Friday, May 2, 2008

Avalanche Over, What Next?

I threw my notes on the game out last night so no point recapping. Just look at the score and you'll know all you need to know.

So where do we go from here? Well, I don't know about anyone else but I still want to see who will win the Stanley Cup. And not only that, the World Hockey Championships get under way this afternoon. Can you believe Selanne joined the Finnish team? Amazing what an extra 5 months rest will do for someone who was thinking of retiring.

So I think I'll be using those as a way to get over the complete beatdown that was handed to the Avalanche by a team with a gloating, mocking fan base. I don't know if I'll watch any Red Wings games though. You know, to avoid the nightmares.

But what about Forsberg retiring? And is Sakic going to play again? Will Foote come back? Will the team re-sign Theodore? Is Budaj the answer?

I've got thoughts on all those subjects but I think I'll wait until the season is fully over to expand on them.

One thing I'd like to note is the injuries the team had. Not because I'm using that as an excuse why they lost. I'm using that as an excuse why this team still deserves our pride.

Dario from ITCS caught the morning show with Coach Q who revealed that Peter Forsberg was playing with two torn groin muscles while Scott Hannan and Ian Laperriere were both playing on a broken foot. Two torn groin muscles and the man was still skating. A broken foot each and they were still lacing up their skates and giving it their all. That's courage and dedication right there and they deserve our thanks for gutting it out.

Add up Ryan Smyth's likely broken foot, Wojtek Wolski's 5 broken ribs, Marek Svatos' torn knee, Paul Stastny's bum knee, Brett Clark's bitched shoulder and Theodore's bubonic plague and you have a worn out, beat up team. And though I was a bit pissed last night due to an 8-2 drubbing, after putting the injuries into perspective and what some of the players played through, I can honestly say I'm proud of the squad for giving it their best.

It's just too bad their best wasn't enough.

Related Links
Living with the aftershock
So much for pride, Mr. Theodore
The scoop on the Avs injuries
Avs season ends with thud
The End.
Q&A with Francois Giguere

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Playoff Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings - Game 3

UPDATE: Jib has had enough and wants to get everyone fired up and I must admit, the excessive use of profanity energized the shit out of me! Let's hope the whole team reads his blog so they can get riled up for this game too.

If you want to talk about must win siutations, tonight's game can be part of the dictionary entry. If the Avalanche lose today, it's season over.

Yes, people will quote the miracle of 3-0 comebacks but the odds would not be in the Avalanche's favor.

Hell, I wouldn't even call it odds. I would call it the likelihood of God being an Avalanche fan because it would take divine intervention to take 4 straight from the Wings at this point.

Smyth out?
To make matters worse, it is being reported that Ryan Smyth will miss this game. Maintenance day my ass, coach Q. If there's one thing I hate about the playoffs, it's the ridiculous injury updates.

Forsberg in?
Peter Forsberg skated in practice and is likely to play. But I'll believe it when I see him out for his first shift. Not even sitting on the bench at puck drop will convince me that he's in the lineup.

Hannan in?
Scott Hannan is probable as well but I won't believe it until I see him on the bench. I won't need him to actually take a shift to believe he's in the game. Lucky him, eh?

So what to do with all these injuries?

Well, if Hannan is out, Finger will stay in. If Hannan is in, Finger will likely swap out. The defence is the easy one to deal with. Though I'd like someone to remind Sauer and Foote that they need to wake up a bit.

If Forsberg and Smyth are out, Q again will need to draw on some reserve power. Cody McCormick and Jaroslav Hlinka will stay in even though both played less than stellar in their recent outings. He then has to decide from players such as Brad Richardson, Wyatt Smith and T.J. Hensick to fill Smyth's spot.

I'm not sure I'd trust Hensick in a crucial situation like this but there is something to be said for that rookie enthusiasm. I don't feel Wyatt Smith will bring anything to the tableand Brad Richardson has been in Q's doghouse all year.

I think the order in Q's head based on comments he's made so far and what we saw in the regular season is:
Wyatt Smith
T.J. Hensick
Brad Richardson

And I hope to God I'm wrong because I don't want to see Wyatt Smith anywhere near the ice.

