Friday, October 29, 2010

Avs Win Barnburner

It was 3-1 Calgary when I left the room.

It was 3-3 when I got back. Chris Stewart had scored a hat trick. Then Calgary scored.

So I left the room until the third period started.

By now you've heard the tidbits:

-Chris Stewart hat trick
-Three assist game for Ryan O'Reilly
-John-Michael Liles' point streak snapped
-Daniel Winnik game-winner
-Kyle Cumiskey was a +3 despite possibly earning a possible healthy scratch for being absolutely terrible

______

Peter Budaj wasn't terrible last night (the majority of the goals were not his fault) but the defense continues to struggle and Budaj isn't going to bail them out as much as Anderson does. No matter what, though, this SHOULD NOT be the defensive group at season's end. A trade or signing or something must change.

Kyle Cumiskey is in the doghouse right now and if given the option, I think most Avalanche fans would want to be rid of him. The critique on him has always been that he's a poor-man's Liles. Now that #4 is finally playing well at the beginning of the season, Cumiskey is expendable. This is especially true if you consider that Shattenkirk, Cohen, and Gaunce are all likely to be with the Avs either next year or the year after.

Next game's scratches are going to tell me a lot about where Joe Sacco's head is. I want Cumiskey scratched, I want David Liffiton (see below) in, and I want Chris Stewart to keep playing out of his mind.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Believing

It's not that I don't believe in Peter Budaj. I like the guy - a lot. From all accounts, he's a great teammate, a tremendous worker, and the absolute perfect backup for Craig Anderson. But that's what he is.

A backup.

He had his shot as a starter, and though he had his good games, he was never the guy who made me feel like he could carry the Avs to a Cup one day.

Word from Denver is that Anderson is out indefinitely, but no surgery is needed and he shouldn't be out too long.

Luckily, the Avs schedule isn't brutal at all for the next week or so. After tonight's game at Calgary (in which an unknown rookie is starting - great), the Avs play Columbus in Colorado on Saturday. Then they have a four day rest before facing the Canucks again. Will Anderson be back that soon?

Hopefully, but probably not.

Then again, I honestly have no clue. After that Nucks game, the Avs play Dallas next Saturday and then have another four day break.

So even if Andy is out for the next two weeks, that's only four games in which Budaj must hold down the fort.


Oh, the chances that John Grahame sees any action whatsoever?

Absolutely nil.

Unless Joe Sacco goes bananas. I don't want that man anywhere near the crease unless he's in a practice jersey.


Puck drop in about 90 minutes. Avs are three points back of the Flames for the division lead. It's only been a few weeks, but let the playoff chase begin.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dropping Like Flies

With 9 minutes left in the third period (Avs down 3-2), here are the injuries that have occurred this game:

-Craig Anderson
-Scott Hannan
-John-Michael Liles
-Paul Stastny

Holy crap.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Woe is Andy

Solid picture of Anderson during LA's fifth goal.

Unbelievable.

After Wayne Simmonds was thrown out and given a five-minute major for butt-ending TJ Galiardi, the Avs looked poised to tie the game at four and hopefully surge ahead.

Well, they tied the game - and congratulations to John-Michael Liles for tying the NHL record in assists to start a season, as well as participating in his second fight ever - and then they proceeded to blow it.

But to be honest, it wasn't really the team that blew it. On the most boneheaded play by Anderson we might see (hopefully) all season, he tried playing a puck (something he shouldn't do anymore), gave the puck away to former-Av Brad Richardson, and failed to get back in his net in time to stop the shot.

A couple minutes later he gave up another weak one...to Brad Richardson. Hello Hat Trick.

A Brad Richardson Hat Trick. What are the odds?
Crap.

6-4 Kings - yet another third period screw up .

I think it goes without saying that Anderson is out for the next game on Tuesday night against the Canucks. I think it also goes without saying that he's going to be break something in the locker room. Lets hope it's not his hand - we still need him, despite the fact that he screwed up royally tonight.

