Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Coyotes Steal One from Avalanche

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Boy did that ever leave a sour taste in my mouth. Phoenix stole an extra point from the Colorado Avalanche when midway through OT, Shane Doan crashed the net and either gloved the puck in, or put it in with his broken stick to give the Coyotes a 4-3 victory.

This one is going to leave a sour taste for fans and players for quite some as well. There were a multitude of factors that should have led to this goal being called back but it appeared that the Coyotes clearing off the ice right away may made all the difference.

No matter how you cut that goal though, this game should have never made its way to overtime in the first place. After grabbing the lead midway through the third period, the Avalanche gave up a goal which could have been avoided.

In an offensive zone faceoff, the crew lined up were Tyler Arnason, Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos. Not exactly the strongest faceoff trio. It got even worse when Tyler Arnason got booted from the draw and Marek Svatos took his place. Now, I have no idea who decided Svatos should go as opposed to Wolski but that was also a bad move.

Svatos ended up losing the faceoff due to his skates being cemented to the ice and Radim Vrbata streaked to the net in what appeared to be a set play. Reinprecht fed him the puck and Peter Budaj stood there watching Vrbata put it into the wide open net.

Now, I'll give it to Q that Hlinka and Guite had just finished a shift so weren't a great option. However it's late in the game, you're nursing a one-goal lead and you put out your least defensively responsible line? In the immortal words of the Internet..WTF?

The Disputed Goal
A lot of people have already broken this one down already including DD and AD so I won't detail it too much. What I will say is what I said previously, for that puck to go in Doan had to either poke it in with a broken stick, with his hand or by shoving Budaj into the net. Last time I checked, those were not legal ways of scoring a goal.

The refs - and the Coyotes who ran off the field quicker than a doctor diagnoses Britney Spears as batsh*t crazy (sorry, the Patriots analogies were too easy) - disagreed. After a token review, not only was the goal counted but it was awarded to Radim Vrbata. Of course, there's no way they could call it Doan's goal as that would be admitting a mistake.

The other issue is the whistle heard shortly after the puck crosses the goal line. Now, this is of course speculative but on watching and listening to the replay, I have a hard time believing that the referee did not intend to blow his whistle before the puck crossed the goal line. And the rule isn't about when the whistle was blown, it's about when the referee intended to blow the whistle. Of course, that's tough to conclusively determine via a replay and you have to rely on the referee's word.

And which referee blew the whistle anyways? I never could tell but it didn't look like the ref behind the net did it. Which draws even more credence to this being a non-goal as there is no way the trailing ref could have seen the puck cross the line but he definitely could have been whistling the play dead.


Hensick started out centering the top line again but was demoted to the fourth line as Hlinka got promoted to the first line.

Brad Richardson has been making a case to stay with the big team as he's skating hard, hitting hard and playing some solid defense. Once the roster regains some health, it'll make for some tough decisions on who stays and who goes.

Next Game
The Avs have landed themselves in 2nd spot in the NW after Edmonton destroyed Calgary 5-0 last night. Who saw that one coming?

The Avalanche head off to San Jose to face the Sharks on Wednesday. It's a late game which likely means my head hitting the pillow once the final buzzer sounds so a recap won't be up until Thursday.

-Skrastins was a scratch tonight as Sauer took his spot with Brett Clark
- Wall was recalled to replace Tyler Weiman who injured his foot (good grief)
- the Avalanche again were penned in their own zone early and couldn't generate sustained pressure
- Leopold does a good job at not forcing a shot (and a subsequence block) and just dishing the puck to an open corner
- Jeff Finger was on the ice for every goal against
- T.J. Hensick with two straight two-goal games (could he be breaking out?)
- reading his lips during the reviewed third goal revealed a conclusive statement of "It's a f*cking goal"
- Richardson's slashing call in the 1st was karma for the call he "drew" earlier when his own stick caused Boyton's to ride up and clip him in the face
- is anybody happier than Lappy after scoring a goal?

