Friday, October 31, 2008

Raycroft Embarassed in 4-2 Loss to Columbus

To let up four goals on fourteen shots is embarassing. To let up four goals on fourteen shots against the Blue Jackets is super embarassing. The Avs, whose offense has now managed to put up 3 goals in the last 9 periods, lost last night and saw their record drop back to 5-5 after ten games.

A few weeks ago, I listened to an interview between the boys on XM's radio show NHL Live! and Detroit GM Ken Holland. Holland said that the key to making the playoffs is winning six out of every ten games. That puts a team between 96-98 points and that has been the magic number to make the playoffs in the past few seasons. Currently, the Avs are already behind the pace.

The goals Raycroft let in were less than spectacular. Derrick Brassard's goal on the second shot of the game beat Raycroft over his left shoulder. He should have had it, or he should have at least tried something more than what looked like a "shoulder shrug." The terrible goal was one that actually went through Raycroft's legs. Bad positioning. Bad reflexes. Bad goalie.

The night was capped off by Sakic and Hejduk colliding in the neutral zone. Just what the Avs need.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Peter Budaj (Who can argue with his 3 save peformance)
2. Paul Stastny (Goal, not named Arnason)
3. Third stars are another name for the second non-first stars.

Arnason Watch

Arnason showed a great scoring touch when he scored his second of the season late in third. It's too bad that the Avs were down 4-1 at the time. It seems as if Arnason can only score on wide open nets (when the puck is literally given to him) or when the Avs are too far behind to mount a comeback. Nicely done, Arnie.

Next Up

The Avs take on the best team in the West - the Sharks - on Sunday at 8 PM ET. Budaj will undoubtedly get the start in goal. I've also said publicly that if he can get the win, I'll officially throw my support behind the guy. (We can all hope)

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hockey in Philly Died Last Night

Much to my dismay, the hometown Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series last night - the first major sports championship for Philly in 28 years. People celebrated by crowding onto Broad Street and launching fireworks, hugging strangers, and even lifting bikes above their heads as if they represented several Stanley Cups.

The bad news?

Philadelphia Flyers hockey has been knocked down to #3 on the list of sports in this great hockey city.

After the Eagles, the Flyers and Phillies have always competed for #2. Not anymore. The Phillies are now officially the #2, probably the #1 team in Philadelphia right now and nothing will change that before June, and probably not even then, unless the Flyers manage to win it all.

The excitement that used to come with Flyers hockey will now be much less. The question "will they be the ones to finally break the curse?" will no longer be asked. If they lose in the first round, so what? The Phillies are our saviors. The Flyers will try next season, but even if they fail, who cares? We still have Cole Hamels.

The Flyers had a chance in 2004 to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning and take their chances at a championship for the City of Brotherly Love. They failed. The Phillies succeeded. Phillies>Flyers.

And that's how it will stay for another 28 years.

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Avs goosegged by Calgary, Raycroft in Goal Tonight

A 3-0 loss is just that. A 3-0 loss. It means nobody scored for the losing team. Ok, simple, right?

The Avs dropped to 0-2 on the season against the Flames Tuesday night thanks to three third period goals scored by Calgary. The Avs managed just two shots in the final period and couldn't get an offensive flow going the entire game. The good news? Budaj played pretty well. The first goal was not his fault and you may as well forget about the other two. The Avs aren't going to win by playing like they did in this game.

Three Stars of the Game

*Not tallied for shutout losses against divisional opponents*

Note

Ben Guite was scratched in favor of Cody McCormick. I haven't read who is centering the fourth line against Columbus tonight but my gut is telling me the Avs will put Guite back in.

Raycroft in Net

Raycroft will be taking his usual "Once to twice a week" start against a team that has managed just one win in their short history against the Avs. Raycroft is 2-0 this season.

Arnason Watch

Jibblescribbits put together a great piece that basically shows Arnason to be the crap that he is. Excellent work.

Next Up

Tonight, 9 PM ET, Columbus. Be there or be..well, possibly 5-5.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Building from Buffalo (+ 5 Bold Predictions)

After dealing with a seemingly random snow storm just outside of Philly and then waiting at least 6 hours to get power back, I'm finally able to get on here and talk about the Avs.

Here's a full NHL.com recap on Saturday's big 2-1 shootout win over the Sabres.

Anyone underestimating that win really shouldn't be. The Avs went in against one of the hottest teams in the NHL, played 60 minutes of tremendous defense with offensive pressure, and got Budaj his first shootout win in what seems like, well, ever. Jordan Leopold scored the game-tying goal with about six minutes left in the game and Ryan Smyth ended up notching the shootout winner.

Three Stars of That Game

1. Peter Budaj (29 saves, perfect in the third, solid in the shootout)
2. Adam Foote (Took a puck to the foot early, came back and shut everyone down)
3. Ryan Smyth (Assisted on the Leopold goal, his shot in the shootout looked like luck)

Arnason Watch

One shot in just under 13 minutes of ice time. Why is this guy still on the Avalanche power play?

Tonight

The Avs will head to Calgary to take on the Flames at 9:30 ET tonight. Your bold predictions are as follows:

Three fights, two of which will be by Cody McLeod.

Ben Guite will register two points.

Todd Bertuzzi will be worse than a -1.

Mikka Kiprusoff will be pulled by the 3rd period.

