Sunday, October 28, 2007

Avs undefeated at home - beat Wild 3-1

When the best team in the Northwest Division comes onto your home ice near the end of the first month of the NHL season, it's a pretty good measuring stick of where your team is at. For the Avs, things are looking up.

It all started about eight and a half minutes in when Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth combined for another goal on a 2 on 1 break. It looked to be a carbon copy of Friday night's goal. The chemistry between Sakic and Smyth is just starting to come into play and it will result in many victories for Colorado. The goal came when Minnesota had been controlling the game but the momentum had changed. However, Eric Belanger tied the game with a powerplay goal and the teams went into the first intermission tied 1-1.

Avalanche Fact: The Avs are undefeated when scoring the first goal this season.

The second period saw very even hockey until the end, when Marek Svatos scored his fifth goal of the season. Svatos is now tied for the team lead in goals. Once again, credit Sakic with an asssist.

In the third, Peter Budaj continued his solid play. With just over three minutes to go, the Wild had a brilliant chance in which Budaj mananged to glove a wrist shot when the entire net had been open. It was a game saving play and Budaj came through. The Avs managed to seal the game when Wojtek Wolski put in the third goal with 37 seconds left and the Avs won 3-1.

Notes

Peter Budaj has now won fifty games as an NHL goaltender. In today's game, he made 21 saves and was sensational at times.

Wojtek Wolski extended his point streak to 7 games with a goal in the last minute.

With a record of 5-0 at home, it's the first time the Avs have ever gotten off to such a great start at the beginning of a season. They are are now 6-0 when scoring first as well.

Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Marek Svatos, and Paul Stastny are tied for the team lead in goals with five apiece.

Negatives

Even in such a great win and effort, some negatives can be found. The Avs continue to turn the puck over in their own zone way too often. No team will go far in the Playoffs by turning the puck over. This needs to be stopped.

The power play continues to struggle. With so many playmakers (Sakic, Stastny, Hlinka, Svatos, Wolski) this shouldn't be a problem. With special teams being so important in today's NHL, lets hope the coaching staff puts some time in working on the problem.

Faceoffs are also an issue this season. Seriously, they stink. And stinking on faceoffs means not having the puck in your own zone after key draws.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Joe Sakic (Two assists, making plays, etc. He still does it all.)
2. Wojtek Wolski (A seven game point streak and his defensive game has improved dramatically)
3. Marek Svatos (He has his scoring touch back and was in the slot to create several chances)

Next Up
The Pittsburgh Penguins will travel to Colorado on Thursday as the Avs get their first look at Sidney Crosby. Still no idea who will start in goal, but I would assume it would be Budaj.

The Avs are now just two points back of the Northwest Division lead!

In the next post, look for a Pittsburgh Penguins report.

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Four Notes on Today's Game

The Avs and Wild faceoff in a little under an hour and there are four big notes:

Peter Budaj will get the start over Jose Theodore in net.
One has to wondering why Quenville isn't rewarding Theodore after he played so well in the last game. The last thing Colorado needs is Quenville playing mind tricks with its goalies.

Niklas Backstrom, who is the in the Top 10 for for wins and GAA this season, will miss today's game. 23-year-old Josh Harding will get the start in goal.
Both goalies are solid, but Colorado would much rather face Harding, who has only gotten into two games this season. However, he is 2-0 in those games with one of those wins coming in a shutout. In his lone start against the Avalanche, the Wild lost and Harding made 30 saves on 32 shots.

Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra are both scratches for the Wild. These are two of the biggests Avs killers out there. Offense might be a little harder to come by for the Wild.

Colorado Scratches: Milan Hejduk, Jordan Leopold, Karlis Skrastins, Brad Richardson

Go Avs!

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Theodore steals one against the Flames [RANT: Hometown 3 Stars]

Jose Theodore may be the backup, but last night, he was as good as any goalie in the league.

Just seven minutes into the game, the Avalanche got on the board with a goal from Joe Sakic, his 1,599th point in his career. He wasn't done for the night.

But minutes later, Alex Tanguay put the Flames on the board. For some reason, Tanguay always seems to have a jump in his step when he plays the club that brought him into this lead.

Into the second period, the Flames scored on a goal by Matthew Lambardi and then Tanguay appeared to have scored again when the referee blew the play dead because he had lost sight of the puck. Looking at the replay, it looked to be a bad call and Tanguay openly critisized it after the game. But we'll take it.

