Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sakic the Hero, Salei Debuts, Foote Tremendous, Goalies Shine in 3-2 Shootout Thriller vs Canucks

It was an incredibly exciting game. With just 17 points to go in the season, the Avs need each and every point and this one almost got away. Lets examine the words in the title:

Sakic the Hero

In what was a 1-1 game all the way through, it appeared as if Vancouver had just missed with less than two minutes to go when the puck apparently hit the post behind Theodore. Play continued for another thirty seconds at which point the play was put under review. A great roar went up as the video clearly showed the Canucks had scored and had taken the lead.

With Theodore pulled, the Avs needed a goal. After failing to clear the puck five or six times, Joe Sakic took a pass and as he fell to the ground, managed to lift the puck over Luongo for a goal. With fifteen seconds to go, Sakic scored his first goal in three months and reminded everybody that he can still play this game.

Roberto Luongo knew that the Canucks had squandered a big win:


"We had about six chances to get it out," said Luongo, who made 24 saves through overtime but only one in the shootout. "Either we shot it off our own guys or we didn't get it out. Next thing you know, a shot from the point and Sakic's alone on the side.

"I was able to get the first save and he chipped it over me for the second one. It's unacceptable, inexcusable. That should never happen, especially in an important game like that."



But before I reveal the ultimate result...

Salei Debuts

Ruslan Salei, acquired from the Florida Panthers for Karlis Skrastins played extremely well. Salei, wearing #24, logged just over 23 minutes of ice time and made a key play that lead to the Sakic goal. After stopping a clearing attempt with time running out, Salei, instead of just throwing the puck around the boards, put the puck on net and helped create the rebound that Sakic scored on.

He played mostly with Jordan Leopold but was also paired with John-Michael Liles throughout the game.

The fact Salei was out there in a key moment shows that Quenville obviously has confidence in him.

In parts of the game, Salei played very well with the puck, making smart decisions and sharp outlet passes.

Foote Tremendous

In his 801st game as an Av but only second this season, Foote also logged just over 23 minutes of ice time and showed that he still has gas in the tank. Gord Miller, announcer on TSN, stated throughout the game that had it not been for Foote, the Avs would have been blown out.

Foote consistently blocked shots including one in the first period which saved a goal. (The net was empty when Foote sprawled out in front of the shot.

It was tense for a few minutes in the second period when Foote's hand got in the way of the shot and appeared to go numb. He did, however, return for the third period.

As always, Foote never gave up on a play and let his physical presence be known.

Goalies Shine

Even though it was just a 3-2 win, scoring chances were abundant on both sides. For Vancouver, Roberto Luongo stopped 24/26 shots including nine on Avalanche power plays. He made a spectacular glove save on Dave Jones early in the first. He didn't give up a goal until Andrew Brunette made a nifty play late in the second.

On the other side, Jose Theodore made 29/31 saves. Theodore also made 2/2 saves in the shootout.

Shootout Thriller

Milan Hejduk (Col) - MISS
Mason Raymond (Van) - SAVE
Joe Sakic (Col) - GOAL
Ryan Shannon (Van) - SAVE
Marek Svatos (Col) - GOAL

Sakic used a nice deke to the backhand to beat Luongo while Svatos snuck a shot through Luongo's five-hole. Theodore appeared to get lucky as Shannon's hit the butt-end of his stick.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Joe Sakic (Game-tying goal + a shootout goal for Super Joe)
2. Jose Theodore (Played out of his mind with ten saves in the third)
3. Ryan Smyth (Caused havoc on the powerplay, assist, six shots)

Scratches

Scott Parker was in the lineup, as was Dave Jones.

Notable scratches included:

Kyle Cumiskey: As expected, Cumiskey was scratched in favor of Salei.

Wojtek Wolski: Quenville benched Wolski last year to try and motivate him to play harder. Wolski has scored just one goal in 2008.

Jaroslav Hlinka: Scratched for the second straight game, I doubt Hlinka will see many more games this season.

Jeff Finger: Still injured.

Clark Update

It has now been reported that Brett Clark is out for the season. There is no word on whether or not he'd be able to possibly return for the playoffs.

Forsberg Update

Although Forsberg practiced with the team yesterday in Vancouver, he was unable to fly back to Colorado because of problems securing a Visa. Forsberg's paper work may still take a few days to process. Look for him back on Saturday, but it's not unlikely that we'll have to wait until next week for his debut.