Sickening loss.

Positives:

Two assist night for Dutchy.
Three point night for Staz (2 goals, 1 assist).
Two goal night for Duke.
Jonas Holos: 26 minutes of ice time = even +/-

.500 hockey.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Early Season Third Period Play


If you've watched the Avalanche over the last, say, 3-4 seasons, you know that the third period has basically been re-named "hold on for dear life." It's come to the point where I'd rather see the Avs tied or behind after forty minutes then in the lead. Of course, that's a bizarre statement. I want to see them ahead every single time at every single point. Still, lets see if it's as bad as I'm making it.

So far this season, games seem to be turning on what has transpired in the third. A look:

Game 1 - Chicago

After two periods, the Avs held a 3-2 advantage; however, halfway through the third, they allowed the Blackhawks to tie the game on a Patrick Sharp power play goal. Colorado took two penalties while the Blackhawks took none. The Avs would prevail in OT.
Shots: 14-14

Game 2 - Philadelphia

Trailing 2-1, the Avs didn't waste any time tying the game thanks to a Milan Hejduk goal just thirty seconds into the period. Unfortunately, an almost-fluke goal by Jeff Carter followed by an empty netter made the Avs go home as losers. The Avs took two penalties (including the bizarre Anderson for diving call).
Shots: 13-9 Flyers

Game 3 - Detroit

Again, the Avs trailed entering the third (3-2) and again, Daniel Winnik did not waste time evening the score at 4:43. After allowing a shorthanded goal to Patrick Eaves just three minutes later, the Avs refused to quit and tied the game with nine minutes left. Colorado won in a shootout. Two Detroit penalties, zero for Colorado.
Shots: 14-13 Detroit
*Detroit outshot Colorado 8-1 to end the period*

Game 4 - New Jersey

Up 2-1 and then 3-1, the Avs seemed poised to finally show some killer instinct and put the Devils away. Alas, Ilya Kovalchuk made things interesting with a goal at 8:49. For the period, the Devils outshot the Avs 16-7 and absolutely deserved to win this game. Had it not been for Anderson, this would have gone down as another third period cough up. Still, Avs win 3-2. One Avalanche penalty - a fighting major to Adam Foote.
Shots: 16-7 New Jersey

Game 5 - New York Islanders

This time, the collapse happened in the second as Colorado fell behind 3-0. They battled, making it 3-1, only to fall behind 4-1, only to battle again to make it 4-2 with ten minutes to go. They couldn't capitalize, eventually allowing an empty net goal. Two Avalanche penalties.
Shots: 13-8 Colorado

Game 6 - New York Rangers

The best third period of the season by far. They built on their 1-0 lead to make it 3-0 thanks to goals that were 30 seconds apart by Winnik and Chris Stewart. One penalty taken by Colorado.
Shots: 14-13 New York

Game 7 - San Jose

Down 3-1, the Avs got back into it after a Milan Hejduk PPG. The equalizer could not be found. Three Avalanche penalties in a game that was just ridiculous.
Shots: 10-7 Colorado


OVERALL

When Trailing Heading Into Third: Outshot 47-40, Record of 1-3
When Leading Heading Into Third: Outshot 44-34, Record of 3-0

Obviously it's pretty early, but I think that the records here are misleading.

The Avs are getting outshot in the third period (overall) by a margin of 91-74. Yes, they're holding leads, but they're also putting much more pressure on their goaltender to do so. It's even more disturbing if you look at how they've been outshot.

In New Jersey, it was by a 16-7 margin. The Avs should have been in firm control of that game. Up 3-1, you're supposed to continue to skate hard, continue to put the puck on net, and continue to do everything that made you successful.

In Detroit, they battled to tie the score, and it looked like the final blow when Eaves scored that shorthander. But they were resilient, and thanks to David Jones, tied the score. Colorado should have had the momentum and they should have been able to build on that goal. Instead, Detroit took it to them, outshooting them 8-1.