The Avs continued to play on their heels all the way through the third period. Trailing 2-1, they had killed various 5 on 3's already. Finally, one second after a powerplay ended, Marek Svatos showed us some of his potential and tied the game up.

Through regulation, Theodore had made 39 saves.

In OT, it took just 23 seconds for Ryan Smyth to take Joe Sakic's pass and put it by the Flames to end the game and give the Avs their second straight win on the road.

It was a game the Avs didn't deserve to win. They were outshot 41-22 and managed to sneak two points from the Flames. They are now 2-0 against the Flames.

Joe Sakic recorded his 1600th point. He now joins players such as Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Mario Lemieux (along with a few others) as the only ones to have ever scored as many points all with one franchise. In his career against the Flames, he has 100 points (60 assists, 40 goals)

Joel Quenville recorded win #400 as a head coach. Hopefully, many more are to come.

Andrew Brunette also hit a milsetone, as he had his 500th point with an assist last night. Go to the net, and good things happen.

Jose Theodore played his best games in two seasons, yet, he wasn't named one of the game's three stars, which leads me to...

Rant of the Week
After every NHL game, the three stars are announced to the audience. The stars are always picked by someone affiliated to the home team. Last night, even with Theodore's amazing performance, he was left off the list. And even with an Avalanche win, the top two stars were flames.
I know, it sounds trivial to be ranting about this, but the three stars are meant to honor players for individual games. The fact that Lombardi and Tanguay were picked ahead of Theodore is ridiculous.
Why not give the job of picking the three stars to an NHL official? Maybe a referee or a goal judge. Anyone who will make competent decisions.
Homers.
Three Stars of the Game
1. Jose Theodore (He gets the respect here and with 39 of 41 saves, the Avs can thank him for the two points.
2. Joe Sakic (Two points, including the assist on the game winning goal, Super Joe recorded a milestone)
3. Kurt Sauer (Quickly becoming a great defenseman and for the first time, I don't hate the guy)
Three Stars Standings (Through 10 Games)

1. Paul Stastny: 9
2. Peter Budaj: 8
3. Ryan Smyth: 7
4. Andrew Brunette: 4
4. Tyler Arnason: 4
4. Jaroslav Hlinka: 4
4. Ian Lapperiere: 4
8. Ben Guite: 3
8. Joe Sakic: 3
8. Jose Theodore: 3
11. Brett Clark: 2
11. Milan Hejduk: 2
13. Tyler Weinman: 1
*First=3 Points
*Second=2 Points
*Third=1 Point
I feel like Jeff Finger should be in there. He's been one of the most consistent guys all season. We'll see if we can find a reason to move him up a little bit.
Next Up
The Avs return to The Can, where they are undefeated this season, to take on the Minnesota Wild - the Western Conference's best team. The Wild beat the Avs in hard fought game last time. No word on the goaltender situation as of yet.
A post dedicated to Jeff Finger coming up soon! Afterall, his last name is Finger.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Smyth returns to Edmonton as Avs get first road win

It was an emotional scene in Edmonton as the Oilers honored their long time hero, Ryan Smyth, before last night's game. Smyth, who shed tears during the tribute, was given a standing ovation for most of the night.

After a tough lost a few night's ago, the Avs came storming out of the gate with a Tyler Arnason goal, to take a very rare lead on the road. Last season, Arnason had eleven points against the Oilers. (In other words, he owns them.) But Edmonton quickly struck back to even the score. However, Jarsoslav Hlinka got his first career NHL goal and Wojtek Wolski scored on a puck that barely squeezed through the legs of Roloson, and the Avs went into the first intermission leading 3-1.

In the second, the Avs concentrated on defense and they did an outstanding job. Budaj made some tremendous saves as he stopped all twelve shots during the period.

In the third, the Avs clearly did not learn their lesson from past games. In this era of the NHL, even if you have a lead, you need to ATTACK. If you sit back and play a "prevent" defense, you're going to get scored on eventually. And that's what happened. With practically no time spent in the offensive zone, Budaj eventually let up a big rebound which the Oilers put home, to cut the lead to 3-2 with under ten minutes to go.

However, despite pulling their goalie, the Avs were able to put this game away with a Brett Clark empty net goal and they got their first road win, 4-2.

Interesting...