Some Av
will have a four point night.

LETS GO AVALANCHE!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Super Saturday" Games to be Missed by Most

And there will be much more where that came from when more than 275,000
fans will flock to arenas throughout North America Saturday to watch 600 players
compete in 15 games on the busiest day of the National Hockey League schedule. For
only the second time in the League's history, 30 teams will be in action on the same day.
-NHL.com

It's a shame that few people will see more than one or two of these game on what could have been a great day for the NHL.

According to the schedule, none of the games are being shown on Versus or NBC in America. Unless you have NHL Network or Center Ice, you'll be limited to watching one, maybe two games. (The Kings-Predators game isn't being show on TV at all.)

It seems to me that if there is a day when every team in the NHL will be playing, it is the perfect chance to showcase the top players. Instead, those who do not subscribe to an expensive cable package will see their local team's game only.

The only reason I'm excited for "Super Saturday" is because I have Center Ice and I'll have the chance, starting at 4, to watch uninterrupted NHL games. My friends, who thanks to absolutely no hype, have no idea that this is a historic day, will be watching the Flyers-Devils game and then switching over to the Phillies.

Ok, maybe Philly is a bad example. Afterall, it's the WORLD SERIES. But the point is still there. If that game is 8-0 Rays after the first inning, my friends won't be tuning into Versus to see Ovechkin take on the Stars or Kane take on the Wings. No, they won't even be given the chance.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Avs Win 4th Straight - Lappy with the Gordie Howe Hat Trick

Ian Laperriere does strange things every once in awhile. This includes responding directly to Adrian Dater's comments that he needed to chip in more offensively.
Lappy - as much as I like him personally - needs to add more to this team again instead of just being “good in the room.” A team needs a little something on the ice too, like, I don’t know, maybe a goal now and then.
All Things Avs
Lappy had a goal, fight, and an assist in Colorado's 4-1 defeat over the Edmonton Oilers. Laperriere's "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" made him the story of the night, but had it not been for that, fans would be praising Peter Budaj's 25 save performance. Has he finally settled in to the starter's role? We'll find out tomorrow night when he faces the Sabres, a team that is just as hot as the Avs right now.

My Bold Predictions

For the second straight game, Tyler Arnason made me look like an idiot. He only managed one shot on goal. At the same time, Scott Hannan didn't take a penalty unlike nine other players who all were in the box for hooking. If the NHL is looking to show their fans that they're cracking down, they only need to point them to this game. I was correct about a goal being scored in the first five minutes of the second and correctly predicted the number of fights.

Jones Scratched

David Jones missed the game with the Flu. Ben Guite was inserted back into the lineup. Guite played well and recorded two assists, and we may actually see him in the lineup Saturday. McCormick doesn't deserve to be benched, though.

The penalty kill let up another goal, but the power play scored as well thanks to Paul Stastny.

The biggest surprise this season? Try Cody McLeod. He scored another goal last night.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Ian Laperriere (As good as it gets for the 4th liner)
2. Darcy Tucker (With two assists, his playmaking has been impressive so far)
3. Peter Budaj (Finally a good game. Will it continue?)

Next Up

All thirty teams will be in action as the Avs take on the undefeated Buffalo Sabres Saturday Night at 9:30 ET. I'll have more on this game tomorrow.


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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tonight's BOLD Predictions

I did it once, so why not do it again?

For tonight's game against Edmonton...

Scott Hannan will take at least two penalties, one of which will be holding.

Wojtek Wolski will score a goal.

Tyler Arnason will have a multi-point night.

One goal will be scored in the first five minutes of the second period.

There will be at least two fights.

Very bold. Very, very bold.

I'm not sure if I should be putting (a lack of) faith in Arnason for the second game in a row, but he always seems to do well against the Oilers.

Game Time = 9:30 PM ET
Peter Budaj starting in goal
Avs going for fourth straight victory

By the way

Anyone worried about goaltending or defense only needs to look at the Flyers-Sharks game from last night. 7-6 was the final with seven of the thirteen goals coming in the first period. Consider yourself lucky that the Avs aren't doing that every night.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jones Goal, Budaj 26 Saves, and an Avs 4-3 Victory

I don't like to brag - until there is something to brag about.

Yesterday, I went out on a limb with five bold predictions and I'm proud to say that three of them came true. Lucky? You betcha. That probably won't happen again this season.

Anyway, I watched the first two periods of the Avs-Kings game before setting up the DVR. The next morning, I knew I was going to have to wait until the afternoon to watch the third, but I just couldn't wait. I logged on to the new-and-improved NHL.com and was pleased to see a 4-3 Avs victory.

Then I decided to check to see if I was going to look smart today.

Budaj will make exactly 26 saves

Correct. Budaj made 26 saves on 29 shots. He was decent, I guess. The first goal should have been a stop, but he didn't let in a last second goal. That's always a plus.

David Jones will score a goal

Correct. Jones scored his first of the season thanks to the nice setup by Marek Svatos. i jumped out of my seat when I heard Bob Miller, the LA Kings play-by-play guy, call his name. Congratulations to Svatos on picking up one of his rare helpers.

Joe Sakic will have a multi-point night

Incorrect. Ouch, I thought this one was in the bag. It wasn't Sakic, but rather the RPM line that was most visible during the game. Sakic was held pointless for the first time this season.

