Thursday, April 24, 2008

Avalanche Play 30 Minutes, Lose to Red Wings

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
You cannot play 30 minutes against the Detroit Red Wings and expect to win the hockey game.

Unfortunately that's what Jose Theodore and the Colorado Avalanche tried to do tonight.

Strike first, strike un-often
Although the Avalanche got on the board first, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Wings broke out. And break out they did. The Wings went on to score 4 straight goals as they chased Jose Theodore from the net.

The team was confused, disoriented and appeared shocked that they were involved in a hockey game. It was hard to watch and I found myself turning away from the tv, giving my head a little shake, turning back and hoping that things had changed.

Theodore takes his pads and goes home
Theodore ended up heading back to the hotel in street clothes and was reported as having the flu. I hope so because he did not look very good tonight. Sure, the Avalanche weren't helping at all but he just didn't seem to be in his groove at all.

Given that Tyler Weiman dressed as the backup for the third period, I would say it's legit that Theodore has the flu. Or a broken leg. Who knows in the playoffs.

Put the remote down and back away from the tv
After the fourth goal went in I had that brief moment that I'm sure all Avalanche fans had. My hand slowly went towards the remote control as my other hand cradled my head. My mind and body started an intense battle.

My thumb was itching to hit that glowing power button. My mind was telling me to hold on and see this one through. Or it was trying to punish me for all the brain cell killing I did as a youth. In the end, my brain won the day.

I kept the TV on and hoped that the team would wake up on the heels of the goaltending change.

Game lag
And wake up they did. Four minutes after Budaj came in, John-Michael Liles flew down the wing, took a feed from Cody McLeod and buried a shot past the short side on Osgood. The Avs were back in it!

At that point, I started to wonder if the Avalanche had a case of "game lag." It's similar to jet lag except a bit more annoying - for fans anyways. You see, all the previous Avalanche games started at 7:00 or 8:00 MT rather than 5:30 as today's game did. And when did the team wake up? Right around 7:00 MT.

They better cure that right quick as Saturday's game is at 1:00pm MT.

Rally picks up
The rally continued late in the second period. The Avalanche had finally been applying some pressure and making this look like a hockey game. But if they wanted any chance of getting back into it, they needed to get within one goal before the third period.

The newly reunited RPM line got it done. Breaking in on a 3-on-2, Ryan Smyth fed the puck up to Paul Stastny who displayed some excellent patience and fed Milan Hejduk who potted it over an outstretched Osgood's left pad.

Rally falls short
Unfortunately the rally didn't produce any goals in the third period. It did produce one heart wrenching *CLANK* off of the iron on a Milan Hejduk shot. Oh, if only that had been a few centimeters to the right, we might have been headed to overtime.

But the hockey gods don't take kindly to teams who don't play a full game so the Avalanche were denied the full comeback.

Lessons learned
Early on in this game, I had horrible visions of the 4-0 rout in the regular season. Would we be destined to sit idly by while the Avalanche played on their heels and were content simply trying to "stay close" and snag an OT point?

The Avalanche answered those fears with some solid play throughout the last half of the second and most of the third period.

The Avalanche defensive unit, with the exception of Liles and Leopold, are not the most mobile unit in the NHL. With that being said, they can still be effective by having proper positioning.

Letting Zetterberg sneak past you while trying to decide whether to block a shot - come on, Foote - is not proper positioning. Driving Datsyuk into the ice as he tries to break wide past you - thank you, Liles - is proper positioning.

In the end, the Avalanche put in a terrible 30 minutes followed by an above-average 30 minutes and lost by one goal.

The potential was there for a blowout but the team woke up, dug in and showed that they're going to make a series of it.

- the Avalanche scored first for the seventh straight time this playoffs
- Wojtek Wolski left the game with an injury after taking a hip check from Ruslan Salei (no, that isn't a typo)
- Nik Kronwall had a hate on for David Jones
- Tyler Arnason was a man on fire late in the third
- Datsyuk is a freakin' magician with the puck
- Budaj faced 2o shots and didn't give an inch
- but they should still come back with Theodore if he's healthy Saturday
- Cody McCormick drew in to the open forward slot
- Hejduk, Stastny and Smyth were +2, +2 and +1 with 2 points each
- Pierre McGuire wants to marry Mike Bacbock
- did the Wings find their anthem singer at the bottom of the discount porn barrel?
- throwing octopuses is a retarded tradition

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On the Wings Recap
Medical worries haunt Colorado
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Wolski injured against Wings
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The deal with the devil

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ducks Defeat Avalanche in Shootout

(AP Photo/Mark Terrill)
It was too late to muster up energy for a recap last night and I'm now at work doing actual work stuff so the recap will be short and sweet. Plus I forgot my notes at home so I'm going straight to the ol' memory bank.

Like a chicken heading to the slaughterhouse
The Avalanche managed to take a 2-1 lead into the third period against the "defending champs" (seriously Altidudes, we know they won the Cup last year) and managed to squander it into a shootout loss.

How did they do that? By forgetting that they scored their 2 goals via some solid forechecking and net presence and deciding that they better cling to the lead for dear life and hope for the best. I'm not sure how many times JQ is going to get the crew to use that strategy before he realizes it has a minimal success rate.

Does Q really think that a 2-1 lead against the Ducks is a safe lead to try and protect? Does he really think this is the team to do it with? Does he really still care about making the playoffs?

How many periods per game?
The team actually looked decent for the first 40 minutes and played a very solid second period. Of course, as soon as they started playing good in the second the announcing crew was all over the coaching staff for how good a job they've done all year long in preparing the team for the second period. The only problem with that is that there are two other important periods of hockey to play around that middle frame and it seems those are the two that the coaching staff just can't figure out.