With an extra attacker on and one guy in the penalty box for both teams, Joel Quenville sent out Wyatt Smith, Ben Guite, Brett Clark, and Kurt Sauer to seal the game. The Avs controlled the puck and Smith slid it over to Clark for the empty net goal. The fact that Quenville trusts these guys to play in the last minute of games speaks volumes to the depth the Avs have.

On the play, both Clark and Smith had their first points of the season.

Scratches:

Milan Hejduk and Karlis Skrastins were both out. Hejduk is day-to-day.

He still looks like he's 12...

Those were the words of Mike Haynes when describing Kyle Cumiskey. Cumiskey, who was playing as the Avs 7th defenseman, logged valuable minutes and wasn't afraid to join the rush. He also made several key defensive plays to break up an odd man rush.

In his return...

Ryan Smyth had numerous chances, including a blistering slap shot which Roloson gloved, but was held pointless in the game.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Tyler Arnason (One assist and one game and he created many offensive chances. (Including a sick pass to Svatos across the ice)
2. Peter Budaj (That second period was big and stopped 25/27 shots)
3. Ian Lapperiere (A huge fight and the puck getting lost in his equipment provided some comic relief)

Next Up
Ready for Calgary? They'll be out for revenge after surrendering a 4-0 lead to the Avs last time. A second straight road win would be huge for Colorado, especially one against a divisional foe.

Friday at (TBD)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

4 Word Post to Describe the Avs Loss to Minnesota

Budaj Good
Team Bad


There will be a game preview for the Flames game on Friday. But this post isn't needed.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Peter Budaj
2. Andrew Brunette
3. Tyler Arnason

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Toews and Kane lead 'Hawks to victory over Avs

He loses the puck...he gets it back...he fakes out Hannan...he fakes out Clark...he does something weird with his stick...he fakes out Theodore...and Johnathon Toews shows us that he is part of the future of this league. Incredible.

That's how Colorado's night started.

After that incredible goal, which even got Mike Haynes and Peter McNabb excited, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp added two more goals for the Blackhawks in the second. And yeah, things looked bleak.

Props to JQ for starting Jose Theodore. Even though three first period goals makes it look like a horrible decision, it was the right thing to do after Theodore came up big in the last game.

In the second, the Avs controlled the entire period and Wojtek Wolski got us a goal to cut Chicago's lead to two.

At this point, every Avs fan should believe that the Avs can win. If they can come back from four goals down, they can certainly do it against Calgary.

And in the third, Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth scored in the first seven minutes to tie the game.

Up until this point, 'Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had been playing extremely well. But after this tie, both teams became a lot more cautious.

And to make a long and sad story short, Chicago scored with 1:25 left in the third to seal the game. An empty net goal later...Avs lose 5-3.

Notes:

All of the goals allowed by Jose Theodore were "good goals."

Defensive hockey was terrible.

Penalty kill is now 30 out of their last 31.

Milan Hejduk left the game before the third due to back trouble.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Ryan Smyth (Continues to work extremely hard and as I've said, is adding tons of grit and he is a huge presence in front of the net.)
2. Andrew Brunette (Two assists in the game, including one to Smyth.)
3. Jose Theodore (Despite the four goals, Theodore still played very well)

Next Up

The Avs face their toughest test of the season against the undefeated Minnesota Wild. Lets stay above .500! (The Avs haven't lost two straight all season)

Sorry for the shorter post...there will be more next time.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Smyth Breaks Franchise Record as Avs STORM Back

What a great game to be an Avalanche fan. After missing the entire first period (not my fault) I turned on the game to see that the Avs were down 4-0. As you can imagine, I was shocked. It's one thing to lose...it's another thing to lose four minutes into the second period. However, I kept watching, hoping for some kind of miracle.

That's when Jose Theodore was brought in for Budaj. Could it be a miracle? Probably not.

But it was.

The Avs scored FOUR UNANSWERED GOALS in the second period. The kicker? Only one of them went off an Avalanche stick. Ryan Smyth got two of them, and both times, a Calgary player deflected it in. With Calgary's lead cut to 4-2, the Avs weren't going to go down without a fight on their undefeated home ice. That's when Andrew Brunette threw the puck in front to Smyth and before it could get to him, a Calgary defenseman's skate kicked the puck in. By the way, none of these count as shots on goal. To tie the game, who but Kurt Sauer would get his first goal in two seasons.