Arnason will finish with more than two shots on goal

Incorrect. My "Arnason Watch" feature during each post game blog is an indication of how bad this guy really is. Arnason was held without a shot.

Avs Win 4-3

Correct. Colorado was getting outplayed for most of the first two periods. They were lucky that they were able to capitalize on LA turnovers. Smyth's first of two goals was the epitome of how well he is gelling with Stastny and Hejduk. Speaking of Hejduk, he's been on fire. He scored his sixth goal last night after stealing the puck. Beautiful.

The weakness continues to be the penalty kill. They let up another power play goal last night and didn't seem to be improving. It's extremely unlikely any team with dreadful penalty killing will be able to win the Stanley Cup. The Avs need to figure out how to fix this achilles heel.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Ryan Smyth (Got things going early, ended with the game winner)
2. Milan Hejduk (The hottest Av to start the season)
3. David Jones (Thank you for coming through)

Video Fix

My favorite Bob Miller movie:

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Thank you, DVR

Because I need to get some sleep tonight, the DVR will capture periods two and three for me and I'll watch them sometime tomorrow. My only challenge will be to avoid any place I may see scores or may run into a person who will tell me the score. Hopefully, this is all avoided and the Avs wrap this game up in the first period.

Peter Budaj is getting the start. It'll be interesting to see how he plays now that the team has finally figured out how to win games. If he can put together a solid performance, his #1 spot is safe. If he continues to be below average, watch out, the goaltending discussion will only get worse.

Oh, and a few calls for you:

Budaj will make exactly 26 saves.

David Jones
will score a goal.

Joe Sakic will have a multi-point night.

Arnason
will finish with more than two shots on goal.

Avs win 4-3.

I'm proud to say that against the Flyers, I called goals by both Hejduk and Stastny through text message and was a Joe Sakic assist/goal away from getting his exact point total. Will my luck continue?

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Raycroft 2-0 - Avs Over Stars 5-4

When Brendan Morrow scored in the middle of the third, officially eliminating a 5-2 third period lead, I'm not going to lie - I almost punched a hole through my wall. How many times have we seen the Avs blow a big lead during a game? Way too often. Luckily, this wasn't one of those times.

After a lengthy review, it was ruled that Morrow hit the puck into the net with his hand; thus, the game remained 5-4.

Up until the third period, things were looking pretty good for the Avs.

Milan Hejduk scored two goals, officially making him the hottest play on the Avs.
Darcy Tucker scored his first goal as a member of the Avalanche.
Ryan Smyth scored a goal from the front of the net - a place he should be every time he's on the ice. Finally, he's being utilized correctly!
Tyler Arnason scored his first of the season. Not a typo. Tyler Arnason scored. Sure, it was mostly due to the fact that Turco misplayed the puck and Arnason was handed an empty net, but you have to give credit where some credit is due.
Joe Sakic recorded two more assists. That's five straight games in which Sakic has had a point to start the season.
Paul Stastny also had two assists on the day. Reports say that Stastny's agent is eager to reach a long-term deal. Lets hope that becomes a reality.

The Punch Line

After Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod, and Ian Laperriere all got into fights, Mike Haynes and Peter McNabb decided to name their line The Punch Line. I'm not sure if I'm feeling it yet. Colorado already has the "RPM" line and I'm not sure if we should be naming a line that has a couple of players who might be scratched on any given night.

Special Teams

While the penalty kill continues to be dismal (the Stars were 1-4 on the PP), the power play has been on fire. The Avs scored two power play goals in the second period.

David Jones

Jones was only on the ice for about 7 minutes and was a -1 in that time. With Willsie and Hensick waiting in the minors, it'll be interesting to see if his job is at risk. In the early stages of the season, I hope the Avs stick with Jones. He's shown loads of potential to be a productive power forward - a position the Avs need to have on the roster.

Andrew Raycroft

26 saves on 30 shots for the backup in his second straight start. He still looks very awkward when making saves and he certainly didn't finish strong. That being said...

Who Should Start vs LA?

As long as Peter Budaj is considered the started, there should be no splitting of time between the two netminders. Budaj should get the start, especially since Raycroft wasn't overly spectacular in either of his two wins. If Budaj gets shelled, then we'll talk.

Arnason Report

As previously noted, Arnason scored his first goal of the season (first point of the season) with two shots and just over ten minutes of ice time.

Three Stars of the Game
1. Milan Hejduk (Five goals in five games for The Duke. Is a fifty-goal season possible?)
2. Paul Stastny (His vision on the ice is incredible. Great passing on Hejduk's first)
3. Ryan Smyth (A player with weaker skills around the net wouldn't have been able to score his goal)

Next Up

The Avs play the Los Angeles Kings on Monday at 10:30 ET. This is a problem. Do I stay up and sacrifice sleep? Do I tape the game and hope no one tells me the score? If so, is it a problem if I may not have time to watch it? Do I simply read one of the other Avalanche blogs the next day? Decisions, decisions.

Video Fix

Sorry, I couldn't resist:

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Friday, October 17, 2008

So Begin the Raycroft Era? [Avs Win 5-2 vs Flyers]

The Andrew Raycroft era probably didn't begin last night, but I sure loved his blue pads.

