Friday, April 25, 2008

Colorado Avalanche Injury and Roster Updates - April 25

I just finished watching the media conference with Joel Quenneville following Colorado's afternoon practice and it was a little comme ci, comme ├ža for me. A bit of good, a bit of bad and a bit of "You've got to be f'n kidding me."

Let's start with that last one and work our way up.

Wojtek Wolski out for series
Wojtek Wolski is "out indefinitely" and likely won't be back for the series. That is a huge blow for the Avalanche as Wolski forms part of the top trio and was playing very well in the playoffs.

He was in his groove and playing a solid puck possesion game while opening up lots of space for his linemates. He chalked up 2 goals and 3 assists in the 6 1/4 games he played so his production will certainly be missed.

Peter Forsberg day-to-day
Peter Forsberg is still listed as day-to-day and is questionable for the game tomorrow. I don't have to expand upon Forsberg's boost to this lineup other than to say the Avalanche are 12-3 with him in the lineup and 2-6-1 without him (since March 4th)

Lineup changes
If Forsberg comes back, obviously he'll take Wolski's spot in the lineup. If not, Q needs to draw on some reserve power.

Some folks were a bit surprised at putting in Cody McCormick rather than Jaroslav Hlinka. While I can appreciate that Q was likely doing it to inject some more grit, this was the wrong team to do it against. You need to ice a team with wheels and puck handling ability against the Wings and I think that even if Forsberg comes back, McCormick will be out and Hlinka in.

Q mentioned Scott Parker and Wyatt Smith as possible candidates, along with Hlinka. I hope he only tossed a few extra names around to make it sound like there were other reasonable options. Scott Parker is not a reasonable option. Wyatt Smith is not a reasonable option.

Hlinka needs to get inserted into the lineup, regardless of the team being stocked at center already.

Jose Theodore probable
Theodore practiced today and sounds probable for the game tomorrow. I guess the "flu" disappeared fast. And yes, I use "flu" in quotes because I find it a bit hard to believe he could look as weak as he did last night and be fine today.

But all the hockey players take Cold-FX, right? Or is that just Messier and Grapes?

I don't think there is any goaltending controversy as long as Theodore is 99% healthy. Peter Budaj did an admirable job stepping in last night and shutting it down but now is not the time to switch goaltenders.

It worked for Carolina in '06 but that was a different story. Gerber had faltered a couple games straight before Ward stepped in. Theodore faltered one game after an ill-advised attempt at playing through illness/injury.

No consolation in a close loss
Theodore being available was good news despite my sarcasm. The other piece of good news? Q finally grew a pair.

He said the team should not take any consolation from a close win last night and need to wipe that from their minds.

Damn straight. Game 1 is over. Nothing can be done about it now but to fight hard and make up for it in the next game. There are no second chances but there are new opportunities. Any other cliches to toss in there?

The Avalanche went on a pretty decent run when they lost some of their big guns in the regular season. The team seemed to play better and harder without the big guns to fall back on. As frustrating as that fallback mindset is, it's only natural to look to your leaders to pick up the slack.

And without Forsberg and Wolski, they'll be missing some big guns and need some new heroes to step up. Thankfully Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk appear to have awoken again with Ryan Smyth at their side.

Related Links
Avs-Wings: Goalies in limbo
Avs lost but...
Theodore doesn't regret trying to gut it out

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.

Notes
- 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

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
Jerseys and Hockey Love Recap
Denver Post Recap
RMN Recap
On the Wings Recap
Medical worries haunt Colorado
A sickening feeling in the Motor City
Wolski injured against Wings
Franzen's goal shows he's not foreign to success
The deal with the devil

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Avalanche Thump Canucks

Ben Guite congratulates Jose Theodore after the Colorado Avalanche defeat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Well that was the biggest win of the season by far. Tonight the Avalanche thumped the Canucks 6-3 - including 5 goals on Roberto Luongo - to jump into 7th in the West. The Avalanche are now 4 up on Nashville and 5 up on Edmonton in the playoff race. With a mere 4 or 5 games remaining between the teams gunning for the final spots, the Avalanche are all but assured a spot if they just keep the pedal pressed down.

Goaltending anti-duel
Roberto Luongo let in 5 goals which is the first time he's done that since February 9th against...the Colorado Avalanche. For a guy with a GAA below the 2.3 mark the Avalanche sure haven't had trouble scoring on him. Hey Gary, can you make an exception and let the Avs play the Canucks in the playoffs? Pretty please?

At the other end, Jose Theodore got the better of Luongo but still had some stumbling points. The first goal was a great goal by the Canucks and the 2nd goal was pure dumb luck. The third goal, however, could have turned the tide of the game in the Canucks favor. Sami Salo blasted a shot from the point and it beat Theodore cleanly on the short side. That's a puck that needed to be stopped as they were just 10 seconds away from taking a 3 goal lead into the third.

Forsberg and Hejduk together again
In what you could say is a brilliant coaching move, Joel Quenneville bumped Ryan Smyth from the RPM line and created the PPM line. And PPM stood for Point Per Minute for that trio tonight. Once those three were together they accounted for 3 goals and 9 points. Paul Stastny had a goal and two assists, Hejduk had two goals and one assist and Forsberg had three assist.

I think everyone well remembers the dynamite duo that Forsberg and Hejduk were back in day and Quenneville decided to give the duo a shot again. It payed off extremely well and I can't see why he'd bother breaking them up at this point. Of course next game they could come out flat for 5 minutes and Forsberg would find himself playing with Ben Guite.

Timeout while up?
In what I'd call another excellent coaching move, Quenneville called a timeout shortly after the Avs went up 5-2 after an icing call. Not only did it give the players a chance to catch a breather before a tough draw but it also settled the team down. They really started running around and loosening up a bit much so the timeout served to settle them back into their groove.