Theodore was phenomenal and the third period became a battle between Kipper and Theo. Both played well and Calgary seemed to have regrouped well after intermission. Nonetheless, neither the third period nor OT could decide this one. The Avs entered their first shootout of the season.

Shootout Order

Woijtek Wolski: A sick little move resulted in a goal for the Avs.
Ryan Smyth: In his first attempt as an Av, Smyth slipped it through the five hole as hats were thrown onto the ice. It was not a hat trick, however, as goals in the shootout don't count towards a player's total.
Joe Sakic: Sakic's shootout woes continued as he had Kipper on the ground, but put the backhand wide.

Theodore stopped 2/3 shots to give the Avs a 5-4 win and cap off a memorable comeback.

___________________________________________________________________

Last season, one point made the difference between making and missing the Playoffs. These are the kind of games that Colorado needs to win. It was a great effort all the way around.

Player Notes:

Ryan Smyth: Set a franchise record with 12 shots on goal. He is playing as advertised, bring plenty of grit and effort to the Avs. With two goals (albeit, they were really own goals) the Avs fought all the way back from a 4-0 deficit.

Paul Stastny: Staz continues to dominate teams and he added three more assists in last night's effort. Stastny is now tied with Henrik Zetterberg for the lead league in points. (13)

Woijtek Wolski: Another solid game for Wolski. The Kurt Sauer goal was a direct result of Wolski's play to go into the corner, pressure the Flames, and throw a loose puck out towards the blue line.

Jose Theodore: Coming in for Budaj, Theodore will be credited with a well deserve win after stopping all 17 shots that he faced. This included stopping Jarome Iginla, who already had two goals in the game.

Alex Tanguay: Tanguay had several chances to beat his old team, but the Avs and Theodore held strong. Tanguay was the last shooter for the Flames in the shootout.

Milan Hejduk: He was a scratch for the game. The Duke is day-to-day with a back injury. Svatos was moved up to the second line to replace him.

Special Teams

The Avs were 1/5 on the power play, with their lone goal coming on a four minute double minor.

However, bravo to the Avs penalty unit! 5/5 in tonight's game, including a big kill with just over two minutes to go in the game. They have quite a streak going and it's obviously something the coaches have been working on.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Ryan Smyth (Franchise record and two goals...not to mention his determination on every shift)
2. Jose Theodore (One goal would have killed the Avs momentum and he made sure that it didn't happen.
3. Paul Stastny (Three more assists and he forced Keenan to use a timeout when he went out onto the ice during a crucial situation in the third.

Next Up

The Avs will be visiting the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, October 19. This will be Colorado's first look at rookies Johnathon Toews and Patrick Kane. Chicago is 3-2 this season.

Lets hope for an Avalanche victory and possibly a winning streak? Or is that too much to ask for already?

Northwest Standings

1. Minnesota (5-0-1)
2. Colorado (4-2)
3. Vancouver (3-3)
4. Calgary (2-2-2)
5. Edmonton (2-4)

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Avs Win Behind Sakic's Hat Trick

Adam Foote returned to the Pepsi Center.

Back-to-back games are always tricky for a hockey club. For the Avs, it always feels like at least one loss, if not two. Coming off that awful third period against St. Louis, the Avs played Columbus tonight and attempted to remain undefeated at home.

In the mortal words from 2001, Mission Accomplished.

Both teams had 5 on 3's early on in the game, but neither powerplay was successful.

Last night, I criticized Joe Sakic for his somewhat lazy play while coming back on defense. Super Joe scored the first goal of the game on a tip in. It was the only goal of the first.

In the second, Colmbus scored about 90 seconds in. The shot was a weird one...Budaj never even saw it. Budaj, for his career, is 3-1 against Columbus. This was a game we knew he would be good in. But all of a sudden, it was 2-1. It didn't stay that way for long. The Avs got a powerplay, and Milan Hejduk, who was one of my three stars last night, put the Avs ahead on a powerplay goal. Hejduk also scored six minutes later on an assist from Scott Hannan. Going into the third, the Avs had a nice 3-1 lead.

Once again, the Avs refused to sit back in the third period. Sakic got a quick goal and nine minutes later, Sakic completed his hat trick. This was Colorado's second hat trick this year, in just five games.

Some Thoughts:

Penalty killing was absolutely incredible. The Avalanche were 5/5 on penalty kills and they are now 9/9 in their last two games. If the PK continues to be this tight throughout the entire season, the Avs will win a lot of games.

