it rubs off on some other players on the team. The one thing I hope doesn't rub off is his douchey behaviour at times. Being in Canada I get to catch a lot of Leafs action on CBC and must say that not many games go by where I don't shake my head and say "That f'n Tucker".

Raycroft Razing
As for Raycroft, I'm not terribly happy about the signing. But if he's going to play just 15 games and Budaj takes a step forward in his development, then the Avalanche will have a pretty good price to performance ratio in goal. Stephane Valiquette is still available as I type and I'm going to bemoan not signing him for the entire season. You've been warned ;)

Cutting the losses
So that's what the team has gained. But what did they lose? Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer, Jose Theodore and Andrew Brunette have all moved on as was expected. I'm ok with Sauer going. He had good moments but had some terrible moments as well. If you count either Foote or Salei as his replacement, it's an upgrade. Finger got paid way too much by Toronto so now I'm happy to see him go. Theodore got paid too much as well but then again, he was one of two goaltenders with some solid abilities on a thin market. And Bruno...oh Bruno. I will miss you. However I think letting him go was the right move for the team.

But what about X?
But what about Brian Rolston? Or Brian Campbell? Or Mats Sundin? Or Marian Hossa? All those big names are still in play so why aren't the Avalanche after them? The damn cap, that's why. And also, those players are going to be so overpaid it won't even be funny. Sundin has a 2-year, $20M offer from Vancouver while Rolston turned down a $4.5M per year offer from Tampa.

Cap snap
That leaves the Avalanche with a cap hit of $42.6M (thanks to nhlnumbers.com for the quick updates!) which leaves $14M to spend on Sakic, Wolski and Svatos. If you think that Sakic signs for $5.5M, Wolski gets $3.5M and Svatos gets $2M, that leaves just $2.5M left to finish off the other RFAs (Weiman, Wall, McCormick and McLeod). So money isn't free flowing for the team by any means. And if Peter Forsberg decides to come back, money will need to be freed up.

That's why Giguere let guys like Theodore, Finger and Sauer go and got a bottom-dollar backup option and a reasonably priced Tucker. It was some pretty solid moves for what the organization was looking for and what they had the flexibility to work with cap-wise.

To quickly sum it up:

Darcy Tucker (2 years, $2.25M per)
Andrew Raycroft (1 year, $800,000)
Per Ledin (1 year, unsure of number)

Jose Theodore (signed for 2 years, $4.5M per)
Andrew Brunette (signed for 3 years, $7M per)
Jeff Finger (signed for 4 years, $3.5M per)
Kurt Sauer (signed for 4 years, $1.75M per)

Cap Hit: $42M
Cap Space: $14M

Remaining U/RFAs: Joe Sakic, Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod, Tyler Weiman, Michael Wall.

EDIT: Angelique reports that Tyler Weiman was not extended a qualifying offer so he's an unrestricted free agent. That's too bad as I was pretty stoked to have a Saskatoon kid playing for the team.

Remaining Roster Slots: ~5 forwards, ~1 defencemen, 0 goaltenders.

So what are your thoughts? Are the Avs better, worse or did they just toe the line? Weigh in on the poll or via comments.

Bye Bye Bruno

We all knew it was coming but Andrew Brunette is an Avalanche no more. Brunette has rejoined his former team the Minnesota Wild.

With the new wide-open offensive style that Giguere and Granato want to run with, Brunette was no longer a fit for the team.

Good luck, Bruno. We'll miss you.

EDIT: Apparently he's looking over the contract but is expected to sign.

EDIT 2: TSN is now reporting it which I consider to mean it's done as they typically don't report unless it's 100% confirmed.

EDIT 3: Per TSN, it's a 3-year, $7M deal. Congrats Bruno!

Related Links
Russo's Rants Free Agent Frenzy Page

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I leave for one day...

I leave for one day and all hell breaks loose. Ok, not all hell but maybe a tiny squeak of lava from a festering volcano.

Scott Parker was re-signed, Johnny Boychuk was traded, Marty Sertich was signed and Joe Sakic will delay his decision until after free agency starts. So, in order, I'll say: ok, whatever, who cares and sweet holy mother of pearl!

I'm a bit surprised at Super Joe delaying his decision this long and am starting to have doubts on my bold assertion that he will definitely be back next year. If he needs to take this long to decide and is delaying long enough that it could very well impact the team's future, I'm possibly maybe sort of starting to have tiny doubts.

