Thursday, May 1, 2008

Avalanche Swept by Red Wings

The game wasn't even half over and I was already writing a "recap" post. The Wings torched the Avalanche 8-2 to end Colorado's season. But not Joe Sakic's career. He will be back next season.

How is it possible that up to this point, TJ Hensick and David Jones had the least ice-time of the Avalanche forwards? Just ridiculous. Those two were the only players left that had any jump to their step and their asses are planted on the bench. Inexcusable.

Theodore made big saves against the Wild. He did not make any saves against the Wings. Blame the defence as much as you want but Theodore was not good enough this series.

2-on-1's are tough but it looked like Theodore was flowing through mud on the two that beat him today. And that first goal? There's the backbreaking goal I was talking about the other day. It just came one day later than I thought it would.

Ill-advised pinches, lazy turnovers, non-existent outlet passes. The quality of play was just not there from these guys.

Yes, the Wings are a talented, tenacious team but the defence should have been able to do better than this.

Who was the idiot that brought the octopus in and tossed it on the ice when the Wings were up 6-1? Not only are you an idiot for carrying an octopus around with you, but you're an idiot for not having a modicum of decency.

I would never flaunt a blowout in another teams building, not even Joe Louis.

This is it for Forsberg. No way he comes back to play next year when his body couldn't even hold out for a dozen games this season. It's unfortunate but you have to admire the man's competitiveness in trying to stage a comeback.

As for Sakic, as I said above, I don't think this is it for him. He still has a season left in the tank.

Offseason game plan
A bit early to discuss that, at least for me. I have thoughts on what needs to change but I'll wait until the loss stings a bit less.

Up next?
For me, the World Championships kick off tomorrow. If the Avs were still in, it would mean double-duty in terms of fandom. As it stands, I'll be able to devote my entire heavy heart to hoping for a World Championship Gold on home ice.

Related Links Event Summary

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Red Wings Take 3-0 Series Lead Against Avalanche

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Well that's the season folks. The only question remaining is whether the Avalanche will go out with a bang or a whimper.

For now, I'm going to go whimper into my pillow and will recap in the morning.

UPDATE: I whimpered too long and woke up late. So here's a few quick notes and hopefully I'll find time for a recap at lunch.

UPDATE 2: It looks like I won't get time today to do a full recap so following the notes below, I've put up my raw game notes, swearing and all.

Edited Notes
- Hlinka was out, Forsberg was in
- Forsberg was almost out again after the first period but gutted it out
- caught the first 10 minutes on French is non-existent these days
- once Dallas was over, I was treated to ol' Pierre McGuire
- Foote and Sauer were broken up with Foote-Leo and Salei-Sauer
- Sauer doesn't shift from backwards to forward quickly enough and that's why he tends to get victimized by forwards on the outside
- Hensick drew in and played a whale of a game
- David Jones was on fire but still couldn't finish
- Chelios had a brutal game
- Theodore is now 2-16 with 14 straight losses in the second round
- On Datsyuk's 2nd goal, he didn't deflect it or get a rebound...he actually knocked the puck out of the air before it got to Theodore and put it in

Raw Notes
forsberg, sakic, jones
hejduk, stastny, brunette
mcleod arnason hensick
mccormick, guite, laperriere

Hannan, Liles
foote, leopold
salei, sauer

Watching in French

Switch up at D with Foote and sauer broken up
Hensick draws in

Wings fly in fast!

Lappy crunches someone

Hensick gets one!
pnealty was coming, arnason hangs, hensick fires and mcleod tipes it in!

this is how I wanted them to come out!
osgood looking a bit shaky
tossing rebounds, not gobbling up close pucks
mccormick tossing his body around

detroit gets first powerplay
sauer and foote together for kill

oh joy, it's pierre
"all due respect to dallas, all due respect to pittsburgh, all due respect ot montreal" - STFU (1st Det goal)

datsyuk ties it on a nice play

Franzen gets em up by wide open behind Leopold

forsberg gone from bench midway through

Forsberg back
Stastny not coming back

Kronvall still hates Jones

Chelios getting picked apart

Sauer doesn't turn from back to front fast enough - hesitates like he's thinking about whether he should do it or not - or is just clumsy

Hensick playing great! Energizes crowd single-handedly

Datsyuk scores
I don't think Theodore ever stopped it. I think Datsyuk did and potted it.

McCarty penalty for holding - free hand
Bruno! Great pass from Hej and Liles blasts it to front and Bruno with awesome tip-in

energy line has good shift after goal
hensick lines comes out after
detroit ices it
forsberg, hejduk, sakic out right away with no word from Q
Forsberg tries his spin shot but it's blocked
Forsberg takes a penalty! Fuck! Just reckless. double-minor. pussy dive by Samuelson
Beauty PP goal

Forsberg sakic hejduk together since start

That is a brutal idiocy for calling Forsberg on goaltender interference
Even-up call on Zetterberg after

too many men on Colorado - yeesh
Wings then had too many but no call

Lappy with a break but hesitates too long

penalties on Forsberg - no good in the box!

Quenneville 3-10 all-time vs Red Wings
Theo 2-15, 13 straight losses in 2nd round

Osgood settling in now

Detroit too many m en
nothing for Avs PP
Detroit too many again
Need to capitalize on this mistake!
Bruno in front off Sakic, step and shot!

Forsberg demolishes Kronvall
Foote crunches Zetterberg out of crease

Definite hi-stick on Wings on Leopold
Franzen hauls Forsberg down but no penalty - didn't touch puck!

Hudler clangs iron

Theo out but can't gain zone

And...that's the season

Related Links Event Summary
Detroit exposes Avs fatal flaw
Where'd I put that shaving kit
Brutal officiating
On the Wings Recap
CBC Blog Recap

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Red Wings Hammer Avalanche in Game 2

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ouch. Double ouch. Triple ouch. Hell, it was a quadruple ouch. It was a virtual carbon copy of Thursday's game as Detroit shelled Jose Theodore for 4 goals and chased him from the net in a 5-1 win this afternoon.