Smyth drops 'em?
In what I'd call a not so brilliant coaching move, after the Canucks had scored the late 2nd period goal Alain Vigneault put out a line including uber-pest Alex Burrows. Q, with last change, put out a line including Ryan Smyth rather than the grind line. What happened was Alex Burrows lined up next to Smyth and knocked his stick out of his hands off the draw. This apparently enraged Smyth and he chased after Burrows and the two dropped the gloves and fell to the ice (as Burrows was backpedaling faster than Dion Phaneuf)

Now, I think Smyth should have kept his cool and let it go but in his defense, he did get bumped down to the third line again so he may have been frustrated. But he never should have been out there at that point anyways. A 10 second shift to end the period after a momentum changing goal calls for the grind line of Guite, Lappy and McLeod.

"I really think Vancouver can come back"
In the only reference I'll make to McGuire - who wasn't that bad tonight I thought - he stated before the third period began that he really felt the Canucks could come back and take this game to OT. 23 seconds later Milan Hejduk made it 6-3 and we never heard mention of that comment again.

Notes
- Wolski had a great steal down low to lead to the 5th goal
- the Avs had 23 shots in their 4-goal second period
- Leopold left the game in the third with what appears to be another injury
- McLeod's goal was his first in 23 games and he keeps doing it against superstar goaltenders
- the fans were really into this game and it was great to hear the excitement
- that's the first 3-game losing streak for the Canucks this season
- Andrew Brunette continues to quietly rack up points with 2 assists tonight
- the Avs won the faceoff game (!!!) with 60%

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Denver Post Recap
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
How Luongo getting laid could help the Avs
Doing the dirty work, game in and game out

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Avalanche Topple Canucks in Forsberg's Return


(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Avalanche moved up to 3rd place in the Northwest division following their 2-1 win over the visiting Vancouver Canucks. But more importantly in a lot of people's minds was the return of Peter Forsberg.

Since signing with the Avalanche the day before the trade deadline, fans have been eagerly anticipating seeing Foppa in an Avalanche jersey. And no, practice jersey's don't count.

Forsberg's Return
The anticipation was thick in the air as the game began and almost all cameras were zeroed in on Peter as he sat on the bench to start the game. The fans didn't have to wait long to see him on the ice as 28 seconds in the game, Peter "Foppa" Forsberg set his skates on the Avalanche ice surface in a game for the Colorado Avalanche for the first time since the lockout.

The second he stood up to hop over the bench, the fans were rising to their feet in appreciation and adulation. It was the sort of display that many opposing teams fans will snicker at but had 99.9% of Avalanche fans with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces. I know I did.

So how did Peter fare in the game? Well he certainly injected some energy into both Sakic and Hejduk, his linemates tonight. Both seemed to have an extra spring in their stride throughout most of the game and I'm sure Hejduk remembers better than anyone who his linemate was during his 50-goal season. Seeing that trio flying 3-wide across the blueline, it appears they all remember each other just fine.

I was a bit nervous at times, particularly when Forsberg was controlling the puck along the boards with his skate. The Canucks took that as a good opportunity to jab away at Forsberg's foot - and who can blame them. However he held his ground like the Forsberg of old and showed that he is still one of the strongest players on the puck in the NHL.

He also got into some physical battles and showed he still has that fire inside to compete and win. So it should be an interesting stretch run for this team, even absent Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos.

Now hang on for a second while I clean up after slobbering over Forsberg for the last minute here...

Everything else
As for the rest of the game, well I have to hit the sack and I'm not sure if I'll be able to update this until later on in the afternoon so here's some quick notes:

- Liles finally netted another goal and on the PP no less
- Wojtek Wolski started the game strong but seemed to fade away midway through
- Tyler Arnason appeared to not care less that a hockey game was happening around him
- what a lame call on Jose Theodore for delay of game (there were Canucks all over him!)
- John Garret gave a stat of the Canucks being winless without a point from a Sedin but at that point Henrik had already assisted on the Canucks lone goal
- Theodore took a knee to the head from Matt Pettinger but stayed in the game
- Theodore played strong overall but kicked out some big rebounds off his chest
- Scott Parker has no idea what to do with the puck
- or the puck is so scared of Parker that it actively tries to escape him

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Avalanche Beat Down Canucks


The Canucks have to be hurting tonight after the Avalanche laid the smack down on them in a 6-2 drubbing to cap off Hockey Day in Canada. With the win, the Avalanche stay just one point back of the Northwest division leading Wild. Who would have thought that with Sakic, Smyth and Stastny gone, this team would be contending for the Northwest division crown?

Stastny
We'll start this one off on a bad note. Paul Stastny did not make his triumphant return to the lineup tonight as he remains on the IR list. So what exactly does that mean? Yes, it's yet another misdiagnosis. I know I'm kind of beating a dead horse but honestly guys, no news is better than fake news. Or you could just give us the truth.

Offense
How about that second line of Wolski, Arnason and Svatos? That line had a combined 9 points on the night including 3 hard working goals.

Marek Svatos continues his rise as he put in two typical Marek Svatos goals to bring his total on the season to 24. He is on pace to break his rookie goal scoring mark of 32 and is well on his way to signing a longer-term contract this summer. As long as he never forgets that he's an opportunistic goal-scorer and not Alexander Ovechkin, I'm all for it.

Tyler Arnason, sporting a visor tonight, racked up 3 more points (1g, 2a) and he now has 12 points in his last 7 games. It's about time he started picking it up as he did virtually nothing for the first half of the season after being re-signed to a two-year contract over the summer.

And to everyone's hopes, Milan Hejduk's two goals tonight could be the start of him breaking out of his goal-scoring funk. Of course we all think that every time he scores a goal in any game but dreams never hurt anybody. Unless you live on Elm Street.

And any day you chase Luongo from the net has to count as a good offensive day.

Goaltending
Jose Theodore put in another solid performance as he stopped 23 of 25 shots to get his 15th win of the season. He now sports a GAA of 2.43 and a save percentage of .908. That means he's more likely to let in 2 goals in a game than 3. When was the last time we could say that?