In another startling piece, Andrew Brunette has not even been contacted by Francois Giguere. That's actually a bit shocking. Bruno has been a great player and, as far as I can tell, a great teammate so to not extend him a courtesy call is a bit...well...discourteous.

On the Drew Remenda Sports Show the other night - yes, our sports talk radio show has the Sharks color guy as the lead - he stated that if he was the GM any other team in the NHL, one of the first guys he'd be calling would be Andrew Brunette. Of course, he's not the GM of any other team but the point still stands. I'm tilting my head curiously in FG's direction over this one. I'm sure he cares.

And in case anyone is wondering where I am, I'm in San Francisco for a couple days. A conference on cloud computing tomorrow and then a day to explore the city after that. So I'm in a full-on geek mode starting right...now.

Related Links
Avalanche Sign Parker, Sertich; Acquire Hendricks
Still no contact with Bruno and the messy Sakic situation
Sakic will delay decision to retire (I'd reword that headline to "whether or not to retire" - unless they know something we don't)
What's he doing?
Super Joe not in a big hurry

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Avalanche Take 3-2 Series Lead

(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
The Jose Theodore's put in a great performance tonight and walked out of St. Paul with a 3-2 win and a 3-2 series lead.

After last night's performance, there is a mandatory 2-game reprieve before complaining that Theodore gets paid too much and doesn't steal enough games.

With a 38-save effort last night, you might as well start calling him Billy the Kid. Did Billy the Kid steal things? I know he was an outlaw and I assume outlaws steal things.

Anyways, if he keeps performing like this for the rest of the playoffs, it's a pretty safe bet that the Avalanche will try to re-sign him over the summer. But please, nothing crazy.

Overlapping double-headers saved my life
I was off at a fundraising event, one which actually had good food, so I had the ol' PVR set to tape the game. I expected to miss most of the first period due to the overlap with the Caps-Flyers game. What I did not expect was for that game to go into double-OT causing me to miss about 40 minutes of action.

From the sounds of it, the Jose Theodore show may have given me a stroke from too much excitement and fear so I'm not too broken up about it. But still, it's really annoying NHL so get your heads out of your butts and fix your scheduling.

Fast start staved off
The Wild came out guns blazing and fired off 32 shots in those first two periods. Theodore turned aside the first 16, then got beat on a cross-ice, no-chance play, then turned on the afterburners and shut the Wild down the rest of the way.

Take the old with the new
The Avalanche, after having Andrew Brunette open the scoring for the third straight game, got key contributions from a couple youngsters late in the third.

Wojtek Wolski buried his second of the playoffs off of a nice feed from John-Michael Liles. Then only 1:19 later, Paul Stastny found himself the recipient of some pretty passing from Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk. Stastny then pivoted to his backhand and fired it over a sprawling Nik Backstrom.

The biggest I've ever seen
Theodore called that goal "the biggest of the playoffs" and I can't say I disagree. "Why?", you might ask. Well, with just 3 seconds remaining in the game, Brian Rolston's mission to shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot some more finally paid off.

Right off the faceoff Rolston found the puck heading towards his stick so he wound up and blasted it through Theodore's legs. After putting up 7 shots alone, you almost felt like Rolston deserved to get something for his efforts. Almost.

Powered up powerplay
The Avalanche were 2-for-3 on the powerplay tonight and that was definitely a key difference. The Wild had the same amount of chances with a bit more time but could only solve Theodore the one time.

Hopefully this is a turning point for the powerplay but given its inconsistencies all season, I'm not holding my breath. And really, holding your breath is a bad idea in general.

Boogeyman, Lappy and the Wild fans
No, Lappy didn't drop the gloves with the "Boogeyman" tonight. However he did collide with him hard and ended up taking the less-good end of it. The good news is that Lappy got up and was fine. Even better news was that he managed to knock Boogard off his feet at least.

The bad news? The Wild fans actually booed when Laperriere got up after being down and attended to by the trainers. Jib said it best when noting that as much as he - and all of us - hate Dion Phaneuf, I don't know of anyone who would cheer him actually being injured and boo when he appeared to be fine.

I don't want to pigeonhole an entire state since, again as Jib pointed out, the Wild bloggers are a classy group but that was just a shameful display by Wild fans.

Game five statistics
No, I'm not going to break down some of the in-game stats today. I have to be getting to work so I can leave a bit earlier than usual to enjoy this glorious day. However, in case anybody did not hear during the broadcast - and it was repeated about 1,000 times on TSN - the winner of game 5 in a tied series has gone on to win the series 80% of the time.