But let's hope it doesn't come down to that and Forsberg is good to go.

Related Links
RMN Avalanche Playoff Report
Forsberg might play, Theodore simply must
Dear Quenneville, You must be kidding
I flu over the cuckoo's nest
Avs Forsberg, Hannan Probable for Game 3
Colorado not worried about being down to Wings (when has a team ever said "Yeah, we're scared shitless"???)
Let's get fired up

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 ça 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.

- 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

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.

- 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 Event Summary
In the Cheap Seats Recap
Denver Post Recap Recap
How Luongo getting laid could help the Avs
Doing the dirty work, game in and game out

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Updated - The S Curse Continues

Not this shit again
Note: This post has been updated after the recent announcement provided by the Avalanche. And kudos to them on doing a good job of doling out the information in appropriate chunks.

The Avalanche have announced that Marek Svatos is out for the rest of the season while Ryan Smyth is out indefinitely. After seeing both injuries, it's not much of a surprise. The Svatos injury was terribly awkward looking and the Smyth injury was just...brutal. I hope his family was not watching the game because that would have been terrible to see happen to your son/husband/etc.

AD had originally provided an analysis of what the "official" news means. To sum it up in one word...shit. He felt it was doubtful that either return for the rest of the season barring a long playoff run. Since then, Svatos' diagnosis is an ACL tear which puts him for the remainder of the season while Smyth can't return to practice until he is free of concussion symptoms. His shoulder is also partially separated but appears, at the moment, to be the least of his concerns.

I pray that Francois Giguere immediately provides some sort of offering to the hockey gods as it's quite apparent the organization has wronged them somehow.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Avalanche Crunch Kings 5-2

Or should I say Jack Johnson crunches Ryan Smyth. Preliminary reports have Smyth coherent and walking around before heading to the hospital for observation. It was a scary looking hit and I can't say I didn't want someone to hand Johnson his ass in a torn paper bag.

The Avalanche also lost Marek Svatos midway through the game as he took a push which sent him skidding awkwardly into the boards. The Avalanche scored on that play so that should help accelerate the healing process.

And that's all I have time to say as I'm off to bed to get some beauty sleep before I play at least 3 straight volleyball games tomorrow morning. If I'm not ridiculously exhausted, I might add to this tomorrow afternoon but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Smyth in the Lineup Tomorrow but Clark...Not So Much

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Two things became official today, one good and one bad. Of course since we're talking about the Avalanche, that means some injury updates!

Ryan Smyth will be in the lineup for tomorrow's game against St. Louis. That absolutely blows me away. lately I tend to tack on a couple weeks padding to the announced return dates but they got this one right so I'll tone back my slagging of the medical crew a bit.

And in the bad news, it is a dislocated shoulder for Brett Clark and he is out indefinitely. Regardless of whether people think Clark is a top-notch defenceman, he is needed on the Avalanache blue line. The oft-scratched Skrastins will become a regular in the lineup while both Clark and Cumiskey are on the IR.

Also, in what might put an end to the "Q for Adams" folks, when talking about Brett Clark's injury he stated:
"Guys have gotten through it...It’s up to that crew to continue to do the same."

There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. The players pick up the slack when others go down to injury, not the coach.

Related Links
Denver Post Report

Monday, February 11, 2008

Smyth, Sakic and Stastny Strap on Skates

The alliteration in that headline is almost too much to bear but I'm guessing nobody will complain!

Yes, Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny were all on the ice today with Smyth and Stastny participating in the practice - with contact - and Sakic doing some light skating before the practice started.

Paul Stastny is still listed as questionable for Tuesday's game against Anaheim but Smyth might be back with the team for Sunday's game in Chicago.

If I hear hear a church choir singing "Glory, glory, hallelujah" in my head, is that blasphemous in any way?

Related Links Rink Report

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Prognosis "Oh wait, it *is* broken"

Hot on the heels of what is being called the worst loss of the season, the Avalanche received some fun news about Ryan Smyth.

After initially saying Smyth's ankle troubles were merely a bad sprain, the medical team did some more tests, including an MRI, and discovered that his ankle is actually broken.