Kelly Hrudey did a brief "rise and fall and rise again" on Theodore during his Behind the Mask segment. Some of you may recall that last year Hrudey said that Theodore may have become the worst goaltender in the NHL. He also clarified that it gave him no joy to say this. Well last night it gave him joy to say that Theodore is no longer the worst goaltender in the NHL - Welcome back Dan Cloutier! - and that he is starting his rise back to the top.

Whether he'll ever reach the top again is impossible to say but for now, he's making the saves he should make, a few that he shouldn't and he's putting up big fat "W"s in the standings.

Fisticuffs
There were plenty of these tonight as the Canucks were obviously a frustrated team. Ian Lapperiere had the first fight as he met Nathan McIver coming out of the penalty box and nicely told him to not mess with Marek Svatos. McIver had roughed up Svatos in front of the net after he scored the 3-0 goal and I guess Lappy thought was it was a classless move that needed to be rectified.

Then early in the third period Cody McCormick and Luc Bourdon went at it after McCormick laid a fairly innocent hit on Bourdon. Bourdon won the fight but took away the "Doucheback of the night award", typically reserved for Dion Phaneuf, as he continued to wail away on McCormick after McCormick was down. McCormick got back up and threw a few shots while the linesmen were in there which earned him a 10-minute misconduct.

And finally Nathan McIver again got into it only this time it was with our other Cody. I'm not even sure what caused this one other than Vancouver being all "Vancouverish" about being blown out.

Also, Alex Burrows should have got a beating after he ran Scott Hannan at the end of the game. I mean come on, 6-2 and the games almost done. Just let it be over, don't stat running people.

And in the same vein but for an unrelated game, what was with the Senators being pricks in their 6-1 win over Montreal? Is it really necessary to deliver big hits in the final 5 minutes when you're up by five goals?

Lines
Brunette-Hlinka-Hejduk
Wolski-Arnason-Svatos
Richardson-Guite-Laperriere
McCormick-Hensick-McLeod

No surprises here as there isn't really anything else Quenneville could do with this lineup. TJ Hensick continues to center the fourth line but also plays on the #1 PP line which he has helped spark as of late.

Vigneault did his best to line match but it actually ended up backfiring as the Sedin line was on the ice for the first two goals against.

Notes
- what does the elephant and #33 on the back of Theo's mask mean? Is he a Republican who cheered for Patrick Roy?
- Mick McGeough (I think that's all that needs to be said)
- while some may not like Hrudey's analysis, there's no doubting that he's an all-around nice guy
- Jim Hughson called Theodore "wrong-handed" which could be taken as offensive to all the lefties in the world
- Ian Lapperiere was still blocking shots with a 6-2 cushion
- Byron Ritchie is annoying

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
Denver Post Recap

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche @ Columbus

It's payback time! Or at least that's what everyone, players and fans alike, are hoping for. After the Jackets posted a 5-4 come-from-behind loss a week ago, everyone was dis-spirited. Even Skeletor. And it would appear the Avalanche were too as they did not upload any videos to the NHL.tv portal following the game.

That game also caused me to go on a bit of a rant about players listening to a coach and buying into what he's saying. Even after two straight wins, including one near-blowout, I'm still not convinced that the Avalanche are playing to their potential. And I still feel the blame for that can be laid at the skates of the coaching staff.

Jose Theodore will get his third straight start in goal tonight which might surprise some after he let in 5 goals against the Blues. Quenneville had this to say of the performance against the Blues:
"They had high quality (shots), two one-timers there that were nice shots," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We can't give up those type of goals, particularly at the start of the third (period)."

Note the "we", not "he", part of that quote. So I guess Q has at least stopped pointing fingers at the goaltenders. And maybe he's looking at sticking with one as well. I just hope it's the right one.

Milan Hejduk was named the NHL's first star of the week after his 6 point performance against the Blues on Sunday. He and Paul Stastny have been red hot with 14 points each in the last 7 games. Ryan Smyth has also been contributing on the RPM line with 10 points in his last 5 games. Some flashes of the Ryan Smyth we all knew and despised from Edmonton have been popping up lately.

Kurt Sauer has still not started skating yet but Joe Sakic will resume skating this week according to the Denver Post. Best not rush Sakic back, even if he is superhuman. Ian Laperriere made the trip to Columbus but is doubtful to be in the lineup tonight.

Can the duo of Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk on fire tonight against a defensive minded Jackets team? Find out at 6:08 ET. I hope to be able to watch this one on Center Ice and not from an Internet feed where I can't even make out where the puck is.

Related Links
TSN Gameday
ColoradoAvalanche.com Preview
Sakic Will Skate This Week

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Avalanche Defeat Blues in 9-5 Goal Extravaganza

Hejduk and Stastny celebrate Hejduk's hat trick against the Blues
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
That was an insane game! With a 6-2 lead heading into the third, the Avalanche came away with a 9-5 win. There were 2 goals scored in the 1st and 6 goals scored in both the 2nd and 3 periods in what was the highest scoring game in the NHL this season.

I had a brief heart attack when the Blues made it 6-4 inside the first two minutes of the third period. Thankfully Q called a timeout and told the team to relax and keep playing their game which they did. Hey, maybe they started listening to the coach.

Since there was so much action in this game, my description of the game could either be brief to keep from rambling...or end up being the longest post I've ever written. Let's find out!

First Period
The Avs got the first powerplay of the game as Ryan Johnson, one of the 3 Johnson's the Blues have, took a hooking penalty. The Avs were moving the puck around much better and utilizing the point well. Kyle Cumiskey broke up the best chance of the game as he rushed back to stop a streaking Mayers who broke out after Smyth whiffed on the puck at the blueline.

Jay McClement got the Blues on the board first as Stempniak beat Tyler Arnason around the net and fired McClement a great cross crease pass. Theodore nearly had it but really had no chance on that one.

Ryan Smyth then put on a performance that made me exclaim "That's why the Avs signed you!" He forechecked hard, got the body on Backman and then fired a pass to Hejduk. Hejduk took a millisecond to corral it and fired it past Toivonen. Just a classic example of how to forecheck and get the puck away from your man.