So many of the games this year have been one-goal affairs. As we progress deeper into the season, the teams that move ahead of the pact are going to be the ones that win these one-goal games. How do they do that? They keep fighting and they show some killer instinct. If there's one thing this young Avalanche roster is lacking, it's that killer instinct.

How many empty net goals have we seen? Now compare that to how many failed clears there have been in the final minute.

This is practically the same exact group as last year but minus the dead weight that was Tucker and Svatos and Clark. There are no excuses for not being able to perform late in the game. Again, this is more about performance than it is about record. In the Western Conference, every point is crucial. Getting games into OT (at the very least) might be the key to a playoff appearance.

As it stands, Colorado is 4-3. It's too early to tell much of anything, but it's clear that this group isn't for the faint of heart. Hopefully they'll grow this season and learn how to put games away.

It'll make things a lot easier on all of us.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Absurd

There won't be many games that this blog complains about the refs - but they literally just handed the Sharks an empty net goal.

A lot of questionable calls tonight. Avalanche radio announcer Marc Moser had a golden line:

"I mean, really, they're [the Sharks] just the most well-behaved team in the National Hockey League"


Some analysis tomorrow probably, but mostly just a sour grapes at this point. Avs are going to feel like this one was robbed from them, but they just couldn't put pucks in the net. They had several opportunities but couldn't cash in.

Broken sticks, questionable penalties, and a fluke empty net goal.

Not a great night.

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If you break your stick..

...go to the bench and get a new one.

Simple as that - no questions, Peter McNab and Mike Haynes. The "stickless player" is a fish out of water anyway, he may as well hurry up and get another one - it's a 5-on-3 situation either way.


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Friday, October 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Games: Flyers/Wings

Starting with the Orange and Black, it was a nice experience in Philadelphia. I was sitting right in front of the player introductions and Eastern Conference Championship banner and was booing my heart out. Unfortunately, I think most of us saw the ultimate result coming when the Avs tied the Flyers in the third and then took that tie to the sub-10 minute mark.

What is it about this team that they can't get games to OT? Last year, the excuse was that they were young and new coach Joe Sacco was still figuring things out.

Guess what - they're still young, but this group has now had a full season together. They should have an idea of how to play in the third period. These are the kind of games you look back on when the Playoffs are just a point or two away in April.

Also, a really nice ovation for Ian Laperriere before the game. Not sure if it was shown on TV, but I have a video that I'll upload soon.

Onto the Wings - complete reversal.

Detroit was up three? times, and the Avs continued to dig and battle back.

Huge game by David Jones. Two goals and an assist. Pray he stays healthy.

Cutting these comments short because it's been too long a gap. By now, you've read everything there is to read.

Overall, letting up ANOTHER shorthanded goal was like being shot in both feet and the knee; but at the end of the day, a win over Detroit will always feel satisfying.

Next Up

TONIGHT - @NJ Devils at 7 PM ET.
Go Avs

Highlights


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Monday, October 11, 2010

Avs-Flyers: In Attendance

It sucks playing teams when it's their home opener. They're always pumped, the crowd is rockin', and it makes the game that much more difficult.

The Flyers not only have their home opener tonight, they also will be celebrating their 2010 Eastern Conference Championship with a banner raising.

Broad Street Hockey has an interesting post of how the Flyers have fared after past banner raising ceremonies.
On nights when the Flyers raise a significant banner into the rafters with a dramatic post game ceremony, they're 4-3-1 in their history. If history does indeed mean anything, and tonight's ceremony suggests that yes, history means a hell of a whole lot around here, well... we don't know what to expect. In this instance, history doesn't tell us much at all.
In other words, there's no trend to suggest one thing or another.

It's all pointless anyway. This is a new Flyers team. It's new Avalanche team. Lets go to war.

I'm sitting third row in some section in the Avalanche attacking end. Hopefully they can control the puck so there's something to cheer about down there.