The third period will always be the most important period and it's the one where the Avalanche game plan (if one exists) typically goes to hell. "Dump and chase" turns into "Dump and fallback" and the players become so frightened of making a mistake that they can't even clear the puck out of the zone. I don't know how many times an Avalanche player had the puck, could have cleared it, and instead decided to try and protect it from a Duck player and ended up losing it.

I hope every single player who did that this game got an earful from someone. Anyone. Hell, I'll go in and yell at them for a while if it'll help.

And of course, the game-tying goal was off of a failed clear. I'll give them a bit of leeway there since it was Chris Pronger and his 10' leaping frame that kept the puck in the zone.



Everything including defensive pairings was changed tonight but the players didn't look too confused out on the ice. Wolski was dropped to the fourth line with Scott Parker (wha?) while Andrew Brunette took his slot with Arnason and Svatos. Guite, Smyth and Laperriere formed a grind line while Hensick, McLeod and Hejduk formed that "don't know what to do" line.

Jaroslav Hlinka and Karlis Skrastins were healthy scratches.

Without my notebook I'm a bit lost on these ones but I do remember writing the words "Pronger" and "douche" quite a few times. The first was when he popped our resident tough guy Tyler Arnason after a whistle. Arnason hadn't even done anything. Pronger knocked him down in the front of the net, Arnason wasn't on top of the goaltender and Pronger gave him a cross check while he was down. Arnason then got up and shoved Pronger to which Pronger responded by punching him in the face. Classy.

Seriously, why does Canada have to have the two biggest defensive d-bags?

Related Links
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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Red Wings Shut Out Avalanche

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
This was a hard game to watch. Not only was the blood pressure up watching the Wings dominate the Avalanche but it was further boosted by the hope that maybe, just maybe, the Avs could pull out one point by taking the game to OT on the back of Peter Budaj.

Those hopes were dashed with only a couple minutes left to play as Henrik Zetterberg finally got one past Budaj. Kris Draper then iced it with an empty-netter for the 2-0 final.

I didn't find out about those two goals in the normal sequence of things though. I began watching my recording of the game after about half of the live game was over. I was slowly catching up to the live action as I fast-forwarded through Pierre's awesome between-whistle insights though. At about the 10 minute of the third period I figured the game had likely been decided but I was so into the hope for OT that I didn't want to spoil myself and zoom ahead to the end.

Then my mom called. I answer "Hello" and she says "Yeah, I know it's not a good time since your team is losing 2-0..." D'oh! I told her she didn't ruin it for me as the team was obviously going to ruin it for me anyways but in the future, the first words should be "Are you watching the game?"

And that goes for anybody. If you've got a die-hard Giants fan in your office, then come Monday morning do not give them a high-five or, more likely, a conciliatory pat on the back. First ask "Did you see the game?" Maybe the poor soul was called in to work and had to record the game, delaying the inevitable disappointment.

But let's get back on track.

Peter Budaj? Rusty? Those two words do not belong in the same sentence. Peter Budaj shook off whatever rust he might have accumulated on the bench and turned in an absolutely stellar performance last night. He made some flat out amazing saves and ended up turning aside 34 of 35 shots which earned him "Monster of the Game" from Pierre McGuire. No wait, he gave that to Nik Lidstrom who he was polishing off all night long.

There were some folks who thought that Budaj would get shellacked since he "doesn't have enough experience" and "couldn't handle Detroit". Well, how does the crow taste this morning folks?

On the other end, Dominik Hasek put in his usual performance. He made the easy saves he needed to make, flopped when he needed to flop and pulled out a 15 save shutout. I guess my poke at him being a flopper in my pre-game was a harbinger of things to come. Not that it was an "off the wall" prediction.

I will say this, the team certainly paid attention to defense. Unfortunately it wasn't controlled and relaxed. It was more like "Oh crap, Zetterberg has it, I gotta get him...Oh wait, he dished it to Datsyuk...Wait, where'd Datsyuk go? Oh, the front of the....wait, he passed it back to Lidstrom..."

The Wings moved the puck around so well that the Avalanche were continually scrambling to cover their assignments in the defensive zone. Then when they got the puck away, they dished it out to center ice, changed lines, rinsed, lathered and repeated.

Wait, you're supposed to play offense PLUS play defense? Ridiculous.

I won't really touch on the waved off goal other than to cough out *bullpucky* under my breath.

Pierre McGuire
Yep, he gets his own category. I'll preface this by saying that I don't doubt the man's hockey knowledge. It's more about the ass-kissing and WWE promo style that he uses while dishing it out.

First, there was the issue of his "Monster of the Game". From about the second period on, McGuire and Miller (who I don't mind) had pounced on Nik Lidstrom and all but declared him the next President of the U.S. of A and possibly the second coming of Jesus. They showed the same stretch pass on at least 3 occasions and used to show how aware and smart and handsome he is. But that same play gets made in almost every game on any given night.

Next, his berating of the Avalanche for not winning faceoffs. Look, we all know the Avalanche are not the best faceoff team in the league. We also know that Detroit is one of the best. So combine those together and let me know what logic would dictate. But instead of saying "Wow, Detroit is just outworking the Avalanche in the faceoff department", he starts ranting that "The Avalanche HAVE to win those faceoffs and that's something the coaching department NEEDS to work on." all the while gesticulating wildly from his tiny little box between the benches.

Yeah, because the Avalanche didn't have bigger issues than faceoffs in the game. Hell, even if they did win the faceoffs, Detroit would have just taken the puck away anyways. It's no wonder he doesn't coach anymore. There's no way I'd listen to the man if he yelled at me for not winning a crucial faceoff when the odds are nearly 50-50 on the best of occasions.