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Denver Post Recap
Rocky Mountain News Recap

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
NHL.com Event Summary
TSN Recap
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap

Monday, September 17, 2007

Training Camp Complete - Preseason Begins

I woke up this morning in a good mood and I wasn't sure why. Once I had my coffee and my brain kicked in, I was like a kid in a candy store as I remembered today was the start of preseason for the Avalanche.

The Avalanche face the Coyotes tonight at 10:00PM ET at the Jobing.com arean in Glendale, Arizona. Ah, I love corporate naming rights, don't you? The game will be accessible via NHL.com radio and *may* be available as a free stream from the freshly launched www.nhl.tv site.

Launch the portal and then selected the Avalanche stream and cross your fingers! I've railed against the NHL's online offerings in the past but this is a giant step in the right direction.

EDIT: Bad news - the Avalanche game won't be available. Good news -select preseason games definitely are. Bad news - the system is still full of issues. I won't break them down into huge detail but it's still quite shaky. Go ahead and give it a shot and you may be able to catch the Canucks game. You have to register for Centre Ice first and then choose the free preseason package. Then hope your cookie sticks (not a euphemism) otherwise you may have to re-register with new details. Luckily my many years on the run from law have given me multiple aliases. *insert evil laugh*

It's a new service so there may be hiccups. If you can't get the game going, ask around on the forums and I bet someone will be able to give you a hand. Ensure you have the latest Flash player installed and that you are coming from a US or Canadian IP address. If you aren't in the States or Canada, there are ways to work around that problem. I won't publish them here because I do not condone it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Post-game vs Phoenix - Mar 29, 2007

Phew. Going into the 3rd period with a 4-0 lead would seem to spell "success". The Avalanche almost turned it into "disaster" as they hung on for a 4-3 lead. If it weren't for a save by the cross bar with about 30 seconds left, this game would have gone to OT. Budaj must have been kissing that post to thank it after the game.

With that win, the Avalanche keep pace with the Flames but are still 7 points back and now there are only 5 games remaining. So hope still exists but it's getting harder and harder to cling to. So much relies on the Flames faltering in their final games but it looks like they're just remembering how to play hockey, both at home and on the road.

The second line picked it up today and broke through on the first 2 goals. They had a brief period where they weren't producing but you wouldn't know it by their play early on. Hejduk got a goal off some good effort behind the net by Stastny and in front of the net by Arnason. Then Brett Mclean raced in and Hejduk fired a perfect pass to Mclean who merely had to keep his stick on the ice to put it in. That line came away with 5 points as Stastny had 2 assists, Hejduk had a goal and an assist and Mclean had a goal. I think it's all because Stastny finally got a hair cut. The extra weight of that hair was slowing him down. Seriously.

Wolski was able break a 7-game scoring drought as he potted one tonight. It was a lucky one that bounced in off a Phoenix D but it counts just the same. It's only his 2nd goal in his last 16 games. Brad Richardson actually ended up spending a fair bit of time on the #1 line in Wolski's place and was rewarded for his efforts as he scored his 13th of the season to make it 4-0. If Wolski keeps playing the way he has been, he might find himself permanently off that #1 line.

Brad Richardson had a solid game in general. He logged 17:09 in ice-time, mostly due to being with Sakic and Brunette. He also managed to kill his own penalty. Ol' Mick McGeough called a holding penalty and promptly put Wolski in the box. The only problem is it was Richardson who was doing the holding. Well, from what I saw it was Richardson being held onto but nonetheless, Richardson ended up out there killing off a penalty when he should have been in the box. Interesting story but not so interesting that I feel I should repeat it 100 times like the Phoenix announcers did.

And speaking of asses...ok, I wasn't but I wanted to segue into talking about this fellow that way...Daniel Carcillo is quite an example of that. I don't see him enough to know if he's one of those "hate to play against him, love to have him on your team" guys but he just bothers me out there. Another one of those "chip on the shoulder" players who has to get in the little cheap shot at every opportunity or rub a glove in a guys face after the whistle just because he feels like it. He did a great job of mugging Richardson late in the 2nd and then had the audacity to shove Richardson after. I guess after you jump somebody, you have to let them know who's boss if they get up again.