Ben Guite got crunched shortly after by Backes. He got right back up, got back into the play, knocked Erik Johnson off the puck, took a crosscheck for his efforts, then helped ensure the puck got out of the zone. I loved it.

The period ends with the Blues on the PP.

Second Period
And the Avs finish killing off the penalty and started applying some pressure. Hejduk had a great chance to get his second of the game but couldn't get a hold of a feed from Smyth.

Ryan Johnson then took his second hooking penalty of the game and the Avs made him pay this time. Brett Clark took a shot from the top of the circle and Hejduk banged home the rebound. So I guess he made up for missing the Smyth feed earlier.

Just 42 seconds later Jay McClement busted out on a breakaway and I wasn't too worried. Skrastins hooked him from behind though and even though McClement got a shot off, the ref awarded him a penalty shot. So in goes McClement on Theodore who has been stellar in 1-on-1 confrontations. Unfortunately this time he was beaten on a beauty shot by McClement to tie the game.

Although I agree with Haynes that I like the call, I didn't realize that was a change made this year. Typically the rule for awarding a penalty shot was predicated on whether the player got a shot off or not.

But not to fear. A few minutes later Jaroslav Hlinka found himself with all kinds of time low on the side boards. He waited, waited, waited...then fired a rocket pass across the crease to Stastny who tipped it home. All the goals so far have been of the "No chance" variety.

Barely a minute and a half later, Wojtek Wolski starts putting the rout on as he bangs home a goal off of Brunette's hard work down low. Drive the net and you get rewarded!

On the bench after, Budaj was seen talking to Wolski and whatever he said caused Wolski to titter like a schoolgirl. Which in turn made me titter like a schoolgirl.

3 minutes later, Brett Clark trailed in behind a 2-on-1 with Stastny and Hejduk and again, driving to the net paid off. Stastny waited too long to pass to Hejduk but the puck bounced out in front and Clark was there to take advantage of it.

And if that wasn't enough, Smyth decided to again remind us why he was signed as he scored on a wraparound goal which was probably the weakest goal of the game but definitely not a bad goal. That gave Colorado the most 2nd period goals of any team in the NHL.

Third Period
The third period starts with a goaltender change. Oddly reminiscent of the Columbus game I thought. Toivonen played fine but 6 goals against would be enough to make me not want to play anymore too.

And holy crap, just 24 seconds in Doug Weight puts a rebound past Theodore. I never had a good angle on this one to see how the rebound came to be but I'll give Theodore the benefit of the doubt on it.

And exactly a minute after that David Perron circled the net and fired a shot past Theodore to make it a 2-goal game. And cause Avalanche fans everywhere to reach for the Maalox. It looked like that puck may have been redirected slightly but it was hard to tell for sure.

Quenneville wisely took a timeout to settle and gather the troops together. While this was happening, Hannu Toivonen was getting back into goal for the Blues. Which either means he had equipment troubles earlier - maybe he pulled a Luongo? - or Murray really likes to screw with his goaltenders. Sure, the Blues were back in in now but is Schwarz incapable of playing at the NHL level at this point or what?

The timeout did its job as the Avalanche settled down and kept playing their game. Stastny took a hit from behind to give the Avs their fourth powerplay. Wolski was not in the point for this one as Liles and Clark were out there. Shocking!

Ryan Smyth then displayed some excellent patience behind the net. And also displayed that the Blues D needs to help their goaltenders out. He had a year and a day to feed Paul Stastny who put it past Toivonen and Avalanche fans everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The Avs then got another powerplay chance on a hit from behind and again they made the Blues pay. Milan Hejduk netted the fifth hat trick of his career and chased Toivonen from the net once again.

A couple minutes later the Avalanche were on the PP again and got their third PPG of the game. T.J. Hensick fed Bruentte who then tipped it over to Wolski who buried it past Schwarz for a 9-4 lead.

The Blues got one final goal on the powerplay as Perron fed Stempniak a great cross ice pass and he buried it to bring the goal total to 14. I hope nobody took the Under on this game!

Notes
- Jose Theodore was in net for his second straight start
- Sakic and Laperriere were out with injury
- when Sakic is back, I want to see Arnason sit out some games
- St. Louis has (had?) the #1 PK in the league
- I again found myself yelling "SHOOT!" to Clark at a couple points in the game
- the #1 and #4 lines for the Avs were on fire again tonight and should not be broken up for anything
- Hannan is really jumping into the rush the last few games
- Hejduk had his 300th career assist and his 100 and 101st power play goals
- the Avalanche were only penalized 3 times as the continue to play disciplined hockey
- Stastny leaps into 6th place in scoring on his 2nd career 5-point night
- Richardson and Guite are a great PK combo

Stats
It was a balanced night in terms of ice-time. Liles (!?) led the way with 22:57 and Hannan was just behind with 22:18. Marek Svatos had the least time with just 9:56. The 4th line of McCormick, Guite and Richardson averaged 13 minutes. Not bad for an energy line.

Hejduk led the way in the points category with 6 (3g/3a), Stastny had 5 (2g/3a) and Smyth had 3 (1g/2a). Now that's some point production from the first line if I ever saw it. Wolski had a 2-goal game, Clark had a goal and assist, Liles had 2 assists as did Brunette and Hannan and Hlinka and Hensick each had one helper.

This was Brunette's 400th consecutive game which is 3rd in the league at the moment. Cory Sarish and Brendan Morrison lead the way. I can't recall their numbers but I want to say 481 for Sarich and 527 for Morrison. But maybe that's my old high school locker combinations.

And the ultimate stat on tonight...this was the franchise's 1,000th victory.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
TSN.ca Recap
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Avalanche Rough Up Oilers 4-2


(AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Well that was better. After a 4-day layoff, the Avalanche were able to convincingly win a hockey game. Sure, it was against Edmonton, who are now 4-0 against the Avs this year, but you need to win the games you're supposed to win.