Andhere are some quotes from the man himself:
"There'll be physical play. The Avs are young and don't know any better." - Um...what? That would imply that they are doing something wrong by playing physical. In fact, they were doing something very much right but don't let that stand in the way of trying to make some sort of moot point.

"There's not an empty seat here unless they've gone to the men room, ladies room or concession stand" - What a bizarre statement. He couldn't have just left it at "There's not an empty seat in the house!" Why clarify some of the reasons that a seat may be empty? Just to show how smart he is that he can figure out the reasons someone may not be at their seat? Well guess what hotshot, what if someone went out for a smoke? Or had to take a phone call? Or started having contractions and had to go give birth to their baby?

I could have had more quotes but I try to enjoy hockey games and not have them ruined by inane commentary that never, ever ends. Seriously. Miller can't do play-by-play for more than 20 seconds without McGuire interjecting with some "facts" and "opinions".

Upcoming Game
The Avs finish up their back-to-back road swing with a game in St. Louis tonight. Puck drop is at 8:38 ET.

- Pavel Datsyuk has a tendency to be too fancy at times
- Henrik Zetterberg has a tendency to be too awesome at times
- what was with Holmstrom whacking Budaj in the junk but getting away with it in the second?
- Brett Clark knocked Aaron Downey on his keester even though Downey had a half-sheet of ice run at him (Saskatchewan FTW!)
- Q said that the 5-on-3 was "A big moment to dodge" Dodge? Dude, GMC FTW!

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche @ Red Wings

The Avalanche head into Detroit tonight as they open up a brief, back-to-back road swing. The last time these two teams met was just before the new year and the Wings came away with a 4-2 road win.

If the Avalanche can come up big tonight and get a W against the top team in the league, it will be their fourth consecutive road victory. If the Avalanche are going to get it done, they're going to have to do it on the back of a goaltender who hasn't started a game in nearly a month.

Peter Budaj gets the call in net as Jose Theodore did not make the trip with the team. He is still undergoing testing but the preliminary results indicate it's nothing serious. I won't believe it until I see him back in the lineup but I digress.

Budaj stepped in for the third period of Wednesday's game against the Blackhawks and didn't fare too well. He gave up 2 goals on 4 shots and almost looked like he had a sinister plan of letting in one more goal so he could get credit for the W. If the thought has crossed his mind, I'm sure he asked himself WWNFD and decided against it.

Tyler Weiman has been recalled to back him up on the night. Heck, Weiman has a 1.00 save percentage so why not start him? It's obvious he'd be a shoo-in to get a shutout, right? Stats don't lie people!

Dominik Hasek will be in net at the other end so have your score cards ready to rate his swan dives. I kid, I kid.

Well, aside from the previously mentioned Theodore, there are no new injuries to account for. In fact, the team has activated Kurt Sauer as he is apparently not getting dizzy while skating these days. Gotta stop turning those tight loops, Kurt.

Game time
The puck drops at 7:38 ET time and here in lovely, frigid Canada it is nationally televised on TSN in glorious HD. Of course, that means I'll be subject to the un-glorious Pierre McGuire. At least James Duthie's antics on the panel help even things out a bit.

Related Links
Terry Frei on Theodore Stepping Up
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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Avalanche Muster Up Lackluster Effort Against Coyotes

(AP Photo/Roy Dabner)
It felt like the L.A. game all over again. Well, the parts of it I was able to watch while getting ready to head out for New Years Eve.

The Avalanche got on the board first after Andrew Brunette set up Wojtek Wolski with a nice pass and Wolski beat Bryzgalov with an even better shot. The first period didn't look too bad for the Avs on a whole and I was pretty comfortable with the game at that point.

Then the second period, the Avs best period this year statistically, reared its ugly head. The Coyotes scored two goals in a span of 11 seconds to take the lead. Radim Vrbata and Steven Reinprecht were the goal scorers as they exacted vengeance on their former club.

Vrbata then added one more on a beauty feed from Peter Mueller. He took a hard pass and, rather than one-timing it, waited for a defenseman to provide a screen and wired it past Budaj for a 3-1 lead.

To their credit though the Avalanche did battle back. Brett Clark made it a 3-2 game before the second period was out as he converted on a super fake shot/slap-pass from Ian Laperriere. Then late in the third, Cody Mcleod got the equalizer off of a Vinny Lecavalier-style move from Ben Guite. Guite got the puck down low, banked it off the back of the net as he spun around the defender then, from his knees, fed a tape-to-tape (and mildly lucky) pass to Mcleod who roofed it.

However overtime settled nothing and it was off to a shootout and I wasn't feeling lucky. Budaj has been underwhelming in shootouts and tonight he got no goal support either as Wolski fanned on his shot and Svatos hit the post. Mueller and Vrbata both converted on their attempts to take the win.

Said Coach Q after the loss:
"We'll take the point," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're coming off two disappointing losses at home [to Detroit, Los Angeles] and down 3-1 in this one, getting the one point isn't too bad."

Good to know the team has lowered their standards so they can be less disappointed with losing to cellar dwelling teams.

As Dario, Jib and I were discussing in the comments of the Kings recao, it should now be interested (read: aggravating) to see who's in net against the Coyotes on Wednesday. Budaj had a mediocre outing tonight and SOP is to swap goalies out as punishment...err...incentive.

However at some point Q is going to have to end the goalie carousel as it proved fruitless last year. Even if Budaj is not as consistent as we'd like, I'd still prefer a 4 wins in a row followed by a loss rather than a win-loss-win-loss rotation.

And a round of thanks to the grinders on this team for being the players who continue to show up and play with passion and drive night after night. Ben, Cody, Ian and Cody, we salute you.