Unfortunately, as important as it was to get this win, I'm concerned for the next set of games. The Avalanche won but it wasn't a good looking win. They were outshot 21-8 in the final two periods, they were outhit and outmuscled in a lot of cases and just might have been outchanced as well. They gave up a lot of odd-man rushes, particularly in the first and got some help from the goalposts at a few points. They can't play like that against teams like Vancouver, Nashville, Calgary and Minnesota.

The Good
- 2 points
- good night for 2nd line
- only 2 penalties taken

The Bad
- Lappy injuring his groing and sitting out
- giving up a lot of shots in the final 2 periods
- nearly choking on a 4-goal lead

The Ugly
- seeing Gretzky look so uncomfortable on the bench

Pre-game vs Phoenix - Mar 29, 2007

It's another do-or-die night for the Avalanche as they make their way into Phoenix for one of their remaing six games. Remaing six games of the regular season that is. With a win tonight, and a Flames loss, they're well on their way to catching Calgary again for the final playoff spot in the West. And who would have ever thought that would be possible a month ago?

According to a team spokesman, it will be Peter Budaj in net tonight. I thought it would be fairly obvious as to who would start but some folks still think there are goaltending issues. Budaj got rested for a game b/c Theodore looked like he could handle a start. He did and he did, and that's that. The backup gave the starter a rest and now the final push has begun. Theodore commented that he supports any goaltending decision that the organization makes. Hopefully fans do the same.

Although Phoenix is not fighting for a playoff spot, they are fighting to avoid the moniker of "worst team in the West". Luckily for them, Philadelphia has a stranglehold on "worst team in the NHL". They will have a tough time with what should be a determined Avalanche club who have gone 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. The Avalanche have also had a lot of success against the Coyotes, winning 8 of the last 9 encounters. Hopefully the Avalanche players don't get too cocky hearing that statistic.

Tonight I'm predicting Joe Sakic will get a goal to take sole possession of 9th in all-time scoring and 15th in all-time goal scoring in the NHL. As usual, if I'm wrong I'll amend this post so nobody is ever the wiser.

Brisebois - back, IR
Leopold - wrist, IR (I think mid-March has come and gone)
Turgeon - calf, IR

Jovanovski - abdominal, IR
Ricci - neck, IR
Scatchard - consussion, IR
Fischer - abdominal, IR

Sakic has 13 in 7, Hejduk has 16 in 14, Mclean has 3 in 3.

Joseph is the only hot Coyote.

Stastny has 0 in 5, Klee has 1 in

Roenick, Nolan, Kapanen and Sjostrom have 0 in 3, Michalek has 0 in 7.

Peter Budaj - 27-15-6, 2.73 GAA, .904 save pct
Curtis Joseph - 16-27-2, 3.12 GAA, .896 save pct

Colorado -39-30-7, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Phoenix - 29-42-5, 5th in Pacific, 14 in West

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Post-game vs Phoenix - Mar 17, 2007

The Avalanche put themselves even deeper into the playoff hunt as they pull off a 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. This was a very big win as it came on the same night as the Calgary Flames gave up a rare home loss to the Minnesota Wild. Now, with one game in hand, the Avalanche are just 6 points back of Calgary with 2 more games to come against Calgary.

The game started out very well for the Avalanche as they dominated early. Paul Stastny quickly extended his point streak with the first goal of the game halfway through the 1st. Not too long after, Sakic decided to give the team a 2-0 lead and it looked like the Avalanche were on a roll.

Phoenix had other ideas as they managed to score 3 unanswered goals to take the lead midway through the second. But you had to know that Joe Sakic wouldn't stand for that. 25 seconds later he took a beautiful feed from Brunette and tied the game up and stemmed the tide.

Heading into the third it was a nervous time for Avalanche fans but one could hope the team would be buoyed by hearing about the Flames loss. It certainly sparked Ben Guite! He snagged the puck, flew down the left side and buried a high glove shot on Joseph to give the the Avs the lead again. Brad Richardson then decided that he would streak in on the same side and go high blocker on Joseph. Shortly after, Paul Stastny got his second of the game just to put the final exclamation mark on the win.