Raycroft helped the Avs record their first victory of the 08-09 season by stopping 16 shots and by allowing his two goals on a penalty shot and a power play. He didn't play unbelievably well, but he played well enough. Did he prove that he's a competent backup? Not yet. The Flyers are struggling offensively and he wasn't tested enough to warrant a huge amount of praise.

As for the rest of the team, it seems as though they finally woke up. From the opening period (where they outshot the Flyers 17-3) to the closing seconds, the Avs played well defensively and really took it to the Flyers on offense. They were energized, creative, and organized.

"I don't know if it's pressure, but you knew you had to have this game," Sakic said. "We've played good hockey, we just weren't rewarded. We knew if we kept playing the same way we would get rewarded."
NHL Game Recap

After Simon Gagne scored on a peanlty shot, (one that wasn't deserved - he got the shot off didn't he?) the Avs responded almost immediately with a power play goal. The Flyers cut the lead to one on a Mike Richards goal, but Cody McCormick basically sealed the game by scoring in the final seconds of the 2nd period.

In the third, the Avs held the Flyers to four shots and added a second insurance goal to seal the deal. All in all, a pretty nice effort.

This game is a perfect example of the kind of goaltending the Avs need. Don't lose the game. The offense will get the job done on the majority nights. Last night, the goaltending got it done as well.

Other Notes

The Avs were 3/11 on the power play. That includes a beautiful tic-tac-toe play ending with a Marek Svatos goal. Hejduk and Stastny were the other power play scorers.

Ben Guite was a healthy scratch. Cody McCormick took his place on the fourth line and rewarded the decision with a goal. That makes two games in a row that McCormick has been a factor.

Another guy making a name for himself is Cody McLeod. He drew two penalties last night, playing his usual 10 or so minutes.

Defensively, the Avs kept their composure throughout the game. Besides a few penalties, the d-men were generally making thoughtful decisions. Though, outlet passes could still use some work.

Arnason Watch

Arnie had one shot and was a +1 in 12:19 of ice time. He actually looked good for the first time all season as he decided that he was going to create chances in the offensive zone instead of simply turning the puck over.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Joe Sakic (Three assists, he was all over the puck)
2. Cody McCormick (His goal was the turning point)
3. Paul Stastny (First goal of the season, Stastny played well on the power play)

Next Up

The Avs are headed to Dallas to take on the Stars at 1:30 PM ET Saturday afternoon. Marty Turco was scored on five times last night. Will he return to the net on Saturday?

Video Fix

A look at what the Avs might have to deal with against Dallas:

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

If the Avs want a win tonight, they must...

1. Score First

It's not too difficult to figure out. If you score the most goals, you win. If you're leading the entire game, you win. The Avs failed to score first in all three of their losses, and now is the time they need to change that trend. Andrew Raycroft is in goal. Yes, Andrew Raycroft. I can't believe I'm saying it. Ok, so that's a different post. The point is, he needs to be playing with some confidence (and room for error).

2. Have a Perfect Night of Penalty Killing

The Flyers power play through three games is 26th in the NHL. Any type of goal they score with the man advantage will give them a huge lift (actually, every goal does that) and also prove that the Avs penalty killing truly deserves to be ranked dead last.

3. Capitalize on Defensive Woes

Randy Jones and Ryan Parent are out for the Flyers which means they're somewhat shorthanded at defense. The Avs need to expose rookie Luca Sbisa and former Av Ossi Vannanen when they're on the ice. Sbisa, in particular, is a -3 in his first three NHL games while averaging close to ten minutes more than fellow Flyer Lasse Kukkonen.

4. Focus on Gagne

He has three goals in three games while averaging over twenty minutes of ice time. I'd assume he'd be matched up with Foote and Clark, but really, this is a team that is starting Tyler Arnason on the third line tonight.

5. Play Hard

You're 0-3 and the game is at home. They better come out strong.

_______

Game time is at 9 PM Eastern. It's going to be brutal tomorrow if they drop this one.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Avs, Budaj (But Not Svatos!) Lost Again

When I found out Marek Svatos was a scratch last night, my first thought was "wow, I guess Tyler Arnason hasn't been the worst player on the team so far." While the decision to bench Svatos in favor of McCormick happened to pay off last night, there are other guys who just as easily could/should have taken a seat. (IE Budaj, Arnason, Tucker, etc)

Anyway, the Avs lost last night with Enemy #1 ending up with the game-winning goal in 5-4 Flames victory. Budaj was still mediocre, especially in the first when he let in three pretty soft goals. One of them was actually a dropped fly ball. Score the play an E6.

Other problems, besides goaltending, include the penalty kill, which allowed a putrid three goals and is now ranked 30th in the NHL. Somehow, Idon't think that the in-game adjustment of putting David Jones out there is going to fix the problem.

And again, the defense was not up to par. There were several times when Ruslan Salei and Scott Hannan made me wish Martin Skoula was back on the roster.

The Positives

Cody McLeod is coming to play this season. He already has two goals (it would be a successful season if he could put up ten) and continues to bring energy with every shift. His quote during intermission that "Phaneuf was going to remember #55" was a great soundbyte.

John-Michael Liles scored. That's always good - especially since it seems that the Avs are going to have to put up four or five goals in order to win a game.

Granato has continued to protect Jordan Leopold against any kind of injury. With just over 13 minutes, Leopold had far less ice time than the other defensemen. Leopold did end up as a +1 with an assist, however.

