Monday, December 19, 2011

Bragging Rights and Friendly Rivalries

Being an Avalanche fan in Philly always presents a certain set of problems that are difficult to overcome. The first being that the Avalanche hardly ever come here. Thus, I'm forced to go see games in New York, DC, and wherever else I can manage to get myself to in order to see the Burgundy and Blue play up close and personal.

The next problem is coverage. Not so much a problem now, but ten years ago (in the days when blogs had not yet started to take over the world), it was all but impossible to find any substantial, day-to-day coverage on the Avalanche.

The last problem concerns being "behind enemy lines," so to speak. Philadelphia is one of the craziest sports cities in America. Opposing fans aren't exactly welcomed with opened arms. Though Avalanche fans don't draw the same ire as say, Ranger or Devil fans, I've still put up with threats and insults over the years when I attend games downtown.

Attending the game downtown isn't an option this season, as the Flyers will face the Avs at the Pepsi Center tonight at 9PM ET. But what is an option is what the game on TV, and that it where the fun begins.

Among the people who know me, I'm seen as a "hockey guy," I guess. Everyone knows I'm obsessed with it, and everyone knows I'm obsessed with the Avs. So when it's time for an Avalanche and Flyers game, I can expect some good-natured ribbing the entire day leading up to the game. I can expect inbox messages on Facebook with YouTube videos of Flyer victories over the Avs (few and far between), and I can expect taunts during the game asking me why the Avs don't MAN UP AND HIT SOMEBODY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. -Tangent- The Avs need to stay disciplined tonight. The Flyers aren't the Capitals. They're going to come out hitting. They just lost to the Bruins 6-0, and they're going to be pissed. Hopefully Hartnell doesn't kill anybody. -Tangent-

The point is, I welcome all of this good-natured ribbing. It's why I love watching sports. Not only do we, as fans, get to witness a competition taking place on the field or on the ice, but we also engage in a sort-of rivalry of our own when we watch the game. There's nothing more satisfying than watching another team's fan look shocked or disappointed when their goaltender gives up a huge goal late in the third period. There's nothing more exhilarating than when your team conquers your friend's team and that friend has to shut up for the rest of the night.

That's what I'm hoping for tonight. I want, rather, I NEED an Avalanche victory tonight.

This one's for bragging rights.

Go Avs. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cautious Optimism

In my last post, oh so long ago, I wrote about the interesting dichotomy we face as fans about being optimistic about our team's chances versus the need to be realistic about who that team actually is at this point in the season. I ended the post with this:
Colorado has reached a critical point in its season. As a group, they can either decide to turn things around right now, or they can continue to make Washington fans very, very happy.

The optimist in me says that the losing is going to stop, and the Avs will somehow find a way to pull things together and get back to where they were in October.

The realist isn't so sure.
Three wins later, including a really solid 60-minute effort against the Detroit Red Wings [presented by Amway] tonight, there are certainly reasons for Avalanche fans to start feeling some hope that this team is back on track and ready to turn this season into something memorable.

Those reasons start first and foremost with "The Factor," Ryan O'Reilly. The 20-year-old kid who many thought would be named captain a week ago started centering the newly formed second line during this eight-game stretch at home consisting of Gabriel Landeskog and Milan Hejduk. The trio has been tremendous, with O'Reilly leading the way. Over the last five games, he has four goals and five assists, and he has been named the first star for two games in a row. He basically took over during the third period against the Blues on Friday night, and he helped decide that game in the shootout.

But it hasn't only been O'Reilly making fans smile lately. Semyon Varlamov had some rough goings in November, and a lot of the Colorado faithful began to wonder if there was going to be a goaltender controversy on the horizon. Though J.S. Giguere still might see some increased time due to his stellar play, There shouldn't be a question that "Varly" is still #1. Since he gave up six goals to Pittsburgh on November 15th, Varlamov's GA line reads as follows: 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2. His lowest save percentage in that span was .929, and he stopped over 30 shots three times.