With all the loving that the Avalanche D were getting, they seemed to take a step back today. If it weren't for the Coyotes not knowing how to hit the net, and for Budaj making some big stops in the 3rd, this game could very well have been 6-3 for the Coyotes. The Coyotes were able to fly into the zone near uncosted on more occasions than I would like to see. The forwards were still backchecking well but didn't seem to be pinching in down low as much as they had in previous games and it led to some in tight chances for Phoenix.

The two defensemen playing the most consistent game were Clark and Finger. Finger continues to bring a physical presence and doesn't shy away from trouble at all. When Sjostrom took a shot well after the whistle went, he was the first guy there giving Sjostrom a face full of leather. And Clark is the best defenseman the Avalanche have at carrying the puck out of the zone. That is a skill that is still lacking for the team so Clark's ability sticks out like a sore thumb compared to players such as Vaananen.

As mentioned, Paul Stastny continued his point streak as he scored 2 goals tonight. He now looks to be on pace for a 30 goal season. He'd join Joe Sakic, and likely Milan Hejduk, in the 30-goal club for the Avalanche. Sakic scored his 29th and 30th tonight to give him 9 30-goal seasons in his ever-impressive career. And another man who could possibly join the 30-goal club, Andrew Brunette, was pivotal in the game-tying goal by Sakic. Night in and night out, those 4 have made each Avalanche game exciting to watch.

Wojtek Wolski had an average game today. He wasn't really a presence out there, but wasn't much of a liability either. He was one of those forwards who weren't contributing enough down low in the defensive zone. He likes to hug the side board waiting for the outlet pass. It's likely the main reason that Ben Guite was bumped up to the first line towards the end of the 3rd period. It was a smart move by Quenneville as they needed Guite's defensive abilities more than Wolski's offensive abilities. Man, I'm so hard on Wolski!

Peter Budaj started off with an average game as well but really turned it up in the 3rd period. I both like and dislike how he does that from time to time. I don't like him having to rebound from a bad goal or two, but I like how he has been able to do it. The first goal was a bit of a weak one, the second was a great shot, and the third was just bloody weird. But after those 3 were in, Budaj decided that was enough and made some key saves during a rough spot in the middle of the 3rd when the Avalanche were getting badly outplayed.

Scott Parker was out and Marek Svatos was in his place on the fourth line. I think that was a mistake because, as was pointed out by inthecheapseats.com, the last time these two played, the Coyotes took some liberties. They didn't take as many tonight but there were a few times where I thought "No way they'd do that if Parked was in the lineup". However, kudos to Svatos for putting a good hit on a Yotes player towards the end of the third, getting smothered in a pileup, then getting up and delivering another hit on the very next play. If he keeps playing with that kind of spark, he could work his way back into Q's good books.

With Parker out, Rycroft was the man left to dish out some justice when necessary. It became necessary when the Coyotes overreacted to Svatos hit. He and Carcillo dropped the gloves after a brief scrum and both decided to toss some haymakers NBA style. Ok, it wasn't that bad but those were some wild punches they were throwing. But good for Rycroft for not backing down and showing that this team still has plenty of fight left in it. But in the future, it should be Parker doing that.

The Good
- fought back to win
- held onto lead in 3rd

The Bad
- gave up 2 goal lead
- got outplayed for long stretches of time

The Ugly
- Liles' deep knee bend (ouch!)

The Action

Sakic Ties it Up

Liles Bends His Knee Awkwardly
Guite Fires Home the Winner
Guite Shows Some Intensity
Richardson Reciprocates
Two Snipers Share Their Secrets
Stastny For Calder!
Theo and Budaj

Pre-game vs Phoenix - Mar 17, 2007

It's the first of 2 games against Pacific division opponents. The Avs start off with what should be a very winnable game against the Phoenix Coyotes. They're 3-7-0 in their last 10 with latest wins coming against teams such as Philadelphia and the post-Ryan Smyth Oilers. However, don't let that fool you. The Avalanche have been known as a team that plays down to its opponents over the last couple of seasons. With some solid defensive hockey though, I'm considering this game well in hand. Particularly since no Phoenix goaltender has a GAA under 3.00.