The only difference is that this time, the 4 goals didn't all come in until midway through the second period and Theodore managed to stop 16 shots as opposed to 12. Everything else from the first 30 minutes Thursday carried forward for a full 60 minutes today. The Wings never let up on the gas and the Avalanche only managed a few solid shifts with sustained pressure and looked resigned to losing the game.

Goaltending controversy
Now we have a true goaltending controversy no matter what Quenneville says in the post-game press conference. Two games straight Jose Theodore has been nailed for 4 goals and yanked with Budaj stepping in and letting in only 1 goal on 40 shots.

The team could have helped out more but Theodore looked less-than-average on most of the goals and did not look like the dominating force from the Wild series.

Personally, I would go with Budaj. Sure, Theodore got the team this far but you can't play him just because you feel you owe him anything. You play the goaltender who looks like they can do something for you. And if Theodore plays on Tuesday and lets in the first goal, the team is going to be supremely demoralized.

Injuries abound
We all knew Peter Forsberg was going to be out. We all knew Wojetk Wolski was going to be out. We did not except Scott "Dave" Hannan to sit out. Remember when he took that puck to the inside of the boot last game? Well, I guess it stung more than he let on Thursday.

He really should have just kept his skate on so his foot didn't have a chance to swell and any broken bones would be held in place. It wouldn't be too awkward, right?

Oh, and the "Dave" nickname there? Well, ol' Doc informed us that Dave Hannan was not in the lineup tonight and it was a big blow to the Avalanche. Good job NBC crew. Milbury, McGuire and Emerick. The only redeeming part of that crew is Ed Olcyzk because he actually calls McGuire on some of the crap spewing from his mouth.

The Mule
Johan Franzen has become a media sensation to the point that I'm a bit sick of hearing how nobody has heard of him before. I guess since the "Blood Feud" has healed itself up there really isn't much else to talk about in the this series.

That's not to say that Franzen hasn't been worthy of the praise though. He had a hat trick tonight as he continues to be unstoppable in front of the net. Of course, he is stoppable but don't tell that to the Avalanche defence. It might hurt their feelings.

Defensive doldrums
Was it just me or did the defense look to be standing still today? I know the Wings have some speed but they're not filled with Gaborik's and Lombardi's. Adam Foote and Kurt Sauer were caught on multiple occasions softly leaning on players or getting cement feet as they tried to decide what to do.

On the Wings first goal, Foote was halfway between Franzen and Samuelson and couldn't seem to decide whether he wanted to block the shot or get position on Samuelson.

On Franzen's second goal, he circled around the net with Sauer chasing him, ended up with time and space and roofed it on Theodore. Now Franzen is certainly not fast so Sauer should have been able to keep up with him. And ideally, as soon as Franzen stepped around the corner he would have been plastered by Foote who was just standing in front of the net with nobody else around.

I won't even continue to expand on the gaffs those two made lest it look like I'm picking on them. But I will mention that the fourth goal by Henrik Zetterberg was Sauer's fault for a bad pinch.

Hlinka in the lineup
Jaroslav Hlinka drew in, spent some time on a line with Sakic and looked pretty much like a player who shouldn't be playing in this series.

Of course, that goes for a lot of Avalanche players at this point so I won't hold it against him.

There's no fighting in the playoffs
There usually isn't much fighting in the playoffs but tonight we finally had one. Once the score was at 4-0, Cody McCormick asked Darren McCarty if he wanted to go and the two hesitantly dropped gloves. McCormick swung some Wild punches, McCarty tried to bring the fight in close and the two ended up on the with McCormick on top. About as minor a victory as it gets but it's something.

McGuire's Monsters
Pierre McGuire can't get off the nuts of any coach who...oh I don't know...plays his best players as often as possible. Late in the season he was declaring Joel Quenneville a Jack Adams finalist - please - and slobbered all over him in a game on TSN because he did things like play Joe Sakic often. Or put out his #1 D pair against the opposing teams top line. I'm surprised he didn't commend him for having the appropriate amount of players on the bench.

He did the same thing today with Babcock as he praised him on any line change he made which involved putting Zetterberg or Datsyuk on the ice. Hell, if I was a coach I'd have them on as often as possible too.

And Pierre, we know the Avalanche don't have a big point shot. They haven't for a couple years now. It's a non-story so quit bringing it up even when the teams are playing at even strength, let alone on the powerplay.

Back to the Can
The teams have a two day layoff as they head back to Denver to get ready for game 3. I hope in those two days that the Avalanche can look deep into their minds and muster up some cajones.

Yes, the Red Wings are a talented team but they're not this much more talented than the Avalanche. I'm not sure what kind of mental block this team has against the Wings but it has grown more than old. It's older than the moldy leftovers in the back of my fridge that I fear touching lest I catch some bizarre superbug.

So wake the hell up Avalanche. Give us something to cheer about.

- Liles put in 23 minutes and looked half decent amongst his defensive bretheren
- Filpulla crunched Foote from behind in a nasty hit but both refs were apparently watching out for flying octopi and didn't make a call
- Brett Lebda was -1 for the day
- Lappy scored a goal but we didn't get a classic Lappy celebration as the game was 4-1 at the time

Related Links Event Summary Recap
Denver Post Recap
On the Wings Recap

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Avalanche Play 30 Minutes, Lose to Red Wings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Links Event Summary 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

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Avalanche Knock Out Wild in Game Six

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The 6th-seeded Colorado Avalanche took down the 3rd-seeded Minnesota Wild with a 2-1 win tonight at a lively Pepsi Center to advance to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

In a game that often had me standing in anticipation, Jose Theodore was excellent, the Colorado defense was solid and the game plan was well executed.

After scoring the first goal - again - the Avalanche continued to pressure the Wild in a furious back-and-forth battle. The Wild tied it just 34 seconds into the second period but that did nothing to deflate the team.

The Avalanche kept pushing - and being pushed - and were rewarded at the 12:20 mark as David Jones drew two defensemen to him behind the net. He then fed a wide open Ryan Smyth - the backup MVP of this series - who made no mistake potting it up high on Backstrom.

The Avalanche didn't sit back on the lead until the final 5 minutes. They kept playing their game and awaited the inevitable final onslaught from the Wild.

With about 6 minutes left to play, the Wild started turning up the juice. The only problem is that they didn't have any left.