Finally, big time shout out to rookie defenseman Stefan Elliott. No, he hasn't been perfect. Yes, he made some bad mistakes tonight and saw little ice time due to the Avs rolling seven defenseman, but in his first five NHL games, he has made a big impact. In his debut against the Oilers on November 26th, Elliott scored the game winning goal with one of his nasty wrist shots. The offensively inclined blueliner followed that up with an assist on the 28th against Dallas, and yet another goal against the Devils on the 30th. In his fourth game, Elliott played a (short) career high 22:11 and more than held his own against the red hot St. Louis Blues. With Erik Johnson's return, Joe Sacco will have a tough decision to make about whether or not to keep Elliott in the lineup. But as Sacco has said, if he sits, it won't be for long.

The Avs went 5-3 during their franchise long 8-game homestand, and they now sit in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race with 27 points. A .500 record in tow and a big matchup coming up against the Canucks on Tuesday night, there is more than one reason to be cautiously optimistic about how this season will play out. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Being Realistic versus Optimistic

The Avs have lost four of their last five, and they are 2-7-1 in their last ten. Their six regulation wins is tied for fourth worst in the league, and the six points they've earned in ten home games is the worst mark in the NHL.

The optimist in me is screaming to stay the course - things will get better when Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson really get going.

The realist in me says otherwise.

Back when the Avs were a league powerhouse (don't those days seem like so long ago?), Colorado could never really be counted out of a game. There was too much star power up front and too much consistency on the back end to simply assume that being down one or two goals would cause the team to fold.

But now, in the Post-Sakic era, there is a whole generation of Avalanche fans who have never known this team to be anything but mediocre.

Think about. A kid born in July 2001 has never seen an Avalanche Stanley Cup. Let's go out on a limb, and say that the kid didn't really start following hockey until around 2007-08. Consider what he (or she!) has been through:

Starting with 07-08: Cool, the Avs made the playoffs. The very next season? Crap, the Avs finish third-to-last. But hey, they get to draft Matt Duchene who will turn the franchise around. Sakic retires. Uh-oh. But the Avs make the playoffs! There's something brewing here! Wait, now they're second-to-last? Whatever, at least Gabriel Landeskog will make things better.

Which brings us, Avalanche fans, to the present day.

In the Post-Sakic era (aka the "Matt Duchene Era), the Avalanche has been an inconsistent and relatively disappointing club. The model has been set. Start the season hot, simmer down in November and December, collapse after January. That has become the culture. There is no Peter Forsberg to carry the team on his back. There is no Joe Sakic to score that game winning goal. No doubt, Duchene is a supreme talent, and his past couple goals have been nothing short of extraordinary, but he's not at the point where he can go out and dominate a game. If he is, he hasn't shown it on a night-by-night basis.

As fans, we want to be optimistic. We see the promise of Duchene and Stastny and O'Reilly and Jones and Landeskog. We see the ability of Hejduk and Johnson and Varlamov, and we believe, in theory, that the team should be set to, at the very least, make a run to the playoffs.

But the reality is very different. On a game-by-game basis, these players do not perform as we hope. There are too many nights when they are all invisible. There are too many nights when Johnson turns the puck over or Jones doesn't score or Stastny doesn't rack up assists. The Avalanche are averaging 2.5 goals per game in the month of November. Take away a 7-6 loss to Dallas, and that number drops to 2.1.

We're getting to the point in the season where a team's record indicates what they are. Teams that got off to bad starts (Detroit, Vancouver, Boston) are starting to play well and making moves to get into top playoff contention. Other teams (Colorado) are quickly fading and already starting to lose ground in the race for eighth.

Again, when I watch games and the other teams scores first, I always believe that the Avs will tie it up and go on to win. It's the result of being a die-hard fan. I want to be optimistic, and I don't want to give up on a game just because of a goal in the first ten minutes.

Slowly, it's becoming harder and harder to maintain that facade.