Related Links Event Summary
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Avalanche Attack Falls Short; Lose 4-2 to Wings

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
It was another fun hockey game against a team the Avalanche have yet to see this season. Still not the caliber of the Ranger game though. And a less desirable outcome.

Yes, the Red Wings were able to beat the Avalanche once again and on home ice no less. It was only the 4th home loss of the season for the Avalanche and it certainly wasn't due to a terrible performance. The team played well in general and, although looking a bit disoriented at times, put in a solid effort.

Detroit opened the scoring midway through the first as Valteri Filppula put a rebound home. It looked like Budaj misplayed that puck as he essentially blockered it right into the middle of the crease.

Then late in the first they went up 2-0 on another rebound goal from Filppula. This one snuck past Budaj's arm and nobody had picked up the streaking Filppula. At this point, every Avalanche fan was thinking "Oh no, not this sh*t again." Or maybe it was just me.

But hopes were restored by an unlikely source. Cody Mcleod picked off a Brian Rafalski pass, streaked in and wired a shot under a surprised Hasek's armpit for the first goal of his NHL career. He even made it look easy.

After Svatos tied the game with another Svatos style goal, things were looking up. The Avalanche were hanging in just fine with the Wings and were actually outchancing them at that point.

However Jiri Hudler broke the tie at the 11 minute mark and the Wings then proceeded to slowly start shutting the Avalanche down.

A late penalty and then a pulled Budaj were not enough to get one more past Hasek and Samuelsson - who appeared to have a stick up his ass all game - potted one in the empty net.

No, there were no points out of this game but they hung in with a superb Detroit team and that's got to count for something. Or so I tell myself.

Detroit was without some big names but I don't agree on that being a deciding factor on the outcome of a game so why should it be a deciding factor on how well the opposing team played against them?

I hope and cross my fingers that Q doesn't go back to Theodore on Saturday against the Kings. If it happens, I won't lose any sleep over it because it could be rationalized by saying "Well, it's just the Kings so why not." But still, Budaj has taken the reigns and there is no need to sit him at this point even though it wasn't his best performance tonight.

I've got company over so I won't be diving into the stats tonight. I'm sure you're all disappointed. I know Brett Clark is with his -3. Ok, that's as far as I go.

- Jeff Finger was wired for the game and had some super exciting quotes (actually half the sound bites they aired didn't even have him saying anything)
- Budaj's pads look so small on him at times (are they regulation size or what?)
- Svatos has to quite dangling and be an opportunistic goal scorer, as evidenced by the nature of his goal tonight and his failure to break across the blue line...ever...while carrying the puck
- Liles rocked Dan Cleary at one point as Liles broke into the zone at full tilt
- Clark was delivering some solid hits tonight
- Hannan showed some good speed getting back quickly to break up odd man rushes after pinching
- the PP sucked horribly tonight

Related Links Event Summary
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Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings

Christmas is over and it's time to put away the sugarplums and fairies and settle into some good ol' hockey action. Well, hockey never really went too far away is at was only a 2 day break before the NHL, and more importantly the World Juniors, kicked off again.

As a brief sidetrack, Canada is 2-0 so far and have allowed a grand total of zero goals as they claimed their 19th and 20th straight wins in World Junior competition. They didn't look overly sharp against Slovakia this morning but as long as they don't let any goals in, they've got a good chance of winning each game.

Well, tonight the rivalry gets renewed as it typically does around this time of the year. The Wings are back in town to face off against longtime nemesis Colorado Avalanche and I gotta say, it just doesn't feel the same as it used to.

Nonetheless, it should be a good game. The Avalanche are streaking hard at the moment, cruising to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games. The Red Wings haven't let up on the gas yet this year and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 with a league leading 57 points.

The Wings have only been defeated 7 times so far this season with 5 of those losses coming on the road. The Avalanche are of course a superb team at home with the 2nd best record in the league at the moment. Just slightly behind Detroit. Man this is almost getting depressing to write.

The Avalanche should get a boost today as Ryan Smyth is expected to return and Brad Richardson and Jordan Leopold are possibles at the moment. Well, it may not be a boost given the way the team has gelled the last few games but putting the RPM line back together shouldn't hurt.

Joe Sakic will miss this game as well as he continues to recover from his minor groin injury. Minor. The man hasn't played since November 30th so this is likely causing folks to start getting a bit antsy about the captains health.

And speaking of captains, Nik Lidstrom is fresh off the heels of a contract extension which will keep him with the Wings through the 09-10 season. He's going to make slightly less on the extension, worth $7.45M per season, than he does currently with his $7.6M salary.

Dominik Hasek gets the start in goal tonight and it should be Peter Budaj at the other end of the rink. With Tomas Holmstrom having knee troubles, Budaj shouldn't have too bad of a night. At least in terms of having a giant ass in your face. Henrik Zetterberg is not expected to play either.

The game gets underway at 9:08 ET and I'll be watching via the Altitude HD feed tonight. I can hardly watch games not in HD anymore.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Avalanche Brush Past Rangers 4-3 in OT

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Now that was an exciting hockey game! There were chances in both directions, great saves from both goaltenders, great passing and hitting from both teams and a couple scraps. I was so into the game that I hardly had any notes written down but I'll give it the ol' college try.

The game started off on a scary note as Paul Stastny took a stick to the eye region which resulted in a bump but no stitches. Watching the replay made me wince as Roszival's stick hit with pretty good snap behind it. Stastny missed most of the resulting 4-minute minor but was back on the bench with a smile on his face towards the end of it.

The Avalanche didn't cash in on the 4-minute chance but kept up the pressure and generated some excellent scoring chances. King Henrik matched the excellent chances with even more excellent saves. The Avs fired off 16 shots, including at least 4 on a long 5-on-3, in the first period but walked away with a goose egg on the scoreboard thanks to Lundqvist.

