Thursday, May 1, 2008

Playoff Gameday: Avalanche vs Red Wings - Game 4

Could this be it for the Avalanche team and fans this season? Will tonight's game end in the agony of a sweep at the hands of the team's "bitter rivals", the Detroit Red Wings?

I will boldy say "No!"

I was off most of the afternoon giving a talk at the U of S to get high school students interested in the tech world - and believe me there's lots to be interested in - which left me a bit behind on my actual work.

So I don't think I'll be saying much other than:
Stastny - out
Smyth - out
Wolski - out
Forsberg - out
Svatos - out
Clark - out

Is there anyone left to suit up?

And finally, I will not allow myself to believe this is Joe Sakic's final year.

So this isn't much in terms of a preview from me. Fortunately the Avalanche fan base are blessed with a great group of bloggers who have put out some amazing posts today which should keep you reading until game time. And not only amazing posts, but some pretty clever titles.

So I'll encourage everyone to check out their words and make sure to clear a 3-hour timeslot from 9:30 ET to 12:30 EDT. The game doesn't start until 10:00 EDT but use the first 30 minutes to align the beer and chips on the coffee table, put the kids to bed (if applicable) and settle into a nice ass-groove in your favorite chair/couch.

From that point on, cheer like hell and help will this team to a victory tonight. Because nothing hurts worse than getting swept.

Related Links Preview
TSN Preview
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O Captain! My Captain
On effort
Peter Forsberg out for Game 4'
Theodore's goal: Playing for pride
MHH Gameday Open Thread
On the Wings Preview

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

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
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Theodore was astonishing, mythical (whoa, hyperbole much?)
Do good things...
Wolski has grown up

Friday, March 21, 2008

Out and In and Out and In...the Merry-Go-Round Continues

Peter Forsberg and Paul Stastny are back on the ice, but Forsberg is questionable to play tomorrow, while Adam Foote is back in Denver to evaluate his hip. It's odd that a player who has a sore groin/hip would get inserted into the lineup, play 20 minutes and then sit out the next set of games due to another sore groin/hip. It's inconceivable! Hell, it's enough to drive fans crazy.

Too bad the Avs have such an overabundance of capable players or I might have headed to Denver with this sign.

And what is actually injured with Forsberg? He tells reporters the foot/ankle are fine, it's just a sore groin. Then Sakic says "His ankle's sore..." Who to believe?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche @ Oilers

(AP Photo/Roy Dabnor)
It's one of them there "critical Northwest division matchups" tonight as the Avalanche steamroll into Edmonton. Ok, steamroll might not be the right word. How about...limp?

In the month of February the team is 4-5-2 and have dropped down to 9th in the Western conference, 4 points back of Nashville for the 8th and final playoff spot. If the team wants to avoid another 15-2-2 run only to miss the playoffs again, they better start playing well above .500.

Stastny's Return!
Paul Stastny made a triumphant return against the Coyotes as he scored the teams first goal on a great individual effort. If that wasn't taken as a message to the team about how to play hockey, they obviously aren't listening.

He didn't show up in the shootout until the 4th attempt as Q opted to go with Hensick over Stastny as the 3rd shooter. I can't even begin to fathom the reason for that choice. Of course I have no idea why David Jones took a shot before Liles or even Cumiskey but what do I know, I'm not a possible Jack Adams candidate, right?

Sakic's Return?
The cautiously optimistic news which would bolster the club is that Joe Sakic is highly likely to play tonight in Edmonton. Of course the club doesn't want to rush him so I wouldn't be disappointed if he didn't play, but after watching his heroics in the 2002 Gold medal game this morning, I'm really itching to see him back on the ice.

UPDATE: Joe Sakic is 99.99% probable to play tonight after being activated this afternoon.

Starting Goaltender
Jose Theodore will get the start in goal after helping the team win a marathon shootout against Phoenix on Friday. I kept that one recorded and watched the shootout again yesterday when I was bored. That doesn't mean I agree with the use of a shootout to decide an extra point, but you've got to admit...they can be exciting.

