Friday, July 11, 2008

Puck Daddy Interviews Jose Theodore

Greg over at Puck Daddy just posted a great interview with Jose Theodore, seen to the right as Roberto Luongo's midget sidekick.

It's a fairly candid interview which I find characteristic of most of Jose's interviews. He never denied the struggles he had on the ice nor the off-ice troubles he got into - most notably with the Paris Hilton ordeal.

Sure, you can claim reporters tossed up softballs to him and never really "took him to task" but I don't believe that was ever necessary. If he had stood on the rooftops proclaiming: "I am a God amongst men and all shall bow before my goaltending prowess" - as some of his most ardent supporters do for him - then it would be a different story.

The one answer that will likely stand out to Avalanche fans is the response on whether Theodore felt he "owed" the Avalanche anything:
I owed them respect. They believed in me when things weren't going that well. If they thought it would have been a good idea to buy me out, they would have. But they didn't do that. They're a great organization, so I do owe them for getting me back on track. But I put the work into it also.
Amen to that. It wasn't just the Avalanche who stuck by Jose Theodore, Jose Theodore stuck by Jose Theodore too. And if it would have made sense for the team to buy him out, I have no doubt they would have done so. The Avalanche did it because they were trying to make the best of a tough situation and were lucky to have a guy who actively worked on his game rather than just collecting his paycheck.

I will admit it stuck in my proverbial craw when he said:
When I saw things weren't getting better with Cristobal, I knew there was going to be an opening. I didn't want to sign too quickly in Denver. I just waited for the spot, and that was my first choice.
But it only hurts that he felt Washington was a better choice than Colorado. Not that he owed it to Colorado to sign him with them but decided to bolt for Washington over a "measly" $2M.

In the end, the most controversial goaltender in the league is now another team's problem. I'm comfortable with that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Free Agency Final Thoughts

Well, I think that'll do it for the Avs today. They picked up Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker, both cast-offs from Toronto, and officially announced the signing of Per Ledin. So now we have to wait for a decision from Joe Sakic and the RFAs to truly see where this team stands for next season.

At the moment, the team is a slight bit weaker in goal for a much lighter price tag and have improved the toughness on their forward lines. If you count the signings of Liles and Foote yesterday as part of this, then the defense is solid and I would say within the top-10 in the NHL. Possibly top-5 if Liles wakes up and Leopold stays healthy.

Overall, I'm ok with how things went down today as I actually didn't expect any signings other than a backup goaltender. But it could have been better.

Tucker Train
Tucker, as much as I hate the guy, has a ton of heart and has some skill to go along with it. He can light the lamp while playing on the 3rd and 4th lines and he won't back down from battles in the corner. I absolutely love that style of play and that mindset so I hope it rubs off on some other players on the team. The one thing I hope doesn't rub off is his douchey behaviour at times. Being in Canada I get to catch a lot of Leafs action on CBC and must say that not many games go by where I don't shake my head and say "That f'n Tucker".

Raycroft Razing
As for Raycroft, I'm not terribly happy about the signing. But if he's going to play just 15 games and Budaj takes a step forward in his development, then the Avalanche will have a pretty good price to performance ratio in goal. Stephane Valiquette is still available as I type and I'm going to bemoan not signing him for the entire season. You've been warned ;)

Cutting the losses
So that's what the team has gained. But what did they lose? Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer, Jose Theodore and Andrew Brunette have all moved on as was expected. I'm ok with Sauer going. He had good moments but had some terrible moments as well. If you count either Foote or Salei as his replacement, it's an upgrade. Finger got paid way too much by Toronto so now I'm happy to see him go. Theodore got paid too much as well but then again, he was one of two goaltenders with some solid abilities on a thin market. And Bruno...oh Bruno. I will miss you. However I think letting him go was the right move for the team.

But what about X?
But what about Brian Rolston? Or Brian Campbell? Or Mats Sundin? Or Marian Hossa? All those big names are still in play so why aren't the Avalanche after them? The damn cap, that's why. And also, those players are going to be so overpaid it won't even be funny. Sundin has a 2-year, $20M offer from Vancouver while Rolston turned down a $4.5M per year offer from Tampa.

Cap snap
That leaves the Avalanche with a cap hit of $42.6M (thanks to for the quick updates!) which leaves $14M to spend on Sakic, Wolski and Svatos. If you think that Sakic signs for $5.5M, Wolski gets $3.5M and Svatos gets $2M, that leaves just $2.5M left to finish off the other RFAs (Weiman, Wall, McCormick and McLeod). So money isn't free flowing for the team by any means. And if Peter Forsberg decides to come back, money will need to be freed up.