Colorado has reached a critical point in its season. As a group, they can either decide to turn things around right now, or they can continue to make Washington fans very, very happy.

The optimist in me says that the losing is going to stop, and the Avs will somehow find a way to pull things together and get back to where they were in October.

The realist isn't so sure. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Duke Becomes a Captain

Captain Hejduk

Fresh from the Avalanche twitter account, the Avs finally have a new captain.

In a tweet at 10:57 ET this morning, the Avalanche revealed:
MILAN HEJDUK NAMED CAPTAIN: Veteran winger to become third captain in Avalanche history. Details to follow.
For many, Hejduk is the obvious choice to captain the Avs. In terms of all-time Colorado statistics, Hejduk is near the top of almost all of them.

For the regular season, Hejduk is:

-1st in games played (910)
-1st in game winning goals (58)
-2nd in goals scored (357)
-2nd in points (757)
-2nd in power play points
-3rd in assists (400)
-4th in +/- (120)

Hejduk also has the third most playoff points in team history (behind Sakic and Forsberg) and was part of the 2001 Stanley Cup team. He is the only active Avalanche player remaining from that group.

He is also tied with Joe Sakic for most consecutive 20-goals seasons (11) and is on-pace to top twenty goals (once again) this season.

Many have been calling for the Avalanche to name a captain. After the Avalanche fell to the Flames last Monday, Adrian Dater wrote,
My game story from tonight centered a lot around the fact the Avs still don’t have a captain. Which begs the question: is there one on this team? Or, is it just a team full of complementary guys? I think, at this point, it’s a fair question.
In a move that seems (on the face of it, anyway) to be more symbolic than anything (are the younger Avs suddenly going to be looking up to Hejduk more than they were already?), Hejduk will need to help right the ship for the struggling Avs, who currently hold a putrid 2-6-0 record at home.

Fans have never known #23 to be the most vocal of players, but there's no doubt that he still works hard and does the right things on and off the ice. He's a winner, and a guy who has been clutch in key situations before.

I can't help but feel a little disappointed that I'm not writing about Ryan O'Reilly taking this role. He has really elevated his game this year, and by all accounts, is the hardest working player on the team.

Then again, maybe the 20-year-old isn't quite ready to assume the role.

Congratulations to Mr. Hejduk, who will no doubt be one of the last Avalanche players (after Adam Foote) for a long while to get his number retired upon finishing his career. He's been one of my favorite players for over a decade now, and he is fully deserving of the "C." - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, November 7, 2011

BREAKING: Winning at Home is Pretty Important

Pictured: (Apparently) The Friendliest Place on Earth

Last night's 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames dropped the Avs to 1-5-0 at the Pepsi Center.

That's two points out of a possible twelve, folks.

Luckily, a 6-1-1 road record has kept the Avalanche season afloat, and if they could figure out how to score goals at home, we might just see them in the playoffs this year.

Indeed, in the six home games, the Avs have been outscored 17-7. On the road, the Avs are outscoring opponents at a 33-25 clip.

I'm not going to speculate as to what's going on. There are plenty of theories, mostly revolving around "fan enthusiasm" and "coaching." I don't buy into the former, but the latter may have merit at this point. Still, I don't think it's Joe Sacco's time to go.

Let's save that one for another post.

Instead, let's take a look at some interesting numbers regarding the playoffs, the Stanley Cup, and home rink success.

--Out of the sixteen current playoff teams, just one (Buffalo) has a losing record at home (3-4-0)

--The six division leaders have a combined home record of 32-5-5. That's good enough for 67 points out of a possible 77.

--Of the sixteen playoff teams, only five (LA, Florida, San Jose, Toronto, and Ottawa) are being outscored on home ice. But the combined margin is just twelve goals.

--Every single playoff team in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2004 had a winning record at home. The streak is broken in 2003 when the eighth-seeded Islanders were 18-18-5 at the Colosseum.