Next Up

The Avs have a bit of a break until Saturday night when they take on the Los Angeles Kings in Denver. With any luck, Peter Forsberg will be in the lineup.

On the Bubble

6. Calgary - 75 Points (18 Games Remaining)
7. Vancouver - 73 Points (19 Games Remaining)
8. COLORADO - 72 POINTS (17 GAMES REMAINING)
9. Nashville - 72 Points (17 Games Remaining)
10. Phoenix - 69 Points (18 Games Remaining)

Because they have played the same amount of games, Minnesota is now the division leader (75 points) because they have more wins than Calgary.

With the win, Colorado moved into a tie with Nashville for 8th place but has more wins at this point.

Video Fix

During the first intermission of the game last night, Darwin Head did something we all dream of.

Watch the full eight minutes. It's worth it.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Avs Win in Foote's Debut! [Forsberg News, Salei Debut, Lines Update, Hlinka]

It was a moment I never thought I would see a game. Adam Foote wearing a #52 Avalanche jersey in a regular season game. It's unreal.

Knowing that Colorado was going to start the game with just five defensmen, Foote hopped on a private jet and flew to Calgary. He arrived (in a suit) just as the game started and was on the bench before the first period ended.

In an interview after the game, Foote described his feelings:


“Weirdest day of my life,” said Foote, who agreed to waive his no-trade clause when he and the Blue Jackets couldn’t reach an agreement on a new contract. “I found out after practice and it was a shock to me. I didn’t think it was going to happen, but I’ve always had a big part of Denver in my heart. They worked hard to get a plane to Columbus and they found a fast bird that could fly here faster and higher. My mind was kind of spinning, but it worked out great.”

Even with all of this emotion, a game still needed to be played.

Trailing Calgary by six points heading in, the Avs needed a win. They got things going early with a Ryan Smyth goal, but Calgary answered later on in the period.

In the second, things looked bleak when Calgary scored a shorthanded goal. The Avs were failing to generate much offense and Calgary was winning all of the little battles along the boards.

In the third, the Avs FINALLY converted on the powerplay as Milan Hejduk snapped his scoring drought and tied the game.

In OT, Colorado was granted a power play and on a shot by Hejduk, Smyth grabbed hold of it and fed a beautiful backhander to Stastny who won the game for the Avs!

Theodore made 28 saves as the Avs outshot the Flames 5-0 in overtime and 34-29 in the game.

Foote Watch

Even though he missed most of the first period, Foote logged over 18 minutes of ice time and played on both the power play and penalty kill. He was very physical throughout and made smart plays with the puck. Playing with a combination of Leopold, Liles, and Hannan, expect Foote to settle in on the first or second pairing while getting minutes on the second power play unit as well.

Forsberg News

According to NHL.com, Peter Forsberg is currently practicing with the team in Vancouver, but it is unlikely he will be playing tonight. Look for his debut this Saturday.

Salei Debut

Ruslan Salei is expected to make his Avalanche debut tonight against Calgary. No word yet on who the scratch will be.

However, I believe Kyle Cumiskey will be scratched. Nothing against him, but he's the odd-man out on a group that features Hannan, Leopold, Foote, Sauer, and Liles.

A smart coach would scratch Sauer, considering he and Salei are very similar. It also would be smart to bench Liles, considering he hasn't had the best of seasons.

The Lines

The lines for last night's game were:

Wojtek Wolski - Joe Sakic - Andrew Brunette
Ryan Smyth - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Marek Svatos - Tyler Arnason - Scott Parker
Cody McLeod - Ben Guite - Ian Laperriere

Of course, the lines were juggled often. As usual, Guite's line still mainted third line minutes.

Expect Forsberg to probably play on Sakic's line, in place of Brunette, who will probably join Arnason and Svatos on the third line.

Quenville has stated that he wants to put Foppa with either Stastny or Sakic.

Hannan - Leopold
Foote - Liles
Sauer - Cumiskey

Without Clark and Finger, it's tough to figure out where Salei would have fit in had those guys been healthy. My guess is that Salei is a guy who has the potential to be traded after this season. If not Salei, then Sauer should be gone.