Marek Svatos is set to return to action tonight after missing 6 games with a groin injury. The big question is who will sit tonight in favor of Svatos. Scott Parker, although only playing 3-4 minutes each game, seems to bring an element of "Don't F with us" to the ice which the Avs have sorely been lacking. Mark Rycroft seems to be bringing some more grit to his game lately. And those are the only two I could really see being the options to be scratched tonight. I suppose the other option is to sit Svatos for the game and not mess with what appears to be some team chemistry.

Karlis Skrastins is still listed as day-to-day with a knee injury and won't be in the lineup tonight. And that suits me just fine with the way Kurt Sauer and Ossi Vaananen have stepped up their play lately. Sauer in particular has really stepped it up and has been logging a lot of ice-time lately. He's up around 24-25 minutes on average for the past half-dozen games. Previously, if he was lucky enough to be in the lineup, he would get 10-12 minutes. The only thing the Avs miss is the shot-blocking Skrastins did. However, if the team plays well enough defensively, there is less of a need for shot blocks.

Paul Stastny is in line to continue his record-setting point-streak tonight. He has broken the NHL rookie point-streak record and has tied himself with his father for the 2nd longest point-streak in franchise history. TSN has a poll on who should win the Calder, Malkin or Crosby. At the time of writing, it was 55%-45% in favor of Malkin. If this was before the Christmas break, or even before the AllStart break, it would be 75%-25% in favor of Malkin. Stastny is making a great run at the end of the season and I would be extremely happy to see him win the Calder. More happy to see the Avalanche make the playoffs of course but you take what you can get.

The playoff star JAM line has been separated for a while now but all three players are continuing to produce. Sakic is on pace for 92 points and Hejduk has put himself on pace for a 34 goal season. That's about $100,000 per goal for those keeping track. Not as much is asked of from Andrew Brunette and his $800,000 contract but he's quietly put himself on pace for career highs on all offensive categories. After a brief slump, he's now got 3 points in his last 2 games and is easily the best post-lockout signing Lacroix made. If the Avs want to keep their playoff hopes alive, those 3 need to continue producing and leading the team on - and off- the ice.

With the advent of NHL Centre Ice Online, the NHL has taken another step towards allowing more people to view their product. I just purchases this recently and will be watching the Avs game tonight and most any other night that they play. This will keep me from having to bother my boss to go watch games at his place! It's only available for US and Canadian residents which is unfortunate. They didn't provide a reason as to why it's done this way but it must have something to do with broadcasting rights. Which I think are, for the most part, a load of crap. But that's for another day.

Brisebois - back, IR
Turgeon - calf, IR
Leopold - wrist, mid-March
Skrastins - knee, day-to-day

Jovanovski - abdominal, IR
Bell - knee, day-to-day
Fischer - abdominal, IR
Ricci - neck, IR
Scatchard - concussion, IR

Sakic has 16 in 14, Stastny has 17 in 11, Hejduk has 13 in 8, Wolski has 4 in 5, Brunette has 3 in 2.

Nolan and Tjarnqvist have 3 in 3, Kapanen has 4 in 3, Thomas has 3 in 2.

Arnason and Liles have 0 in 4, Laperriere has 1 in 4, Klee has 0 in 5.

Sjostrom has 0 in 3, Boynton has 0 in 9, Ballard has 1 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 24-15-5, 2.71 GAA, .906 save pct
Curtis Joseph - 15-25-1, 3.12 GAA, .897 save pct

Colorado - 35-29-6, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Phoenix - 28-39-3, 5th in Pacific, 15th in West

Friday, January 26, 2007

Post-game vs Phoenix - Jan 26, 2007

Well that was depressing. If you're an Avalanche fan that is. If you're a Phoenix fan (I know you're out there!) then I bet it was a fun game. Nothing like fighting back from a two-goal deficit in the third and ending up with the SO win. Yep, the Avs started the 3rd with a 4-2 lead and ended up on the wrong side of a 5-4 SO loss. And after scoring 2 short-handed goals no less!