At one point the cameras caught Kim Johnsson behind the net waving a player towards him as he gasped for breath with his mouth dangling open and shoulders slumped.

They also turned over the puck more in the final minutes than they did the entire series. Cross-ice passes were being broken up, Avalanche pressure led to weak chip-ins and the entire squad looked absolutely spent.

Backstrom was pulled with about a minute left but the Wild still couldn't manage a whole lot of dangerous chances.

Joe Sakic made some key plays including a huge defensive zone faceoff win with 30 seconds to go as well as blocking a pass from behind that net that could have been dangerous. And he did it all with a sense of eerie calmness on his face. Maybe he's done this before.

When the final buzzer sounded Jose Theodore jumped for joy, Ryan Smyth pumped his fist and somewhere far away, an angel got their wings.

Jose Theodore stands tall
Once again, Jose Theodore was the star of the game. It wasn't a game stealing performance like game 5 but 1 goal on 35 shots equates to a rock solid performance no matter the outcome.

The pucks were sticking to him like glue and he also had lady luck on his side. There were two noticeable instances where he didn't even see the puck until it hit him - once on the glove, once into the pads - but you've got to be good to be lucky and man was he good.

I think the Avalanche players are actually getting tired of being asked about Theodore's performance. Ryan Smyth and Peter Forsberg were interviewed after the game and both got the "How well is Jose Theodore playing right now?" question. If I had got that question, I would have simply answered "Well, did you watch the game?"

As it was Smyth and Forsberg pulled out the typical hockey answer and went on their way, rolling their eyes as soon as their backs were turned I'm sure.

Schultz returns
Nick Schultz made his return to the lineup tonight and Jacques Lemaire was more than happy to scratch Sean Hill. The Wild defense desperately needed help with 3 of their players spending five or more minutes per game out on the ice while Hill had been playing under 10 minutes per game.

Unfortunately when you return from an appendectomy after missing 2 weeks of action, you're not going to be terribly effective.

Gaborik sneaks one through
Marian Gaborik finally managed to get on the scoreboard with an assist on the Wild goal.

Unfortunately for Marian, Adam Foote then doubled the pressure he put on the Wild star and he was not a threat for the rest of the game.

Guite grinds one out
Ben Guite has been a cult hero in the Avalanche blogger circle for some time now and he showed why tonight. During the Wilds first - and only - penalty kill, Joe Sakic took advantage of a Wild turnover and sprung Guite on a breakaway.

Guite flew in, head up, stick aimed for the top corner and then...he fanned on the shot. Fortunately it still had enough juice to squeeze past a surprised Nik Backstrom. That was Guite's first playoff point.

In a travesty of stats keeping, Ben Guite was not credited with only one hit but he was finishing checks and causing turnovers with his physical play.

This was especially true in the final minutes when Guite set the tone by plastering a Wild player along the boards to wrest the puck away from him and chip it out of the zone.

David Jones achieves cult status
Ladies and gentleman, meet our new cult hero: David Jones. Guite can no longer count as many mainstream announcers such as Kelly Hrudey and Pierre McGuire have expounded on Guite's abilities. So Jones it is.

Jones had only 10 minutes of icetime but managed to get a beauty assist on the winning goal and spent a lot of time rushing the net and making life difficult for the Wild defencemen and Nik Backstrom.

Jones appears to have no fear of charging down the wing and cutting hard to the net. You know you're lucky going to get dumped by an opposing defenseman when you do that but the payoffs can be great.

And in what works out as a nice hand off from Guite, the assist was Jones' first playoff point.

Sakic solid
Oh Joe Sakic, I love how you make me eat my words. The last couple game recaps, I mentioned that Joe was looking a step slow and wasn't a force like in previous years.

After setting up the first goal and netting his 100th playoff assist, he spent the rest of his 18 minutes making solid defensive plays, winning 62% of his draws and making crucial contributions in the defensive during the final 30 minutes.

Give me a bit of credit though. The CBC announcers - who actually watch hockey, not just call the games - mentioned that Joe isn't quite the Joe of old. But he appears to have a lot of juice left in the tank.

Still mancrushing on Salei
Ruslan Salei continues to be a genius pickup by Francois Giguere. Salei played on the powerplay and penalty kill, put in 20 solid minutes, was +1, fired off 3 shots, put up 4 hits and blocked 4 shots.

Those are some quality stats for a player who only cost the team Karlis Skrastins and a 3rd-rounder.

Game 6 chokers
I'm not going to call Dater crazy or a fool for thinking the series was heading back to Minnesota and that the Avalanche would eventually lose the series. He made his choice and stuck to his guns.

Who could have seen that Theodore was going to become a Conn Smythe candidate or that Foote would make Marian Gaborik a non-factor all series long?

However by focusing on the Avalanche's history of choking in game 6, he lost sight of the following stat which was in the Avalanche game recap:
The 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals marked the 13th time Colorado has held a 3-2 series lead after five games since moving to Denver. After tonight’s win, the Avs have now advanced in nine of those 13 series. Colorado’s appearance in the Western Conference Semifinals also marks the ninth time in 11 postseason trips since 1996 that the club has advanced beyond the first round.

But if the Wild had won - and they very well could have - we'd all be singing a different tune and Dater would look like a genius.

That's just the way it goes when you make bold predictions on sporting events.

Next up
The Avalanche are the first team to close out a series in the West so the playing landscape is still very much up in the air. They could face anyone from the #1 seeded Red Wings to the #7 seeded Flames.

I think the most likely outcome is a date against the Red Wings. Detroit should finish off the Predators, Dallas will take out Anaheim (who saw that coming?) and the Sharks should be able to finish off the Flames now that they've woken up.

If the Flames do come back and take down San Jose, they would then face the Wings and the Avalanche would face their old friend Marty Turco.

Related Links Event Summary
Colorado Game Recap
Denver Post Game Recap
RMN Game Recap
Theodore thankful Avs, Hacket kept faith in him
Big name players come up big for the Avs
Forsberg proving to be a bargain
In the Cheap Seats Game Recap
Tapeleg reappers!
Dater eats some crow
Jibble's first round Avs awards
Mike Russo sounds off

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Avalanche Take 3-2 Series Lead

(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
The Jose Theodore's put in a great performance tonight and walked out of St. Paul with a 3-2 win and a 3-2 series lead.