The Avalanche tied it up early on the PP as Brunette, Hejduk and Stastny worked some down low magic on the PP. Brunette fed Hejduk in front who put it past Lundqvist with about 3 Rangers defending against him.

Hejduk then got goal #2 of the night as Stastny fed him a perfect saucer pass and Hejudk roofed it past a pad stack by Lundqvist. The goal was started by a great keep-in play by Wolski. Really, it was more luck than anything as Roszival's clear hit Wolski's stick. But hey, you gotta be good to be lucky, right?

Unfortunately, Mr. Roszival got mad and decided to tie the game under 30 seconds later. He stepped hard into a shot that got past a screened Peter Budaj to suck the wind out of the building.

And while people were still catching their breath, Marc Staal had a Gomez shot deflect off him past Budaj for a 3-2 Ranger lead. Talk about a goal explosion!

The Rangers took the 3-2 lead into the third but I was still feeling good about the game. The Avalanche were outchancing the Rangers and sooner or later, one of those chances had to go in.

And the ever opportunistic Marek Svatos was the one to make it happen. He pounced on a Jaroslav Hlinka rebound and potted it past Lundqvist on the second try. That was Svatos' 11th of the season and he could be heading towards a 30-goal season now.

The game ended up going to OT but only thanks to Peter Budaj's heroics late in the game. He made 3 huge saves with under 5 minutes to play to maintain the tie. Lundqvist started out the game as the star but Budaj one-upped him with some amazing clutch play.

Wojtek Wolski then scored a gift-wrapped, couriered, all-postage paid goal to end the game in OT. Jeff Finger trailed in off the bench and got the puck after a 2-on-1 rush by the Avalanche. He delayed until the hash marks and fired a wrist shot that just snuck by Lundqvist. As it trickled towards the post, Wojtek Wolski gave it a little help to make sure it went home. That's right, that's your home Mr. Puck. And Wolski just needed to give it a little tap-tap-taperoo.

So with 6 regulars out, the Avalanche were still able to get past a solid Rangers team and put in a full-game effort. Injuries are never a reason to start losing and I'm glad the Avalanche pulled up their socks and turned in a great performance.

I have to give this game the vote as game of the year and who would have thought it would be against an Eastern Conference team? I thought all those divisional games were supposed to lead to this sort of action but it appears when you spread things around and teams play teams they haven't seen 80 billion times, it makes for some exciting games.

With an Edmonton loss in regulation and a Calgary loss in OT, the Avalanche gained a bit of space in the NW as they sit in a 3-way tie with Minnesota and Vancouver for first. And on Sunday, Vancouver's next.

- Davey Jones got some early PP time to calm his jitters and it seemed to work
- Cody McCormick continues to improve by leaps and bounds
- Davey Jones is a big beast and he uses his frame effectively
- Cody Mcleod had his first NHL fight and held his own against Dubinsky
- Lappy taught Hollweg a lesson the clean way (are you watching Mr. Simon?)
- the crowd was really into this game and for good reason!
- the D played solid tonight and limited the Rangers chances barring the late third period flurry

Hannan led with 26:18 followed very closely by Wojtek Wolski as he put in 24:59 tonight. Wolski was up on the first line in place of Smyth and also played point on the #1 PP unit to gather the massive numbers. Liles also benefited from the PP time as he was out for 23:27 in total, 5:41 being on the PP.

The call-ups Davey Jones and Cody Mcleod had the least amount of ice-time. Shocking! Kyle Cumiskey wasn't too far behind with just 10:37, 9 of those being at even strength. He's got wheels but I guess Q isn't liking his overall game at the moment.

Jeff Finger dished out 6 hits in another solid hitting game. He went into the boards awkwardly in the third but was up right away and back into the play dishing out some punishment.

Related Links Event Summary
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In the Cheap Seats Recap

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Budaj In Against Rangers, Injury Updates

My optimism paid off and Peter Budaj is being rewarded for his hard work with a fifth straight start tomorrow night against the Rangers.

“He looks quick. He’s anticipating well and his rebound control has been very efficient,” said Quenneville. “He’s following the puck, tracking it very well.”

It's about time that one of the goaltenders went on a run like this AND Q stuck with them during that run.

In sour news, Joe Sakic is still not skating and Ryan Smyth is doubtful for tomorrow games. I hope the "neck injury" here is not like Sauer's where they suddenly realized he had a concussion.

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Ducks Waddle Away With 2-1 OT Win

The Avalanche nearly came away with their 4th straight win and all credit for that can be given to Peter Budaj. He had his 4th solid outing in a row and appears to have shaken his early funk and grabbed the #1 goaltender reigns for the Avalanche.

The Avalanche opened the scoring midway through the second as Ian Laperriere and Cody McCormick put on a spot-on impression of Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk. Laperriere took the puck behind the net, waited for everyone to look at him, then fed a wide open Cody McCormick who had nothing but net to shoot at.

The Ducks then poured it on hard in the third looking to tie it up and they got their wish early. Peter Budaj kicked out a rebound but he didn't kick it far enough and Chris Pronger was there with his insanely long stick to poke it home. The length of the stick may or may not be compensating for something.

Budaj was able to keep holding the fort to get the game to OT but the Ducks were able to end it off a 2-on-1 and a great shot from Mathieu Schneider. The Avs took a gamble one way and gave up the odd-man rush. But that's what happens in OT so you can't blame them for the gamble.

You can blame them for mustering only 12 shots on goal against a backup who hasn't put up great stats in his limited playing time this year. You could blame them for chipping the puck out of the zone and then turning around waiting to defend. They almost seemed mesmerized that they finally figured out how to get the puck out of the zone and had no idea how to play inside the neutral zone.