--The last five Stanley Cup champions have combined for a 131-49-25 record on friendly soil. That's a 76% point percentage. Again, the Avs are currently on pace for about a 15% point percentage.

In other words, it's pretty simple.

Win at home, or get rid of any shred of hope for success. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Duchene's Slow Start: No Need To Worry

Arguably Colorado's most talented player, Matt Duchene hasn't exactly gotten off to a stellar start this season. In six games, Duchene has just one goal, two assists, and only eleven shots on goal. He ranks tenth on the team in ice time and just sixth among forwards.

Duchene's stats look even worse when compared to those of John Tavares (five goals, three assists in four games), a player whose career has paralleled Duchene's since the two were drafted as the #1 and #3 selections in the 2009 draft.

Should Avalanche fans be worried?

The answer: Not at all.

Even though fans may not approve, Duchene is a notoriously slow starter, and his NHL career is evidence of that fact.

Fans may remember his rookie year in 2009, when it took Duchene seemingly FOREVER to get that first goal. He had just three assists through the first seven games before tallying his first goal in the eighth against the Detroit Red Wings (presented by Amway). Still, Duchene continued to struggle and had just two assists in the next five games after. Then, after scoring a goal on October 30th (his second), Duchene was pointless until November 18th, a span of seven games. Overall, he had just seven points in his first 21 games. Finally, Duchene began to take off. He tallied seven goals and five assists over the next eleven games and his campaign for a Calder nomination was finally launched. Dutchy finished the year with 24 goals and 31 assists in 81 games, leading all rookies in scoring and was third in Calder Trophy voting behind Tyler Myers and (gag) Jimmy Howard. Despite the slow start, Duchene still managed to impress in his rookie season.

Being a year older and more experienced didn't help in 2010. After scoring and assisting on a goal against the Blackhawks to open the season, #9 wound up with just one goal and four assists in the first seven games. For the next thirteen games, Dutchy found a way to pick up assists (ten), but he scored just two goals. Keep in mind that this stretch took place from October 23rd to November 20th. That's a long time for a top line/second line forward not to score. True to form, however, Duchene once again shifted into a new gear. He tallied ten goals in the next twelve games, and even though the Avalanche season turned out to be dreadful, the Dutch managed to improve on his rookie totals by compiling 27 goals and 40 assists in 80 games. He improved his shot total by 22 (from 180 to 202) and recorded eleven more even strength points than the year before. Overall, many considered this to be a successful second year for the '08 #3 pick.

A quick look at Duchene's starts in the OHL also support the idea that he isn't the greatest early season performer.
In 2008-09, the Haliburton, Ontario native put up 10 points (6g/4a) in his first 11 games with the Brampton Battalion. Not bad numbers by any account, but when you consider he ended up averaging nearly 1.4 points-per-game on the season, you can see how those stats weren’t up to his personal standard.

An even better example may be the 2007-08 season, his first in the OHL. That year, Duchene totaled 10 points (6g/4a) in his first 20 games before finding his groove and netting 40 points in his last 44 contests after adjusting to playing in the OHL.
So here's an early season message to Avalanche fans:

Don't worry too much about Matt Duchene's somewhat lackluster play. The kid is entering the prime of his career, and the points will start to come soon enough (Although, based on history, probably not until sometime around mid-November).

Yes, there's going to come a time when Duchene is expected to perform for a full 82 games. The Avs have gotten off to hot starts the last few seasons, but things aren't always going to turn out that way. In years when the Avalanche struggle at the start of the season, fingers will be pointed at Duchene and his ultimate performance on the ice. He'll need to contribute early and often.

That time hasn't come yet. The Avs are winning, the team has three solid lines, and for now, Duchene can wait a little longer to start going on a tear.

But hopefully he can break free a little earlier next time around. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Thursday, October 13, 2011


One of the few saves made by Craig Anderson in Colorado's 7-1 decimation of the Senators (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)

The Avs just got done dismantling former netminder, Craig Anderson, and the Ottawa Senators.