Jordan Leopold and Ben Guite were scratches tonight. Leopold is said to be day-to-day while I still can't find information on Guite's information.

Scott Parker played his first game tonight. "The Sherriff" is as scary as ever, and couldn't help but get a penalty (for taking a jab at a cross-checker. The crosschecker ended up with a 10 minute misconduct) with just 1:19 to go in the third period. But that wasn't all. A little tussle broke out with just under a minute to go. As an Av made his way to the penalty box, Parker looked like he was on the verge of jumping out of the box and dropping the gloves with somebody. In the end, he was just sent to the locker room. But hey, he's Scott Parker. It's why he's on our side.

The line of Wojtek Wolski-Joe Sakic-Andrew Brunette was reunited for this game. They looked great, and combined for a total of six points.

Paul Stastny played alongside Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth tonight. The line looked great, as Jaroslav Hlinka spent time on the third line with Arnason and Svatos.

Props to Scott Hannan for shutting down Ryan Nash. We finally have our Adam Foote back.

Needs Improvement:

Faceoffs will haunt us when it comes time to play teams like Minnesota, Detroit, and Anaheim. It's an area that the team needs to work on.

Three Stars of the Game (10-13)

1. Joe Sakic (A hat trick and showed why he's still one of the best in the game)
2. Peter Budaj (24 saves, including some beauties)
3. Milan Hejduk (Put him down for the game winner, and he continues to be one of the most consistent Avs early in the season.)

Next Up

The Avs will play Calgary on Tuesday, October 16th and try to remain unbeaten at home. In three games, the Avs have scored 15 goals in the Pepsi Center. Calgary is just 2-2 to start the season, but beat Nashville 7-4 tonight. Calgary-Colorado games were shootouts last year, and lets hope it stays that way. I like Colorado's chances a lot better in a high scoring game.

The Avs played with a real energy tonight. They're at their best when they can get into the game early and get the first few shots on net. The creativity of this team is infinite.

Breaking News: Kyle Cumiskey has been recalled by the Avalanche.

More to Come in Next Post.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Theodore Starts...and Loses [RANT: Penalties]

Jose Theodore is back...and to be perfectly honest, I'm not happy. Francois Giguere took a huge chance on this guy, and now that he's our backup, his role is to inspire the team that when he's in net, they have a chance to win.

Now, lets be fair, Theodore had a decent night. Prior to the third period, he had only let up one goal. (Albeit, he was lying on his back for it.) But this guy is a former Vezina and Hart trophy winner. Positioning shouldn't be an issue at this point in his career. EACH AND EVERY GOAL came as a result of being out of position, or giving up rebounds. The Blues had a total of 23 shots, Theodore made 19 saves. Not good enough. And it seems that the story of Jose Theodore in Colorado has been "oh, he let in four goals, but he made some nice saves." That's what happened tonight. And in the end, no matter had well (or poorly) your defense plays, the goalie should always be in position to stop the shot.

Speaking of the defense, they stunk. (To put it nicely.) On the second goal, I believe, Jeff Finger and some other Av were on the ice. I can't identify that Av, because his back was planted firmly to the side of the goal. Next thing you know, the puck pops loose, and an unmarked Blue put it in.

Even Sakic got lazy. After the first goal was scored, Bernie Federko, the color analyst on FSN Midwest pointed out that it was Sakic's man who scored. And that had Sakic not slowed up on his backcheck, Brad Boyes wouldn't have scored. Joe Sakic is a legend...one of the greatest players to ever play the game. But it isn't fair to critisize the Avs tonight without critisizing that one play.

Turnovers were also key. They didn't affect us as much as usual, but Scott Hannan: when you come around the net with the puck, make sure you pass it to the guy wearing an Avalanche jersey. It shouldn't be that hard.

Powerplay was awful again. The announcers on FSN Midwest kept mentioning the ice affecting the bounces of the puck. That's crap and if anything, it should have meant that the Avalanche point men were throwing the puck at the next, hoping one of those bounces hopped to a friendly stick.

To give credit to the Blues, Manny Legace officially owns us. His record is now something like 12-1-1 against Colorado. He made some great saves and this game could have easily have gotten away from the Blues before the third period.

By the way, our one goal was technically scored by Paul Kariya.