It looks like the Ducks might be starting to shake off their post-Stanley Cup blues but they've got to be worried about their offense which still ranks just 27th in the league.

The only consoling factor you could use is that the Avalanche are pretty banged up. There are 2 D-men out (Sauer and Leopold), 3 centers (Sakic, Richardson, Arnason) and a left-winger (Smyth). Those are all players with solid regular minutes that had to be picked up by the rest of the guys. Heck, even Parker had over 6 minutes in ice-time tonight.

In a game where the Avs were outshot 38-12 and walked away with a 2-1 OT loss, you'd be hardpressed to not award the first star to whoever was in net for the Avalanche. Not so says the folks over at Anaheim. They awarded the first star to Ryan Getzlaf who had a ton of ice-time on the Ducks top line but only managed to record one shot on goal and no points. I can't be any more confused at that choice.

Standard operating procedure for the Avalanche after a loss is to switch goaltenders but I'm going to stay optimistic and say that Budaj will be in net Friday against the Rangers. How can you not reward your goaltender after hitching the team to his back and getting an undeserved point?

A point that brings them back atop the NW division. Sure, there's a couple other teams there but it still counts.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche @ Ducks

The Avalanche are shotting for their third straight road win in another pesky Pacific division game and guess who's not going to be there? That's right, Jordan Leopold is injured again. I think at this point some higher power is giving him a hint that he might want to get out of the hockey game. You can't help but feel sorry for him and I bet he's far more frustrated than the fans.

Cody McLeod is probably the only person mildly cheered by the news as it means he will be in the lineup tonight. I'm quite interested to get a glimpse of him as I don't know a whole lot about his style. Hockey Futures lists him as a grinder with a nose for the net and a hard forechecker. Sounds like my kind of guy.

Peter Budaj is set to make his fourth straight start and will be shooting to make it four straight wins as well. Joel Quenneville has not declared him the #1 as he sticks with the "I'm going with the hot hand" mentality. So Budaj fans better hope he doesn't let in more than 3 goals or Q will decide that he's obviously lost it and needs to switch goaltenders. Sigh.

This is a big game for the Avalanche as the entire NW division seems to be moving at breakneck pace. Last night the Wild, Cancuks and Flames won while Edmonton pulled out a point against the Stars. So after a brief stint in 1st, they're tied for 3rd, one point behind Minnesota and Vancouver. Calgary's win last night gave them a clean sweep of their six game road trip and made me jealous.

The puck doesn't drop until 10:08 ET which will make for a late finish here. However I'm off work until after Christmas so I just might be able to gut it out and get a recap up tonight. Or I'll wake up on the couch at 4:00am with a pen embedded in my cheek and drool on my notebook wondering what just happened.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Avalanche Dethrone Kings 4-2

(AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Ok, I'm not sure what throne the Kings were sitting on but I felt like a cheeky headline today. The Avalanche pulled off their third straight win, and more importantly their second straight road win, with a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings last night.

The game got off to an impressive start as the Avalanche pulled off two quick goals by Ryan Smyth - a rare road PP goal - and Jaroslav Hlinka while the ice was still wet. It prompted Crawford to call a quick timeout and if my lip reading is any good, I believe he said "They must pay the price!"

The Avalanche kept the pressure on though and went up by 3 before the period was out when Paul Stastny poked home a rebound in the crease. Milan Hejduk was given about 10 years to circle around the net and take a shot. Labarbera, or Barbs as I like to call him, couldn't hang on to the puck and Stastny was there like a vulture to poke it home.

The third period kicked off with the Avs still up 3-0 and you just felt that little sense of dread. Sure enough, just 36 seconds in Dustin Brown tipped home a Rob Blake point shot to get the Kings back in it early.

Then, just over 4 minutes later Michael Handzus broke down the wing while shorthanded and fired a wrist shot past Budaj. It was the type of goal that a lot of people would have filleted Theodore over if he had given it up. In the post-game comments, Budaj said he felt Handzus fanned on it a bit as the puck wasn't flat and usually Handzus goes low blocker. Usually but not this time Peter.

That's not to take anything away from another solid performance by Peter Budaj. He terribly busy facing just 21 shots but made some decent saves including some in close plays where his composure seems light years ahead of Theodore's.

After the brief scare, the Avalanche settled down and, after an empty netter by Ben guite, walked away from the Staples Center as the Northwest Division leaders. If only by 1 point.

EDIT: After fully reading the Inside the Kings entry, I found it quite amusing how similar their thoughts echoed most Avalanche fans thought not too long ago:
"The talent is forced to play a system they're not capable of playing."
"If you fire Crawford, who replaces him?"
"Why do I continue to watch?"

Fear not Kings fans, you're not alone. But quite calling for retribution on Smyth. Last time that happened with Crow behind the bench, it wasn't pretty.

- a couple Kings players took pseudo-runs at Smyth but nothing serious
- Jack Johnson managed a couple elbows as he challenges Phaneuf for the Cheap Hit Artist of the Year award
- there was a smattering of "We Love Lappy" signs which shows just how much Laperriere means to the teams he plays for
- I hate Pacific Division games as they don't end until midnight

Brett Clark logged 28:24 in ice-time which is a bit surprising given that they're running with 7 defensemen. The speed demon Kyle Cumiskey was limited to just 9:33 last night and Jordan Leopold had a game low 8:37 for the Avalanche.

Scott Hannan was +2 on the night as he starts trying to dig himself out of +/- hell. Brett Clark was also +2, Liles and Skrastins were +1, Finger was even and Cumiskey and Leopold were -1. Tonight the +/- stats were closely correlated with ice-time for defensemen.