The numbers speak for themselves:

-39-16 shot advantage for the Avalanche, including an 18-4 first period

-4/6 on the power play

-Four third period goals

Looking back, this game could have gone in a completely different direction. The Senators scored just four minutes into the game (on the power play and on their first shot) and if this Avalanche team came close to resembling last year's, that might have been all the inspiration Colorado needed to pack it in for the night. Instead, the Avs capitalized on a power play of their own just three minutes later. From that point forward, they owned the night. They didn't let the Senators gain any momentum, and they put together a full sixty minute effort. Beautiful.

The goal scorers for tonight:

Milan Hejduk (PP)
Gabriel Landeskog (Second career goal, second straight game)
Joakim Lindstrom (Two goals in first career game)
Matt Duchene (First of the season)
Daniel Winnik (First of the season)
David Jones (First of the season)

Ryan O'Reily also added three assists, while Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson each had two of their own.

Overall, this was an important game for the Avs, even though it only counts as two points. Thus far, the team had been struggling to score. Now that a lot of key players picked up their first points of the year (especially Duchene and Stastny), the offense should start coming a lot easier.

It's also worthy to note that Peter Mueller was a healthy scratch tonight. It's going to be hard to take Lindstrom out of the lineup after his performance, so it should be interesting to see who Sacco chooses to sit. (Perhaps TJ Galiardi? He was promoted to the Stastny line in place of David Jones, but Gali put up straight zeroes on the board tonight and played a team low 10:14.)

In Retrospect

It was a fun game to watch. Still, it's only one game. Let's see if they can continue this streak against the Habs.

Three Avalanche Stars

1. Joakim Lindstrom (Two goals and five shots in NHL debut)
2. Gabriel Landeskog (GWG, one assist, three shots, living up to the early hype)
3. The Avalanche Team (Let's see more!)

Next Up

Montreal. Saturday. 7PM ET.

Video Fix

Here's Ryan Wilson sticking up for Gabriel Landeskog: - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Avs/Jackets Video Recap

Due to ill-timed working hours (7-10) and a lack of internet, I was unable to fully take in the joy that was last night's 3-2 shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. I expect that some of you feel the same way.

Courtesy of several sources, here's a compilation of what you missed:

A full recap from Altitude, including Marc Moser's awesome calls

A game summary from the boys at

A video of Gabriel Landeskog's first NHL goal, which tied the game with just 41 seconds remaining:

And finally, the shootout that decided everything:

The Avs are back at it tonight against Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators.

Go Avs - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Paul MacLean Doesn't Want Andy to Quit

It's obviously a ridiculously small sample size, but Anderson (after signing a 4-year, 12.75 million dollar deal in the offseason) is 1-2 on the year with an .867 SV% and a 4.36 GAA. He was yanked after forty minutes against the Maple Leafs last Friday, and he has yet to let up fewer than three goals this season.

Of course, all of this combined with the dreaded "curse of the former Avs" means that it's a sure thing that Andy shuts down the Avalanche on Thursday night.

h/t to The Avalanche Guild 's twitter for the link. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, October 10, 2011

DEFENSE. Avs Shutout Bruins

The monster was toppled

These were the kind of games that the Avalanche always managed to last season. Tied 0-0 well into the third period, the game became one of "first goal wins." Thankfully, that goal was Milan Hejduk's, as the Colorado veteran trickled one through Tuukka Rask's five-hole to put the Avs ahead at 7:57 of the third period. Hejduk's goal ended up being the only goal thanks to a superb effort by Semyon Varlamov who stopped all 30 shots he faced en route to a 1-0 shutout victory.

Some thoughts:

The Avs are harder to play against. Nothing illustrated this better than when Ryan O'Byrne FLATTENED Bruins giant, Zdeno Chara, in the first period. There's been a drastic improvement in defensive zone coverage from last season; namely, teams are no longer able to enter the zone and get set up. The Avs are holding strong at the blueline, getting their sticks into the passing lanes, and winning the physical battles along the boards. It's great to see.