Jaroslav Hlinka

As you can see, Hlinka was not in the lineup for the Avs and it is unlikely that he'll get in the lineup considering Forsberg is on his way. Hlinka is a good player and it is a shame he will probably be a spare for the rest of the season. If Wolski or Arnason or any other player goes into a slump or doesn't impress the coaching staff, I'd expect Hlinka to get the start.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Paul Stastny (Game winning goal and an assist on the one that tied it)
2. Ryan Smyth (A goal and an assist for a guy who is struggling? We'll take it)
3. Adam Foote (Welcome back)

Next Up

The Avs continue their march to the Playoffs TONIGHT against the Vancouver Canucks. Expect Theodore to get the start and for Ruslan Salei to be in the lineup.

On the Bubble

Instead of the division standings, we'll take a look at the bubble!

6. Minnesota - 73 Points (19 Games Remaining)
7. Vancouver - 72 Points (20 Games Remaining)
8. Nashville - 72 Points (18 Games Remaining)
9. COLORADO - 70 POINTS (18 GAMES REMAINING)
10. Phoenix - 69 Points (19 Games Remaining)

Video Fix

I couldn't find a video of Foote's actual return to the Avs bench (although I have it taped), but I did find this great tribute video. Credit avidvj of YouTube.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Forget those last two games! (Win vs Phoenix, Loss vs Edmonton) - LETS TALK TRADE DEADLINE

I'm going to skip the summaries for the last two games - games in which both Joe Sakic and Paul Statsny were playing in. Lets skip to the deals the Avalanche made in the TRADE DEADLINE 2008.


PETER FORSBERG IS BACK

Peter the Great is BACK folks! Francois Giguere signed Peter to what will amount to a one-year, one-million dollar salary.

Thoughts: The Avs give up nothing for a guy who can help ignite the power play. It's the ultimate low-risk / high-reward situation. If nothing else, this is a great PR move for all of the Colorado fans who want to see Forsberg retire as an Av. Welcome home Foppa.

ADAM FOOTE IS BACK

We're going to party like it's 2003! Adam Foote, the great shutdown defender in Avalanche history was trade to the Avs for a first round pick and a fourth rount pick which will only be given away if Foote re-signs with the Avs.

Thoughts: It's great to see Footer back with the Avs. Fans were calling for a guy who could clear out the front of the net. Although Foote isn't as good as he was in 2003, he will provide some much needed physical play and will be a joy to watch in Colorado.

Avs Acquire RUSLAN SALEI

The Avs traded Karlis Skastins and a third round pick to Florida in exchange for defensman Ruslan Salei.

Thoughts: Salei and Skrastins are very similar. Salei has a better offensive game and will be a tad more physical. It's a good move, although, I wish we could have kept that third-round pick.

Lines:

Obviously, the lines will be completely different once all of these players arrive.

Remembering that Clarke is out for the year:

Smyth-Stastny-Hejduk
Forsberg-Sakic-Wolski
Brunette-Hlinka-Svatos
McLeod-Guite/Arnason-Laperriere

Leopold-Foote
Liles-Hannan
Salei-Finger
Sauer
Cumiskey
Injured: Clark


Obviously this is all just speculation. The defensive pairing are particularly hard. The way I have it, each pairing has an offensive and defensive guy. I'd expect Foote and Hannan to possibly be switched. Salei will almost defintely be on the third pairing, along with Cumiskey.

Sauer and Cumiskey will almost certainly be the spares. Sauer has played well this season but I can't see the Avs sending down Finger, who has been terrific this year. Likewise, Cumiskey will be sent down as well.

Next Game:

TONIGHT vs Calgary

Debuts: None

What a day folks! I'll be back tomorrow with the rest of the trades and a game summary!

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Avs Lose vs Ducks in Shootout

We got a point.

And at this point, that is really all that matters.

In a game against a team with one of the best defensive lineups ever assembled, the Avs managed to put the puck in the net. They lost in a shootout, 3-2.

The Avs played their best in the second period when they provided great pressure forechecking and managed to dictate play. Jeff Finger and Andrew Brunette scored the goals.

On Anaheim's side, they got off to a quick start when Teemu Selanne scored his second goal in two games against Colorado. The Ducks were trailing until the midway point of the third period when Rob Niedermayer scored to tie the game.


Shootout Details

Anaheim: Chris Perry: GOAL
Colorado: Wojtek Wolski: MISS
Anaheim: Teemu Selanne: SAVE
Colorado: Marek Svatos: MISS
Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf: SAVE
Colorado: Milan Hejduk: MISS

Ducks Win: 1-0.