Mathieu Garon will be in net at the other end while Dwayne Roloson continues to ride the pine. The Oilers had a mini-controversy earlier this week when the media reported that Dwayne Roloson wanted out of the city and had moved his family to Ontario. Roloson quickly clarified the comment stating that he has not asked for a trade and his family moved because of the travel schedule the Oilers have remaining. Ah, to play for an NHL team in Canada. You can't break wind without a reporter dreaming up a way to spin it as you asking for a trade or being unhappy with the coach.

I believe Jeff Finger is still out of the lineup with a hand injury so Skrastins will find himself in the lineup again. The team is already missing Brett Clark, much the chagrin of the Brett Clark haters, and losing Finger does not help in the least. Shot blocks and physicality are cornerstones of solid defence and the team is absent their top player in both categories. It looks like some players *cough*Hannan*cough* will need to step it up a couple notches.

Game time
The Avalanche have had the Oilers number so far this year and I see no reason that won't continue even with their recent struggles. The puck drops at 8:00pm ET and I get to watch on the Sportsnet feed. Joy of joys.

Related Links Preview
Smyth's return still emotional
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stastny to Return Against Coyotes

Source: Rocky Mountain News

Of course, this assumes he doesn't wake up tomorrow with a concussion.

Oh, and Theodore is in goal but apparently that was the plan all along based on a report from a fan who attended practice on Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stastny Not Suiting Up

Stop the organs and send the choir back home. The Denver Post is reporting that Paul Stastny is now bothered by a groin injury. Does this team have issues with stretching or something? Do they need to introduce some pilates to their training regiment?

Maybe the team just needs new trainers who can tell the difference between a broken and sprained ankle. Or whether hernia surgery has successfully healed or not. And could help prevent recurrence of groin injuries.

EDIT: I was just looking at the Avs roster page and Cody McCormick is listed as being on the IR. I'm going to assume it's a mistake at the moment as I've seen no news about him being injured. He was in the lineup against Vancouver putting in about 10 minutes of ice-time.

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

Friday, February 8, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche @ Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks host our beloved Avalanche tonight in game #3 of CBC's Hockey Day in Canada. That's right, an entire day dedicated to the glorious sport of hockey. Given that it's -31°C here - without the windchill - I just might cozy up on the couch and watch every minute of it.

The first game has the unbeloved Wings heading to Toronto for an Original Six matchup followed by a battle of Northeast division rivals as the Montreal Canadiens head to Ottawa. That should be an intense game as Montreal is making a push to take over 1st place in that division.

And finally, the Avalanche are in Vancouver for a game which doesn't start until 10:00PM ET and you know what the means. Yep, lots of Avalanche fans falling asleep before the final buzzer has sounded. Thank goodness for PVRs.

Paul Stastny was tentatively set to return tonight but Adrian Dater provided an update where he thinks the chances of Stastny being in the lineup tonight are pretty slim. So it could be another case of us getting our hopes up only to have them punctured like a cheap bike tire on a gravel road.

Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth are inching closer and closer to returns as well. At least based on the "no news is good news" theory. Dater has a piece up talking about the blasphemous thought of this injury ending Sakic's career. The longer he has to sit out, the more retirement thoughts will pop into his head so I hope he's ready to go soon. The ice sheet is calling you, Joe!

Jose Theodore is back between the pipes after a win against the Sharks on Wednesday. I still find it hard to believe that Q has chosen a #1 this early in the season. And yes, I said "early" even though the season is almost 3/4 over.

A long time ago I went searching for an Avalanche podcast. You know, back when podcasts first started appearing and became the new sliced bread of the Internet. The one I did find was unfortunately a little disappointing and I never went searching for one again.

But a couple days ago, one came calling. A fellow named Jay Vean left a comment on my Remembering a Tragedy post which pointed me over to his site. So I checked it out and I have to tell you, I loved it.

It sounds and feels professionally produced and Mr. Vean has a voice made for radio, that's for sure. I highly encourage you to subscribe to it via iTunes or whatever podcast software you use.

Related Links
Remembering a Tragedy
Avs Hockey Podcast
The Return of Foppa
Dater's Mailbag
Finishing First as Good Guy
TSN Gameday

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stastny Returning Soon; Theodore Returning Now

The Avalanche are soon to get one of their stars back from the IR list. Paul Stastny skated for a full practice today and should join the team on their upcoming road trip against San Jose and Vancouver.

