Sunday, March 25, 2007

Post-game vs Edmonton - Mar 23, 2007

I have so much to catch up on but I guess I'll start with the Edmonton post-game and then will have a quick Vancouver post-game up. It'll be quick as I didn't catch a lot of the game but I did catch the end.

So Friday I found myself seated in section 116, row 13, seat 4 and was watching the Avalanche-Oilers game live! It had been a while since being at a live NHL game and I'd forgotten how great it is to see the entire ice surface so you can really watch a game. My girlfriend complained that the game seemed slower than on tv but I loved it. On tv you're forced to watch what the camera crew wants you to watch and it's not always what you want!

On the entrance to Rexall place we got some (joking) barbs from Oilers fans as I had my hat and old-school jersey on and my gf had a hat somewhat hidden in her hands (she didn't want to get beaten up). The folks I sat next to were very nice people and I also ran across a few Oilers fans who wished us luck if we were to make the playoffs. While waiting for the Avalanche bus to leave, I heard an Avs fan complain that they were heckled relentlessly and actually left their seats, which is unfortunate. I'm glad I didn't have to be subject to that.

The game itself was fairly exciting to watch live but was devestating as an Avalanche fan. Things looked so good in the 1st period which the Avalanche dominated save for one defensive lapse that didn't lead to an Oilers goal. But Hemsky had some jump in his game today and made a fool of Peter Budaj on the first goal and that really turned the tide. And after Kurt Sauer bumbled the puck leading to Lupul's tying goal...I did not feel confident about coming out with the W. Until Joe Sakic stepped up in the SO with the game on his stick. Then Roloson decided to turn into playoff-mode Roloson and made another huge save. And when Wolski came out to try and extend the shootout...well I was basically out of my seat knowing the result.

So let's jump right into it with Wojtek Wolski. This kid has been so hot and cold this year but as of late, he's ice cold on offense. His defensive play has somewhat improved but his offensive skills lately are severly lacking. If he were to look more uncomfortable with the puck I might mistake him for Kurt Sauer. He tripped over his own feet on multiple occasions, he coughed up the puck under no pressure many times, and all his attempts to stickhandle across the blueline were met with a pokecheck. He would then hit the brakes full on and completely take himself out of the flow of the game. When Hejduk loses the puck at the blueline, he keeps going and often recovers. That's the difference in a player with confidence and a player without. And it seems like Wolski has none at the moment.

Defensive puck movement, on a whole, on Friday was sub-par. Brett Clark, much to my chagrin, was looking too calm with the puck and it cost him on a couple occasions. Ales Hemsky nearly pick-pocketed him in the 1st which led to me making that note initially. From then on, I saw more of the same from him and was very disappointed, particularly since I had recently praised his composure with the puck. Composure is one thing but if you carry the puck at 1/4 speed out of your zone, you're asking for trouble. The forwards never seemed terribly tied up so it wasn't the lack of an outlet, I think he was just too busy looking for the perfect outlet.

Ken Klee and Ossi Vaananen can both join that club as well. When either gets the puck on their stick and are under pressure, they make a mistake. With Klee, it even led to a penalty as he flipped the puck over the glass while under mild pressure. I'm surprised with that sort of play coming from a guy who's been around as long as Klee has. As for Ossi, I never expected much from his play with the puck but I do hope for him to clear the zone from time to time. It would be nice.

And to keep this entire post going on the negative front, a huge thumbs down to Kurt Sauer who completely misplayed the puck at the absolute worst time. The worst part wasn't a difficult puck to control. It was just sitting there and he whiffed on it. Lupul grabbed it, Clark screened Budaj and that was that. If you saw an Avalanche fan with a blue yeti foot hat on and his head down in embarrasment while watching the game on Sportsnet...that was me. It lasted all of 1/2 a second from what I could see on the jumbotron after I saw the camera near me but it's now my claim to fame.

I actually thought I'd have more to say but frankly I was too busy enjoying the live experience to write down enough notes. And when I did write a note, it was because of some terrible play that I had to vent on. For instance, my last note of the game was "Sauer sucks". Terrible to say I know but emotions run high when you're live at the game!

Those emotions kept going after the game was over and led to us being inches from getting into the Oilers lockerroom. It's not the one we wanted to be in but bear with me. After the game was over, we asked a Sportsnet camera man how to get backstage. He said he had no idea but after some cajoling he told us the general direction to head but warned us that 10 policeman and security guards would be nearby and have tackled fans for less. Well, there was only 1 security guard who didn't give us a second glance as we headed backstage. After making it by the camer crew, who were too busy packing to care, we caught the tail end of Quenneville's post-game. Yep, we were just behind the throng of reporters. As he was just ending, and I didn't care much about his autographs...or getting punched by him which seemed a very real possibility, we kept walking. People hustled by but none gave us a second glance. As long as you look like you know where you're going, people don't bother you.