Another sad result for the Avs who now sit four points back of the 8th spot in the conference.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Jeff Finger (Played well for most of the game, scored)
2. Andrew Brunette (Got out of his goal slump, needs to do it again)
3. Peter Budaj (Got the Avs to OT with a great third period)

Next Up

The Avs play a VERY important game TONIGHT agaisnt the Phoenix Coyotes. Both teams, with 66 points, are four points back of a playoff spot. The Avs need to win this game.

Injury Update

Paul Stastny is expected to play tonight - according to TSN, Rocky Mountain News

Joe Sakic is currently listed as being day-to-day - according to NHL.com

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Avs Shutout - AGAIN in Loss to Detroit

Well...you can't say we're not getting used to it.



For the third time against Detroit this season. the Avs were shutout - in their own building. After a 4-0 loss which saw very few offensive chances for the Colorado, Detroit completed the season sweep of the Avs for just the second time in franchise history.



I just want to examine my keys to the game.



1. Goaltending



Jose Theodore needed to stand on his head and he clearly didn't do that. The first goal, a product of a great screen by Thomas Holmstrom, hit Theodore on the way in and probably should have been stopped. Later, a 3-on-1 break caught Theodore way out of position, as did the third goal.



2. Special Teams


Clearly, the Avs didn't get the memo. The powerplay was a pathetic 0/8 in the game while the penalty killing unit allowed two goals in the 4-0 loss. Ian Laperriere, in particular, fumbled the puck and then failed to clear it - it directly lead to a Detroit goal.

3. Star Players

Hejduk, Svatos, and Wolski didn't come through for the Avs and with Brett Clark out, Scott Hannan and John-Michael Liles did nothing.

In Other News:

Ian Laperriere has injured Nick Lidstrom for three weeks thanks to a legal first period hit. Lidstrom left the game right away and is now on the injury list.

Cody McLeod was given two game misconducts for seemingly taking swipes at the Detroit bench. Keep at 'em Cody!

Three Stars of the Game

1. Cody McLeod (Brings something on ever shift and I hope he stays up for the rest of the season)
2. Ian Laperriere (Despite his mess up on the penalty kill, Lappy continues to make a difference in the offensive zone)
3. N/a





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Monday, February 18, 2008

Avs vs Wings - Key Game for Both Teams

It's hard to imagine that a team with a 17-point lead in the Conference would have to play a meaningful game in February. For Detroit, that's what this game is.

With that 17-point lead now down to 8, Detroit has lost six straight games and are nursing key injuries including Hasek, Cleary, and Rafalski. The Wings have scored just 10 goals in their last six games, going 0-5-1 in the process.

On the other side, the Avs are nursing their own three game losing streak in which they have scored just three goals. Milan Hejduk needs to beging scoring again and the goaltending must be solid.

In tonight's game, one that will be shown all across America on Versus, the Wings will look for the sweep against Colorado, as the Avs have failed to score a goal the last two games against the Wings.

Keys for the Game

1. Goaltending
No matter who starts the game, Colorado will need Budaj or Theodore to stand on their head. Detroit is still dangerous, even when they are in a state of disaster, and one weak goal can cost Colorado the game.

2. Colorado Stars
That means YOU Milan Hejduk, Wojtek Wolski, and Marek Svatos. You boys must score and must score often. Svatos has been doing his part, but Wolski and Hejduk have been invisible at times this season.

3. Special Teams
The Power Play needs to score and against Detroit, that's a very tough task. On the other end, the penalty kill must come through and pressure the Wings into making bad decisions.

To get you pumped up for the 8 PM EST start on Versus, check out:

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Losing Streak Continues (Losses vs Blues and Blackhawks)

Well, it hasn't exactly been fun. With injuries to Sakic, Stastny, Clark, Cumiskey, McCormick, and at times, Svatos and Smyth, the Avs have been depleted at all times this season. They need to snap out of it.

Soon.

With a 4-1 loss to St. Louis and a 2-1 defeat against Chicago, the Avs are now in 9th place in the West and haven't been able to buy a goal.

In St. Louis, the Avs looked like chickens with their heads cut off in the defensive zone and despite putting the puck on net 40 times, could only manage to get one by Manny Legace.

Jose Theodore was pulled after allowing four goals on seven shots, including a shorthanded one in the second.

The Avs made it a two-goal game early in the third thanks to a Ben Guite goal, but failed to do anything else up until the Blues hit the empty net.

Three Stars of the Game
1. Peter Budaj (16 saves on 16 shots in relief for Jose)
2. N/A
3. N/A

That should tell you all you need to know.