The Wild might as well hand over the series. Heck, Gary might as well just hand the Avalanche the Cup, right? Right?

Next game
The game time for game 6 has been announced. It will be Saturday at 10:00pm EDT, 8:00pm MT. The game will be national on CBC in Canada and Versus in the States. CBC has game 6 of the Montreal-Boston series before this one but there is a 3-hour gap which should be enough to let us Canadians watch the whole game. You Americans get off lucky as Versus isn't covering the Habs-Bruins game.

Game highlights

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Theodore's effort nets series lead
Theodore steals show, win for Avs
Theodore was astonishing, mythical (whoa, hyperbole much?)
Do good things...
Wolski has grown up

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wild Take 2-1 Series Lead Over Avalanche

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Three games. Three Overtime periods. Three 3-2 results.

The Minnesota Wild got their second straight 3-2 OT win over the Colorado Avalanche last night to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home ice advantage.

The Avalanche now have to win tonight so they can head into Minnesota with a fighting chance to extend this series.

This game was the complete opposite of the previous two games. Both teams came out looking tentative, unenergetic and completely lacking of physicality. After the previous two games, I actually found myself about to chant "Boring" at the television screen.

First period
Once again the Avalanche got on the board first. Wojtek Wolski broke down the wing, pulled up short and fed a streaking Sakic. The puck was a bit behind Sakic but he managed to quickly get it in position to take a shot off. Nik Backstrom stopped it easily but he fed the puck straight to Andrew Brunette who had all day to bury it.

That goal brought some life to the Can and things were looking good. If the Wild didn't want to play a defensive game, the Avalanche could continue to stretch out their trap and get some quality chances.

Second Period
In the second period, the Wild had a goal disallowed after Aaron Voros completely bowled over Jose Theodore on his way to the net. The refs immediately waved it off but the guys at CBC were so confused they actually started complaining that it was a bad goal. Voros was in the box and the puck was being dropped in the Avs zone before they finally realized the refs had waved it off. I guess the ref waving his arms and pointing to the penalty box just wasn't enough for them.

Third period
Unfortunately in the third period, the Avalanche pulled their usual work. They gave up a goal midway through after Mikko Koivu found himself unmolested in front of the net. Kurt Sauer and Adam Foote had both gone fishing for the puck in the corner, forgetting that only one of them needed to do that.

Then, while the Avalanche were on a powerplay, Joe Sakic made a terrible pinch leading to a 2-on-1 and the Wild made no mistake. As soon as I saw Sakic take a step towards the puck my heart sank a little bit. That one was so easy to see coming that I don't really know what Sakic was thinking.

However leave it to Joe to make up for it. Barely 3 minutes later, Sakic found a loose puck and backhanded it past a prone Nik Backstrom to tie the game. The Can was alive and we were headed to overtime.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that this game only made it to overtime thanks to Andrew Brunette. With only seconds left on the clock, Brunette dove to break up a pass that surely would have led to a Wild goal. The Wild had been buzzing, passing the puck around with ease in the Avalanche zone and Jose Theodore was down and out after trying to follow the puck for what must have felt like an eternity.

Both teams traded chances with the Wild having an edge in energy it seemed. And sure enough, the game was ended after an Avalanche mistake. Jeff Finger went down to touch up for an icing except he decided to go around the left side of the net while Brian Rolston was heading straight down the right side. The puck then bounced off the boards, off the net and right to Rolston. He fed Pierre-Marc Bouchard who rifled a beauty shot home to end the night.

Now, granted that nobody really expected the puck to bounce like it did there, but Finger should never have gone around the opposite side of the net with Rolston so close on his tail. It's just asking for trouble to leave so much space between yourself and the opponent deep in your own zone, no matter what the situation may be.

Stretch it out
The Avalanche started off this game and were breaking the Wild's 5-man back system by running stretch passes up the middle. Then about halfway through the game they inexplicably started trying to dipsy-doodle through the neutral zone to get the puck to the red line and shoot it in.

I'm really not sure why the change of strategy. Heck, Kelly Hrudey spent 5 minutes talking about how effective the Avalanche had been with the stretch pass and chip-in move. For them to abandon it really makes no sense. The best way to break a trap is to keep the puck moving quickly through the neutral zone, not trying to stickhandle past 5 players.

