Friday, March 7, 2008

Avalanche Shut Out Ducks for 5th Straight Win

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Wins don't come a whole lot more satisfying than the Avalanche's 1-0 shutout of the defending champs, the Anaheim Ducks. I'm not sure why the "defending champs" line has to be repeated every couple sentences but that might just be the chucklehead in me coming out.

The Avalanche played a solid game from start to finish including some superb goaltending from Jose Theodore, some solid defense from the whole squad and a lone goal coming from Wojtek Wolski. The main reason Wolski is back in the lineup is the injuries to Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos so it's good to see him get a bit of the monkey off his back.

Jeff Finger returned to the lineup last night and Jordan Leopold found himself watching from the press box. Some people were curious why Leopold was out rather than Sauer but Sauer answered that question with solid, phsyical play last night against a big and tough Ducks team.

Davey Jones Locker'
Seriously, his name is David (Davey Jones) and he's actually got a locker. How cool is that? Ok, yeah, it's not that cool. However the play of Davey Jones has been extremely solid of late. He had a couple games where he was playing on a line with Joe Sakic and that really seemed to break him out of his shell.

His first couple games with the club he was a bit tentative and you could tell he was really trying to prove himself. But after playing wing with Sakic, he appears to have settled down and is worrying about the game, not about whether he'll be back in Cleveland tomorrow.

He's solid, he's got wheels and he appears to have some decent hands. He better not be fooling us all because I'm starting to expect big things from him a couple years down the line.

Hyperbole and Hijinx
I don't mind Haynes and McNab as an announcing duo but I do wish they wouldn't sugarcoat everything. Last night Peter McNab declared that Peter Forsberg's return against the Canucks "Could not have been a bigger success." Well...he could have scored a goal. Or two. Or three. That would have been a bigger success. As it was, his return was very good but to claim it couldn't have been better is just blowing smoke up people's you-know-what.

And it appears that the duo wasn't communicating well during breaks last night because it wasn't until the dying minutes of the third period that Haynes finally called #39 on the Ducks as Doug Weight rather than Sami Kapanen. McNab had to have caught that slip up on one of the dozen times Haynes made it so why didn't he give him a quick shout during a tv timeout or intermission?


- Theodore made great point blank saves on both Perry and Getzlaf which I felt was a nice statement after all the hype those two (deservedly) got
- who told Liles that shooting from the point on the PP is ok? (it's about time!)
- the Avs didn't back down from the Ducks physical game and having Finger around certainly helped
- what was with Hejduk going offside so much?
- Jonas Hiller played a great game

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Denver Post Recap
RMN Recap
Ducks Run Amok

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
In the Cheap Seats Recap
DenverPost Recap
Rocky Mountain Recap Recap
Liles Lacking Power Point Presentation
Dater's Mailbag

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ducks Waddle Past Avalanche

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Avalanche were less than 5 minutes away from snagging a point but it wasn't meant to be. With just 4:21 left in the third, Sammy Pahlsson broke the 1-1 deadlock as he found a lose puck in the crease and put it past Jose Theodore.

The Avalanche played a good game and were in this one right to the end. Unfortunately the team looked a little too content to just make it to OT rather than pushing to win it in regulation. Well, that worked out well didn't it? I wonder what the Avalanche's record is when the game is tied midway through the third. I'd guess not so good since it seems they get burned every time by playing for the extra point.

I'll open with some fight details as this one had a lot of festivities at the end of the second period. Some of it comical, some of it annoying. It all started when Ian Laperriere dished out a solid check on Kent Huskins (if memory isn't failing me). Shortly after, Ryan Getzlaf decided he needed to teach Lappy a lesson for some reason. So, after clearing a stick out form between their feet, those two squared off and danced for a while. Lappy mostly caught Getzlaf on the back of the head and then took the bigger man down to the ice.

Shortly after this happened, Ben Guite and Kent Huskins then decided to go at it. I'm guessing Guite said something like "What, you need your mommy to stick up for you?" At least, that's what I would have said. So those two go at it with Guite catching Huskins with a couple rights and taking him to the ice. Those two earned misconducts for fighting during a stoppage in play.