The power play looked decent at times and horrendous at other times. The Avs either score (as Ryan Smyth and JM Liles did) or can't get it into the attacking zone and end up giving the opposition an odd-man rush.

A Rivalry Is Born

When Cody McLeod and Dion Phaneuf exchanged two cheap shots at the end of the first period, and Cody McCormick went on to fight Jarome Iginla immediately after, it was clear that the possibility for a rivalry is certainly there.

Arnason Watch

In exactly 11 minutes of ice time, Arnason had no shots, no assists, and obviously, no points. He was a +1, thanks to Cody McLeod and Cody McCormick's beautiful play on which Arnason did absolutely nothing.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Cody McLeod (I jumped on his bandwagon last year, the 4th liner scored his 2nd goal of the year and had a +2 rating)
2. Paul Stastny (Two assists, including a beautiful one to Ryan Smyth on the PP)
3. Ryan Smyth (Finally scored on the power play, Smyth had two points while leading everyone in ice time)

Next Up

The Avs head back to Colorado for a very important game when it comes to my pride. They'll take on the Philadelphia Flyers at 9 PM ET on Thursday night. Of course, the fact that I live around huge Flyers fans makes this game a must-win. Granato recently said that Andrew Raycroft would start about once per week (or once every four games) so that makes this his time. Budaj needs the rest, but I'm nervous about Raycroft's ability to do anything.

Video Fix

Here's one that sums up Raycroft's career pretty well:

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kipper vs Budaj
















Kiprusoff:
2 GP, 0-1-1, 5.32 GAA, .807 Sv%

Budaj:
2 GP, 0-2-0, 4.03 GAA, .795 Sv%

Who will blink first?


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Monday, October 13, 2008

Avs Lose in Dying Seconds

After a great game filled with Avalanche domination for the second game in a row, Colorado and Edmonton appeared to be heading to OT barring some sort of late flourish by the Oilers.

Oh !$@#.

After containing Sheldon Souray so well throughout the game, the Avs let him get off a last second shot that hit off Dustin Penner's skates and went weakly through Budaj's five-hole. Just like that, the Avs are 0-2.

It's not time to panic by any means. Who thought the Avs were going 81-1 this season? No, there will be more losses like this one and the Avs will eventually score one of these last second goals at some point this season. It's part of hockey.

That being said, allow my semi-assault on Peter Budaj to (somewhat) continue. The guy actually played pretty well. He made some key saves to hold the promising Edmonton offense to just two goals for over 59 minutes. Two of the goals (including the game-winner) could be considered flukes. Though, now that we've seen 3 or 4 flukes in just two games, they really need to stop. Budaj needs to start tightening his game or else the Avs are going to be constantly playing from behind as they have been in the first two games. The shakiness we see could just be early-season rust, it's just ashame that the Avs aren't 2-0 right now.

Edmonton coach Craig McTavish said it best,

"That's not the way we drew it up, for sure," Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish said. "It's nice to be able to win a game when you don't have your best stuff. We were fortunate to win but we will take it. The reason we won the game was our goalie outplayed their goalie and when that happens you can get away with a stinker."
NHL Game Recap
The question is, will Budaj be capable of stealing games for the Avs this season? He's never proved that he could do that over a full season in the past. Hopefully he can make 08-09 his year.

If you want to look for another weakeness, it clearly comes when the Avs are playing in their own zone. They still do a mediocre defending the backdoor on the penalty kill and they have an unbelievable hard time clearing the puck when the other team is forechecking. There are even times when the defenseman will wrap it around the boards to a forward, the forward will wait for the puck to roll to him, and the opposition will beat the Av to the puck. It's frustrating and has become painfully obvious that the Avs are an easy club to get chances on.

Other Notes

Adam Foote played in his 1000th game last night. Foote's family was, as a surprise to #52, in the audience for the game.

Milan Hejduk scored his second goal of the season on a penalty shot while Joe Sakic scored his first goal as a 39-year-old.

Cody McLeod actually seemed to learn how to fight. He took on Steve Staios and connected with a few rights before falling on top of him. The nice thing about Laperriere and McLeod is that they actually try to punch, instead of simply grabbing the jersey.

For the second straight game, the Avs outshot their opponent by a wide margin. This time, it was 33-19. That doesn't include four posts that were hit in the game. I'm not sure if that includes the Sakic's waived off goal either.

On the Arnason front, #39 was a fairly impressive even, with two penalty minutes and one shot on goal. His wingers, Svatos and Tucker, haven't done much either. Maybe it's time to change the center? No? Ok.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Joe Sakic (A goal, a waived off goal, and at 39, he was fourth on the team in ice time)
2. Scott Hannan (One assist, helped create the Sakic goal by jumping into the play)
3. Milan Hejduk (Playing well defensively, continuing to create offensively)

Next Up

The Avs travel to Calgary to take on the Flames. Game time is 9:30 PM ET tomorrow night. The Flames were my choice during the Avalanche Roundtable to be Colorado's new rival. Will we see the first taste of that tomorrow?

Video Fix

To build your confidence in Peter Budaj...


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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Budaj's Second Chance Tonight

Keep in mind, Budaj will have plenty of chances to prove himself this season. This is just his second. Assuming the Avs can play like they did on Thursday with a fewer mistakes in the defensive end, then Budaj should be able to take home a victory.