That's why Giguere let guys like Theodore, Finger and Sauer go and got a bottom-dollar backup option and a reasonably priced Tucker. It was some pretty solid moves for what the organization was looking for and what they had the flexibility to work with cap-wise.

To quickly sum it up:

Darcy Tucker (2 years, $2.25M per)
Andrew Raycroft (1 year, $800,000)
Per Ledin (1 year, unsure of number)

Jose Theodore (signed for 2 years, $4.5M per)
Andrew Brunette (signed for 3 years, $7M per)
Jeff Finger (signed for 4 years, $3.5M per)
Kurt Sauer (signed for 4 years, $1.75M per)

Cap Hit: $42M
Cap Space: $14M

Remaining U/RFAs: Joe Sakic, Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos, Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod, Tyler Weiman, Michael Wall.

EDIT: Angelique reports that Tyler Weiman was not extended a qualifying offer so he's an unrestricted free agent. That's too bad as I was pretty stoked to have a Saskatoon kid playing for the team.

Remaining Roster Slots: ~5 forwards, ~1 defencemen, 0 goaltenders.

So what are your thoughts? Are the Avs better, worse or did they just toe the line? Weigh in on the poll or via comments.

Jose Theodore Signs with Washington

Jose Theodore has signed with the Washington Capitals. No more shall we see his flowing locks gracefully move as he follows the action from the bench. Nor will we be subject to him showing his true capabilities before foolishly deciding to play hockey in 50 pounds of equipment after not eating anything for 24 hours.

In all seriousness though, I believe Theodore is a decent guy and wish him well with Washington.

EDIT: It's a 2-year deal with terms not disclosed. Good call on the Caps part to not sign him long-term.

EDIT 2: Sportsnet reports it as $4.5M per year. Good luck to Washington because I'd like that franchise to do well but...boy, that's a lot of cash for Theo.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Report: Theodore to test the free agent frenzy

Just as I was about to leave for a day of touring San Francisco I thought I'd check my feeds one more time. I must have had a premonition as Adrian Dater just put up a quick post on his blog that talks between Theodore and the Avalanche appear to have broken down. So it looks as if Jose Theodore will test the free agent market come July 1.

So at the moment, it looks as if Peter Budaj will come into training camp with the #1 status and Tyler Weiman and Jason Bacashihua will battle for the backup position. I don't see FG taking a chance on some of the available goaltenders such as Ray Emery or Marc Denis. Of course Denis does have ties to the Avalanche but how many trouble cases does this organization need to take on at this position?

I, as am sure many others are, am curious for both what the Avalanche offered and what Theodore and his agent, Don Meehan, think they're going to get. He may have bolstered his status somewhat in the last half of the season but that doesn't wipe out the two seasons before that where he was less than mediocre.

Related Links
Theodore about to test free agency

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

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
19 Reasons to watch tonight
The wheels on the bus fall down and down
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

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jose Theodore to Start Game 3 for Avalanche

UPDATE: Another pasted blog comment below.

I said this earlier on A2Y and I'll just repeat it verbatim here as I don't have the time to formulate any more thoughts on the topic.

I think starting Theodore is going to blow up in JQ’s face. All it’s going to take is an early goal by the Wings to completely deflate the Avalanche.

If Budaj was in net and an early goal was scored, it’s easy to write off as jitters and push it out of your mind. With Theodore, his psyche and the team’s confidence in him seem to be at the point just before the straw breaks its back.

If Theodore does end up coming through and playing out of his mind - which he’ll need to for the Avs to win - JQ will look like a genius but I’ll still assume he just got lucky wink

It’s mildly ironic that most Avs fans pissed and moaned - myself included - when Q would swap goaltenders willy-nilly through his tenure with the Avalanche and now we’re pissing and moaning that he won’t do that. However it’s two completely different scenarios as there is no more margin for error.

I made this comment at ITCS where DD feels Theodore is the only logical choice. And since I'm lazy (actually in a meeting where I'm half paying attention) I'll do another paste job.

I don’t think starting Theodore is a terrible idea. But I do fear that one goal is all it will take to break this squad. With Budaj in, an automatic one-goal buffer is added to that breaking point.

That’s my main concern over starting Theodore. I could be overestimating the teams fragility but based on game 2, they didn’t appear to have anything left in the tank after goal number 3.

When it was announced Theodore was starting this game, I certainly wasn’t upset. I think either goaltender is a reasonable choice at this point but if Theodore is still feeling the effects of the flu, he simply should not be playing. And certainly should not have gone in the dressing room.

Manning up in this situation is completely different for a goaltender. A forward/defenceman can slack off a bit while on the ice but a goaltender cannot have any slack, especially against the Wings. When the flu takes you down, you can’t will your muscles to move that glove hand faster or push across the crease with more speed.