So with Guite and Lapperriere in the box, Carlyle sent out the goon squad including George "Borat" Parros and Brian "Douche" Sutherby. Sutherby had already fought Cody Mcleod earlier in the second but this time he decided to line up against Milan Hejduk. He actively tried to goad Hejduk into a fight which I'd guess is like trying to goad a nun into a strip club. You could actually see Hejduk say "Why me?" at one point which actually mad me a bit sad. Sure, Hejduk has never fought in his career but I'd like to think he'd man up a bit about it.

Oh and in case you missed it, yes, Quenneville responded to Carlyle sending the goons out by sending his #1 line out. Are you freakin' kidding me? I understand that a couple tough guys were in the box but you could at least put Mcleod out there and toss out Hannan, Finger, Sauer and Brunette (he may not be a fighter but he's a big boy). Yes that's 3 defenseman but there was only 3 seconds left in the period. Was nothing learned from the Buffalo-Ottawa brawl last season?

It's those little coaching battles that seem to get misjudged by Q which would keep me from ever considering him coach of the year. No offense to the Versus crew who have jumped on the Q for Jack Adams bandwagon that has recently started up.

When the team was underachieving there was no mention of it being a coaching issue. But now that the team is overachieving, it's all coaching? It's similar to Theodore's run as of late. While it's been nice, it makes you go "Where the hell has that been?"

One good run does not make up for two years of underachieving.

Theodore again played a solid game and really couldn't be blamed for either goal. The first goal was a 5-on-3 and I'll give any goaltender the benefit of the doubt on a 5-on-3. The second goal was more bad luck than anything. A centering attempt popped free and Pahlsson was in the right spot to clean it up.

JS Giguere put in a good performance at the other end. And by "good performance" I mean "let pucks hit him and hoped his defense would clear it out". Have you ever seen a goaltender play the way this guy does? He does a great job at getting in front of the puck but it's almost like he closes his eyes and hopes for the best once he goes down.

Marek Svatos continued his hot streak early as he scored just 1:37 into the game. Again, he picked up a rebound behind the defenders and got it past Giguere for his 25th of the year. That puts him on pace for 36 goals this season and if he keeps it up, he's got a shot at breaking the 40 barrier.

Svatos fired off 7 shots in the game followed by Wolski with 6 and Hejduk with 5.But other than the Wolsk-Arnason-Svatos line, there wasn't a ton of chances after the first period. Hejduk still looks real smooth with the puck but he doesn't seem to be clicking with his linemates.

If having Paul Stastny sit out with a groin injury wasn't enough to annoy everyone, Brett Clark went very awkwardly into the boards and came away hurting. From the way he held his arm it would appear he dislocated his left shoulder. Super! At least Q was forced to dress 7 defensemen tonight.

Oh, and when I edited my post yesterday noting I spotted McCormick being listed on the injured reserve? It wasn't a mistake. He was out with a shoulder injury. Did somebody take Thor's name in vein or call Poseidon a pussy or something? Cause the gods really have it out for the Avs this year.


What?! Skrastins on wing? Well, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Scott Parker was out with the flu and Kyle Cumiskey is still bothered with a groin injury so that forced Q's hand.

Odds & Ends
- Jeff Finger, as solid as he's become, still makes some boneheaded defensive moves from time to time
- Wolski was out killing the 5-on-3 and was on when the goal was scored
- the Pepsi Center fans were still booing Bertuzzi (and anyone with a 4 in their jersey number it seemed)
- I admire Q's confidence to go off the map with his tie choices but he's missing more than he's hitting lately
- TSN's TradeCenter starts at 8:00 am ET deadline day which is a waste of air time if you ask me
- Francois Beauchemin is solid but gets lost in the stardom of the rest of the Ducks blueline

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap

Thursday, December 20, 2007

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.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
TSN Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Denver Post Recap
Sports Illustrated Recap

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.

Related Links
Avalanche Report - Dec 19
TSN Gameday Preview

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Post-game vs Anaheim - Feb 25, 2007

The California roadswing was not good to this team. Following up a tough loss to the Kings, the Avalanche couldn't hold on against the Ducks and lost 5-3. The game was tied until 2 quick goals from the Twin Towers in the final 4 1/2 minutes put the game out of reach. The 4-minute penalty against Hejduk with only 3 minutes left wasn't much help either.