The game started off great. Our very own J-Leo got his first goal as an Avalanche to give them the early 1-0 lead. It held up until the last minute of the first when Reinprecht potted one past Budaj. The Avs then went up 3-1 very early in the second and ended that period with a 4-2 lead. It was downhill from there. They managed a meager 6 shots in the third and the Coyotes fired off 10, 2 of which came off Yanic Perraults stick and ended up behind Budaj.

Budaj did not have his best night tonight. He really turned it on towards the end of the third to ensure the game went to OT but I'm certainly not giving him the credit for getting them there. The third and fourth goal I would say he didn't have much chance on. The third one was a missed clear by Clark and high slot bullet from Perrault. The fourth appeared to be tipped in. The first was Budaj misplaying the puck and the second one he just couldn't get a handle on. Nothing to proclaim him as terrible, but nothing to proclaim him as the next Roy either.

Antti Laaksonen score one of the Avalanche's two SH goals and got an assist on the next goal to come away with a +2 rating on the night. The All-Star break may have rejuvenated Laaksonen a bit as seemed to have some wheels tonight. However, one game does not a pattern make so it'll take a while before I stop singing the "Where's Laakso?" tune. He's been noticeably absent this year after having such a strong season in 05/06.

Ben Guite made his presence felt tonight. Literally. He ended up with 4 hits on the night to go along with his 15 minutes of ice-time and managed to block 4 shots. So once again, a very solid game from Guite who has really established himself as a mainstay on the team if you ask me. Unfortunately nobody has asked me so he could very well end up back in Albany tomorrow.

Ossi Vaananen had a terrible game by most counts and was reflected in his ice-time. He walked away with 15 minutes which was by far the least of any d-man on the team. He also managed to take 2 of the Avs 3 2nd period penalties. He really seemed to be turning it on in the last few games but I guess the time off really had a toll on the steam he'd built up. Let's hope he can turn it around again and use his 6'4" frame to toss some bodies around. Zero hits is unacceptable for a d-man of his size.

Joe Sakic continued to lead by example. He potted one goal and really put a step in his game during the end of the third to help the team get to OT. Even during the All-Star game it was noted how he was always the first man on the backcheck. I think the young guns of the team are in good hands watching how Sakic plays and learning from him. Hopefully they don't learn anything from the 3 turnovers he had in the first period.

The Good
- 2 shorties
- good PK (5-6)
- injury-free game for Leopold

The Bad
- three 2nd period penalties
- forgetting about the third period
- dismal response to losing lead

The Ugly
- giving up a 2-goal third period lead

Pre-game vs Phoenix - Jan 26, 2007

Holy smokes it's time for real hockey again! Not that I didn't enjoy the All-Star game but it doesn't have the same excitement as a game that actually matters. And to those berating the All-Star game - lighten up. It seems like the trendy thing to do now is call it a corporate schmooze-fest and claim it's how Bettman wants all NHL games to be - high-scoring with no defense. Come on.

The game tonight should be exciting though as the Avs re-start their quest to jump back into playoff contention against the Phoenix Coyotes who are nipping at their heels. Get it? Coyotes. Nipping. Anyways, with a win tonight, the Avalanche will move within one point of Minnesota for the last playoff spot in the West. Unfortunately the Wild play the Flames tonight so one of those teams will move farther up in the standings and possibly both.

I was going to bemoan how the NW teams seem to always go to OT when playing each other but a quick skim of the Standings page on TSN would make me a liar (or whiner, whichever you prefer). NW teams have gone to OT 17 times in total this season, divisional game or not. That ties with the Pacific for the least of any division. The SE is the winner with 31 of their teams games going to OT. If anyone feels like breaking that down by team and/or intra-divisional games, be my guest!

The biggest story of tonight is the return of Jordan Leopold...again. He has, hopefully, fully healed from his groin troubles and will start to inject more stability to the Avalanche blueline. It will take a couple games to hit his stride again I'm sure so I don't expect miracles from him tonight.

I do expect that he will soon help put Clark and Skrastins back to more reasonable minutes on the ice. They did a commendable job in the last few games but these guys aren't used to that kind of ice-time. Leopold expects to fill a defensive void moreso than the offensive void that JM Liles has left. I think everyone can agree on the soundess of that strategy.