Tonight, 8 PM ET, @ Edmonton

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Avs Drop Opener 5-4

A question of whether or not your team has a solid starting goaltender is easily answered. Just ask yourself this: Does he make me believe that he's going to stop every shot? If that answer is yes, then you have a Roberto Luongo, a Martin Brodeur, or an Evgeni Nabokov. If that answer is no, then you most likely have a Martin Gerber, Andrew Raycroft, or Peter Budaj.

Wait a second, the Avs have two of those guys.

True, all five goals can't be blamed on Budaj. Krejci's goal with two minutes left that broke the 2-2 tie was more a result of a fluke play than any flaw in Budaj's game. It can be argued that Michael Ryder's goal should be blamed on the defenseman that didn't pick up his man in front of the goal instead of Budaj's inability to record a save percentage above .750 on opening night. And yes, "Boods" did make a very nice save on Patrice Bergeron's shorthanded breakaway in the third period.

But come on, he was pretty bad. 3 saves on 5 shots in the first period - one which the Avs dominated from start to finish. Budaj deserves some time before Avalanche fans begin to call for his head, but the Avs, who outshot the Bruins 39-20, would have won this game if the goaltending had been halfway decent.

Even with several defensive breakdowns and obvious problems in goal, the Avalanche offense looked pretty decent. Here are some highlights:

Hejduk, Wolski, McLeod, and Leopold score the first four goals of the Avalanche season. McLeod has already exceeded expectations for this season. Hopefully, this is just the start of great years for Hejduk and Wolski.

Sakic looked good. He lead all Avs with a TOI of 22:36 and assisted on McLeod's goal. Super Joe was robbed by Tim Thomas from tying the game at five in the dying seconds.

Tim Thomas stopped 35 shots, including a late flurry in the last 10 seconds. He even caught sight of Joe Sakic in the scrum, causing even more trepidation.

"I know from watching him over the years that he can go anywhere from five-hole to off the crossbar," Thomas said. "I was trying to be ready for anything."
NHL Game Recap


On the Tyler Arnason front, he had one shot and was a -1. Hensick was sent down in favor of this guy?

Ryan Smyth needs to stop taking slap shots every time he enters the attacking zone. I'd like to see him try to create something other than an offensive zone draw.

Granato really went to work on the offense. The power play looked good, especially since they were unleashing shots from the point. Hejduk's first period goal came on the PP while Wolski's goal came just after a Bruin left the box. Overall, I'm happy with the adjustments the coach has made.

Three Stars of the Game
The Three Stars indicate who I think the top three Avs were in each game. Remember, it's just an opinion.

1. Milan Hejduk (Goal, assist, Hejduk tied Sakic for most shots with 7)
2. John-Michael Liles (Two points, has finally decided to shoot from the point)
3. Joe Sakic (At 39, he's still the hardest working player on the ice)

Next Up

The Avs take the ice for the second time this season Sunday Night at 8 PM EST when they'll take on the Edmonton Oilers.

Video Fix

A little bit of that exhilarating Def Leppard concert last night. You be the judge...

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Versus is Stupid

Ok, maybe that doesn't come as much of a shock. But there's no other way to describe my disgust right now.

The Wings-Leafs game (yeah, the Leafs, or as I now realize, the Wings, are 0-1!) ended around 9:45 my time. Cool, that gives them fifteen minutes until the Avs opener, right? Wrong. Instead, I'm treated to a Def Leppard concert.

Not only does Def Leppard not pump me up for anything except a nice night falling asleep, but they're holding me (and you) from seeing opening faceoff of the 2008-2009 Colorado Avalanche season opener.

Why is it that America's hockey network isn't showing us hockey? Since when did a concert in Detroit come before a Boston-Colorado game? Why couldn't they have done the concert before the games started tonight? Why isn't the Versus Golf station (otherwise known as that random station on Digital Cable) showing us the game while the the regular Versus (otherwise known as that unknown station on regular cable) shows the fans, who are more into music than hockey, the concert?

If the league is still serious about marketing the game, maybe they better show us one from start to finish.

Apology: Versus did show us the opening faceoff after they got through with the abysmal concert, but the point is the same. Why waste 30 mintues with a concert when you could show us some hockey?

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Avs Roster Finalized, Opener Tomorrow

With the reassignments of TJ Hensick, Brian Willsie and Per Ledin, the Avs roster is down to 23 names; that means they're eligible to play their season opener tomorrow night (10 PM ET) against the Boston Bruins.

While I knew the Avs wouldn't take my advice about Hensick, I thought for sure that they'd check out that video I posted showcasing Per Ledin. No, instead, they decided that they were going to let Scott Parker stare at some people this season. Great. (Note the sarcasm.)

Willsie had a strong couple of pre-season games and I thought he might make it; but, the Avs will use him purely for depth purposes.

AF's Projected Lines (Opening Night)

Forwards
Ryan Smyth - Paul Stastny - Milan Hejduk
Wojtek Wolski - Joe Sakic - Darcy Tucker
David Jones - Tyler Arnason - Marek Svatos
Cody McLeod/McCormick - Ben Guite - Ian Laperriere

Spares: Cody McLeod/McCormick, Scott Parker,

As I've said all along, McCleod and McCormick are all but interchangeable at this point. I've always been more of a McLeod fan but I think the Avs will put in the (slightly) more experienced McCormick tomorrow night. I also just realized that the Avs only have three left wingers among the forwards and just one right handed defensemen. Things are weird, sometimes.