Thanks for getting our hopes up again guys. Can there not be conclusive testing done before announcing anything? We had the same stuff with Sakic and Sauer already this year.

Or maybe if your last name starts with "S" it's harder to diagnose properly.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Smyth Awaiting Prognosis on Ankle

Holy hannabel! I didn't catch this while watching the game but saw a link from Kukla's Korner while doing my morning duties. Apparently Ryan Smyth injured his ankle and needed assistance from teammates to make it to the dressing room. Early indications are not good at this time.

If this team loses Sakic and Smyth, that's a huge blow as I'm sure everyone is aware. Keep your fingers crossed people.

As Paul points out, if Smyth is out for a length of time, it could force Giguere to make a move

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings

Christmas is over and it's time to put away the sugarplums and fairies and settle into some good ol' hockey action. Well, hockey never really went too far away is at was only a 2 day break before the NHL, and more importantly the World Juniors, kicked off again.

As a brief sidetrack, Canada is 2-0 so far and have allowed a grand total of zero goals as they claimed their 19th and 20th straight wins in World Junior competition. They didn't look overly sharp against Slovakia this morning but as long as they don't let any goals in, they've got a good chance of winning each game.

Well, tonight the rivalry gets renewed as it typically does around this time of the year. The Wings are back in town to face off against longtime nemesis Colorado Avalanche and I gotta say, it just doesn't feel the same as it used to.

Nonetheless, it should be a good game. The Avalanche are streaking hard at the moment, cruising to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games. The Red Wings haven't let up on the gas yet this year and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 with a league leading 57 points.

The Wings have only been defeated 7 times so far this season with 5 of those losses coming on the road. The Avalanche are of course a superb team at home with the 2nd best record in the league at the moment. Just slightly behind Detroit. Man this is almost getting depressing to write.

The Avalanche should get a boost today as Ryan Smyth is expected to return and Brad Richardson and Jordan Leopold are possibles at the moment. Well, it may not be a boost given the way the team has gelled the last few games but putting the RPM line back together shouldn't hurt.

Joe Sakic will miss this game as well as he continues to recover from his minor groin injury. Minor. The man hasn't played since November 30th so this is likely causing folks to start getting a bit antsy about the captains health.

And speaking of captains, Nik Lidstrom is fresh off the heels of a contract extension which will keep him with the Wings through the 09-10 season. He's going to make slightly less on the extension, worth $7.45M per season, than he does currently with his $7.6M salary.

Dominik Hasek gets the start in goal tonight and it should be Peter Budaj at the other end of the rink. With Tomas Holmstrom having knee troubles, Budaj shouldn't have too bad of a night. At least in terms of having a giant ass in your face. Henrik Zetterberg is not expected to play either.

The game gets underway at 9:08 ET and I'll be watching via the Altitude HD feed tonight. I can hardly watch games not in HD anymore.

Related Links
Smyth ready for taste of Red Wings rivalry
Measuring Stick Time
Dater's Latest Mailbag
On the Wings Blog Gameday

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Budaj In Against Rangers, Injury Updates

My optimism paid off and Peter Budaj is being rewarded for his hard work with a fifth straight start tomorrow night against the Rangers.

“He looks quick. He’s anticipating well and his rebound control has been very efficient,” said Quenneville. “He’s following the puck, tracking it very well.”

It's about time that one of the goaltenders went on a run like this AND Q stuck with them during that run.

In sour news, Joe Sakic is still not skating and Ryan Smyth is doubtful for tomorrow games. I hope the "neck injury" here is not like Sauer's where they suddenly realized he had a concussion.

Related Links Practice Report

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Avalanche Dethrone Kings 4-2

(AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Ok, I'm not sure what throne the Kings were sitting on but I felt like a cheeky headline today. The Avalanche pulled off their third straight win, and more importantly their second straight road win, with a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings last night.

The game got off to an impressive start as the Avalanche pulled off two quick goals by Ryan Smyth - a rare road PP goal - and Jaroslav Hlinka while the ice was still wet. It prompted Crawford to call a quick timeout and if my lip reading is any good, I believe he said "They must pay the price!"