Not sure if I'm rocking the Foote or Stastny jersey yet. A better choice might be to wear my "It's all about Lappy" shirt, as that might let me come back alive from the newly christened Wells Fargo Center.

Early season games are all about racking up points. It was huge that the Avs survived to OT with the Blackhawks on Thursday night. Getting the extra point was even bigger.

Back-to-back with Detroit tomorrow. They better not be looking ahead. One game at a time.

I'm ready.
Go Avs.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Same Old Crap (But We'll Take It)

"For me, some of those guys were like gods to me"

It was a magical night at the Pepsi Center. In honor of the 15th Anniversary of Denver's first major sports championship, the 1996 Colorado Avalanche team was honored with a ceremony at Center Ice.

Too bad Versus didn't show it.

Major Gripe #1:

It's opening night and there's a big time ceremony coming on. It's the late game - so only fans of Chicago and Colorado are conceivably watching, and even if there are others, screw it, cater to the fans of the two teams who are set to play.

Why did I have to sit through a montage of the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup run, followed by discussion on whether the Avs can "exceed expectations" again, when some of hockey's all time greatest players are being honored.

Speaking of which, check out those cheers for Roy, Forsberg, and Sakic. Amazing to see them back.

More video should be popping up shortly, I'm sure.

The Game

A couple notes to mention:

Two roster changes from what was expected:

Ryan Wilson got the start over Jonas Holos.
Mark Olver played on the fourth line in place of Philipe Dupuis.

The Avs were flying early, and it probably could have been 1-0 or 2-0 in their favor; alas, the Blackhawks got the opening goal on their first of seven power plays.

The Avs stormed right back. Three unanswered goals including a sick move by Chris Stewart:

Absolutely nasty. You knew he was going to score when he stormed in with that speed. He's a beast, and he's going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.

As for the other Avalanche goal scorers, they were exactly who you wanted them to be. Matt Duchene got on the board during a delayed penalty thanks to a beautiful cross-ice pass by Adam Foote. Later in the period, Paul Stastny added a power play goal to make it 3-1.

Then the horn sounded. And it all went to the dumps.

Major Gripe #2

I sent a text out to one of my friends, a casual fan, who was excited by the Avs' taking a two goal lead.
"They blow more third period leads than I can count...need a fourth to make me feel safer...two goal lead = most dangerous in hockey"

I don't have the stay on how many leads the Avalanche have blown in the third the last couple years, but the number has to be near the top of the league. To be fair, they did a somewhat better job last night. Instead of being outshot by double digits, the shots were even in the third at 14 apiece. (Avs outshot the Hawks in the game 41-38.)

Still, it's disheartening to not be able to feel any sense of comfort or relief when this team goes up by two with only twenty minutes to play.

In any case, opening night went to OT, and to be frank, it was a relief to get a point. A fourth goal allowed in the final minute would have been devastating.

In OT, the teamwork of Stastny and Duchene got me thinking of the ol' Sakic-Forsberg combo. Was it running through their minds, too? Did Sacco feel the energy?

Fast forward to the 2:00 mark.
Beautiful teamwork and a brilliant pass by Dutchy.

Interesting game to say the least. Once again, this is going to be an exciting club to watch, and it already looks like the chemistry has grown from last season. They look comfortable with each other, and there were times when they did a much better job possessing the puck in the offensive zone.

Some Other Notes:

-TJ Galiardi but he did a lot of things well. A few key penalty kills, and he also drew a penalty when he attempted to split the Chicago defense. He also had the third most ice time behind only Liles and Stastny.

-Ryan O'Reilly had seven shots on net. Keep shooting.

-Brandon Yip was somewhat invisible. Least amount of ice time outside of the fourth line guys, Olver, Porter, McLeod.

-JM Liles played 26+ minutes and deserved all them.

-Mark Olver definitely wanted his name on the score sheet. It was very disheartening to see his first NHL shift end up in the penalty box.