Shots were in abundance for the Avalanche tonight as they fired 40 shots at Labarbera. Wolski led the way with 6 while Smyth, Guite and Hejduk each had 5 as those four combined for over half the shots.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche @ Kings

The Avs are shooting for a third straight win, and a second straight road win, as they take on the Los Angeles Kings tonight in sunny California. Sunny, warm California. Sigh.

Fresh off a home-and-home sweep, the Avalanche are looking a bit more like the team everyone expected them to be. Sure, the Predators took it to the Avalanche for a good part of those games but they walked away with a pair of wins thanks to some solid goaltending from Peter Budaj. Who knew the Avs could win games with just 2 or 3 goals in their favor?

And it's back to Peter Budaj tonight as he gets his chance at 3 straight starts for the first time since Jose Theodore came back from injury. He's also got a chance to be the #1 star for the third time in a row as well. He was chosen by the Nashville media as the #1 star on the 13th and then by Norm Jones as the #1 star on the 15th.

Jason Labarbera has declared himself the starter tonight but it's not a 100% certainty as he's still in some pain. In case anyone forgot, it was Ryan Smyth's stick to the ribs the last time these teams met that caused Laberbera to miss time. So I'm thinking he might be anxious to get back in and get some redemption. In the form of a W of course, not some ridiculous cheap shot.

As far as injuries, not much has changed since the last report. The only news is that Tyler Arnason is now on the IR and the Avalanche have recalled Cody McLeod to fill the roster spot. I'm unsure if McLeod will see the ice tonight or not. The team has been going with 7 D and 11 forwards and it's been working out pretty well. So McLeod might be watching from the press box, at least for this game.

With Arnason probably out for 4+ weeks, Brad Richardson with a possible shoulder injury and Joe Sakic still mending his groin, McLeod should get a chance to showcase his stuff in a few games with the big club.

This is also a chance for the Avalanche to climb atop the NW division as no other NW teams are playing tonight. The logjam in the division is at the "freakin ridiculous" point again with just 4 points separating top from bottom thanks to some solid runs by both Edmonton and Calgary lately. So feel free to "thank" the nearest Flames and/or Oilers fan that you know.

Just try not to get caught.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Avalanche Power Past Predators 3-1

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
The Avalanche made it a clean sweep of their home-and-home series against Nashville last night with a solid 3-1 victory at the Pepsi Center. Anchored by the solid goaltending of Peter Budaj, the defense managed to put in another solid effort while the offense made sure to cash in on their opportunities.

After a first period which saw no goals but a ton of pressure from the Preds, the teams exploded for 3 goals in the second period. Paul Stastny opened the scoring with a beautiful quick out play which Ryan Smyth read beautifully and delivered a perfect pass for a one-timer. Marek Svatos then gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead as he followed up on his own rebound to put it past Mason. Two things to learn from that goal. When you throw things at the net, good things can happen and you should never, ever give up on a play.

Before the period was out Nashville was able to pull within one as Martin Gelinas tracked down the puck in a crease scramble and cut the lead in half. Taking a 2-1 lead into the 3rd while on home ice still had me feeling pretty good about this game.

Then midway through the 3rd period, Jordan Leopold sealed the deal with a hard point shot. Man I love saying that. A hard point shot. That goal was made possible by some hard work and puck retention by Wojtek Wolski and Andrew Brunette.

It was another game where the Avalanche managed to keep themselves out of the penalty box for the most part. They only took 2 minors in the whole game with both being in the first period. The only other penalty was a fighting major on Lappy as he went postal on Vernon Fiddler. It took him a whole length of ice to convince Fiddler to drop the gloves and Fiddler regretted it immediately. I didn't catch what set Laperriere off but maybe he just felt like fighting.

John Liles had a scary moment in the first when he and Brunette collided on the ice and Liles leg got tweaked. He had trouble getting off the ice and I was ready to mark him out for the game but he was back on the ice not long after. Of course that caused McNabb and Haynes to proceed to tell us just how well conditioned these athletes are, that a normal man would have broken his leg in 8 places on that play and that Liles contracted and overcame mononucleosis just that very morning.

As well as Budaj played, I still give the save of the game to Chris Mason. He had just begun going post to post on a cross-ice Avalanche feed when Greg Zanon got a stick on the puck and it was headed the opposite direction Mason was. However he alertly flashed out the leather and snagged the puck. You've gotta love seeing that save.


The RPM line continues to carry this team as they logged an average of 21 minutes each with Smyth leading the way with 21:36.

The third/fourth line wasn't too far behind as they logged huge minutes. McCormick had 16:49, Lappy had 17:47 and Guite had 18:55. That's got to be season highs for all 3 of those players and it's a classic example of hard work being rewarded.

T.J. Hensick and Marek Svatos saw minimal ice-time again with just 7:26 and 7:30 respectively.

The D were spread out more evenly while still giving Leopold limited time out there. Clark led the way with nearly 21 minutes, Cumiskey and Finger were the low end of the regulars with 14:03 and 14:55 and Leopold had just 10:55 on the night.

The Predators badly outhit the Avalanche by a 22-9 margin. But again, it didn't shut the Avalanche down as that style of play has in the past. Cody McCormick led the way for the Avs with 3 hits.

Hlinka may be a natural center but his faceoff stats were brutal last night going just 3 for 11. Paul Stastny had a solid night winning 12 of 21 while Scott Nichol schooled everybody with 9 wins out of 12 draws.

- Shea Weber is a non-dirty version of Phaneuf with a bit less offensive upside
- Brett Clark had some key shot blocks that took guts to perform
- where's the potent Alexander Radulov from last years playoffs?
- Karlis Skrastins must have been a swimmer before becoming a defenceman
- Peter Budaj was a non-rebound machine tonight

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche vs Predators

It's Saturday and it's time for some hockey! I'm not a morning person at all but waking up on a nice winter morning with just a bit of snow on the ground and a slight chill in the air (it's only -12°C today) puts me in a good mood. Of course there's the general Christmas cheer in the air these days as well.