The Avalanche kept the pressure on though and went up by 3 before the period was out when Paul Stastny poked home a rebound in the crease. Milan Hejduk was given about 10 years to circle around the net and take a shot. Labarbera, or Barbs as I like to call him, couldn't hang on to the puck and Stastny was there like a vulture to poke it home.

The third period kicked off with the Avs still up 3-0 and you just felt that little sense of dread. Sure enough, just 36 seconds in Dustin Brown tipped home a Rob Blake point shot to get the Kings back in it early.

Then, just over 4 minutes later Michael Handzus broke down the wing while shorthanded and fired a wrist shot past Budaj. It was the type of goal that a lot of people would have filleted Theodore over if he had given it up. In the post-game comments, Budaj said he felt Handzus fanned on it a bit as the puck wasn't flat and usually Handzus goes low blocker. Usually but not this time Peter.

That's not to take anything away from another solid performance by Peter Budaj. He terribly busy facing just 21 shots but made some decent saves including some in close plays where his composure seems light years ahead of Theodore's.

After the brief scare, the Avalanche settled down and, after an empty netter by Ben guite, walked away from the Staples Center as the Northwest Division leaders. If only by 1 point.

EDIT: After fully reading the Inside the Kings entry, I found it quite amusing how similar their thoughts echoed most Avalanche fans thought not too long ago:
"The talent is forced to play a system they're not capable of playing."
"If you fire Crawford, who replaces him?"
"Why do I continue to watch?"

Fear not Kings fans, you're not alone. But quite calling for retribution on Smyth. Last time that happened with Crow behind the bench, it wasn't pretty.

- a couple Kings players took pseudo-runs at Smyth but nothing serious
- Jack Johnson managed a couple elbows as he challenges Phaneuf for the Cheap Hit Artist of the Year award
- there was a smattering of "We Love Lappy" signs which shows just how much Laperriere means to the teams he plays for
- I hate Pacific Division games as they don't end until midnight

Brett Clark logged 28:24 in ice-time which is a bit surprising given that they're running with 7 defensemen. The speed demon Kyle Cumiskey was limited to just 9:33 last night and Jordan Leopold had a game low 8:37 for the Avalanche.

Scott Hannan was +2 on the night as he starts trying to dig himself out of +/- hell. Brett Clark was also +2, Liles and Skrastins were +1, Finger was even and Cumiskey and Leopold were -1. Tonight the +/- stats were closely correlated with ice-time for defensemen.

Shots were in abundance for the Avalanche tonight as they fired 40 shots at Labarbera. Wolski led the way with 6 while Smyth, Guite and Hejduk each had 5 as those four combined for over half the shots.

Related Links Event Summary Recap
TSN Recap
Inside the Kings Recap

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gameday: Avalanche vs Predators

It's Saturday and it's time for some hockey! I'm not a morning person at all but waking up on a nice winter morning with just a bit of snow on the ground and a slight chill in the air (it's only -12°C today) puts me in a good mood. Of course there's the general Christmas cheer in the air these days as well.

But enough sappy junk, let's get down to tonight's game against the Nashville Predators. After a near-shutout victory over the Predators on Thursday, the Avalanche will look to make it a clean sweep of this home and home matchup against the Preds.

Thursday saw a solid performance from all sides for the Avalanche. The offense, while not generating a lot of goals, was still there getting chances, the defense was solid under the pressure Nashville was putting on them and Peter Budaj stood tall in goal when he needed to.

"I thought it was a very complete game," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said about the win.

In regards to Budaj, "He was very competitive. It is nice to see him get a win." said Quenneville. Competitive. That's definitely one word to describe the difference between Theodore and Budaj's play.

With Joe Sakic still out nursing a groin injury, Ryan Smyth has stepped up to help lead the club, tallying 8 points in the last 5 games. Tyler Arnason is still having wrist troubles and is not going to play tonight either. I'm not happy he's hurt but I am glad he's out of the lineup for a couple games. Kurt Sauer is still out with a neck injury.

I haven't seen any mention of going with 7 D again tonight or not. It worked last game but I wouldn't be surprised to see Hensick back in with one of the D being a healthy scratch. It would likely be Liles or Cumiskey at this point. Skrastins still hasn't impressed me much this season but as DD points out in his recap, Skrastins ice-time has been increasing so it's unlikely that he would sit.