Sakic slumping?
I know Joe is putting up the points in this series and of course had the huge game winner in game 1 but...something feels off. He's making some odd decisions and looking a bit slow lately. His shot has fallen off again to where it's rolling off the heel of his stick and he just doesn't feel like a threat.

Stastny stuttering
Paul Stastny needs to pick up his play quick, fast and in a hurry. He's been virtually invisible (0pts, -3) this series and looks to be very tentative. For a young player who has always seemed so composed, it really seems like the playoffs are weighing on him.

He needs to wake up and help lead his line which includes Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk because that line is falling apart.

The Avalanche strategy of "Give Forsberg the puck and something will happen" has been easily picked up on by Minnesota so they're draped all over Forsberg. And Milan Hejduk isn't helping by skating around the perimeter and never doing anything useful with the puck.

Stastny needs to tie that line together and he needs to start tonight.

Power play
I think Jibble_cribbits might have jinxed the powerplay yesterday when he wrote an article on the Avalanche powerplay improving. Last night they were 0-for-6 and looked brutal. Overpassing, not keeping the puck in at the line and not showing any desperation.

Rolston shooting it up
Brian Rolston's strategy this series is easy to sum up. "Shoot the puck." No matter where or when this guy gets the puck, he winds up for a big slapper.

I know the old adage of "Shoot the puck and good things happen" but this is getting to be a bit ridiculous.

And of course tonight he's going to score on some weirdly redirected goal after taking a shot from an impossible angle. Sorry for the jinx guys but I just had to say it.

Wrap up
I do have more to say about this game but I've got to head in to work at some point. For some quick notes: Smyth is still being Smyth, Finger needs to smarten up and Tyler Arnason needs to hit something...anything...to get engaged in this series.

Good enough
One last thing to add actually. While linking to Dater's recent blog entry, I decided to give it a read first. You know, I don't want to link to it if it's not a good piece...heh, kidding. Down at the end he made a point I've been bitching about for a while now.

He was bemoaning the Avalanche's style of play where "they overpass and don’t finish that extra check and, well, just think what they’ve already done will be enough to win."

Just enough to get by. Where have we heard that before? Oh right, that's been a motivating theme from the coaching staff all year.

Game time
The series continues tonight at 10:00pm EDT, 8:00pm MT and the Avalanche better come to play. If they don't win this game, they'll have a tall order ahead of them if they want to make it to round 2.

Hopefully Burns and Johnsson are worn out after playing 30+ minutes last night.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
Denver Post Game Recap
Theodore solid in losing effort
Finger or Leopold?
Brunette's magic isn't enough
Foote's defensive feat isn't enough
Wild's Backstrom a saving grace

Monday, March 24, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche vs Flames

Hammer and nail
Tonight marks what could be a turning point in the Avalanche season...or the first nail in their coffin.

On a 4-game losing skid, the Avalanche maintain a seemingly futile grip on the 8th and final playoff spot in the West with Nashville and Edmonton - heck, even Chicago - tugging at their heels. They will be facing a Flames team which recently took down the Minnesota Wild to pull within one point of the division lead - and looked good while doing it.

If the Avalanche were to win tonight and the Oilers pull out a W over the Wild, the Avalanche's playoff hopes will dip below the 50% mark. Conversely, if the Avalanche win and the Wild take down the Oilers, their playoff hopes climb to 82%. Quite the swing that could happen tonight so hopefully the players come prepared.

Inconsistency and Frustration
Unfortunately, the players sound more frustrated than fired up based on Dater's latest article in the DP. Of course no player is going to flat out say that so everybody is reading between the lines when Andrew Brunette cites chemistry and "different things" as the cause of the Avalanche struggles. But if you ask the coach, there should be no troubles since each line tonight has played with together at some point in the season. Um...right. I'll just give my head a shake and move on from there. Oh, but first I'll point out that Forsberg has yet to play with Arnason. But who's counting?

Starting Goaltender
Jose Theodore is back between the pipes in what's been one of the things I feel Quenneville has properly handled. Theodore was stellar throughout the second half but stumbled a bit against New Jersey and Edmonton. However rather than planting him on the bench, he has showed confidence in him and hopefully Theodore will prove him right because now is not the time to stumble in the goal crease.

Wolski Out of the Doghouse
Wojtek Wolski will find himself back on the #1 line with Joe Sakic and Andrew Brunette. Q has liked what he's seen in Wolski the last couple games - I don't think he's been much different - so has bumped David Jones down to play with Tyler Arnason and that Peter Forsberg guy.