After last night's performance, there is a mandatory 2-game reprieve before complaining that Theodore gets paid too much and doesn't steal enough games.

With a 38-save effort last night, you might as well start calling him Billy the Kid. Did Billy the Kid steal things? I know he was an outlaw and I assume outlaws steal things.

Anyways, if he keeps performing like this for the rest of the playoffs, it's a pretty safe bet that the Avalanche will try to re-sign him over the summer. But please, nothing crazy.

Overlapping double-headers saved my life
I was off at a fundraising event, one which actually had good food, so I had the ol' PVR set to tape the game. I expected to miss most of the first period due to the overlap with the Caps-Flyers game. What I did not expect was for that game to go into double-OT causing me to miss about 40 minutes of action.

From the sounds of it, the Jose Theodore show may have given me a stroke from too much excitement and fear so I'm not too broken up about it. But still, it's really annoying NHL so get your heads out of your butts and fix your scheduling.

Fast start staved off
The Wild came out guns blazing and fired off 32 shots in those first two periods. Theodore turned aside the first 16, then got beat on a cross-ice, no-chance play, then turned on the afterburners and shut the Wild down the rest of the way.

Take the old with the new
The Avalanche, after having Andrew Brunette open the scoring for the third straight game, got key contributions from a couple youngsters late in the third.

Wojtek Wolski buried his second of the playoffs off of a nice feed from John-Michael Liles. Then only 1:19 later, Paul Stastny found himself the recipient of some pretty passing from Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk. Stastny then pivoted to his backhand and fired it over a sprawling Nik Backstrom.

The biggest I've ever seen
Theodore called that goal "the biggest of the playoffs" and I can't say I disagree. "Why?", you might ask. Well, with just 3 seconds remaining in the game, Brian Rolston's mission to shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot some more finally paid off.

Right off the faceoff Rolston found the puck heading towards his stick so he wound up and blasted it through Theodore's legs. After putting up 7 shots alone, you almost felt like Rolston deserved to get something for his efforts. Almost.

Powered up powerplay
The Avalanche were 2-for-3 on the powerplay tonight and that was definitely a key difference. The Wild had the same amount of chances with a bit more time but could only solve Theodore the one time.

Hopefully this is a turning point for the powerplay but given its inconsistencies all season, I'm not holding my breath. And really, holding your breath is a bad idea in general.

Boogeyman, Lappy and the Wild fans
No, Lappy didn't drop the gloves with the "Boogeyman" tonight. However he did collide with him hard and ended up taking the less-good end of it. The good news is that Lappy got up and was fine. Even better news was that he managed to knock Boogard off his feet at least.

The bad news? The Wild fans actually booed when Laperriere got up after being down and attended to by the trainers. Jib said it best when noting that as much as he - and all of us - hate Dion Phaneuf, I don't know of anyone who would cheer him actually being injured and boo when he appeared to be fine.

I don't want to pigeonhole an entire state since, again as Jib pointed out, the Wild bloggers are a classy group but that was just a shameful display by Wild fans.

Game five statistics
No, I'm not going to break down some of the in-game stats today. I have to be getting to work so I can leave a bit earlier than usual to enjoy this glorious day. However, in case anybody did not hear during the broadcast - and it was repeated about 1,000 times on TSN - the winner of game 5 in a tied series has gone on to win the series 80% of the time.

The Wild might as well hand over the series. Heck, Gary might as well just hand the Avalanche the Cup, right? Right?

Next game
The game time for game 6 has been announced. It will be Saturday at 10:00pm EDT, 8:00pm MT. The game will be national on CBC in Canada and Versus in the States. CBC has game 6 of the Montreal-Boston series before this one but there is a 3-hour gap which should be enough to let us Canadians watch the whole game. You Americans get off lucky as Versus isn't covering the Habs-Bruins game.

Game highlights

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Theodore's effort nets series lead
Theodore steals show, win for Avs
Theodore was astonishing, mythical (whoa, hyperbole much?)
Do good things...
Wolski has grown up

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Avalanche Even Series Against Wild

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Colorado Avalanche were sick of overtime and last night they put an end to it. Barely 6 minutes into the game the Avalanche were up 2-0 and they kept going from there.

By the time the smoke cleared, the score was 5-1 and the Wild were beaten down, frustrated and tired. We all knew that at some point the Wild were going to get tired.

It was mostly expected from their defense where players like Martin Skoula have been putting in 30 minutes a game. That's unsustainable for players of that calibre and it showed last night.

Jacques Lemaire called out Martin Skoula specifically saying "He probably played his worst game for the last three months."

First Period
The first period started off and one of the first things out of my mouth was "He's got Wolski playing with Guite? WTF?" And then shortly after that it was "And McLeod is with Arnason and Jones? WTF x 2"

Yes, Joel Quenneville decided to do some line juggling. Ryan Smyth has been playing well all series but was banished to a line with Tyler "Inconsistent" Arnason. To fix that, Q reunited the RPM line and moved Forsberg up to the first line with Sakic and Brunette.

And wouldn't you know it, the new #1 line helped the Avalanche get on the board early. Jordan Leopold fed Ruslan Salei who wound up and blasted one from the point. On its way to the net, Andrew Brunette got a stick on it and tipped it up and over Nik Backstrom for the early lead.

Then just a minute and a half later, Wojtek Wolski found himself unmolested - isn't that the best way to be found? - in the slot with an errant puck headed his way. He grabbed it, called his family and said "Watch this guys!" and buried it past Backstrom. Then after the goal I think he mouthed the letter F, U and Q. Not sure what that means...

Then just five minutes later, Tyler Arnason found himself alone at the blueline as a stray puck made it onto his stick. He took a couple steps and absolutely wired the puck past Nik Backstrom

Wow. So the new #1 line, the new #4 line and Tyler Arnason all stepped up early in the game.

Second Period
The Wild started a penalty box parade early in the second as Brian Rolston went off for interference. The Avs couldn't convert but the PP looked half decent.