Oh, and Budaj is probably starting though it's not official as far as I know. Hell, Budaj and Theodore probably don't even know yet.

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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 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
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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!

- 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

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 Event Summary Recap Recap
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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Avalanche Finally Win One on the Road

The Avalanche pulled off a 5-2 victory over the Kings last night and I wasn't able to watch it. Well, I was "able" to watch it. I just forgot to record it. Last night was our staff Christmas party and while I was playing the British cop from Austin Powers during our dance routine (seriously) the Avalanche were busy beating a team that they should beat. The iPod nano everyone received at the end of the night made it all worthwhile.

It appears, based on other articles, that the Avalanche got themselves into a bit of a hole early on, falling behind 2-0 on a couple turnovers. I can only imagine what was going through people's minds at that point. However the Avs scored 5 unanswered goals, including T.J. Hensick's first NHL goal, to produce another come from behind win.

Ryan Smyth scored a couple Ryan Smyth style goals. He bounced one in off Labarbera's skate and got another one a wraparound after having his helmet knocked off. He also knocked Labarbera out of the game with a rib injury. While Labarbera was down, Smyth went fishing for the puck and broke his stick on Labarbera's ribs. Ouch. I guess even with all the padding they have, there's still a few open spots on goaltenders these days.

Joe Sakic missed the game with a groin injury as did Marek Svatos. Kurt Sauer was out with a neck injury, paving the way for Karlis Skrastins to return to the lineup. And to top it all off, Andrew Brunette was on the ice for just 4 minutes when he had to leave due to the flu. Yowzah. I wouldn't call the lineup "decimated" but that's a lot of injuries/illnesses.

DD has the lines up and we can give each other virtual high-fives on one of the line combos. Which one? Well you'll have to go check out his recap to find out!

Oh, and the Senators lost again yesterday. What's up with that?

Brett Clark was the ice-time leader with 23:14. Jeff Finger had big numbers with 22:48 spent on the ice. Smyth, Hejduk and Stastny had big numbers with about 22 minutes each with both Sakic and Brunette being out.

Smyth had a 3-point night with 1 goal and 2 assists, Stastny had a goal and an assist and Scott Hannan had 2 assists on the night. Hey look, Stastny can score on the road. As long as the team is playing half decent that is.

Cody McCormick laid out 5 hits on the night in just 11 minutes of ice-time. Liles blocked 5 shots, Hannan blocked 4 and Skrastins blocked 3 on the night. Jaroslav Hlinka even had 2 blocked shots.

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In the Cheap Seats Recap
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Avalanche Slide by Oilers; Win 4-2

(AP Photo/John Ulan)
Well, the ovation Ryan Smyth received was classy and sustained but not terribly boisterous. After the video tribute, the fans cheered for about 30 seconds and from that point on, Smyth was the enemy. During the tribute and ovation, Smyth and his wife were both leaking some strange, salty discharge from their eye area.

The RPM line of Smyth, Stastny and Svatos was the starting lineup. I guess Q wanted Smyth to get his jitters out early. Smyth started getting the Pronger treatment, though much more subdued. I've got no problems at all with the way the Oilers fans and management treated Smyth tonight. And I'm sure that means the world to all of them.

First Period
The Avalanche got a powerplay opportunity early but couldn't really do much. They gave up the usual 2-on-1 opportunity which thankfully didn't lead to a goal. Svatos had a breakaway chance but was denied going five-hole by Roloson.

At 9:44, the Avalanche got on the board first. Arnason and Lappy broke in on a 2-on-1, Arnason held on then wired a snap shot from the middle of the slot. It went to the far corner above Roloson's glove and the Avalanche have an early lead on the road. Has the world stopped turning? Or hell frozen over? Ok, just checking.

The top line of the Avalanche put on a great shift a couple minutes later but were punished for it. The Avalanche D got caught a little deep, Sam Gagner sprang Cogliano who deftly dodged a Clark hipcheck and fed Dustin Penner who made no mistake on his second goal of the season. No chance for Budaj on that one unless he develops Go-Go-Gadget legs.