This is just terrible news. I mean, how many more players can the Avalanche afford to...oh sorry, that was just a kneejerk reflex there. Having Stastny, the teams leading scorer, back in the lineup is nothing but good news. Hell, it's amazing news. It's the best news I've heard since I found out Raine Maida was coming to town.

Sure, other players are stepping up but when you lose your leading scorer, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that it's a huge blow no matter how the players slice it to the media.

JM Liles showed confidence in the current lineup in not needing to rush Stastny back and displayed some extreme confidence in the team's playoff hopes:

“We have to make sure he’s healthy and that there’s not any lingering effects so we can have him for the stretch run and the playoffs.”

No quantifiers or qualifiers there. It's playoffs or bust!

In other news from today's practice, Joel Quenneville stated that Jose Theodore will get the start against San Jose on Wednesday night. I'm sure this will start another round of "OMG! Theo teh suxorz/r0xorz!" across Internet forums which is always good for a chuckle.

In the end, aside from a stellar performance against the Red Wings, Budaj looked ok in his other two starts and if we want Quenneville to stick with one guy then going back to Theodore is the right choice.

On paper.

Related Links
Tuesday's Rink Report

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Avalanche Snubbed at the Oscars

Adrian Dater has informed us that the Colorado Avalanche will not have a representative at the NHL AllStar game in Atlanta this year after Paul Stastny went down to appendicitis. Let me be among those who may be saying "Meh"

I think the idea of having a player from every team on the roster reeks of the whole "Everybody's a winner!" motto that permeates our culture these days. If a team has no bonafide superstars on their roster, why reward a lesser player just to represent the team?

The only person you could make a slight argument for would be Marek Svatos. And man would it be slight. Yes, he's got 20 goals. He's also got 3 assists and just doesn't have the same qualities that players such as Lecavalier and Iginla have.

Lecavalier will turn you inside out then hang the goalies jock up in the rafters before potting a goal. Marek Svatos will pounce on a rebound in the crease. See the difference?

No Avalanche players made it this year and no healthy Avalanche deserves to go either.

Related Links
Avs Get the Shaft

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gameday: Avalanche vs Blackhawks

After a successful 5-game roadtrip, the Avalanche are now back in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center to kick off a 5-game homestand starting with the Chicago Blackhawks. With a 16-6-0 home record, that's nothing but good news for a team fighting for a playoff spot.

The bad news? Well, in case you hadn't heard, Paul Stastny has joined Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic on the injured reserve list for at least 2 weeks after undergoing an appendectomy yesterday afternoon.

The Lineup
So both top-line centers are down and out meaning somebody is going to have step in to fill the void. That someone will most likely be Jaroslav Hlinka. Although he has spent time down on the fourth line the last couple games, it's not due to lack of talent.

He was lighting it up on the second line before Tyler Arnason came back from wrist surgery so the ability is definitely there. And given that our other centers are Tyler "What Defense?" Arnason, T.J. "Up and Down" Hensick and Ben "Banger" Guite, Hlinka gets the nod almost by default.

As for how things fill in around Hlinka, it likely won't change too much. Wolski-Arnason-Svatos have played well together so Hlinka may just slide in with Brunette and Hejduk and Hensick will then take Hlinka's place on the fourth line.

To me that seems easiest but you never know. The game could open up with Hlinka centering a line with Scott Parker and Johnny Boychuk.

The Goaltending
Jose Theodore gets his 7th straight start tonight as Joel Quenneville has shown no signs of wavering lately. And with a goaltender coming off a 30+ save shutout with a couple days rest in between it would seem a no-brainer that he'd get the start again.

Patrick Lalime will be manning the pipes at the other end as Chicago is having some troubles from their mutli-million dollar goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin. On a 0-6-1 run, it's a situation that I'm sure all Avalanche fans can sympathize with.

The Opponent
The Blackhawks are on a terrible downward spiral going 2-6-2 in their last 10, falling to 14th in the Western Conference.