Then at the 7:42 mark and with Todd Fedoruk in the box, the Avalanche started making this one a rout. Jordan Leopold made a nifty play at the line to keep the puck alive, fed it to Tyler Arnason who then dropped it to Ruslan Salei and BOOM!, it was 4-0. Ruslan? If you're reading this...I love you.

Things got a little rough after that as Minnesota started losing their composure.

Derek Boogard got his first of two 10-minute misconducts after Stephan Veilleux took a hooking call and Boogard decided it would be wise to fire the puck down the ice after the whistle. And then for good measure, he decided to give David Jones a shot in the shoulder on his way by. Smart moves, Boogeyman.

The Avs failed to convert on the powerplay - which was a recurring theme - but it wouldn't be the last chance they got.

Just a couple minutes after getting out of the box, Veilleux decided to cross-check Cody Mcleod and then rough him up after he was down. And Eric Belanger decided to sucker punch John-Michael Liles as well. You know, for funsies.

Thanks to Veilleux's two minor penalties, the Avalanche were able to go up 5-0. Milan Hejduk found himself at the side of the net with the puck after Ryan Smyth drove the net hard. And unfortunately for Nik Backstrom, he was at the wrong side of the net. No chance for Backstrom and the wheels officially came off for the Wild train.

The period finally played out with no more festivities. Well, unless you count the end of the period where Foote went up to Burns and gave him a bit of a talking to. Burns responded with some shoving and both ended up with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Third Period
The Avalanche headed into the third period with a 5-0 lead and admittedly, I was mildly nervous. Since the Avalanche have given up all their goals in this series during the third period and overtime you'll have to forgive me.

But after giving up an early goal, the Avalanche held the Wild off the scoresheet the rest of the way.

And that peeved the Wild off to no end. After taking 26 minutes in penalty in the second period, the Wild decided to go for the record, amassing 69 minutes in penalties in the third period.

I'm not even going to break down all the penalties lest you be reading this long into the night but I will make special note of Veilleux's gutless boarding on Paul Stastny. Great job, buddy. Certainly did your team proud.

Suffice to say that Laperriere and Veilleux dropped the gloves in a boring fight, Boogard got another misconduct, Veilleux got a few more minutes and the Avalanche powerplay failed to convert on any of those.

Penalty parade
The Wild ended the night with 101 penalty minutes including 18 minors, one fighting major and 6 misconducts.

Stephan Veilleux had 25 minutes with 5 minors, a fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct, Derek Boogard had 2 minors and 2 misconducts and both Aaron Voros and Kim Johnsson had a minor and misconduct. Brian Rolston also found himself in the box 4 separate times including a misconduct.

All I can say to that is "You stay classy, Minnesota."

Veteran leadership
The differences in leadership between the Wild and Avalanche was very evident last night. When the Wild started losing it, the Avalanche kept their cool, rarely retaliated and made the Wild look a bit ridiculous.

The Wild, on the other hand, took every opportunity to start scrums after the whistles, hack at anything that moved and generally look like a group of babies.

Maybe they didn't get enough sleep Monday night?

Lineup change
Along with the line changes Q made, he also made a lineup change. During the pre-game press conference Quenneville stated that Leopold was a "strong possibility" and had a little smirk while he said it.

And sure enough, Leopold was in and Finger was out.

Leopold ended the night with 2 assists, was a +2 and played 22 minutes. Wow, that's a lot of 2's there. He also had 4 hits and a pretty good night overall.

- yep, the notes are back
- Keith Carney acted like both an ass and a pussy last night after diving on a Tyler Arnason elbow and then beaking off and shoving Avs players after every whistle
- the VS announcers could not get any players names right last night
- Todd Fedoruk dove on Adam Foote's first period "hook"
- on an icing play, Hannan had the line but Liles took the cross-ice route and beat him to the puck
- halfway you could see Hannan go "oh screw it, you're faster than me"
- when Lappy really gets his jets going, he looks a bit like a kid who just learned how to skate (no offense)
- I still like Brent Burns' style
- Smyth continues to impress with his grit and passion
- Tyler Arnason will now fade into the annals of time after breaking out for 2 points
- my better half wondered "Why are they being such dicks?" midway through the third

Related Links Event Summary Recap
In the Cheap Seats Recap
MHH Recap
TSN Recap
Denver Post Recap
RMN Avalanche Report
Avs have plenty of fight
Stastny needs to find another level
Despite insanity, Avs remain focused

Wild Take 2-1 Series Lead Over Avalanche

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Three games. Three Overtime periods. Three 3-2 results.

The Minnesota Wild got their second straight 3-2 OT win over the Colorado Avalanche last night to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home ice advantage.

The Avalanche now have to win tonight so they can head into Minnesota with a fighting chance to extend this series.

This game was the complete opposite of the previous two games. Both teams came out looking tentative, unenergetic and completely lacking of physicality. After the previous two games, I actually found myself about to chant "Boring" at the television screen.

First period
Once again the Avalanche got on the board first. Wojtek Wolski broke down the wing, pulled up short and fed a streaking Sakic. The puck was a bit behind Sakic but he managed to quickly get it in position to take a shot off. Nik Backstrom stopped it easily but he fed the puck straight to Andrew Brunette who had all day to bury it.

That goal brought some life to the Can and things were looking good. If the Wild didn't want to play a defensive game, the Avalanche could continue to stretch out their trap and get some quality chances.

Second Period
In the second period, the Wild had a goal disallowed after Aaron Voros completely bowled over Jose Theodore on his way to the net. The refs immediately waved it off but the guys at CBC were so confused they actually started complaining that it was a bad goal. Voros was in the box and the puck was being dropped in the Avs zone before they finally realized the refs had waved it off. I guess the ref waving his arms and pointing to the penalty box just wasn't enough for them.

Third period
Unfortunately in the third period, the Avalanche pulled their usual work. They gave up a goal midway through after Mikko Koivu found himself unmolested in front of the net. Kurt Sauer and Adam Foote had both gone fishing for the puck in the corner, forgetting that only one of them needed to do that.