Three Stars:
1. Paul Stastny - Two seasons ago, he had a hat trick on opening. This year, we'll have to settle for two goals and the game winner. He has his naysayers, but Stastny is legitimate.
2. Chris Stewart - Initiated the energy for the Avs, five shots on net, and added a secondary assist on Stastny's first goal.
3. TJ Galiardi - No points, but very impressive nonetheless. It pains me though to realize how good this team would be with a legitimate top line left winger, leaving Gali to the second and third line where he probably belongs.


Solid start. 1-0. On pace for 164 point. Should be good enough for a tie in the Presidents' Trophy race.

Next Up

Monday, 7 PM ET, at Philadelphia.

I'll be there. The Flyers have a rookie goaltender starting who shut down the Penguins. Can't wait to see this.

Hockey is back and it feels good.
Go Avs

Photo credit: Jack Dempsey/AP

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thoughts on a New Season

Since 1997, I have not missed an Avalanche-Flyers game in Philly. This year, however, looked to be a streak killer.

Thrown away to the "middle of nowhere" (Ithaca, NY), it appeared as though I'd be unable to attend Philly's home opener aka banner raising ceremony aka the game against the Avs.

Alas, it dawned on me last night that I would be on Fall Break and that the streak could continue.

With that, I'll be sitting third row in the attacking end next Monday night, rooting for our team to get their (hopefully) second win of the season.

The pre-season is over. Real hockey is upon us again. Some things I'm thinking:

-Avalanche players I'm most excited to watch? Chris Stewart, Ryan O'Reilly, Brandon Yip, David Jones.

-Joe Sacco needs to do something about these last second goals. It happened in the last two games of the pre-season - the Avs losing on goals scored in the final couple minutes - and it haunted the team last year. Tighten up the D.

-Hopefully the defense gets better because it's a really likable group on paper.

-Can Craig Anderson do what he did last season? No, but only because Peter Budaj will get the chance to play at least 20 games.

-The Avs probably won't go to the Cup this season, but a second round appearance is certainly feasible.

-The Vancouver Canucks will not win the Cup, either. They're the trendy pick this season, but it's not happening. Roberto Luongo has proven crap since he's been a Canuck and has shown no indication he can carry a team to the Finals.

-The New York Islanders will make the Playoffs this season, Losing Kyle Okposo hurt, but the Isles improved dramatically at the end of last season, and there's no reason why John Tavares can't pick it up in his sophomore year.

-Who will miss the Playoffs in the East? Every team in the Southeast except the Capitals and Lightning. Also missing will be the Maple Leafs, Senators, Rangers, and the Canadiens.

-And in the West? Deepest apologies to the Blue Jackets, Flames, Wild, Oilers, Coyotes, Stars, Red Wings, and Blues.

-Red Wings and Flames missing the playoffs? Avalanche fan's wet dream. But the Wings almost did the unthinkable last year with that dreadful start. Don't look for such a significant rebound if it happens again in 2010-11. As for the Flames, I'm not worried about Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay part 2.

-The Penguins-Capitals Winter Classic will be the most watched Winter Classic game so far. Some people are pissed at the league for giving the Pens a second bid to the game, but would anybody have passed up on the ratings bonanza that's going to ensue? I'm sick of Ovechkin-Crosby as well, but I still enjoy watching the Penguins-Capitals games every season. Maybe we'll even see Evgeni Malkin vs Ovechkin.

-Hart: Alex Ovechkin
-Richard: Alex Ovechkin
-Art Ross: Evgeni Malkin
-Vezina: Ryan Miller
-Norris: Shea Weber
-Calder: Magnus Svensson
-Jack Adams: Guy Boucher

-Yeah, ok, so I'm boring and going for the obvious picks. Lets be real, though. Crosby and Ovechkin will compete for the Hart until one of them sees significant injury time.

-Some highlight videos for the road:

Courtesy: Archertom

Courtesy: aviddvj

Courtesy: zone93


Four days away from the continuation of the new era in Avalanche hockey.

Are you pumped?

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