Jay McClement will continue to be the whipping boy for this blog until he proves himself to be an asset to this club. McClement's role is to win faceoffs and kill penalties. He was 2/7 on draws today (the Avs as a whole were dominated in the circle), including two losses in the defensive zone as the third period was winding down. Not a great start to the season.

Altitude mentioned it, but check out the balance on the Avalanche roster. No forward played more than 18:23 (O'Reilly) and three defensemen played 22+ (Johnson, Hejda, Quincey). Keeping guys fresh will really help when it comes to playing a strong 60-minute game.

Only 14 minutes of ice time for Matt Duchene, who tallied his first point of the season on Hejduk's goal.

Gabriel Landeskog added five more shots today, matching the five he had on Saturday night against Amway. His line (O'Reilly, Winnik) continue to be one of Colorado's best so far.

Cody McLeod was the third alternate captain today. He had NINE hits!

Every Av had a shot except for O'Bryne and O'Brien. O'No!

Finally, what is there to say about Semyon Varlamov? He looked (obviously) thrilled after the game when he took his mask off to let teammates congratulate him. The Bruins have several great chances and a few odd-man rushes where a goal seemed inevitable. Varlamov shut the door.

Video Fix

Check out Varlamov's awesome blocker save on Milan Lucic late in the third:

In Retrospect

This was a huge start to the five-game road trip. The Avs defeated the defending Cup champs and out-worked one of the hardest working clubs in the league. They continued to be solid in their own end, and they have to be happy with the play of their newest goaltender.

Three Avalanche Stars

1. Semyon Varlamov (For the second game in a row, Varly takes the cake)
2. Milan Hejduk (Only 19 more goals for his 12th straight 20-goal season)
3. Daniel Winnik (Involved offensively, did a nice job in his own end, too)

Next Up

Columbus. Wed 10/12. 5PM ET.

Go Avs - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Avs Lose Opener; #21 is Raised to the Rafters

Michael Martin/NHLI/Getty Images

Peter Forsberg's #21 became the retired number in Avalanche history last night, as it was raised to the Pepsi Center rafters in an emotional pre-game ceremony.

It was a great ceremony (especially the beginning, when Forsberg entered by shaking hands with some of the fans in the crowd and then taking a lap around the ice on the red carpet) and a satisfying goodbye to one of the most beloved Avs ever.

Colorado also took a moment right before the opening faceoff to honor Wade Belak, Ruslan Salei, and Karlis Skrastins, the three Avs that were lost this past summer.

The team also announced that they will wear a decal in remembrance on their helmets during the season.

As for the actual hockey game - the first meaningful one in over five months - it got off to a pretty good start, with the Avs taking a 7-2 advantage in shots on goal. But by now you know the story. The Avs lost 3-0 and were outshot 39-29.

Some observations:

Semyon Varlamov had a very strong debut. He stopped 36 of 38 shots and really displayed his athleticism. Both shots that beat him were wicked slapshots that came on odd-man rushes. Keep in mind that the goal scorers (Franzen, Zetterberg) aren't exactly slouches, either. Varly is going to be a great goaltender if he can stay healthy. For once, Avalanche fans weren't cringing every time a shot got through.

Jay McClement turnover at the Detroit blueline led to the odd-man rush that led to the first Detroit goal. McClement has to be better, as there are plenty of players vying to take his spot. On a positive note, he was 7/9 on faceoffs, and that's a stat that shouldn't be taken for granted. (It was nice to see that the Avalanche dominated the faceoff circle. Duchene was 10/14, O'Reilly was 8/12, and Stastny was 8/16)

Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda were the only Avs to play over 20 minutes. Johnson was a bit shaky, and he made some turnovers which didn't look good coming from the franchise defensman. Hejda, on the other hand, proved to be rock solid in the defensive zone. He may have slightly misplayed a 3-on-2 on the second Detroit goal, but overall he was very impressive. It was also nice to see Hejda put pucks to the net. Though he was only credited with one shot, there was more than one occasion that Hejda let shots go from the point.