They recently picked up Craig Adams from the Carolina Hurricanes to inject some veteran presence into a young squad. They also signed Patrick Sharp, their leading goal scorer, to a 4-year extension as he's having a banner season with 22 goals in 44 games. That's 2 more than the career high 20 he put up last season.

And speaking of youth, 19-year old Patrick Kane leads the team in points with 43 as he defies critics who thought he was too small to play at the pro level. At just 163 pounds, it's not hard to see why that was the consensus. I'm curious to see what his second season will be like once teams really start keying in on him.

Related Links Preview
Injured Sauer Receives Some Good News
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Third Man In Preview (Hawks blog)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Paul Stastny Out 2-3 Weeks

Sweet mother of pearl, what have the Avalanche done to deserve this?

With Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth already out with injuries, Paul Stastny has joined them after having his appendix removed this afternoon.

I'm a bit shell-shocked at the moment and don't have much more to say other than "Son of a *!*&#"

Related Links Report

Friday, January 11, 2008

Guess Who's Going to the All-Star Game

Back in my home town there was a big sign with a photo of a gap-toothed hockey player with a caption below it which said "Guess who ain't going to the Stanley Cup?"

It was a sign for the local beer league hockey team, the Benos, and I always felt like that sign defined our little hockey rink for whatever reason.

Why does that matter whatsoever to the Colorado Avalanche? Well, this team has their own gap-toothed leader and if they put a picture of him up at the rink, the caption below him would read "Guess who is going to the All-Star game!"

That's right, despite entering a brutal slump over the last dozen games, Paul Stastny will be skating alongside the league's best in Atlanta on January 27th.

Names such as Joe Thornton, Niklas Lidstrom and Sergei Zubov will be Paul Stastny's teammates for one night. It's even a possibility that he could skate on a line with a couple arch-rival *cough, cough* Red Wings in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk at some point.

So after being snubbed in the YoungStars game last year, he's getting his due this year and it's well deserved.

Despite only having 5 points in his last 14 games, he's still averaging a point per game as he puts in over 20 minutes of ice-time each night including time on both the powerplay and penalty kill.

He may be stretched thin with the absence of Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth but it's amazing how complete a player he is at such a young age.

Related Links
Stastny Follows in Father's Skates
Western Conference All-Star Roster
Eastern Conference All-Star Roster
T.J. Hensick Earns AHL All-Star Nod

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
TSN Gameday Preview
Sakic Will Skate This Week

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Avalanche Defeat Blues in 9-5 Goal Extravaganza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The period ends with the Blues on the PP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- 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
In the Cheap Seats Game Notes

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.

Related Links
In the Cheap Seats Recap
TSN Recap Recap
Denver Post Recap

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Avalanche Reclaim First Place with 3-2 Win Over Oilers

Well it's about time! It was a must-win game as the Avalanche could not afford coming off a 4 game roadtrip with 0 points to show for it.

The game was an improvement on offense and defense. They scored as many goals as they had in the 3 previous games, and allowed a mere 2 goals against in a solid road effort.

Sure, it was against the Oilers but they've been playing half-decent lately.

First Period
The Avalanche seemed to come out with a bit more jump than in previous games. They manufactured a good scoring chance around the 2:30 mark with the Wolski-Stastny-Svatos line which was flying pretty good most of the night.

The Avalanche got the first powerplay of the game it it...didn't amount to much. Brett Clark made a great block at one point. Unfortunately you shouldn't be blocking shots while on the powerplay. Arnason actually had a decent chance but fired it wide.

Karlis Skrastins, in his second game back, then jumped on a loose puck and fired a - horror of horrors! - slapshot from just inside the blueline. It found its way under Garon's pad and the Avs had an early lead on the road. That's the way to start a hockey game!

The Oil then got a chance on the powerplay as well as McCormick sat in the box for hooking. Unfortunately for them, Sam Gagner negated the powerplay with his own hooking call. After some 4-on-4 action, the Avs had a brief powerplay which amounted to nothing.

Ales Hemsky then did his magic as he screamed past Scott Hannan then forced Kurt Sauer to maul him and take a penalty. The Avs killed that one off and were led right into another powerplay as Sakic sat off hooking.

