Friday, November 2, 2007

Crosby Still Has Lots to Learn...Avs Win/Take Division Lead

Sidney Crosby, the league's best player, scored two goals in the first period...in truly amazing fashion. There's nothing else to say about this kid except that he has a tremendous work ethic and is one of the best players to come into the league since Gretzky in the 80's. But he still has a lot to learn.

The Avs went into the second period down 2-0 and on a powerplay, John-Michael Liles got his first goal of the season on a tip that squeaked by Danny Sabourin. It would end up being the first of three goals in a span of just three minutes.

Then, a delayed penalty call was made on Crosby...the Avs controlled the puck and Wojtek Wolski eventually would put it home. So no powerplay, just a goal, right? But Crosby, despite all of his skill, is still an inexperienced third-year player in the NHL. He took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which lead to another Avs powerplay. (They couldn't convert, but the momentum officially changed over.)

Ben Guite, who had been playing a very nice defensive game, managed to slip a wrap-around into the net to complete the Avs three goal swing.

The third period was scoreless, as the Avs took a 3-1 win.

Notes

Jose Theodore got the start in the game and played very well, making 26 saves and he ROBBED Crosby from completing his hat trick with an amazing stick save. (Possibly lucky!)

The Avs moved to 6-0 at home, which is a new record for the team to start a season since they moved to Colorado.

The Northwest Division saw the Flames and Wild both go down. Thanks to the Wild's five game losing streak, the Avs now sit atop the division with a record of 8-4.

Special teams came through. The Penguins, who have the third ranked powerplay in the NHL, were just 1/6 last night. However, the power play is still struggling, matching the Penguins' 1/6 stat and failing to convert on a 5-on-3 early on in the game.

Wojtek Wolski extended his point streak to eight games. That's a career high.

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Overall, this was a very nice game for the Avs. Theodore seems to be regaining his confidence and despite giving up early goals, this team continues to show no quit. The powerplay needs to get going. Not converting five out of those six times could have been the difference between a win and a loss.

Kyle Cumiskey is going to be a great player in the NHL. He made great plays on both end of the ice and I'm convinced that he should be up with the Avs all season. Great effort on his part.

The Avs officially have a goaltending struggle. A good one, but are struggles ever good? Budaj is still the #1, but with Theodore playing the way he is, how do you sit him against Vancouver, who is he usually very good against? Theodore's positioning was very solid last night and he didn't lose his confidence after an early goal.

The defense is much improved. They looked GOOD. And the pairings actually made sense.
Defensive Pairings:
Sauer-Clark
Hannan-Cumiskey
Liles-Finger

That top pairing is sound defensively, while Hannan complements Cumiskey's agressive offensive style. They put Liles and Finger together, with makes sense considering the experience of each player. However, Hannan was used to shut down Crosby last night, so these pairings tended to change throughout the game.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Ian Lapperiere (Two assists and he was rewarded with some extra ice time. Lappy was also out there for the final few seconds, in which he blocked a slapshot and gave the Avs the oppurtunity to clear the puck.
2. Ben Guite (The game winner and an assist, Guite's parents were in attendence and he continued to impress on the penalty kill)
3. Jose Theodore (Cliche to put the goalie on the list? Maybe. But Theo saved the game on more than one occasion. Shut out the Pens from the second period on.)

Next Up

The Avs play on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night against the hated Vancouver Canucks. The Nucks are suffering a losing streak at the moment, so we'll look for the Avs to continue on with their home streak. Expect Theodore to start the game.

Sidney Crosby

Skill? Yes. Passion? Yes. Maturity? Not yet. Crosby needs to learn that there is a time to fight battles. But lets think about it. The guy gets called for a penalty, the other team scores, and then he argues it? Why not make a statement using your skill, instead of your mouth? Joe Sakic, easily the most respected playing the NHL right now, plays the game with class. It's something Crosby needs to learn to do.

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