Final Score: 4-1 Blues

Positivies

Penalty kill was great throughout the game, as the Avs were 4-4 on the penalty kill. The Blues couldn't get anything going on any of their powerplays.

Paul Stastny continues to score, as he got the lucky goal from from Paul Kariya. But hey, good players get lucky.

Three Stars of the Game (10-12)

1. Ben Guite (Absolutely phenomenal on the penalty kill, and I thought he was one of the few Avs with a jump in his step every single shift)
2. Paul Stastny (The kid continues to score and had a good 4 or 5 chances tonight)
3. Milan Hejduk (Played a very nice game, generated chances, and I personally believe that he is finally back.)

Next Up

The Avs are back at it on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. We were 3-1 against them last season, and hopefully we can stay above .500 for the year. Expect Peter Budaj to get the start.

Rant of the Week
Tonight's game was horribly officiated. In particular, two interference calls. (On the Avs.) And no, I don't have Avagoggles on. This is a legitimate beef.
The first call was on Hejduk, for colliding with Manny Legace. The rule is, the player must make every attempt to avoid contact with the goaltender. Looking at the replay, Hejduk was clearly pushed into Legace and looking at his skates, was clearly making every attempt to stop. For you football fans, this situation may remind you of the roughing the passer rule. It's subjective, but refs should never really get it wrong.
The second call was on...well, Hejduk. This time, Danny Hinote, (a blast from the past who scored two goals tonight) brought the puck into the Avs zone. He lost the puck, and Hejduk took the body and cut him off. FWEEP. Penalty. Bad Call. That's hockey, folks. It's physical. With petty calls like this, refs are taking away the art of defense.
It's time that referees are held responsible for these calls. Yes, they are monitored and the good ones are rewarded by being allowed to work the playoffs. But what about public reports? If the public was able to see how these refs called the games, maybe they would get some of these calls right more often.
I'm not suggesting that the refs aren't watching the game. But this whole image of the "New NHL" and making sure that clutching and grabbing is totally erased, is getting in the way of refing. Any way you look at it, Hejduk's play was pure hockey. Nothing else.
Tonight was a bad night. Lets hope we can get it back on track.

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Division Lookout

Before tonight's game, I wanted to take a look at how the Northwest Division is shaping up in the early part of this season. After the game tonight, the Avs will have 15 games against divisional opponents over the course of the next few weeks. This is a critical time.

Current Standings

1. Minnesota (3-0)
2. Colorado (2-1)
3. Edmonton (2-2)
4. Vancouver (1-2)
5. Calgary (0-2-1)

Minnesota: The class of the division early on, the biggest positive for Minnesota is that their star players are performing. Brian Rolston leads the team in points, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brent Burns, Marion Gaborik, and Pavel Demitra all have two or more points. There's not one 'minus' player on this team, and that's a testament to their goaltending, which has only allowed two goals in three games.

Edmonton: Picked by many to be a bottom feeder in the West, Edmonton has had some problems with consistency early on. Still, they are clearly in a rebuilding mode and a 2-2 start is nothing to shake your head at. After trading away Jason Smith, Sheldon Souray and Joni Pitkanen are left to anchor the first line. (Check out their 2007 +/-) Dwayne Roloson and Mattieu Garon have both gotten a win, with Roloson playing pretty well in his three games. (.922 save percentage.) Big signing Dustin Penner has two points in four games. Oilers fans might riot.

Vancouver: A surprisingly bad start just got worse last night with an 8-2 blowout against Philadelphia. Vancouver's biggest problem will be scoring goals, as Markus Naslund has been on a gradual decline since the lockout. On the plus side, the Sedin twins have played very well, leading the team in points. The Nucks are also 0-2 at home to start the season, which is obviously never good for a team hoping to contend for the Cup.
Ugly Stat: Kevin Bieska is an awful -6 after just three games.

Calgary: Sitting at the bottom of the division is Calgary, the team many experts picked to win it. Don't look to much into this start, as the Flames are too talented not to play well later on this season. The real problem is dealing with Mike Keennan and all of his mind games if the team continues to underpeform. The big players are performing, but with 7 goals scored agaisnt 14 goals allowed, it'll be a struggle all season.

The Avs play tonight at 8:30 EST....lets get a victory!