The game overall wasn't a terrible one but the Avalanche still seem to be missing that desire. They didn't come out looking like a team that craved a win. They came out looking like a team in mid-November where wins don't seem to matter as much to teams...for whatever reason. Maybe I've got unreasonable expectations and hope to see some insane play every game whether it be a forward or defense. A mind-boggling dangle to get a scoring chance. A huge backcheck to break up a 2-on-1. A diving shot block on a wide open net. Or maybe I just never see them when they happen.

The unthinkable also happened today. Karlis Skrastins sat out with a knee injury. He's no longer the reigning ironman in the league as that title is passed over to Brendan Morrison for the time being. However, he still is the current reigning all-time ironman amongst defensemen. Some speculated that he was scratched due to a pending trade, others that he was scratched for poor play. I'm thinking that he was scratched because his knee was injured. Call me crazy but I don't see them scratching the ironman for anything but a legit injury that would keep him from performing.

Jose Theodore got the start and was shelled for 5 goals...again. I will give it to him that 41 shots against is a heck of a number to stop and Theodore did make some good saves. However he needs softer equipment so those pucks quit flying off his body. His position did look a lot better today though and he swimmed to be doing less flopping. With the Avalanche essentially eliminated from the playoffs, could now be the time to give Theodore a run to regain form? Or have they given up entirely on him?

Wojtek Wolski was back in the lineup and is looking more and more confident each game. In the early part of the season, he looked like a rookie (Ok, that's obvious...) but lately he carries himself so much better. I'm not sure how to describe it but he seems less trepidatious in almost all situations. He's using his body to protect the puck and get in scoring lanes and he's making some pretty sweet passes lately as well.

Stastny, Hejduk, Sakic and Brunette all kept their point streaks going. Hejduk had a goal and assists, Sakic had a goal and Brunette and Stastny both had assists. It's great to see those players coming out flying like that to keep the offense going. Hopefully this isn't just raising Brunette's asking price on the trade market. Well, I'm sure it is but hopefully Giguere isn't thinking of doing it. We don't have many forwards that are as strong down low as Brunette is. Trying to knock the puck off him behind the boards is like [insert your favorite witty simile].

So with the two losses this weekend, I'd say this puts the Avalanche squarely into the seller's market coming up on Tuesday. I still don't think any sort of blockbuster will be pulled off involving the Avalanche. May, Laperriere, Arnason, Klee and Vaananen are the 5 most likely to go in my eyes. It wouldn't shock me to see Clark or Mclean go either. So keep your eyes peeled and continually refresing for the latest trades and cross your fingers that your favorite player isn't going anywhere! And don't worry yourself about Sakic leaving. He won't. If he does, every Avs fan near and far can come and give me a swift kick in the...

The Good
- decent powerplay
- youngsters continue to improve

The Bad
- 5 goals against
- 41 shots against
- penalty trouble

The Ugly
- Sakic-Selanne collision

Pre-game vs Anaheim - Feb 25, 2007

The Avalanche are coming off a tough shootout loss to the Kings and the Ducks are coming off a 4-1 thumping from the Stars. Should both teams come out hungry for a win? Yep. The better question is: who will come out hungry enough to get a win? The Avalanche seem to be having trouble winning when it really matters and its pretty much to the point where it doesn't matter. That might be enough to light a fire under their butts.

Wojtek Wolski should make his way back into the lineup tonight as he sat out one more game for precautionary reasons. As mentioned in my last pre-game, he'll likely head right back to the top line which will likely bump Richardson down to the #4 slot. However, with Brad May getting limited ice-time last night with Stastny and Hejduk, maybe it's time to try Richardson out on the second line. At this point, it couldn't hurt.

I'm going to check out with a pretty weak pre-game but hopefully I can do a good post-game tonight. Note, I'm taking a guess at Theodore and Giguere starting, I don't know for certain.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Leopold - wrist, mid-March
Wolski - concussion, day-to-day
Turgeon - calf, IR

Marchant - ab strain, IR

Sakic has 11 in 6, Brunette has 5 in 2, Stastny has 7 in 3, Hejduk has 11 in 8, Svatos has 3 in 3.

Selanne has 9 in 5, Penner has 4 in 5, Kunitz has 4 in 5.