Ben Guite has been recalled and I'm glad to see that. He played very solid for the team and might as well take the place of forwards who are really doing nothing for the team this year. With Guite in the lineup, the Avs PK has seemed to be better. It may not be enough to establish a pattern yet, but it should raise an eyebrow or two at least.

Even with Jose Theodore's new pads, I'd still expect Peter Budaj to get the nod in goal tonight. Unless he's too tired from the YoungStars game which saw him get hung out a little bit worse than what happens with the Avs. "Budaj makes the save. And the rebound. But the third one goes in" And that's just the Avalanche games!

Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day
May - shoulder, IR

Ricci - neck, IR

Stastny, Arnason, Hejduk, Sakic, and Brunette have 3 in 2.

Doan has 17 in 13, Nagy has 7 in 7, Laraque has 2 in 2.

Nolan has 0 in 3, Boynton has 0 in 5.

Svatos has 0 in 4, Wolski has 0 in 3.

Peter Budaj - 15-10-2, 2.53 GAA, .911 save pct
Mikael Tellqvist - 9-5-2,. 2.87 GAA, .905 save pct

Colorado - 24-20-3, 4th in NW, 9th in West
Phoenix - 22-24-2, 4th in Pacific, 11th in West

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Post-game vs Phoenix - Jan 17, 2007

I was stuck at work until now but rest assured I was listening to the game! I just got home, caught the highlights and I'm ready to write up a storm. The Avalanche came out ready to play today and it paid off with a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. It appeared to be a fairly complete game except for the whole "almost giving up the lead" thing they did towards the end of the third. If you have a 4-1 lead and there are 7 minutes left, you expect to comfortably win the game. 2 goals in a minute and a half made it a nail biter!

Tyler Arnason decided it was time to show himself again and he did a wonderful job. He came away from the game with 3 assists and all 3 were some pretty nice plays. The first was a great pass to Stastny who tipped it in. He then gave a gorgeous feed to Andrew Brunette who had a year and a day to bury it in the empty net. And just for good luck, he fed Stastny one more time for the eventual game winner. It's about time he popped his head up again. He came out flying at the start of the season, tailed back to acceptable and then became mediocre for a little while. Hopefully he doesn't remain this streaky but everyone is entitled to a slump.

Unless, of course, your name is Joe Sakic. He ended up with 2 assists tonight to keep right on trucking on the pace he started from the first game of the season. On his first, he connected with Hejduk after Brunette fed Sakic a pass on the break-in. Can you smell chemistry forming between Sakic and Hejduk? Or is it just that anyone playing with Sakic, ie Wolski, magically becomes a better player?

Ben Guite was recalled today and inserted in the lineup as both Mark Rycroft and Pierre Turgeon sat in the press box. He ended up with 14 minutes in ice-time, 4 1/2 of that on the PK, and won 61% of his faceoffs. I'm not sure if it gets much more solid than that. This is the second time that he's been inserted in the lineup and the PK has broken out of a slump. I asked last time if it was a coincidence. Now it's twice. I don't let it pass 3 times without calling it a reason.

Marek Svatos is in a huge slump right now. He got 8 minutes in ice-time tonight which is barely more than Brett Mclean got. Ouch. In the last 15 games, he has 5 points and only 1 goal. That's hardly what was expected of our prized 30-goal scoring rookie of last season. It appears that the management was right in only signing him to a 1 year, 1 mil deal. I'll leave it to other armchair coaches to figure out how to fix him but off the cuff, I'd say he needs to get stronger on the puck. Seems his shoulders may be troubling him.

Peter Budaj put in a solid game. Not spectacular, but solid. That first goal...well I'm not sure what happened there. After his last few performances though, I'll give him that one. He also got saved by the post a few times. And no, they weren't "but he only gave them the post to hit" post saves. They were "thank you post b/c my *** was beat" post saves. I counted 3 post hits in the highlights shown so Budaj better have given them mucho thanks when the game was done.