That is until you reach the locker room. It was at that point that a security guard emerged and asked if we had a pass. After a microsecond contemplation of saying "Yes", I decided "No" was the better answer as he'd likely to ask to see it. And I didn't have it. Therefore making me lie to the guard. Which I bet they don't like. So he asked how we got there and we played the "I don't know, I'm from out of town" card and he led us back towards where we came from. Along the way he asked various people if they knew how we got in but I guess we were ninjas b/c nobody saw us. Or nobody admitted to seeing us b/c they knew they'd be in some shit for letting the "common folk" back there. You know, the ones who help pay players salaries. But I won't get into that rant now :)

It obviously wasn't the locker room we wanted to be in anyways so no skin off our back. We ended up waiting at the side of Rexall place hoping to catch a glimpse of the Avalanche bus as it took off. We did get that glimpse and boy what a glimpse it was. Quenneville seated at the front looking scary as usual. The rest of the Avs with their heads hung as the half-dozen of us tried to catch their attention to no avail. And if a hot girl in an Avalanche hat yelling "Sakic!" as she briefly chased the bus didn't get their attention, I figured nothing will. I also figured my girlfriend wouldn't do it when I told her to but she proved me wrong!

I will be working on getting my videos and pics up today and tomorrow and hope to have them linked from this post by Tuesday. I'm sure work will get in the way somehow but where there's a will, there's a way!

The Good
- watching it live
- Svatos getting a dirty goal
- 3rd line going hard

The Bad
- giving up the lead so late in the game
- D was terrible with the puck
- Hemsky being back in the lineup

The Ugly
- not getting a chance for autographs

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pre-game vs Edmonton - Mar 23, 2007

On Wednesday I was in the middle of buying a new townhouse and selling my condo so I couldn't do any posts. Today, I am headed out the door to see the game in Edmonton so I only have 5 minutes to write a quick post.

I hope to find an Internet connection at some point once the game is over to do a good recap but I can't give any guarantees. By Sunday night I should be able to at least have some of my photos and videos up.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pre-game vs Columbus - Feb 27, 2007

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

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

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

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Post-game vs Edmonton - Feb 3, 2007

Give me an "H". Give me an "E". Give me double-hockey sticks and what do you have? The Avalanche's season up until this point! That is a tough, tough loss. But the Avalanche must be used to it by now so they're likely no worse for the wear. The Avalanche outshot the Oilers and outplayed them in the third but lacked finish tonight. They paid for it dearly when the Oilers buried two quick goals in the last half of the third to come away with the 3-2 win. The Avs nearly battled back in the last minute but just couldn't get it done.

Although it was a loss, there were some good points for the Avalanche. They did outplay the Oilers in total and their energy line was on fire. The PK did well and the D did a good job of clearing an abundance of rebounds. They outshot the Oilers, largely in part to blocking 16 shots, 4 from Skrastins alone. The bad points were that the PP was ineffective and nobody could finish any plays. If I could count the number of open nets that were missed...well then I could count to about 6 or 7 I guess.

The Richardson-Guite-Rycroft line was a terror on the ice today. Richardson scored the first goal on a great diving effort by Guite after he deftly side-stepped a check to get the puck in the zone. Guite and Richardson were rewarded with slightly above average ice-time but I would like to have seen them even more out there. They fought hard, hit hard, and displayed energy and passion. All things that the Avalance lack in general. Giguere better sign Guite before he gets too good and asks for too much money!

Brett Clark and Karlis Skrastins were the #1 pairing tonight (26:51 and 21:35 respectively) and although they both came away with a -2 rating, there's a reason they are out there. Skrastins blocked 4 shots alone and made a great pass to put Guite on a breakaway (damn post!). Clark contributed 3 blocked shots and got a couple shots of his own in on Roloson. They certainly aren't an elited defensive pairing but you can't fault them for the effort they put in. I just wish Skrastins would stop getting turned inside out by players. He needs to put the body on them rather than fishing for the puck. That's the main weakness I keep seeing in his game.

Peter Budaj had an all-right game but he was fighting the puck and giving up some big rebounds. One thing Q has to watch out for is lumping too much on Budaj. It's fine to make him the #1 but you've got to give him a break so he doesn't try and take the entire team on his shoulders. I'm no psychologist but it seems that might be what's causing his struggles lately. 15 starts in 16 games is a lot of starts for a sophomore goalie trying to get his struggling team into the playoffs. Losing games like these will really start to wear on him b/c nobody made any bones about this being another "must-win" game. And he needs to play the puck much less!