Arnason, Mclean and Laperriere have 2 in 7.

Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Beauchemin have 0 in 8.

Jose Theodore - 11-13-1, 3.35 GAA, .889 save pct
J.S. Giguere - 28-8-7, 2.26 GAA, .919 save pct

Colorado - 29-28-5, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Anaheim -

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Post-game vs Anaheim - Feb 13, 2007

The Avalanche continue their winning ways against the Ducks but this time they didn't need no stinkin' shootout! They were able to take care of this one in regulation time as they came away with a 2-0 victory. It was an important win as Edmonton lost tonight so the Avs were able to make up some ground on them and idle Minnesota. It's not over yet...nor is it in the bag yet! This must be what it feels like to be a Leafs fan. *shudder*

It's not easy to shut out the Ducks and I think credit has to go to both Peter Budaj and the defense around him for giving them the goose egg. Budaj's night started off as any other night but it really picked up towards the end of the second and in the third and he made a few big saves to keep the team going.

Hejduk had a two point night with a goal and an assist. He continues to fly out on the ice and it's finally converting to points. It has certainly helped to have Paul Stastny crashing the net to gobble up any juicy rebounds off a Hejduk wrister. These two are really flying along nicely which really makes me wonder why Brad May is on their line.

I couldn't watch the game and was only half listening while I worked so I have to assume that May is out there to create some space for those two. I really don't think May can keep up with that high-flying duo though. Richardson was on the ice with those two for the second goal. Coincidence?

Karlis Skrastins put in some real iron man minutes tonight with 24:24 spent out there including 5:38 on the powerplay. He was again a shot-blocking machine with 7 on the night. Combine that with Clark's 5 and they blocked more shots than the entire Anaheim team did tonight.

Even with the shot blocks, the Ducks still managed to fire off 39 shots. And Peter Budaj was still able to chalk up a shutout! Peter Budaj put in some big saves, got some lucky bounces, and most importantly, got help from the defense tonight. Take note folks, when the defense does their part, the goalie does his and vice-versa. It's some sort of weird circle of life.

The Good
- shutout!
- 100% PK

The Bad
- took 5 penalties against the #3 PK team
- lots of shots against

The Ugly
- two hooks on Arnason in one period

Pre-game vs Anaheim - Feb 13, 2007

The season is teetering on the brink right now and Avs fans are distraught. Thankfully, the players still seem to have some hope left. Hopefully transfer that hope into energy as they head to the Pond at Anaheim. The Avs have pulled off two 3-2 overtime wins against the Ducks this season so it's not improbable to give them a fightnig chance tonight. Both teams are on a bit of a downturn right now. It's somewhat inconsequential for the Ducks though as they remain atop the Pacific division. Maybe they'll give the Avs a mercy win tonight?

Two different milestones are possible tonight. Joe Sakic is 2 goals away from 600 in his career and Andrew Brunette needs one more goal to post back-to-back 20 goal seasons for the first time in his career. To think our second leading scorer is making only $800,000 is almost laughable. I remember rubbing my eyes after reading the news of his contract extension to ensure that yes, that is what the Avalanche offered and, more importantly, what Brunette accepted.

Peter Budaj gets the start in goal tonight and he will need to be at his best to thwart the high-powered Ducks offense. They are 5th in the league in goals for and they get a lot of help from the defensive tandem of Pronger and Niedermayer. With those 2 manning the point, it's not hard to see why the Ducks have one of the top powerplay units in the league. And of course, let's not forget the penalty kill as well. Then add in the fact that the Ducks are one of the more physical teams in the league and it could lead to some defensive breakdowns. Those seem to come fairly easily for the Avalanche at the best of times!

Brisebois - back, LTI

Sakic has 6 in 3, Stastny has 5 in 3, Wolsk has 8 in 8, Hejduk has 3 in 2, Laperriere has 3 in 3.

Svatos has 0 in 4, Leopold has 1 in 4.

Perry has 0 in 8, Selanne has 1 in 4.

Peter Budaj - 16-13-3, 2.76 GAA, .905 save pct
J.S. Giguere - 26-6-5, 2.15 GAA, .924 save pct

Colorado -26-25-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West
Anaheim - 33-15-8, 1st in Pacific, 2nd in West