BRAVO NHL

Jesse Boulerice, of the Philadelphia Flyers, has been suspended for 25 games by the NHL today, after he cross-checked Ryan Kessler away from the play. The suspension ties an NHL record for longest on-ice NHL supensions. (Chris Simon also received 25 games last year.)

Well deserved.

Video:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=8-Y3x0mr_Ik

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Tremendous Effort by Avs in Victory

It's one of those moments where all you can do is groan and say "aw, not again!" And that's exactly how I felt when Milan Hejduk messed up lifting a stick and ended up taking a four minute high sticking penalty. Just a few minutes into the game, the precedent would be set.

What has been a dreadful penalty kill, looked superb last night. The Avs killed off the entire four minutes, with Budaj making key saves.

The Avs ended up going 6/7 on the penalty kill. The other side of special teams? The Avs finally got their first powerplay goals, going 2/7 on the PP, including a big 5-3 goal early on to take the lead.

Colorado was up 2-0 going into the second and they looked to be in control. However, in the second, the Sharks dominated play and cut the lead in half to make it 2-1.

A third period with this team is always bad for the nerves, but quick goals by Stastny and Hejduk put any doubt of a win to rest. The Avs took the game, 6-2.

Notes

Paul Stastny: Stastny had his first five point game of his career. With one goal and four assists, Stastny is now the NHL leader in points. (8) He was also the NHL.com's 'First Star' this week and was named first star of the game last night.

Joe Sakic: With his first goal and assist last night, Sakic continues to move up on the lists of greatness. With 1,591 points, Sakic passed Phil Esposito to move into 8th place on the all time scoring list.

Ryan Smyth: Smyth had his first goal as an Av and also added an assist. Smyth continues to be a good worker in the corners and has been very explosive.

Marek Svatos: To reward his strong play, Joel Quenville move Svatos to the third line and Svatos paid him back by scoring his first goal of the year.

Peter Budaj: Budaj stopped 24/26 shots and looked very sharp. He controlled rebounds EXTREMELY well.

The Avs were very impressive defensively. A stat on Altitude last night showed that the Sharks are one of the youngest, tallest, and heaviest teams in the league. (The Avs are near the bottom in all three.) Lead by Lappy, Hannan, and Leopold, Colorado held their own.

It was refreshing to see that the Avalanche used their time off to work on some of the things that they needed to improve on.

Other:

Jeff Finger was in action for the first time this season. Karlis Skrastins was scratched from the lineup. Finger played well last year and it'd be nice to see him become an impact player in the next few months.

Three Stars of the Game:

1. Paul Stastny: Who can argue with a five point night?
2. Brett Clark: Props on keeping Joe Thornton's line pointless throughout the night.
3. Ryan Smyth: If Smyth and Sakic can heat up, the Avs offense could score 300 goals.

Changes:

Jaroslav Hlinka was moved to the first line, while Ryan Smyth was put on the second line. The chemistry of the Smyth-Stastny-Hejduk line worked out well. Svatos was also moved up to the third line (in exchange for Lappy) and that will probably remain the same for the next game.

Next Up:

The Avs have a little time off and will play St. Louis on Friday. The Avs were swept last year by the Blues, and with Manny Legace, it is always a tough matchup.

In my next entry, we'll check in on the other teams in the Northwest Division.


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Friday, October 5, 2007

Mason Shines as Avs Lose [RANT: Jerseys]

Last night, I was talking online with a few people when I looked over at the clock and realized it was only 10 minutes to game time. Hockey is back. And it feels good.

The game last night was a tough one. The Avs were shutout, 4-0, as Chris Mason put on a show for the Nashville fans. There were several chances to score, and Mason came up big on every one of them. There's a reason that the Preds could afford to let Vokoun go to Florida.

Positives

Tyler Weinman relieved Peter Budaj in the third period and he looked pretty good. He'll be the third string guy once Theodore comes back, but it's nice to know that we have another young goalie with potential.

The game was our first back-to-back of the season. Fatigue was unavoidable.

The offense skated hard the entire game. I was very happy with that.

Negatives

Special teams! The Avs were 0-2 on the Power Play with ZERO shots on goal. That won't get it done. The Avs seem to be trying to set up the perfect shot. When the Power Play isn't working for a team, you need to go back to the basics. Throw it back to the point and put it on goal. Things happen. The penalty kill was just as bad, as the Avs let up another goal.

Chemistry still isn't there on the Sakic-Smyth-Hejduk line. None of those players have a point this season.