And it seemed pretty evident that this was the problem in game 1. His movements were sluggish, he was slow to react and his head didn’t appear to be in the game.

While I appreciate that Theodore is the #1 goaltender, there is no loyalty when it comes to winning. So I hope Q made this choice based on performance, not based on loyalty.

Related Links
Avs' Quenneville firm: Theodore will start
There is no goalie controversy
Avs seek balanced approach

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

Playoff Gameday: Avalanche @ Red Wings

UPDATE: Peter Forsberg is out. Ouch. I don't even have to expand on how much that hurts.

I'll just a do a quick link roundup for now. I haven't even read through everything let alone set aside time to write anything!

Avalanche Links
Denver Post Avalanche-Red Wings Matchup
Jose Theodore through the years
Good in goal, great goaltending runs (psst, Roy was a rookie in '86)
Goal standard for Avs goalie
Uphill battle for Avs
5 questions with Adam Foote
RMN Avalanche Report
Avalanche goalie adamant he shouldn't be likened to Patrick Roy

Red Wings Links
Wings-Colorado rivalry is back
Blood feud is getting a renewal
On the Wings Blog Series Preview
Oh, there will be blood (and maybe a hug from a lovable kitten?)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Avalanche Knock Out Wild in Game Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game 6 Preview: Avalanche vs Wild

(Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
Closing time, open all the doors and let you out into the world, closing time turn all of the lights up... Yes, I'll admit I still have that song stuck in my head after all these years. Thankfully it means at least a little something today.

The Avalanche are back home after stealing a win in Minnesota and have a chance to close out the series on home ice.

It's a chance they won't take lightly.

As soon as the final horn sounded on Thursday, the Avalanche players were looking ahead to game 6. There was no laughter or high-fives over what transpired. No time to reflect on why they were dominated so badly. It was time to start focusing on the next game.
"They're a great team, so I'm going to have to be ready for the next one," Theodore said afterward. "They're going to come as hard, I'm sure, because they're just a hard-working team. We're going to have to be ready as a team."
For a goaltender who single-handedly held his team in the game long enough for them to score three goals against the supreme defense and goaltending of the Wild - yes, that was a dig - he certainly doesn't appear to have a swelled head going into the next game.

And how about the Avalanche's ineffective, $6+M cap-space wasting captain? No wait, that's the Vancouver Canucks. The Avalanche's captain continues to lead this team in the dressing room even if he isn't a force on the ice at the moment.
"We're up 3-2," he said Friday. "You have a chance to close it out. Any time you have a chance, you want to try and do it. You don't really want to go back to Minnesota and their own crowd for Game 7. You have an opportunity; you have to find a way to get it done."
Damn straight. When you have an opportunity, strong people will dig down and find a way to get it down.

I still feel that the Colorado Avalanche have more of those strong people than the Minnesota Wild do.

Related Links
Avs can't afford to drag feet at home
RMN Avalanche Report
So far goons not a factor

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Avalanche Take 3-2 Series Lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game highlights

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Game 4 Preview: Avalanche vs Wild

I'm finally in the "must-win" phase. If the Avalanche lose tonight, this series is all but over. With 2 of the possible 3 remaining games being housed in the raucous Xcel Energy Center, the Avalanche can't afford to be down 3-1.

Pre-game press conference
In a shocking turn of events, the pre-game press conference is up on and the game hasn't even started yet! Who knew that was possible.

In the press conference, Quenneville was grilled about the powerplay, Paul Stastny, Jose Theodore and Jordan Leopold.

Powerplay futility
Quenneville feels that the powerplay being ineffective last night was an issue of having trouble getting set in the zone.

Getting past Minnesota in the neutral zone is an issue not just on the powerplay but at even strength. I think the main issue was trying to be too cute with their plays and working the down low cycle.

The blueliners are getting more shots off which is great but you have to clog that net and not give Backstrom a clean look at it.

Leopold in?
Jordan Leopold is considered a "strong option" tonight. So that could mean Jeff Finger will get a taste of action in the press box. Finger looked a bit lost last night and is, of course, the easy scapegoat for the winning goal.

Forsberg likely to play
Peter Forsberg is considered likely to play tonight. Hopefully he does and hopefully be plays better than he did last night.

Related Links Avalanche Team Console From the locker room: Game 4

Wild Take 2-1 Series Lead Over Avalanche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Avalanche Take Game 1 in Wild OT Thriller

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

In other words, this was playoff hockey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrible effort by the refs.

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

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

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

I don't know Forsberg keeps the puck on his stick the way he d