First Period
I missed the majority of the first period due to inattention when setting my PVR to record the game. It must have warned me that I had other programs set to record at the same time but I'm so used to just clicking "Ok" that I never noticed the warning. Oops.

It was a good start to the game as just 4:14 in, Hejduk banged home a loose puck with Hlinka gathering an assist on the play.

Then just 25 seconds later, Stastny and Hejduk broke in, Stastny fed Hejduk who spotted Clark coming in. He fed a perfect pass to Clark who one-timed it into the back of the net. Up 2-0 before the period was even 5 minutes old!

Kyle Brodziak had a great chance to halve that lead but rang it off the crossbar.

Second Period
The Oilers had a penalty parade in this period, taking 5 minor penalties with 4 being assessed within a span of 7 minutes. One was offsetting minors but it still counts ;) And how did the PP fare? Well by golly they scored a goal!

On the first PP chance, they were moving the puck around decently. They were using the point more for cycling and seemed to avoid playing the corners. Thankfully. Wolski was out on the point again and the juries still out on him playing there. He hasn't done it enough to produce points or get horribly torched.

On the second chance, Joe Sakic found himself wide open. And I do mean wide. He had a good 2 seconds to set himself for the shot and when he did, that thing flew off his stick with smoke trails behind it and found its way through Roloson's five-hole.

On the third opportunity, Brunette had a great chance but couldn't cash it in. So in the span of the 3 penalties, the PP unit looked half decent. Scoring chances generated, a goal scored, just one shortie chance given up. Not shabby compared to what it looked like for the last 5 games.

The Avalanche then put the game pretty much out of reach as they capitalized on an Oiler turnover. Kyle Cumiskey snagged the puck at the Avs blueline, fed it to Sakic who broke in with Wojtek Wolski. A quick pass and one-timer and it was 4-0 Avalanche. I could not have been happier. Well, someone could have pounded on Torres for a while and that might have made me a bit happier.

The Avalanche got a late PP opportunity to close out the period. Sakic was back on the point again. For some reason. I really don't think he belongs there unless it's to sneak him in to the high slot as often as possible. Too often he's just stuck at the blueline playing tag with the other D.

Third Period
Ok, 4-0 going into the third would seem to make for a boring final 20 minutes. However Mac T was able to fire up his squad and they made a game of it. Switching Garon in for Roloson may have had something to do with it. If I was an Oiler, I'd be pissed at hanging Roloson out to dry like that and would be looking for some redemption.

8:15 in, Raffi Torres grabbed a Cumiskey turnover and was able to jam it under Budaj's pads to break the shutout. This came about a minute after Ferraro mentioned that Budaj hadn't had a shutout yet this year. Well played, Ray.

The Oil kept putting some pressure on the Avalanche though nothing that made you too frightened. At 14:11, Shawn Horcoff tipped a Grebeshkov point shot to make it a 2 goal lead with plenty of time left.

The Oilers pulled Garon with around 2 minutes left to play. They got some sustained pressure going on the Avs and had a chance or two but it wasn't their night. Make it 10-2 for the Avalanche at home!

Odds and Ends
- much less close-in cycling in the corners this game
- Hannan was playing pretty physical tonight
- Roloson played a great game
- but he's still a little b*tch when players get near the crease
- Hemsky was well-contained this game
- Cody McCormick and Zak Stortini were thorns in each other's sides all night
- Hejduk's interview in the 2nd intermission nearly put me to sleep
- Staios and Smyth had a mini-battle going all night
- Richardson was down on the 4th line and basically a non-factor except on the PK
- Skrastins was a scratch and Cumiskey was back in

Stats
Brett Clark had a huge night with 26:39 in ice-time, far and away the leader for the Avs. Sauer was next with 22:52.

The Avalanche outshot the Oilers 43-13. Marek Svatos led the way with 6, Brett Clark and Tyler Arnason had 5 each and Sakic and McCormick (wha?!?!) each had 4.

The Duke had 1 goal and 2 assists on the night. Sakic had 1 goal and 1 assist while Stastny chipped in with 2 helpers.

Hannan ended the night at -1 with just 17:03 in ice-time. He had a couple turnovers but I thought he played a good, physical game.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Recap
TSN Recap
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
Jerseys and Hockey Love Recap (another game Tapelage was at - lots o' photos!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Avalanche Dowse Flames 4-1

I'm back. Not 100% yet but enough that I can do a write up or two to get my mind going again. It's amazing what 2 weeks of lying on a couch will do to your mental capacity.

This was a game I had to shell out $12.95 to watch on Flames PPV. With that cash, I was treated to a sloppy team in the Calgary Flames and a sloppy drunk in Theo Fleury, who was doing color commentary.

Ok, I can't say for sure if he was drunk but he took a long time to finish sentences and had trouble with words like "opportunities". But that's as much as I'll rag on Theo. He's had a life filled with crazy highs - last one I swear - and some pretty terrible lows.

First Period
This one started off looking like it might be a rough night. With the Flames on the PP and Theodore playing "snow angel", Alex Tanguay snagged the puck and roofed it for the first goal of the game. They later gave credit to Iginla for the goal but I didn't see Iginla touch it. Unless Iginla truly is that good that he can deflect pucks simply by being in their presence. Kind of like a black hole of suckitude.

You'd think the Flames at this point would turn things up and put the pressure on. Instead, they found themselves worrying more about keeping Ryan Smyth and the rest of the Avs away from Kiprusoff than from keeping the puck out of their net. Or clearing the puck. Or maintaining possession of the puck.

The Avs got their own PP goal to even things up late in the period. With Conroy in the box for the second time of the period, Joe Sakic found Andrew Brunette at the side of the goal. Joe rocketed a pass to Brunette and he buried it in the twine. Did they ever actually make goal nets out of twine?

The Flames ended the period a man down as Tanguay shot the puck over the glass. Roger Millions and Fleury figured that since it hit the camera, it shouldn't count. Well, since the camera is above the glass...well I think you can see where I'm going with this.