Forsberg In?
And in case you hadn't figured it out, it sounds like Peter Forsberg is very likely to play tonight. Hopefully he doesn't play 20+ minutes and then sit out for the remainder of the season with a sore groin/broken ankle/severed pinky toe. Having him on the third line with Arnason would seem to indicate he'll see less ice time than playing on the #1 unit but you never know what will happen come game time.

Game time
The puck drops at 9:38pm ET and I have to decide if I want to shell out money to listen to Roger Millions and Charlie Simmer on Flames PPV or if I can handle watching the game via an Internet feed.

But if that's my biggest problem for the day, I'll consider myself lucky.

Related Links
Hart talk comes West
Avalanche Lines for Tonight
2008 Countdown to the Cup Coverage at NHL.com

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche vs San Jose

The Avalanche continue their bouts against Pacific division opponents as they face off against the Sharks at the Pepsi Center tonight. Thanks to a 5-2 win against the Kings on Saturday, the Avalanche are now 3-2 against the Pacific division.

The last game was a solid, energetic, bang-em-up game and I'm looking forward to the same thing tonight. There's nothing quite like a game where, for stretches at at time, players forget that the goal is to put the puck in the net and concentrate on dishing out bodychecks.

On Friday night, the Sharks won on the physicality end but not by much. The Avalanche dished it out in return and, while often still on the losing end of those hits, showed they have some fire down in their bellies.

They're going to need that fire tonight as Joe Sakic (groin) is possibly out of the lineup again along with Andrew Brunette (flu) being questionable and Ian Laperriere (knee) still recovering. So in case you're keeping track, that is the captain and both assistant captains possibly out of the lineup.

The Avalanche have recalled Brad Richardson from Lake Erie to fill up the roster in case Sakic and Brunette sit out tonight. If one of those two still plays, I hope they don't make McCormick the healthy scratch. He tosses his body around well and needs to be used against the Sharks on the presumption that they'll come out and play like they did Saturday.

Kurt Sauer is on the injured reserve now, joining Jordan Leopold, so there won't be any scratches on D tonight. I'm thinking (hoping?) Finger gets moved up and paired with Clark but Q might fall back on the comfortable Clark-Skrastins pairing.

It should be a fun game and I am definitely not forgetting to record this one if I can't watch it live. And what would be a reason I couldn't watch it live you ask? World War III breaking out or spontaneous dental hydroplosion. Anything short of that and I'm watching the game.

Related Links
ColoradoAvalanche.com Preview
TSN Preview
Hensick Earns a Souvenir

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Game Review: Avalanche 4 - Stars 3

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Thanks to Anaheim and Detroit going to a shootout, I missed the first 7:30 of the game. But once the feed kicked over to the Can, the season officially started for me. The lines were as expected however Ben Guite did make the lineup tonight over Scott Parker. Todd Fedoruk not being in for Dallas may have had something to do with that.

It was a nerve-wracking finish to the game as the Avalanche showed shades of their old selves after taking a 4-1 lead into the third period. Some stellar saves by Peter Budaj helped the Avalanche hang on to win at home in an exciting opening night matchup.

So let's jump into the action!

First Period
The Avalanche D, for the most part, looked solid in this period. Leopold in particular looked to have some excellent positioning and some solid physical play. Smyth almost cashed one in around the 10 minute mark off a great cross-ice feed but Turco was there with a spectacular save. Hlinka also had a glorious opportunity but caught the post and possibly a bit of Turco as well.

Colorado got running around in their own zone at about the 15 minute mark but did a good job of not taking a penalty while keeping the puck out of the net. Shortly after that, Paul Stastny broke in down the left side and buried a wrister underneath Turco's armpit. It wasn't the prettiest goal but they all count.

Brett Clark was involved in a nasty incident with Brendan Morrow. Morrow was racing in for the puck and Clark was pursuing. Just as Clark was about to connect, Morrow slipped up, hit the ice and caught the back of Brett Clark's leg right in the face. Clark immediately stopped to see if he was all right but Morrow was up and off the ice quite quickly. It could have been worse if Morrow caught a skate but he was lucky. Good on Clark for stopping to check on him.

Second Period
A great start to the second period as Paul Stastny buried his second of the night off a beautiful behind-the-back feed from Andrew Brunette. This line is showing some amazing chemistry which should ease fans concerns after seeing the scheduled lines for the night. Many were questioning why Q would change the lines after the preseason lines had looked so impressive.