Wojtek Wolski was flying again tonight and made some great plays but nobody could bury his setups. He made a great pass to Stastny from behind the net but Roloson came up huge to keep the game tied. Wolski again got time on the PK and did quite well. He nearly got a chance while short-handed but, when forced to the outside, calmy circled the Oilers net and brought the puck back out to the neutral zone which killed off the remainder of the Avs penalty. He also got off 5 shots tonight but none of them could find the back of the net. He does need some work on his 1-on-1 play as he seems to come in a bit slow and off-balance against the defender. If he wants to get around them, he needs to be moving his feet. He's playing great behind the net though.

Joe Sakic, although ending up with 2 penalties on the night (one a very marginal call), was dangerous out there again. He had 7 shots on the night but couldn't get them past Roloson. And that doesn't count a couple shots which barely missed the far side. Or the open net he missed when the puck rolled on him out front. What was with the ice at the start of the third? The puck was bouncing every which way but in. He still is hustling out there on the backcheck and showing some leadership out there. I haven't seen him dog it on a backcheck once this year.

Although Joe Sakic and Wojtek Wolski were a dangerous pair on the ice, they were out-dangered ( word?) by the pair of Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth. Hemsky tied it up at 1 in the second off a Smyth screen, Smyth got the go-ahead goal, and then Hemsky and Smyth were in on the Horcoff goal which stood up as the game winner. I said, in an obvious statement, that if you shut Smyth and Hemsky down, you win the game. The Avs didn't and the outcome was obvious. Now Hemsky has 10 points in his last 4 games and Smyth has 8. To anyone who says Smyth is over-rated...well I'll agree that he's not worth 5+ million, but he is a very important piece of this Oiler team.

The Good
- 4th line energy
- youngsters playing well
- decent PK

The Bad
- late 3rd period penalties
- ineffective PP
- losing it in the third again

The Ugly
- seeing the Oil be so overprotective of their goalie

Pre-game vs Edmonton - Feb 3, 2007

It's a CBC matinee game between two teams in precarious positions. The Avalanche and Oilers are tied for last in the NW division with 54 points. It's a mere 6 points back of Minnesota so a win for either team would be huge. Both these teams are in playoff mode now as they fight to actually make the postseason.

The Avalanche are coming off a loss to Minnesota where they had battled back from 1-goal deficits all game but couldn't overcome the final one. The Avalanche didn't play a terrible game by any means but they could stand to play better no doubt. The Oilers are coming off their own loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks who are tied with Calgary for the lead in the division.

Peter Budaj is now "penciled in" as the start tonight after rumour was that Theodore might get the start. It's not a bad move as Budaj didn't play terrible last game. However, I would expect to see Theodore get a start at some time during this homestand. If anything, just to give Budaj a break. He played spectularly in a few games but has come somewhat down to earth as of late and played solid, but not great. Which is certainly fine by me, as long as the team shows up to help out!

Marek Svatos broke his goal-scoring drought on Thursday when he channeled every ounce of energy he had to blast a slapshot past Niklas Backstrom. You could see the relief on his face after he scored! Let's hope that he continues up on that performance tonight. Pairing him with Milan Hejduk has really seemed to put a jump in both their steps. They haven't pulled the trigger much on any "magic plays" with each other but you've got to give them time to find each others grooves. I think they could form a great combo, regardless of who's at center. It sure doesn't hurt that the center now is Paul Stastny who's more than willing to work hard to get those two the puck.

The Avalanche need to put an end to the recent streaks of Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth. They have 8 and 6 points respectively in the last 3. Shutting down Smyth is a near impossible task but with Hemsky you've got to throw the body on him. He has such slick hands and moves but always leaves himself open to some bone-crunching hits. To his credit, he never stays down on them, but after a few of those it will certainly make him tentative of doing any toe-dragging moves.

Brisebois - back, LTI
Liles - foot, IR
May - shoulder, IR

Moreau - shoulder, IR
Tjarnqvist - groin, day-to-day

Wolski, Hejduk, and Brunette have 3 in 2, Sakic has 10 in 9, Stastny has 12 in 13, Clark has 5 in 5.

Hemsky has 8 in 3, Smyth has 6 in 3, Reasoner and Pisani have 3 in 2.

Arnason has 1 in 5, Laperriere has 0 in 3.

Bergeron has 1 in 6.

Peter Budaj - 16-11-3, 2.64 GAA, .909 save pct
Dwayne Roloson - 20-20-4, 2.78 GAA, .906 save pct

Colorado - 25-22-4th in NW, 9th in West
Edmonton - 25-23-4, 5th in NW, 10th in West