Second Period
The Flames came out flat and soft in this period and the Avalanche did their best to make them pay. Kiprusoff was up to the task for the most part and really kept his team in the game.

Halfway through the period though, the Avalanche were able to break through. Hejduk and Wolski went flying in and Wolski tipped a beauty Hejduk feed through Kipper's pads. Wolsk is flying lately and playing like a completely player. Goals, checking and backchecking. Great to see.

The Avs had two glorious chances to salt this one away early but Kiprusoff made two even more glorious saves. The first was an amazing glove save on Stastny which had everyone in the arena off their seats thinking it was a goal. He then proceeded to deny Andrew Brunette on an in tight chance by what appeared to be the ability to dislocate both his hips to get his toenail on the puck.

Third Period
The Wolski-Stastny-Hejduk line continued their domination this period and were able to get on the score sheet twice to finish this one off.

Just 45 seconds in, this line put on a beauty of a rush. These 3 were reading each other so well tonight I wondered if they had mic'd their helmets on a private frequency. Either that or they learned telepathy. They were passing behind each other, across the crease and finally into the back of the net. Just exciting hockey to watch when this line was on the ice.

Then about halfway through Stastny found himself wide open and staring into a wide open net. Wolski appeared to bat the puck back to him and Stastny made no mistake. That ended the night for Kiprusoff but through no fault of his own.

The Avalanche then fell back into defensive mode and looked like they actually knew what they were doing. At the end of the night, they had dealt the Flames their third straight 4-1 loss. Ouch. The Flames self-destructed in this one after about 10 minutes of decent effort.

Odds and Ends
- Guite plastered Phaneuf at least twice, once sending him flying from the blue line back to the red line
- Laperriere and Nystrom scrapped and Lappy got the worst of it (why was Parker dressed if he wasn't going to do this?)
- Lappy congratuled Matt Keetley on his first NHL save (it was a pretty decent one)
- Parker got a 10 minute misconduct at the end of the second but I wasn't privy to why

Stats
Dion Phaneuf finished at -2 on the night and I'd mark him as -4 for the two times Guite crushed him.

Liles and Clark put in the most minutes with 22:17 and 22:18 respectively. Liles had 6:46 of PP time. And no points to show for it.

The Wolski-Stastny-Hejduk line was a +9 collectively on the night. Hejduk had 3 assists, Stastny 2 assists and Wolski 1 goal and 2 assists. Clark and Sauer finished at +2

The Avs fired off 36 shots with 7 coming from Sakic's stick. Stastny had 5 and Liles had 4.

Story Time
I couldn't resist on this one as someone sent Theo Fleury a question asking about the point scoring race he had with Joe Sakic in juniors. In the WHL, Theo played for the Moose Jaw Warriors and Joe of course played with the Swift Current Broncos. These two had a long running rivalry in their time, particularly since the Broncos and Warriors were always rivals due to their proximity.

Well, my dad had season tickets to the Broncos from the minute they came back to Swift and we made that 50 minute trip more times than I can remember. The game Fleury referred to tonight was the one I remember most of all. Well, that and the game against the Raiders when there were 5 fights in the final 10 seconds. Friggin' PA I tell ya.

Now, here is where I may be fuzzy on a detail or two - I was only 8 at the time! - but I'll do my best.

Going into the game, Sakic and Fleury were tied in the point scoring race in the WHL with 150 each and all the buzz around the game was about who would walk away with the title. Nobody cared who won the game, it was all about the personal accolade for our hero. Obviously we all were rooting for Sakic, especially since Fleury was that little, tenacious, loud-mouthed bastard who everybody just hated with a passion. Ask me about the "It must have been your mom" comment if you want to hear what Theo was like on the ice. He knew how to get under players - and fans - skin.

The game ended up being an absolutely ridiculous game. The final score was 14-9 - at least that's what Theo said on the broadcast - with Fleury and Sakic matching each other point for point. Now I can't remember what time the final goal happened for the Broncos, but it was late in the game and everybody was on the edge of their seats. Joe needed one more point to claim the glory.

And as always, he didn't disappoint. It was an assist that put him over the top and as soon as that puck went in the net, the roof damn near blew off the Civic Center. Sure, the Broncos had won the game but by golly, Joe had won the scoring title. Never was that city more proud.

They didn't win the Memorial Cup that year but did manage to capture it the following year. By then Joe had moved on to the NHL but I'm sure he still played a part in that win.

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
TSN Recap

Friday, October 26, 2007

Game Preview: Avalanche vs Flames


(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
It's that time of the week again. Time to kick some Calgary Flames butt. The Avalanche (5-4-0) continue their 4-game roadtrip in Calgary (5-3-2) tonight following a 3-day layoff since their 4-2 win against Edmonton on Tuesday. Colorado won the last meeting between these two in a shootout after rallying from a 4-goal deficit. Let's hope, for the sake of all fans sanity, they don't wait until 4 goals in to pick up the pace.

The Flames are coming off a big come-from-behind win of their own. They were down 3-0 against the Wild, the stingiest defensive team in the league, when they broke through and scored 5 unanswered goals to win the game.

There were a couple interesting news stories leading up to the game today. I didn't get a chance to cover them individually as most of my time over the last few days has been spent sick on the couch so here they are.

Starting Goaltender
Jose Theodore gets the nod in goal tonight for...some reason. I can only guess that Q decided that since Theodore got the shootout win in relief last time, it must be a given that he'll be able to do even better tonight without the 4-goal spot. Seems (il)logical. Budaj had a good start against Edmonton so it's a bit confusing, though not surprising, to see the goalie shift. Dario over at In the Cheap Seats has a theory on how Q broke the news.

Leopold Injured
Ah, the redundancy of that headline. I should just put "Leopold" and everyone will understand. He has apparently hurt his hand and is back in Denver along with Karlis Skrastins. Sigh. I admit I had high hopes for Leopold this season. He's been quite a disappointment with his play and his glass-like fragility.