Then, while the Avalanche were on a powerplay, Joe Sakic made a terrible pinch leading to a 2-on-1 and the Wild made no mistake. As soon as I saw Sakic take a step towards the puck my heart sank a little bit. That one was so easy to see coming that I don't really know what Sakic was thinking.

However leave it to Joe to make up for it. Barely 3 minutes later, Sakic found a loose puck and backhanded it past a prone Nik Backstrom to tie the game. The Can was alive and we were headed to overtime.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that this game only made it to overtime thanks to Andrew Brunette. With only seconds left on the clock, Brunette dove to break up a pass that surely would have led to a Wild goal. The Wild had been buzzing, passing the puck around with ease in the Avalanche zone and Jose Theodore was down and out after trying to follow the puck for what must have felt like an eternity.

Both teams traded chances with the Wild having an edge in energy it seemed. And sure enough, the game was ended after an Avalanche mistake. Jeff Finger went down to touch up for an icing except he decided to go around the left side of the net while Brian Rolston was heading straight down the right side. The puck then bounced off the boards, off the net and right to Rolston. He fed Pierre-Marc Bouchard who rifled a beauty shot home to end the night.

Now, granted that nobody really expected the puck to bounce like it did there, but Finger should never have gone around the opposite side of the net with Rolston so close on his tail. It's just asking for trouble to leave so much space between yourself and the opponent deep in your own zone, no matter what the situation may be.

Stretch it out
The Avalanche started off this game and were breaking the Wild's 5-man back system by running stretch passes up the middle. Then about halfway through the game they inexplicably started trying to dipsy-doodle through the neutral zone to get the puck to the red line and shoot it in.

I'm really not sure why the change of strategy. Heck, Kelly Hrudey spent 5 minutes talking about how effective the Avalanche had been with the stretch pass and chip-in move. For them to abandon it really makes no sense. The best way to break a trap is to keep the puck moving quickly through the neutral zone, not trying to stickhandle past 5 players.

Sakic slumping?
I know Joe is putting up the points in this series and of course had the huge game winner in game 1 but...something feels off. He's making some odd decisions and looking a bit slow lately. His shot has fallen off again to where it's rolling off the heel of his stick and he just doesn't feel like a threat.

Stastny stuttering
Paul Stastny needs to pick up his play quick, fast and in a hurry. He's been virtually invisible (0pts, -3) this series and looks to be very tentative. For a young player who has always seemed so composed, it really seems like the playoffs are weighing on him.

He needs to wake up and help lead his line which includes Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk because that line is falling apart.

The Avalanche strategy of "Give Forsberg the puck and something will happen" has been easily picked up on by Minnesota so they're draped all over Forsberg. And Milan Hejduk isn't helping by skating around the perimeter and never doing anything useful with the puck.

Stastny needs to tie that line together and he needs to start tonight.

Power play
I think Jibble_cribbits might have jinxed the powerplay yesterday when he wrote an article on the Avalanche powerplay improving. Last night they were 0-for-6 and looked brutal. Overpassing, not keeping the puck in at the line and not showing any desperation.

Rolston shooting it up
Brian Rolston's strategy this series is easy to sum up. "Shoot the puck." No matter where or when this guy gets the puck, he winds up for a big slapper.

I know the old adage of "Shoot the puck and good things happen" but this is getting to be a bit ridiculous.

And of course tonight he's going to score on some weirdly redirected goal after taking a shot from an impossible angle. Sorry for the jinx guys but I just had to say it.

Wrap up
I do have more to say about this game but I've got to head in to work at some point. For some quick notes: Smyth is still being Smyth, Finger needs to smarten up and Tyler Arnason needs to hit get engaged in this series.

Good enough
One last thing to add actually. While linking to Dater's recent blog entry, I decided to give it a read first. You know, I don't want to link to it if it's not a good piece...heh, kidding. Down at the end he made a point I've been bitching about for a while now.

He was bemoaning the Avalanche's style of play where "they overpass and don’t finish that extra check and, well, just think what they’ve already done will be enough to win."

Just enough to get by. Where have we heard that before? Oh right, that's been a motivating theme from the coaching staff all year.

Game time
The series continues tonight at 10:00pm EDT, 8:00pm MT and the Avalanche better come to play. If they don't win this game, they'll have a tall order ahead of them if they want to make it to round 2.

Hopefully Burns and Johnsson are worn out after playing 30+ minutes last night.

Related Links Event Summary
Denver Post Game Recap
Theodore solid in losing effort
Finger or Leopold?
Brunette's magic isn't enough
Foote's defensive feat isn't enough
Wild's Backstrom a saving grace

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wild Turn the Tables on Avalanche in Game 2

(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
My goodness, I'm going to stop making defibrillator jokes lest the need for one come true! Tonight the Wild won 3-2 in overtime in a game that had the most back and forth we've seen yet from these teams.

Though the teams tailed off a bit late in the third, I was still impressed that they could keep up that level of intensity for so long. You've got to love playoff hockey!

The Wild again gave up the first goal in the game. However they got the next two goals to take a 2-1 lead.

Mikko Koivu's goal came with just 1:51 left in the game and I was curled on the couch in a fetal position wishing it wouldn't end that way. With the Avalanche, I should have known better.

The Wild took what could be described as a phantom penalty, giving the Avalanche a 6-on-4. With Ryan Smyth parked in front of the net, Milan Hejduk deflected a John-Michael Liles point shot through Niklas Backstrom's legs and we were headed to overtime!

Unfortunately the excitement ended early for Avalanche fans. Mikko Koivu did a great job shielding the puck from Joe Sakic and ended up getting it back to Keith Carney. Carney dusted himself off and fired a puck that was headed about 80 feet wide. However Ruslan Salei and Brian Rolston were tangled up in front and the puck bounced off one of them and in.

After a quick review by the refs to make sure it was good, the Wild walked away with a 3-2 win and - more importantly - a 1-1 series tie.

If they had gone down 2-0 heading back to Denver, they'd be measuring out their own caskets right now.

Full Disclosure
I missed most of the first period (thanks TSN or NHL or whoever makes the schedule), caught a majority of the second while cooking/eating dinner and missed half of the third stuck with a chatty clerk at the grocery store.