Defensemen
Jordan Leopold - Adam Foote
John-Michael Liles - Scott Hannan
Ruslan Salei - Brett Clark

Spare: Daniel Tjarnqvist

It's a very good top six. The way I have it proobably won't be the way it shakes out, but based on the ice time that Leopold was getting in the last exhibition game, I'm expecting the Avs to try and use him to his max. (Or maybe they just want to get the most out of him before he pulls something in the shower.)

Goaltenders
Peter Budaj
Andrew Raycroft

A huge question mark. I won't completely judge Budaj until he really messes up. Raycroft is a pylon.

Game time is tomorrow night at 10 PM ET (8 PM Mountain). It can be seen on Versus and will be joined-in-progress. In other words, the NHL is too stupid to show us the entire thing.

Oh, and if my Center Ice decides not to kick in, I'm shutting down my blog.

GO AVS

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

2nd Annual Avalanche Roundtable Day 5: Too Many Pests?

It was just four seasons ago that the Avs were loaded with skilled players. Sakic, Forsberg, Tanguay, Hejduk, Kariya, and Selanne made for an explosive lineup. Obviously, that experiment didn't work out too well. Now, as we approact the 2008-2009 season, a new experiment has become. With Ian Laperriere, Cody McLeod/McCormick, Darcy Tucker, and Per Ledin, the Avs seem to have an overload of "pesty" players. Or do they?

Are the Avalanche overloaded in the pest department?

Justin - The Avalanche Guild: Not at all. Just because the Avs have a number of physical forwards doesn't mean that they will be playing the role of "pest" on the ice. Younger players that are just trying to stick in the lineup will gladly take whatever ROLE they are handed, so whatever style Granato asks them to play, be assured they will embrace their adjusted role and do it to the best of their ability.

A perfect example of this happening last year was through Ben Guite. He played that "pest" role the first few games in an Avs uniform but quickly embraced the role of a solid penalty killer and defensive-minded forward, making him a valuable asset to the team. His shorthanded goal on Dominik Hasek solidified that role and that's something younger players like Cody McCloud, Kyle Cumiskey and Cody McCormick will most likely undergo this season as well.

Jay Vean - The Avs Hockey Podcast: Too many pests or not, as long as the players the Avs choose to keep on the roster are able to contribute effectively night in and night out the team will be just fine. Goals and tough minutes by those third and fourth line guys are so valuable to any NHL team. And when those pests score goals and do their jobs so well, it can be a real back breaker to the opposition. Somewhere around 10 goals each for Lappy, Darcy Tucker, Ben Guite, and even Ledin should do the trick this season!

Tapeleg - Jerseys and Hockey Love: Yes.
Thank you, good night.

But seriously, there is only one more "pest" than last season, so there isn't that much of a difference. It's just that there is now a higher profile one on the team (Darcy Tucker), and it's yet to be determined where he will play.

If Scott Parker plays in over half the games this season, I will be surprised.

Joe - Mile High Hockey: No way. The more the merrier. One of the major fan complaints since the Lockout was the lack of personality in the Avs roster. Without Foote, Forsberg and Roy, the Avs had become pretty bland. Now the team boasts some big egos and colorful characters---Darcy Tucker, Per Ledin, Ian Laperriere, and I think Ben Guite is now coming out of his shell. Cody McLeod is trying desperately to become the next Bryan Marchment. And Cody McCormick is just a badass in general. Is this a bad thing? How can it be? The Anaheim Ducks won a Stanley Cup with a team full of pests a couple years ago, not that that was the only reason or that the Avs will win the Cup, but you get my point.

I'm starting to think watching Avs games, win or lose, could be a lot of fun again.

Jori - Colorado Avalanche Prospects: The Avs needed to add some more grit to their lineup, so I don’t see it as an overload, but I do believe it makes Scott Parker dispensable. However, I expect Parker will remain on the team as the 13th or 14th forward, with one of the “Codys” starting the season in Lake Erie. The added grit on this team resembles Granato and his style. It’s a characteristic the Avs needed to add, but I don’t see the off-season additions as overkill. This should lessen the Avs reputation as being a “soft” team.

Jibblescribbits - Jibblesscribbits: I don't think there's too many pests, but I think there's too many pests with no scoring ability. Of all the Avs pests (Tucker, Cody Mac's, Ledin, and Lappy, you could even make an argument for Foote and possibly even David Jones) only 1 has the ability to put any points up at this point (Tucker). Two of those pests are also prone to taking bad penalties (Tucker and McLeod) which can negate their contributions at times.Nevertheless Granato needs to learn how to use them effectively. 2 lines of pests, especially if one is centered with either Hensik or Arnason, isn't going to really do a whole lot of good, it'll be overkill.