Gabriel Landeskog's debut saw the rookie pocket five shots and just over sixteen minutes of ice time. Landeskog also saw time on the power play and penalty kill. The rookie looked comfortable and drove the net at every opportunity. He did make one egregious turnover in the defensive zone, but I think Avalanche fans have a lot to be happy about from the #2 pick.

Loved seeing Ryan O'Reilly more active in the offensive zone. He's going to score 20+ goals this year.

Peter Mueller just missed scoring his first goal in a long while. He's another guy in for a big year.

I really liked Shane O'Brien. He didn't play a perfect game, but he was physical throughout and was pretty quick to jump into the play when necessary.

Wasn't it nice to see the Avalanche not be pushed around for a change? The defense was physical and made the Red Wings pay for going to the front of net.

Penalties really killed Colorado's offensive flow. Three penalties in the first period contributed to the Red Wings taking control of the game. Still, the penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4.

The power play was anemic. That's going to have to change for this team to be successful.

In Retrospect

Losing 3-0 (especially to the Wings on opening night) is never fun. Avalanche fans need to keep in mind that this was only one game on a long journey to what is hopefully a postseason run. If anything, fans should be encouraged that it was the offense that sputtered in this one. The goals will come, and if the defense plays well in front of Varlamov, perhaps Colorado will see some hockey in mid-April.

Three Avalanche Stars

1. Semyon Varlamov (Kept the team in the game, no soft goals)
2. Jan Hejda (Felt really comfortable when he had the puck, good decision making)
3. Gabriel Landeskog (Not flashy, but he's going to score a lot of dirty goals)

Next Up

Boston. Tomorrow. Freaking 1 PM ET. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kyle Cumiskey Traded

It's the first intermission of the Avalanche's home opener against the Red Wings. I'll put up a ton of videos from around the Internet over the next few days that will highlight Peter Forsberg night, and there will be a recap of the game tomorrow.

But Bob McKenzie's Twitter has reported that the Avs have traded defenseman Kyle Cumiskey to the Anaheim Ducks for Jake Newton and a 7th round pick.

Newton is an undrafted defenseman and is 6-3, 200 pounds, proving that the Avalanche defense CAN get bigger.

In other news, Kyle Cumiskey will get his first career hat trick when the Ducks play the Avs on December 31st.

Favorite Cumiskey Moment: - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts on a New Season [2011-12]

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

That was the longest offseason ever.

When we last saw the Avs, David Jones scored his 27th goal of the season to defeat Edmonton in an OT thriller. Adam Foote bid farewell to the near-capacity crowd at Pepsi Center, and Peter Budaj secured a win in what turned out to be his last game in an Avalanche sweater. The win capped off a 30-44-8 season, good enough for 29th in the NHL and the right to draft Gabriel Landeskog.

Hey, at least the Avs have a chance to continue their winning streak when they take on the Detroit Red Things on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. The home/season opener will also consist of a tribute to Wade Belak, Karlis Skrastins and Ruslan Salei, three former Avs who were tragically lost this past summer. There will also be a celebration for Peter Forsberg, who will become the fourth Av to have his number retired.

The last time Colorado retired a number, they came out and shocked the hockey world by defeating the San Jose Sharks 5-2, en route to a surprising playoff berth. I expect the same to happen after #21 is raised to the rafters. The Avs will win the opener by a score of 5-2.

Here are some other thoughts for the 2011-12 NHL season:

-The Avalanche will begin the season without a captain for the first time in team history. But only because they're afraid Ol' Man Stastny will cry when Paul isn't the choice.

-Chuck Kobasew is the new second line left winger. That experiment will last for 10 games, when Chuck Kobasew becomes your fourth line left winger.