Andrew Brunette then got penalized for shooting the puck over the glass which is still the most ridiculous penalty in all of the sporting world. The Avalanche were able to kill off the penalty but about 15 seconds later, Trevor Daley blasted a puck which got by Budaj after being tipped by Jeff Halpern. There was bit of a review after the goal was scored though I'm not really sure what they needed to review.

But then Paul Stastny went and got the first hat-trick of his professional career as the second line again came through with an amazing play. Brunette gave a deft tap pass back to Hlinka who came in down the left side looking like he was going to shoot. But at the last second he rifled a pass across to a streaking Paul Stastny who made no mistake and buried it behind Turco. The hats were raining down on the ice as the fans showed their appreciation for this young phenom. "Sophomore slump" my "you-know-what".

Wojtek Wolski then continued the youth movement as he buried one short-side on Marty Turco. It was a bit of a weak goal by Turco but he remained in net as Tippet decided not to pull the trigger to quick on his #1. The third line is still looking to find its groove but if they can score while searching for it, I've got no complaints.

Peter Budaj was solid this period including making an amazing save on Niklas Hagman. He had some help from Scott Hannan towards the end of the first as well. Budaj was down and out but Hannan dove in and got his body between the puck and the net to keep it out.

Third Period
The third period started out with Brunette trying another behind-the-back pass to Stastny but the Stars are wise to that one. Marek Svatos then took a hooking penalty which led to trouble. With Hlinka and Laperriere on the PK for the Avs - and I only note that because I was surprised to see Hlinka out there - the Stars were able to capitalize and Jussi Jokinen put one past Budaj.

The Avalanche then sat back a bit and got too enamored with defending their lead. The Stars were able to put some pressure on them and nearly capitalized a couple times. An untimely too-many-men penalty then gave Dallas the chance they needed. It was a bizarre goal as Hannan whipped the puck behind the net, right onto Hagman's stick who whipped it in front of the net, right off Brett Clark's skate and through Budaj's legs. It took longer for the players to notice the puck in the net than it did for that sequence to happen.

Going into the final couple minutes, I was sweating a bit. The Avalanche were scrambling every which way and couldn't seem to clear the puck. But Peter Budaj came up huge with 2 big saves to maintain the win. He kicked out a blast from the point and then Paul Stastny helped him out by keeping the rebound out. He then flashed the leather and got just enough of the puck to keep it out with only about a dozen seconds left to play.

If Budaj can continue to come up big when it matters, I'll be a happy man.

The second line is looking amazing at the moment. Brunette and Stastny showed some real chemistry in terms of knowing where the other was without looking. Hlinka was exactly what he's been hyped to be so far.

Clark and Hannan got #1 pairing minutes tonight with 27:04 and 28:05 respectively. They both closed the night at +2. Jordan Leopold looked very solid tonight. He had excellent positioning, solid physical play and racked up 4 blocked shots in his 18:22 of ice-time.

Marek Svatos saw just over 8 minutes in ice-time tonight. Q was rolling the #1 and #2 lines heavy - for obvious reasons - which didn't leave much room for the 3rd and 4th lines.

The Avalanche gave the puck away 16 times to Dallas' 8. That's a stat that needs to be improved. As does their faceoff percentage which was a dreadful 39%. There were crucial times where faceoff wins were needed and the Avalanche just couldn't get it done.

- Wolski still seems a bit uncomfortable with himself but seemed to get better as the night went on.
- the 3rd line is not clicking at all yet
- defensive play by the team was solid but they got caught running around in their own zone a few times
- Budaj was solid overall and came up huge when it was needed
- Hlinka is an excellent skater and a superb playmaker
- Hannan is very uncomfortable with the puck on his stick

The Good
- getting the win at home on opening night
- Stastny showing the "sophomore slump" folks where to put it
- Brunette contributing on all 3 of those goals
- Hlinka showing himself to be a potential runaway candidate for steal of the year

The Bad
- blowing a lead again ala the 2006/2007 Avalanche team
- Sakic not tying Espo on opening night
- an abysmal 39% faceoff percentage

The Ugly
- Brendan Morrow eating the back of Clark's leg

Related Links
NHL.com Scoresheet
CBS Sports Recap
TSN Recap
In The Cheap Seats Recap
Mile High Hockey Recap
Jibblescribbits Recap
ESPN Recap
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
Denver Post Recap