___________________________________

The 2-1 loss at Chicago appears to be much closer than it was. The Avs didn't score until there were under 3 minutes to go and didn't manage a shot in the last 30 seconds, despite being up on a 6-on-4 powerplay. The Avs went 0-8 on the powerplay, a dismal statistic, but Theodore did manage to make 25 saves on 27 shots.

Patrick Lalime, another Avs killer, stopped 21 of 22 shots.


Three Stars of the Game

1. Cody McLeod (An assist and a fight, McLeod needs to work on that Gordie Howe hat trick)
2. None
3. None

Next Up

Detroit.

See Next Post.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

HUGE GAME RECAP: Post-Jan 23

Here is every game I've missed since the big win against Nashville on the 23rd.

1/24
Minnesota: 3
Colorado: 2

A great game played by Thedore (34 saves) but the Wild are almost unbeatable when entering the third period with the lead and that ended up holding true.

Three Stars:

1. Wojtek Wolski (Goal)
2. Jose Theodore (34 saves, one mistake)
3. John-Michael Liles (Assists and a great game on the blueline)

1/30
Chicago: 3
Colorado: 6

A huge win the game after the All Star break, the Avs came out on fire as they scored three first period goals. The line of Wolski-Svatos-Arnason was introduced in this game as the Avs were still without Sakic, Smyth, or Stastny.

Three Stars:

1. Marek Svatos (Two goals AND an assist for Svatty? Unthinkable.)
2. Tyler Arnason (One goal, two assists as he steps up for the injured stars)
3. Milan Hejduk (A goal and an assist, needs to continue scoring)

2/1
Detroit: 2
Colorado: 0

The once-giant rivalry ended in a shutout for the for the Wings. Peter Budaj was absolutely incredible in this game as he played lights out. It took a goal with two minutes to go in the third to put the Wings on top. Highlights included Budaj shutting the Wings down on a 5-on-3 early on and a 2-on-1 break late in the third.

Three Stars:

1. Peter Budaj (34 saves, deserved the win)
2. N/a
3. N/a

2/2
St. Louis: 4
Colorado: 6

The Avs responded to getting shut out by scoring three third period goals and winning the game handidly. TJ Hensick had his first career two-goal game and Cody McLeod even chipped in two assists.

Three Stars:

1. TJ Hensick (Two goals, scoring touch showing)
2. Cody McLeod (Another Lake Erie player stepping up with two assists, McLeod has earned his NHL spot)
3. Wojtek Wolski (Two assists, continues to play well defensively)

2/4
Phoenix: 3
Colorado: 2
(OT)

In a game marred by controversy, the Avs failed to get what may be a very important second point. When TJ Hensick put the Avs up 3-2 late in the third, the game looked to be in hand. But former Av Radim Vrbata scored to tie the game up. In OT, Vrbata scored again. However, it appears that the refs whistle blew to stop the play, yet the puck was across the line before he blew his whistle. My thoughts? It was a goal, but I'll never admit it.

Three Stars:

1. TJ Hensick (Two more power play goals for a kid who reminds me of Svatos)
2. Tyler Arnason (Two assists on both Hensick goals)
3. N/a

2/6
San Jose: 1
Colorado: 3

Names such as Ben Guite, Jeff Finger, and TJ Hensick shined for the Avs in a 3-1 win over a very tough conference opponent. Theodore was remarkable, stopping 30/31 and Brett Clark added two assists.

Three Stars:

1. Jose Theodore (Won the game for Colorado)
2. Brett Clark (Two assists, took Cheechoo out of the game)
3. Ben Guite (A goal from Guite is just a bonus)

2/9
Vancouver: 2
Colorado: 6

A 3-0 lead after one sealed this game up for Colorado as they earned a very important 2 points in the NW division. The Avs beat Luongo five times and Hejduk scored five goals to snap a long scoring drought.

Three Stars:

1. Marek Svatos (Two goals, one assist for Svatty)
2. Milan Hejduk (Two goals, accounted for a third of the scoring)
3. Jarsoslav Hlinka (Two assists, has finally adapted to NA game)

And with that, we are all caught up!

The next game is tonight, against Anaheim. Lets go Avs!


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Saturday, February 9, 2008

GIANT APOLOGY

I have been unable to access the blog for about two weeks now. I will have mini-game summaries of everything I missed, including tonight's game against the Canucks.

Paul Stastny is slated to return.

Look for it on Monday.

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