Hejduk Out
Milan Hejduk is likely to miss his third game tonight. The Denver Post reported he was likely, the Rocky Mountain News said unlikely, I'm going with the Rocky Mountain News as they had a Quenneville quote to back it up.

Start Time
The game starts at 9:00pm ET and is on Altitude and Sportsnet West. So I get the privilege of listening to Roger Millions tonight. Score! /sarcasm

Related Links
ColoradoAvalanche.com Preview
TSN Preview

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Game Preview: Avalanche vs Wild


(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
I just finished watching UFC 77 and have volleyball from 9:00 until 12:30 tomorrow morning so this will be short and sweet. I ramble on too often anyways.

The Avalanche head to Minnesota for game 2 of their 4 game roadtrip and it's not going to be easy. The Minnesota Wild are the leagues only unbeaten team in regulation (6-0-1) and they've been winning in style. Defensive style.

Nik Backstrom and Josh Harding are the best goaltending duo on the league at the moment as they have given up only 8 goals in their 7 games which is tops in the league. On the flip side, the Wild have only scored 14 goals in those 7 games. But if you give up less goals then you score, the odds are pretty good that you're going to win. Almost 100% as a matter of fact.

Colorado, on the other hand, has scored 23 goals with their high-octane offense. Unfortunately their solar-powered defense/goaltending combination has been playing under a cloud as of late, giving up the same amount of goals as the team has scored.

If the Avalanche have any hope of winning, it lies in getting the jump on the Wild early and never letting off the gas. The Wild have given up over half their goals in the first period and have only let in 1 goal in the third. It sounds like the opposite of how the Avalanche like to play.

Lineup
Though I didn't go looking for anything official, as I should be getting my beauty sleep, Peter Budaj should be back between the pipes tonight which should set most peoples minds at east. Most reasonable peoples minds anyways. Milan Hejduk is questionable after leaving Chicago's game with a sore back. It's the same injury that kept him out of the Calgary game.

I wouldn't expect to see any line changes except on the fourth line. I hope they sit Wyatt Smith and dress Parker. That way Parker can beat the snot out of Boogard and Guite will stay in the lineup. So far Guite > Smith IMHO.

Well, that wasn't too short. Sweet enough for you though?

Related Links
NHL.com Preview
NHLDigest Interviews John Bugicross
Terry Frei Interviews Jordan Leopold

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Game Preview: Avalanche vs Blackhawks


(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
It's time for the Avalanche to embark on a 4-game roadtrip as they head into Chicago tonight. Well, I'm sure they're already there and are enjoying the Windy City. The Avalanche are headed in on a 2-game winning streak, both wins coming at home, while still searching for their first road win.

They will be attempting the feat with Jose Theodore in net. Well, he'll be starting the game anyways. The Denver Post reported on the starting goaltender choice yesterday afternoon and DD from In the Cheap Seats subsequently had an embolism. Ok, he wasn't that upset but judging by Dater's headline, sensationalism is where it's at when writing so I figured I would jump on the bandwagon.

In other goaltending news, Jeff Hacket is now a full-time goaltending coach with Theodore and Budaj. To that I say...he wasn't before? Why not? Wasn't it obvious that the team had goaltending issues? Or was everyone living in the glorious land of Oblivitarion?

Milan Hejduk is set to rejoin the lineup after sitting out a game with a sore back. The offense didn't suffer without him in terms of production but the jump he's shown all season long might have helped their anemic first period against the Flames. This means we'll see Marek Svatos back on the third line as the original RPM line is reunited after their brief breakup. It's unfortunate that Svatos has to work on the third line but you have to make the best of your opportunities.

I'd also expect Wojtek Wolski to remain on the JAW line with Sakic and Brunette. And that's just where I'd like to see him stay. Wolski has improved his game noticeably this year and I've been very happy with what he brings each night. He's stronger on the puck, he's stronger in the corners, he's stronger on the forecheck and he's starting to learn how to backcheck. He may not be the most defensively responsible forward out there, but is that what everyone truly expected him to be?

I've seen people dismiss the "He's young and learning" line of thought when it comes to Wolski's "liabilities" using an argument of "Well Stastny is young and look at him". Now I know I'm not the only one who sees the flaw in that logic. I never expected Wolski to be a 100 point getting, Selke winning machine so maybe that's why I'm not on his case as much. But he got 50 points in his rookie season and has 4 points in 6 games so far this year. So what exactly is the problem?

During the blogger roundtable, I gave Wolski the runner-up choice on being the new whipping boy. I hope that doesn't turn out to be right as I don't believe he deserves it. But it does give me a pedestal to stand up on and rant which is always fun.

So with that rant behind me, let's get back to the upcoming game. The Blackhawks will ice a lineup that won't include their leading scorer from last year, Martin Havlat. He is undergoing rehab on a shoulder he injured in their season opener. But fear not Hawks fans, youngsters Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane are making up for his absence and then some. Toews has 4 points in 4 games while Kane has 4 points in 6 games. Young blueliner Brent Seabrook is at magic number 4 as well. The youth movement is strong in this one.

With Khabibulin turning back into the Bulin Wall, the Hawks aren't a team to be taken lightly this year.

Oh..and Stastny for President.

Related Links
NHL.com Preview
ColoradoAvalanche.com On the Road Feature
Tapeleg Tears Dater a New One

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hejduk Out - Listed as Day-to-day

In mildly bad news, Milan Hejduk is out for today's game against the Flames with a stiff back. Hejduk has consistently been one of the top players for the Avalanche, even in their losses to St. Louis and Nashville.

Marek Svatos will take his spot on the second line. So we should see Guite and Parker in the lineup tonight unless Q decides to dress seven defensemen.

Click here for the Denver Post article.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Avalanche Storm Sharks; Win 6-2


(AP Photo/Will Powers)
The Avalanche put on a dominating offensive performance and took it to the San Jose Sharks with a 6-2 win. Although there were technical issues with the HD feed on Center Ice, it was still available on a non-HD (yuck!) feed. However I didn't need HD to see something I liked. And I liked what the Avalanche looked like tonight.