The Sakic penalty had a much quicker and less desireable outcome. Shawn Horcoff was down low, real low, and was able to catch Budaj cheating a little bit and buried a shot through is five hole. Budaj's cheating was mostly in assuming that Horcoff was going to pass out front rather than shoot.

Second Period
The Avalanche got another early powerplay, then another, then another. Almost the entire first half of the period was spent with an Oiler in the box.

Luckily, the second PP led to a goal. It wasn't officially a PP goal but it might as well have been. John Liles took a shot from the point - holy crap! - which was going wide. However Milan Hejduk was off to the side and was able to deflect it past Garon for another Avalanche lead.

It didn't take long for the Oilers to respond, which is getting to be a central theme with the Avalanche. Hemsky and Horcoff played a pretty game of give-and-go and Hemsky drilled a one-timer past Budaj.

The change in this game though, the Avalanche fought back to re-take the lead. A turnover in the neutral zone led to a quick rush by Stastny, Wolski and Svatos. Stastny fed it to Svatos who got a skate, then a stick on it, to put it past Garon. There was a brief review but even the Oiler announcers were saying it was easily a goal.

4 penalties later - two per team - and the period was over with the Avalanche taking a 3-2 lead into the third and the Oilers mustering a measly 2 shots on goal.

Oh, and Torres and Finger had a 2 second fight with Finger landing a shot on the backswing, and Torres getting the takedown. Torres is the Oilers Dion Phaneuf for me. I just don't like the guy.

Third Period
The period got off to a rocky start but Peter Budaj made a huge save on Ales Hemsky to retain the one-goal lead. Hemsky was all alone at the side of the net and Budaj looked down and out but Hemsky couldn't bury the biscuit in the basket. Phew, what a terrible line to use. Oh well, they can't all be gems.

The teams trade powerplay opportunities with Horcoff going off for holding and Smith going off for slashing. It was more like "lumberjacking" on Smith's part as he took one heck of a chop to the arm of Horcoff (or was it Stoll?)

Joe Sakic then produced a scary moment as he tripped and fell awkwardly into the boards. He got up and went off the ice but was back for his next shift. Seemed to just lose an edge there but it was definitely not his most graceful moment.

Another Avs PP, yadda yadda. Finally that was the end of the Oilers penalties. They took 9 minor penalties over the course of the game and the Avs had 6. So after a run of games where neither team took many penalties, the Avalanche got involved in a penalty-fest. And it was not terribly fun to watch.

With about 1 minute left, Garon was pulled for the extra attacker. Brunette was almost able to capitalize right away. The Oilers then got the puck deep and took a timeout. After Mac T drew up the plays, the Oilers tried to convert. However it was no dice for them today and the Avs salvaged 2 out of a possible 8 points on their road trip.


Odds and Ends
- Joni Pitkananen was in the lineup for the Oilers
- Avalanche D was much more involved in the powerplay on both pinching and shooting
- Svatos needs to tighten his helmet, he's forever readjusting it during play
- Smyth and Horcoff has some nasty looking noses
- the 3 stars picked by the fans were Hemsky, Horcoff and Garon

Brett Clark had a monster night with 28:58 in ice-time. He looked better out there tonight than the last few nights though that could be said about most of the team. Hannan was next with 25:17. McCormick only saw 3:13 and Skrastins had a limited role with just over 9 minutes on the ice.

The defense accounted for 12 of the Avalanche's 31 shots tonight. That's what I like to see! Finger led the way with 4 shots. Up front, Hejduk fired 5 times while Arnason had 4 shots as well.

The Avalanche were solid in the circle again going 57% with Wyatt Smith winning 5 of 7 and Sakic winning 9 of 13 to lead the way. Shawn Horcoff took nearly half of the draws for the Oilers, winning 44% of them.

And on a sour note, the Avalanche were 0 for 8 on the PP tonight which leaves them at 0 for 20 on their roadtrip. Ouch.

On a happy note, somebody, somewhere, is glad you exist. Oh...and the Avalanche are 1st in the NW again. If that matters to you.

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