So I really didn't take a lot of notes and will forgo an in-depth look at individual plays and players. However I will say that I couldn't be happier with Smyth so far this series and I'm loving the energy line of McLeod, Guite and Lappy.

Jones Injured?
I missed this play but apparently David Jones left favoring his right leg midway through the game. That's not good news for the Avalanche though in all honesty, it could have been worse.

Jones has been working hard but hasn't been terribly effective in the series up to this point. However I still hope to see him back in the lineup on Monday.

I've got to give it to Q, he's been doing a great job coaching so far. From the timeout in game 1 after the comeback to the timeout tonight to tell his boys what to do on the 6-on-4, he's been rock solid behind the bench.

Actually, maybe all he has in his arsenal is timeouts. I kid, I kid. Mostly.

Home ice advantage
The series shifts back to Denver for back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday. So the Wild have time to rest up but I don't see the back-to-back games doing them any favors unless

Who is the idiot that made the schedule this year? Why do we have to wait until the first period is almost over before TSN/VS cuts in to cover the second half of their double-header? The CBC games have been flawless so you know it can be done.

I'd like to blame the league since they're obviously the ones who make the schedule but at the same time, I don't get how CBC gets perfect coverage and TSN/VS are left twiddling their thumbs.

Heck, Wings or Preds fans had to wait an hour for the Masters to end before TSN cut to their game. Yes, golf pre-empted Canada! Ridiculous.

Related Links

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Avalanche Take Game 1 in Wild OT Thriller

(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
Wow. If that's how the entire series is going to be, I don't think I can watch any more games. That was Intense. It was hard-hitting, fast-paced and had about 100 times as much emotion as their last game against each other.

In other words, this was playoff hockey!

The game started off with both teams hitting anything that moved. And that mindset never let up for the full 71:11 tonight.

The Avalanche got on the board first on a Kurt Sauer marker. No, that's not a typo. Kurt Sauer scored his second playoff goal - his previous was in Minnesota as well - off of a beauty Joe Sakic setup early in the 2nd.

Ryan Smyth followed that one up with a powerplay goal late in the second. Yes, the Avalanche were 100% on the PP tonight. It must be a full moon tonight or something.

The Wild never shut down though and they came out hard in the third. They were rewarded early as Mikko Koivu got a puck past the previously impenetrable Jose Theodore. He got that puck past Theodore thanks to an unfortunate redirection off of Jeff Finger's skate. But we still love Finger.

Then just 3 minutes later the Wild tied it up on a powerplay of their own as Todd Fedoruk found himself all alone in front of the net and got it past Theodore. Who was supposed to be covering Fedoruk? And why didn't Foote get that puck out of the zone?

So it was off to OT while I tried to calm my beating heart.

You know who was already calm? Joe Sakic. You know who decided the game had gone on too long? Joe Sakic. Elevent minutes in, he gobbled up a rebound off a Ruslan Salei point shot and slid it underneath a sprawling Backstrom. And you know what? The usually reserved Mr. Sakic was caught on camera giving a giant "Whooo!" after he scored. I love it!

OT Superhero
We can talk all we want about Chris "Clutch" Drury but let's never forget what Joe Sakic has done for this team when it matters most. This was Joe's 8th career OT playoff goal and he is magic when the game is on the line.

His composure in these situations keeps the entire team relaxed and focused so they can do their jobs. Heck, tonight Joe was even laying the body out a bit to help lead by example.

That's one other thing to not forget. Joe is a strong, tough player. He comes from "the Dub" and that league is not for the faint of heart. If you survive in that league, you're going to come out the other side with a rough-and-tumble exterior.

Wow. Kudos to both goaltenders for putting on a show. Nik Backstrom didn't need to get going until about midway through the game as the Avalanche didn't put much rubber on him but once they did, he was up to the task. He made at least 3 snazzy glove saves and looked cool as a cucumber in net.

At the other end, Jose Theodore looked sensational. If it wasn't for Theodore, the Avalanche would be hanging their heads after a 5-1 defeat.

Early on the Wild were pressing hard but Theodore stood tall - and quick - in the net and kept his team in the game. When the Wild finally got their first goal, the shots were 22-9 in favor of the Wild. Enough said.

Ok, look back through pretty much every post I've ever made and you'll notice one thing; I don't bitch about refs.

Tonight was different. There was a stretch in the second period where the refs looked to actively have their heads shoved somewhere they shouldn't be. There were quite a few interference calls that were missed including the blatantly obvious one by Rolston on Hannan. In that same shift, the Wild got their first goal. So yes, the refs directly led to the Avalanche first goal.

And then, they had the audacity to try to "make up for it" by not calling the most obvious trip in the game. Milan Hejduk was all but in the penalty box after he tripped a Wild forward but both refs inexplicably held their arms down. Oh wait, it wasn't inexplicable. It was a gesture of incompetence to try and appease the Colorado bench.

Terrible effort by the refs.

Smyth, Wolski and the Forse
Ryan Smyth had a tremendous game. This was the Ryan Smyth I was stoked about last summer. He played an in-your-face style, charged the net hard, kept his feet moving and was an overall menace. If only he'd been able to convert on his penalty shot opportunity! But hey, he did managed to score the Avs second goal so we'll forgive him.

Wojtek Wolski also had a whale of a game. He had 2 assists on the night including setting up the game winning goal with some nice, composed moves up high. He was forechecking, backchecking and hitting and that's what I want to see out of Wolski. If he does those 3 things each game, the points will come just like they did tonight.

And Peter Forsberg. What can be said about this guy. I'll have to echo Pierre McGuire's comment - albeit less enthusiastically and high-pitched - and say "This guy is spectacular!"

I don't know Forsberg keeps the puck on his stick the way he does but it's magical. And the respect he garners opens up so much ice for his teammates that it's unreal. Please, please, please stay healthy, Foppa.

Props all around
I singled out Ryan Smyth, Wojtek Wolski and Peter Forsberg but really, the whole lineup deserves kudos tonight. The checking line of Guite, Laperriere and McLeod worked hard, the defense played a solid game and there really was no scapegoat tonight.

Of course winning helps deter the need for a scapegoat. But I'm still looking at you, Arnason.