The Avalanche didn't put up with that for long though. Q sent out Guite, Arnason and Hlinka and they cashed in 24 seconds after the Oiler goal. Liles took a shot from the point - yes! - and Hlinka buried the rebound in front. That's how you make the best of your opportunities.

Mathieu Roy then laid a big hit on Lappy and held on to him a second too long. Lappy had enough and dropped the gloves. Roy got Lappy's head off right away and got couple shots. Lappy then did the same and took Roy down. Lappy wins that one due to the takedown but it was even otherwise.

Another Avalanche powerplay, another shorthanded chance given up. This is getting real old, real fast. Again, the opposition had the best scoring chance on an Avalanche powerplay.

The Avalanche then got one late to go up by two. Finger took a shot from the point - yes! - and Wolski poked the rebound home after a brief scramble where it looked like Roloson had covered up the puck.

Second Period
The Avalanche got another powerplay chance. And gave up another 2-on-1 opportunity. This time it wasn't Liles that caused it and he made a decent defensive play to break it up. The powerplay unit looks anemic tonight.

Wolski then took the Avalanche's first penalty on a weird call. Sure, his stick was between the guys legs but he didn't trip him. The refs called him for a hold. I guess because he had trapped the guys stick from behind...or something. The PK unit did a good job of killing it off.

The period, a boring one might I add, ended just as it began with a 3-1 lead for the Avalanche.

Third Period
Well this one was dominated by the Oilers. They spent more time in the Avalanche zone than a 12-year old video game freak spent playing Halo 3 when it came out. Cogliano, Gagner and Penner were making fools of the Avalanche defenders for a goodly portion of this period. Thankfully, the Avalanche defenders were not complete fools as they kept the puck from getting to dangerous areas for the most part.

At 10:45 of the third, the Oilers were finally able to get another one past Budaj. Penner knocked Leopold off the puck in the corner, Gagner picked up, moved around Leopold to the front and lost the puck. The lost puck skidded through the slot past 3 Avalanche defenders and onto Tom Gilbert's stick. One second later it was in the back of the net and Oil were within one.

The first line then tried to settle things down and put in some good shifts. The second line also came on and Smyth got a couple chances. Ales Hemsky then took a late penalty with only 2:07 left to go while in the Avalanche zone. It was a bit of a weak call, but a call that's been made all season long.

Scott Hannan decided the game lacked drama so with just 52 seconds left, he took a holding penalty to give us some 4-on-4 hockey. Once the Oilers regained the Avalanche zone, Roloson headed to the bench and it was a powerplay for the Oilers. Thankfully, the Avalanche got the puck out of the zone and Guite fed the puck to Clark for the empty netter to seal the deal.

Hannan and Sauer led the Avs in ice-time with 23:52 and 22:05 respectively. Smyth was next with 21:25. Cumiskey got in 7 minutes and Leopold was held to just over 11 minutes. Clark had a more reasonable 19:27 in ice-time and played a good game.

Leopold managed to be on the ice for both Oiler goals.

Liles led the team with 3 blocked shots. He also gave up most of the 2-on-1 opportunities on the powerplay but who's counting.

Raffi Torres dished out 6 hits, more than the Avalanche's 4 combined hits. I caught more than 4 hits by Avalanche players though. Stupid subjective stats. What an oxymoron, eh?

Arnason won 67% of his faceoffs. Color me surprised. Smith was only 2 for 7 while Hlinka and Guite were both 0 for 3.

Odds and Ends
- Cumiskey was in tonight as the Avs dressed 7 defencemen
- Finger CRUSHED Gagner behind the Avalanche net in the first
- Ben Guite's dad played for the Nordiques apparently (so the TSN announcers said)
- Hannan-Sauer is much better and more intimidating than Hannan-Clark
- Budaj made some big saves even if they didn't look too flashy
- the Avs are the worst faceoff team in league
- Smyth had a few chances but came away with no points on the night

The Good
- first road win
- not needing to come back
- first line was a force tonight

The Bad
- powerplay unit
- getting dominated in third

The Ugly
- Smyth's wife (just kidding, she's hot!)

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