First period
The period started off with an excellent penalty kill after Milan Hejduk took a double-minor for high-sticking. The Avalanche actually generated more chances than the Sharks did on this one. The PK was generating pressure, forcing turnovers and covering a lot of ice. Very nice to see.

The Avalanche then got a slew of powerplay chances and they made sure to cash in. On their first chance, the most notable point was when Liles was stripped of the puck heading up ice but Sakic had stayed back to save Liles' hide. The second chance was a 5-on-3 and they made sure to make it count. It was as beautiful and well-executed as a 5-on-3 can be. Sakic got the puck, dumped it down to Stastny, broke for the net and took a perfect feed back from Stastny and buried it. With that goal, Sakic jumps past Phil Esposito for 8th on the all-time points list and takes sole possession of 14th on the all-time goal scoring list.

Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos were skating together on the 3rd line and looked good together. They did have some miscues but nothing horrible. They got mixed up on one opportunity where Svatos should have taken the puck since he had the better angle but Wolski grabbed it, tried to feed it back and lost it in traffic. They'll work those issues out on the bench pretty quickly.

Milan Hejduk then put the Avs up by a score of 2-0 with a goal made of sheer speed. He came flying down the right side, blew past Kyle McLaren and then buried it five-hole on Nabokov. It was definitely a Hejduk-style goal and it always brings a smile to my face. If he keeps that speed all season long, I could see him scoring 40 goals.

Since I was watching the Sharks feed, I got treated to a mic'd up segment with Tim Hunter, one of the Sharks assistant coaches. He was coaching a player during practice on what the Avs do on the PP. This may sound familiar: "Brunette sets up down low, or Smyth, then Sakic comes in on the backdoor with a give-and-go from Stastny". Well, they better start listening to Mr. Hunter as that was the choreography of the first goal to a "T".

Second Period
The Sharks started off the period in penalty trouble again as Vlasic took a hooking penalty followed by the team taking a too many men penalty. They killed those off successfully and that gave the Sharks some steam.

At the 7:47 mark, Ryan Clowe was able to bury a rebound that Budaj had kicked out to the middle of the slot to make the game a bit less comfortable. Budaj has got to watch his rebound control as he's just not gobbling them up like he needs to. And if you kick em out, go for the corners, not the middle of the ice.

Nabokov came up with some good saves to keep the Sharks in it, including a great save off a great play by Smyth and Stastny. Those two are clicking together nicely. They're both immensely intelligent hockey players so it's not hard for them to feed off of each other.

The Avalanche started running around a bit in their own end towards the end of the 2nd but Budaj made some good saves and they came away unscathed.

Third Period
It was the Avs turn to come out firing as they got off two quick goals in the first three minutes of play.

The first was a great rush by the 2nd line. Hejduk danced in on the right side, skipped past 3 defenders, took a shot which was blocked, corraled it back, fed it to a streaking Stastny and he made no mistake.

The second was on another excellent rush by the 2nd line. Stastny fed it to Smyth who one-timed it, then Hejduk slipped the rebound past Nabokov. Nabokov doesn't drop pucks like that often but Hejduk went to the net and we all know what happens when you do that. Good things.

Ian Laperriere and Doug Murray then had a little tilt. Lappy crushed Murray along the glass, Murray got angry and decided to go. You can't blame Murray. Down by 3 goals and gets plastered. He's gonna come up swinging.

Then things got ugly. If you're a Sharks fan. The Avalanche fired off 2 more quick goals to put the game well out of reach. It was a couple of "first" goals by Avalanche players. Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth both broke their goose eggs on the season.

Marek Svatos got his goal off a great deflection on a Finger point shot. He looked happy/relieved/excited/tired all at once. Ryan Smyth then raced in, beat a Sharks defender to the puck behind the net, wrapped it around and ended Evgeni Nabokov's night.

The Sharks then took another penalty and out came the big guns. Actually it was Wyatt Smith and Ben Guite. They nearly cashed in too! Well, they did cash it but it was waved off. Smith crashed the net and banged home a rebound. However, the referee had blown the play dead - a very quick whistle - just as Smith banged it home. The puck actually was in before the whistle went but as the Sharks announcers mentioned, it's the intent of the referee rather than when the whistle actually goes. Fair enough.

The Sharks got one more before the game was out. A very pretty cross-crease play on the PP. Yep, the Avs gave up another cross-crease play while shorthanded. This time it was Clark who didn't pick up the man in the slot.

Overall
This was a Sharks team the Avs are not likely to see again. Turnover after turnover dogged their chances today. They couldn't generate any offensive pressure and they looked very porous on defense. They looked completely flat and had no excuse to look this flat.

However it's a win the Avalanche will take any day of the week. And they'll smile while doing it. I know I did.

Notables
- Wolski and Svatos looked good together
- Arnason is the laziest faceoff man I've seen
- the 2nd line was dynamite (Smyth-Stastny-Hejduk), combining for 10 points and 4 goals
- Hejduk is absolutely flying with the puck on his stick
- Finger was in for Skrastins
- D pairings were: Hannan-Clark; Leopold-Sauer; Liles-Finger
- Leopold had the most ice-time of any Avalanche player (22:54)
- Lappy was a hitting machine as were Guite and Finger

The Good
- PK was solid save for one lapse
- Stastny with a 5-point night
- Hejduk with 3 points
- Smyth's first goal as an Avalanche
- Sakic tying Espo (goals) and passing Hull (points)

The Bad
- Budaj's rebound control
- faceoffs are back to "terrible" status at 37%

The Ugly
- Lappy taking a poke to the eye during his fight

Related Links
Tapeleg Live Blogs (Barely) The Game
TSN Recap
ColoradoAvalanche.com Recap
NHL.com Scoresheet
CBSSports.com Recap
Mile High Hockey Recap