And since I deride the PK so much, I should give it kudos when it's working. The PK had a 100% success rate tonight which is a vast improvement from last game when they were under 50%. Since I couldn't see the game, I can only speculate on the reason but I'd say that practice on Tuesday concentrating on the PK helped. Maybe they should have done that sooner. It also sounds like at one point, our own Chuck Klee basically killed a penalty all by himself. I can only go by comments people make on that one but knowing Klee, he's got it in him. Nobody *bleeps* with Chuck.

The Good
- win!
- 100% PK
- 50% PP
- Arnason waking up

The Bad
- lots of penalties

The Ugly
- nearly coughing up a 4-1 late 3rd period lead

Pre-game vs Phoenix - Jan 17, 2007

The Colorado Avalanche begin a three-game homestand tonight as they welcome the surging Phoenix Coyotes to the Pepsi Center. The Avalanche are a modest 11-10-2 at home this year and they will be facing a rejuvenated Phoenix squad as they try to improve that number. The Coyotes have won 8 of their last 10 games including an impressive 6-game road winning streak.

Behind the resurgence of the Coyotes is the emergence of Mikael Tellqvist as the current #1 netminder and Yanic Perrault proving every other GM wrong about how valuable he could be. Since acquiring Perrault, he has become their 5th leading scorer and is the goals leader on the team with 15 in 33 games played including 4 game-winning goals. I had secretely hoped the Avs would pick up Perrault, for his face-off prowess if anything. He hasn't disappointed in that category either as he leads the league with a 62% success rate.

But enough about the Coyotes! On the Avalanche side, they've taken a long hard look at their penalty kill efforts as of late and are trying to remedy that. Most of Tuesday's practice was centered around the penalty kill and every player knows it's not good enough right now. The consenting opinion is that they are too passive and give up the zone far too easily. That's about as obvious as it gets if you ask me but I don't think anybody did. I didn't get a call from Joel Quenneville lately anyways.

They also need to keep weathering the assault that their blueline is taking at the moment. The Avs are dressing Kurt Sauer, who is a virtual rookie, and Kyle Cumiskey, a full-blown rookie, and have them playing on the same line. As much as people can say not to point fingers at the D alone, it's fairly obvious that without Brisebois and Liles, they are hurting. Although Brisebois and Liles aren't known for defensive prowess, what they are known for is being puck-moving D who can lead breakouts farther than the Avs own blueline. Watching the Avalanche trapped in their own end for half of each game lately is just painful and does nothing for my blood pressure. Thankfully I don't have high blood pressure in general, only when I watch the games live.

Thankfully, help on the blueline may be on the way by the time the All-Star break is done. Early reports suggest that Jordan Leopold could be ready to go for the Avs first game after the break, which is against Phoenix. I'm hoping that Brisebois will be back by that time as well. That would only leave Liles on the fence and he would likely be back two weeks following that which would give the Avalanche a healthy blueline for the stretch run.

The Avalanche would be in a full-fledged slump right now were it not for the emergence of Peter Budaj as the goaltending hero we've all been dying for since Roy left. No, I'm not saying he's as good as Roy. Far from it. But in the short term, we need a goalie who can steal some points and he has done just that. The Anaheim game should have been nowhere near a shootout yet he held the team in. The Sharks game was a close one if not for the 3 powerplay goals given up, 3 of which I'd say Budaj had no real chance on. Let's hope he continues his ways tonight as, although Phoenix is streaking, I see no reason that the Avalanche can't walk away with 2 points tonight.

Leopold - groin, IR
Liles - foot, IR
Brisebois - back, day-to-day

Mike Ricci - neck, IR

Sakic has 4 in 3, Stastny has 13 in 12, Brunette has 13 in 12, Wolski has 11 in 11.

Mclean has 0 in 5, Arnason and Turgeon have 0 in 3.

Sjostrom and Adams have 0 in 4, Saprykin and Scatchard have 0 in 3

Peter Budaj - 13-10-2, 2.58 GAA, .909 save pct
Curtis Joseph - 11-15-0, 3.15 GAA, .893 save pct

Colorado - 22-20-3, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Phoenix - 21-22-4, 4th in Pacific, 11th in West