The "Boogeyman"
This dude scares the crap out of me. However he appears to do no such thing to the members of the Avalanche. He absolutely flattened Ben Guite and David Jones at different points in the game and they both got right back up and kept on ticking.

There were a couple times that Guite directly went after Boogard even after Boogard had flattened him. He also whiffed on an open cage during a powerplay opportunity when something with hands - not fists - would likely have buried it.

And it certainly didn't stop the Avs from knocking Marian Gaborik down multiple times.

So much for the "Boogeyman" effect.

Next game
The next game is at 9:00 EDT on Friday which should leave the West coast fans plenty of time to hit the bars to celebrate a 2-0 series lead. Or did I just jinx it?

Related Links Event Summary
Sakic's OT Goal Wilts Wild
TSN Recap

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Colorado to face Minnesota in Playoffs

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
It became official even as the game was still going on. The Colorado Avalanche will play the Minnesota Wild in the first-round of the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. Just one point was needed for the Avalanche to leapfrog the Flames into 6th place and the Wild took this one to overtime in the final minutes of an eventual 4-3 shootout win by the Avalanche.

Shootout ownage
Jose Theodore continued his superb performance in shootouts as he shut the door on both Wild shooters. Unfortunately that now means jack squat as there are - rightfully so - no shootouts in the playoffs.

I also loved the way he swept the puck away after stopping Pierre-Marc Bouchard to win the game. Basically it was a "Get that shit out of here" type motion. I love that cocky attitude in goaltenders as it typically equates to confidence so hopefully Jose keeps it up.

Blocker side ownage
And on the flip side of the coin, Jose Theodore continues to be weak on the blocker side. The Wild's second goal, by Keith Carney, was a shot from just inside the blueline with no traffic for miles around. And Theodore completely whiffed on it. He was off his angle a little bit but he really appears to have trouble covering the spot just above his pad on the blocker side. He needs to fix that up quick, fast and in a hurry.

Super Joe to the rescue
Oh Joe Sakic. How I love your clutch scoring abilities. Not only do you pull it out with mere seconds left in a game but you also score clutch goals whenever you feel like it. You also don't answer my phone calls but I won't hold that against you.

Going into the third period at a 2-1 disadvantage to the Wild doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Fortunately Joe Sakic really could give a crap what you think. Just 5:38 into the game, Sakic took a feed from Forsberg, moved it from backhand to forehand to the back of the net before you could blink, cured cancer, and then came back in time to nonchalantly raise his stick in celebration.

Forsberg flying
Peter Forsberg had another 3-point game as he assisted on all three of the Avalanche goals this afternoon. When Forsberg is in the lineup, the Avalanche are 8-1-0 and look like a completely different team. I think it's safe to assume that any lingering doubt over this signing has evaporated.

He played just under 20 minutes tonight and was on the bench during the shootout so it appears that he'll be good to when the series kicks off. For the sake of the team, I hope he can stay healthy for at least the first 3 games of the playoffs.

Wolski peaking
Wojtek Wolski put in a very solid game tonight. He was hitting solid, backchecking hard and stripping the puck off quite a few Wild players. His hard work didn't translate into anything on the scoreboard but I'm sure it was noticed by the coaching staff.

I really wish Wolski would put in this level of effort a bit more consistently. I don't think he played terrible, even when Q benched him, but he wasn't finishing his checks and backchecking hard enough. But this is only his second year and I still expect him to turn into a 30-goal scorer.

Gaborik getting feisty
I had to do a double take on this one but at the very end of the overtime period Marion Gaborik ended up getting into a fight with Ian Laperriere. Obviously that's not a matchup the Wild want to see but the Avalanche will be happy to have.

It appeared to start when Laperriere yanked Gaborik's stick out of his hands. Gaborik came back with a shove, Lappy shoved back and the rest is history. The gloves never came off but each player tossed a few punches and got me excited about the upcoming series.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
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Denver Post Recap
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Two takes, one game
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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Avalanche Clinch Playoff Spot with Win Over Canucks

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)
Breathe in deep folks. Smell that? That's the smell of playoff hockey. Yes, with a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Canucks tonight, the Avalanche will start a new playoff streak this year.

The only question left is which seed will they end up? They could go as high as #3 or as low as #7 so there's still some fun to be had. Unfortunately most of the fun will be had by other teams as the Avalanche are out of action until Sunday when they close out the regular season against the Wild.

And at the current moment, the Wild would be the Avalanche's playoff opponent. Is that better than the Sharks? I'm inclined to say yes though the Avs are 2-4-1 against the Wild this year. But hey, the playoffs are a whole new season so anything can happen!

Rough beginnings
The game got off to a rough start as the Canucks really had some jump in their game in the first couple minutes. I was actually on the edge of my seat in the early goings and was getting concerned that the Avalanche were going to have "one of those games"

Pessimisity turns to optimisity
My pessimism was rewarded as the Canucks built up a 2-0 lead by the 5:50 mark of the second period and things weren't looking good. Fortunately, the Avalanche powerplay miraculously came through to get the Avs within one. Then Milan Hejduk tied it up. Then Wojtek Wolski scored again. That's right, before you could blink the Avalanche had taken the lead. Well, if you didn't blink in the 5 minutes and 19 seconds it took, you might want to get that checked out.

I'm taking my puck and going home
At that point, the Canucks seemed to basically pack it in. The fans lost all their life and the team looked so frustrated I actually felt a little sorry for them. Just a little. The Canucks had a powerplay opportunity 20 seconds after the go-ahead goal and they really sleepskated through it and that pretty much emptied the arena of any atmosphere whatsoever.

Forsberg gets his first
In the third, Peter Forsberg was sprung on a breakaway by Andrew Brunette and he made absolutely no mistake as he roofed it past Luongo's glove. For his first goal of the season, he looked pretty relaxed. He also played over 20 minutes tonight so it's a good thing the Avalanche don't play again until Sunday. All kinds of time for that groin/foot to heal up again. Unless of course he lacerated his liver late in the game.

Theodore shuts the door in third
Jose Theodore put in what is becoming a standard Theodore performance. Look ok in the first, above average in the second and lights out in the third. He made some great