Discipline. The Avs are always one of the most disciplined teams in the league. But taking a penalty in the offensive zone is inexcusable.

The jerseys are awful. Which leads me into my rant...

Rant of the Week
One of the best parts about the NHL is the uniqueness of the jerseys. Thanks to the RBK Edge program, almost every team was given new jerseys. The problem? They aren't unique. There is one simple formula for each one, and colors and logos are simply filled in. The Avalanche have always had one of the best jerseys, but last night, I realized that our new ones are exactly the same as Nashville's. (Great marketing, huh?) The dark ones were decent, but the white ones are awful. They don't look like the Avalanche anymore. And that's my rant.
Next Up:
The San Jose Sharks will come rolling into Denver on Sunday. Colorado gets to see the Broncos, Avs, and Rockies (pending) all in one day. The Sharks lost in their opener against the Oilers via shootout and the game on Sunday is the only one in the NHL.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Ian Lapperiere (Fight #1...in the books)
2. Jaroslav Hlinka (Continues to impress, created chances)
3. Tyler Weinman (Played well in his first relief appearance. And no one else deserves this slot)

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Game Review: Avs Win Opener!

Hockey is back and the Avs looked just as good as ever in their season opener against the Dallas Stars.

A back-and-forth first period was broken with a goal by Paul Stastny a few minutes before the intermission.

The Avs came out flying in the second, with Stastny adding two more goals and getting his first career natural hat trick. How about that for a sophomore slump?!

Wolski added another goal to make it 4-1.

However, the Stars made it a game, and came back strong and the game ended 4-3. That takes us into our Good/Bad:

Negatives

Nothing about teamwork or passing or whatever will come into play yet. This team has some new faces, some new role players, and they still have some meshing to do.

Special teams stunk. Avs were 0-2 on the Power Play and lazy penalty killing lead to a Dallas goal. The Avs need to maintain consistent pressure on the puck when it goes back to the point. And while blocking shots is usually a good thing, it does leave players out of position at key moments.

Last year, the one reason we didn't make the Playoffs was our inability to put away games. It was pathetic how many games we blew in the third period. This game was almost a repeat, as the Avs had a 4-1 lead in the third and the Stars came "that" close to tying it in the third. Which leads us into our positives...

Positives

Paul Stastny is a machine. Last season, I believe he should have won the Calder and this year, he starts off by scoring a hat trick? Unreal. But totally awesome. Also, don't underestimate his defensive play. He made a key block in the third period which might have saved a goal. He was paired with Brunette and Hlinka, a combination that will stay in place as long as they produce. Speaking of which...

Jaroslav Hlinka is going to have a huge impact this season. We got him from the Czech League, where he was consistently hailed as the "best" player. This guy has mad hands and set up various scoring chances, including two goals.

The Stastny-Brunette-Hlinka line combined for 8 points.

Defense is much improved. Scott Hannan had a big impact, usually clearing out bodies in front of the net. And we saw a bit of his edge. If Jordan Leopold can remain healthy, that pairing could be one of the best defensive pairings in the league. Even Saurer, our weakest defensive player, played pretty well.

Andrew Brunette is showing he can play without Sakic, which is a big advantage when it comes to depth. He had three assists last night, including two REALLY nice passes.

Peter Budaj was great. The three goals came on deflections, which any goalie will tell you is basically impossible to track down. If he can play like this for the rest of the season, there could be something to this team.

Next Up:

The Avs play tonight at 8 against the Nashville Predators. It'll be the Predators first game of the season.

Lines Last Night:
Smyth-Sakic-Hejduk
Hlinka-Stastny-Brunette
Wolski-Arnason-Lapperiere
Guite-Smith-Svatos

Leopold-Hannan
Skrastins-Liles
Sauer-Clark


Other:

Our music was back! Rock and Roll Part 2 is once against out goal song. HOWEVER, they changed up our victory music. Where's Star Wars? Lets hope it's not permanent.

Versus still sucks. Cut to our game when it was halfway through the first period. (At least show us the opening faceoff!)

Avs sit atop the NW Division. Lets keep it that way!

Prediction:
4-2 Avs

Three Stars of the Game. A new feature this year will be the "Three Stars of the Game." It'll look at the top three Avs each game. (Possibly Games.)

10/4
1. Paul Stastny
2. Jaroslav Hlinka
3. Peter Budaj

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