But enough sappy junk, let's get down to tonight's game against the Nashville Predators. After a near-shutout victory over the Predators on Thursday, the Avalanche will look to make it a clean sweep of this home and home matchup against the Preds.

Thursday saw a solid performance from all sides for the Avalanche. The offense, while not generating a lot of goals, was still there getting chances, the defense was solid under the pressure Nashville was putting on them and Peter Budaj stood tall in goal when he needed to.

"I thought it was a very complete game," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said about the win.

In regards to Budaj, "He was very competitive. It is nice to see him get a win." said Quenneville. Competitive. That's definitely one word to describe the difference between Theodore and Budaj's play.

With Joe Sakic still out nursing a groin injury, Ryan Smyth has stepped up to help lead the club, tallying 8 points in the last 5 games. Tyler Arnason is still having wrist troubles and is not going to play tonight either. I'm not happy he's hurt but I am glad he's out of the lineup for a couple games. Kurt Sauer is still out with a neck injury.

I haven't seen any mention of going with 7 D again tonight or not. It worked last game but I wouldn't be surprised to see Hensick back in with one of the D being a healthy scratch. It would likely be Liles or Cumiskey at this point. Skrastins still hasn't impressed me much this season but as DD points out in his recap, Skrastins ice-time has been increasing so it's unlikely that he would sit.

Oh, and Budaj is probably starting though it's not official as far as I know. Hell, Budaj and Theodore probably don't even know yet.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Avalanche Dump Predators 2-1

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
The Avalanche got their fifth road win of the season with a 2-1 defeat over the Nashville Predators. It was nearly a perfect performance from Peter Budaj but Alexander Radulov was able to beat him with just 20 seconds left in the game.

The Avalanche needed some solid goaltending tonight and they got it from Peter Budaj. He was calm and collected all night and was able to stay composed even while scrambling in the crease to locate the puck.

He had to do that on a few occasions as the Predators were really putting pressure on the Avalanche for most of the night. They spent a lot of time passing the puck in the offensive zone though the Avalanche defenders did well in keeping the Predators mostly to the outside.

Ryan Smyth opened up the scoring midway through the third period as he fired a shot from the wing that got past Mason. Earlier in the game Smyth had taken a harmless shot from the wing and I thought "Man, knock it off. You're not going to score from there." He must have heard me and decided to prove me wrong!

Ian Laperriere then scored the eventual game winner as he returned to the lineup from a knee injury. Jaroslav Hlinka demonstrated ultimate patience with the puck as he circled the net then fed a perfect pass to Laperriere who was right on the doorstep. That's where you need to be to score goals. Nobody was happier than Laperriere as he had joked with Mike Haynes in pre-game about how his return would provide an offensive boost to the club.

Lappy skated on the "4th line" with Guite and McCormick. I put "4th line" in quotes as it was really the third line tonight as the Avs went with 7 D and 11 forwards. Ryan Smyth was double-shifted with Marek Svatos and Brad Richardson to form a makeshift line from time to time.

Scott Hannan pulled in monster minutes with 27:52 in ice-time tonight. Ryan Smyth was just behind him with 26:09 thanks to the aforementioned double-shifting. Marek Svatos saw a lowly 6:50 in ice-time. It's not that he's not trying when he's out there. It's just that he hasn't been terribly effective.

Tyler Arnason sat out the game but it was supposedly due to a hand injury rather than being a healthy scratch. Jordan Leopold also made his return and looked ok in just over 9 minutes on the ice.

Coach Q was seen smiling behind the bench shortly before the buzzer. I'm guessing it's because he was able to keep his job for one more day.

So now it's back to Denver for a game on Saturday against...the Nashville Predators. Gotta love the schedule.

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Gameday: Avalanche @ Predators

The road trip continues as the Avalanche are in Nashville tonight to play the Predators. Coming off a loss against Columbus last night, I can only hope the team is fired up enough to put in a solid performance and grind out just their 5th road win of the year.

Not that last night was a terrible performance by the team. It was actually a fun game to watch with some good end-to-end rushes and some solid defensive play. Unfortunately Theodore let in some softies that changed the tide of the game in the wrong way.

I'd expect Peter Budaj to start tonight though I haven't seen any official mention of it. DD has a good open letter to Joel Quenneville as part of his recap from last night. I think it's safe to say he speaks for 100% of true Avalanche fans at this point.

Joe Sakic didn't make the trip but is still expected to hit the ice this week. Ian Laperriere and Jordan Leopold are both probables to be in the lineup tonight. Sakic was moved to the IR list to make way for Leopold's return so I'd say there's a really good chance of seeing him play tonight.
I'm curious to see who Quenneville picks as the scratches tonight if both those players are in. If I had my way I'd go with Skrastins and Arnason. Of course it wouldn't surprise me to see Hensick sit out as his ice-time has been pretty low lately.

With a Vancouver win last night against Anaheim, the Avalanche have 33 points and are now 4 points back of 1st in the NW with one game in hand. However they are currently out of a playoff position, though only by 1 point. There are actually four teams at 34 points right now so things are pretty clogged up in the West.

I remember running into Tim Cheveldae at a Blades game early in the season and I asked him what his thoughts were on the Avalanche. The response was "They'll make the playoffs with consistent goaltending."

Not spectacular or superb. Just consistent. This season reminds me so much of last season that I wonder if it won't end in disappointment this year as well.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Avalanche Tweak Lineup for Wednesday