Mike - Mile High Hockey: Only if by overloaded do you mean "have more of that type of player than can possibly be useful in a lineup that was supposed to feature an up-tempo attacking style while still providing good defense so that the young goaltender wouldn't be unduly exposed," then yeah, I can see that.Seriously, if the everyday lineup includes Ledin, the McTwins, Tucker, Lappy, and Guite based solely on their peskiness, then I would be unhappy about it. If the everyday lineup includes that collection of gristmills because they can be tough AND contribute in other facets, then I say "HELZ YEAH, we're overloaded, and we're gonna unload on YOUR wuss team!”

Dario - In the Cheap Seats: Well, only if your pests can only do one thing, be a pest. Ledin, Tucker, the McCody brothers, and Lappy can all play a good brand of defense and chip in some scoring pressure. A guy like Scott Parker is too one dimensional at this point if he can only fight. In todays NHL you've got to have skating and defense in your game, two things Parker struggles with. Pests that play good defense and can provide energy in a 4th line role are good things to have.

David Driscoll-Carignan - In the Cheap Seats: I don't think you can have too much sandpaper. Most of our gritty players have some serviceable hockey skills and they mix well with the skilled players. The problem occurs when all your skilled players get hurt, and you have to give top-line minutes to guys named "Cody". But, if you lose a Sakic, Stastny, Svatos and Smyth, you're pretty much screwed anyway.

GEO - The Avslova Factor: Take a look at the Game 7 roster from the 2001 Stanley Cup victory. (Wow, brings back some memories, huh?) The Avs beat the Devils with names like Dave Reid, Chris Dingman, Dan Hinote, Eric Messier, Shjon Podein, and Stephane Yelle. They were included in what is perhaps the greatest Colorado Avalanche team in the franchise's short history. Did the Avs have too many pests then?

As long as Cody McLeod/McCormick (preferably one or the other) can limit the stupid penalties he (or he) takes, and as long as Darcy Tucker is semi-productive, and as long as Per Ledin proves to be better than Jaroslav Hlinka (and really, how could he not), then there are going to be very few problems. Every team needs players willing to do the dirty work - to go into the corners, to fight the other team's goon, and to get under the goalie's skin.

Face it, the team's fortunes ride on Sakic, Stastny, Hejduk, Svatos, and Wolski putting up numbers. If they can have big seasons, then the pests make the Avs that much better.

The 2nd Annual Avalanche Rountable continues tomorrow at Mile High Hockey where Mike, Joe, and Draft Dodger will host Question #6.

Mile High Hockey also serves as the official epicenter of the Roundtable. Keep checking in for when the new topic is posted.

I also want to say thank you to all those who particpated in the Roundtable and it is an honor to be apart of it as we approach the new season.

Avalanche hockey is just around the corner. Are you ready?

Per Ledin Video Fix

This is one of our so-called "pests:"



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Friday, October 3, 2008

I wish the KHL would sign Tyler Arnason...

...but even they don't want him. Look, I understand that it's the trendy thing to do - to bash Tyler Arnason. But really, this guy no more deserves a spot on Colorado's NHL roster than Chris Simon does being in the Peace Corps.

The Avs have around five centers vying for a spot this season. Sakic, Stastny, and Guite are shoo-ins. That leaves Arnason and Hensick trying to capture the third center spot. Arnason is still the heavy favorite to not only play, but to never be a healthy scratch. (Hey, if Quenneville didn't do it, hopefully Granato learns from the mistakes.)

When trying to differentiate between Arnason and Hensick, there are some things that pop out right away.

Hensick actually cares. He's a rookie who really wants to play.
Arnason takes nights off, looks like he'd rather be playing marbles than hockey on some nights, and usually ends up saving his career against the Edmonton Oilers.

Hensick has two goals and three assists in the preseason. That includes the shootout winner against the Kings on the 29th.
Arnason has registered exactly zero goal while chipping in one assist on a Matt Hendricks goal. Now, if Hendricks were staying with the Avs, maybe Arnason would at least be useful from a chemistry standpoint. He can't even help a player who will actually be on the roster this season!

Of course, just as I'm about to finish up this post, I read in the NHL Game Recap from tonight's Chicago-Colorado game:
T.J. Hensick of the Avalanche took a stick to the face in the first period, scratching the cornea in his eye. He didn't return to the game. Hensick has two goals and three assists in the preseason.
NHL.com

Well that's just dandy. Arnason, by the way, was given the night off. Andrew Raycroft gave up six goals on twenty-three shots, and the fact that David Jones, with a two-goal game tonight, is now on pace to hit over 82 goals this season, just made my head explode.

Preseason games don't mean much. However, if Tyler Arnason was scoring, oh, I don't know, as much as Matt Hendricks did in the presesaon, I'd be a little happier with him as the team's third line center.

Come on, Omsk. Don't you need a center for Jagr?

Roundtable Alert: Mile High Hockey continues to be your central hub for the 2nd Annual Avalanche Roundtable. Remember to be here on October 5th as The Avslova Factor takes part.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Avs Roundtable Begins Today

This year, the second annual Avs Roundtable will take place over the next nine days leading into opening night against Boston. Nine blogs (including The Avslova Factor) will host one question a day about a different burning question that you may be asking about your 2008-2009 Colorado Avalanche.

The festivities start today on Avs Talk where eleven Avalanche bloggers discuss who Colorado's rival really is.

Make sure to check in at Mile High Hockey each day to keep track of where the Roundtable is headed next.

Also, remember to be here on October 5th, the fifth stop on the Roundtable's second annual tour around the Internet.

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