-Gabriel Landeskog will not win the Calder because the favorite never wins the Calder. Oh, he's not the favorite? It's his to lose, then.

-Avs I'm most excited to watch: Landeskog, Mueller, O'Reilly, Johnson, Hejda, Elliott. Of course, last year I put Brandon Yip in this category.

-Colorado will start strong (as usual), begin to fade (as usual), but then (for a change) they will level out and play consistently (instead of tanking).

-Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott and Brad Malone will all get called up and stay up with the big league club.

-Kevin Porter, Brandon Yip, Kyle Cumiskey, and Matt Hunwick will not stick around past midseason.

-Semyon Varlamov will start 59 games, JS Giguere will start 22, and Joe Sacco will go with an empty net when they both somehow find their way into his doghouse.

-Props to the new and improved Avalanche twitter feed for in-game updates and practice reports. The Avalanche's media relations as a whole have improved drastically this summer.

-Washington will not get a chance to pick in the Top 5, as the Avalanche will make the playoffs. Eighth seed, baby!

-Western Conference Playoff Teams: Vancouver, Colorado, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago.

-I know, really creative. St. Louis and Dallas are the teams most likely to usurp one of the above.

-The team most likely to be usurped? Crap.

-But Dallas is going to have a tough time replacing Brad Richards' production. I don't see them having a very successful year.

-I can't see Phoenix at all.

-Rick Nash is not going to score 50 goals just because Jeff Carter is his center.

-Jeff Carter is going to score 50 goals because Rick Nash is his winger.

-Eastern Conference Playoff Teams: Boston, Montreal, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, New York...Islanders? (Sorry, Dani)

-I'll get ripped on for taking the Isles over the Rangers or Hurricanes, but there is some really impressive firepower on the Island. This could be the year they finally break through.

-You know who won't be breaking through? The Flyers. But only because Chris Pronger won't be 100% for the playoffs.

-Evgeni Malkin may score 100 points this season. Sidney Crosby may still outscore him - even if he's not back until November.

-Boston will finish 3rd in its division, 7th in the conference, and fall to the Capitals in the first round. Stanley Cup hangover.

-Winnipeg will win its first game at home...and then lose the next five.

-The Winter Classic will again be the most watched one yet. Of course, that's until the NHL announces that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are scheduled to play in 2013, much to the dismay of the 49 other states. (NHL: "What other states?")

-Award Predictions: The awards show won't be watched by anyone.

-But seriously:

Hart: Evgeni Malkin
Vezina: Marc-Andre Fleury
Norris: Shea Weber
Calder: Gabriel Landeskog
Lady Byng: Martin St. Louis
Selke: Frans Nielsen
Jack Adams: Jack Capuano
Art Ross: Evgeni Malkin
Richard: Jeff Carter

-Colorado will defeat Vancouver in the first round, but ultimately fall short against the Kings in the semi-finals.

-The Kings won't reach the Cup, however, as Drew Doughty puts the puck in his own net to give the San Jose Sharks the series clinching win. Now that's sticking it to Dean Lombardi!

-Washington loses in the second round again. Alexander Semin doesn't understand why.

-Pittsburgh wins the conference and advances to the Cup. This marks the millionth year in a row I've picked the Pens.

-San Jose v. Pittsburgh. Pens in 6.

-The NHL will have its most successful season ever.

Hockey is back. Let the fun begin.

Go Avs! - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Importance of a Preseason Record

It's ok, Varly. You'll save it when it matters - right?

Last night's 6-0 drubbing by the Los Angeles Kings seems to have a lot of Avalanche fans worried.

In fact, Twitter filled with so much worry that Matt Duchene felt the need to give us the following two tweets:
Sorry to all the fans that paid their hard earned money tonight to watch that terrible performance of ours. We WILL be better
This Avs team is not the same one from last year so don't get used to seeing games like that. We're not gonna disappoint you guys again
As Adrian Dater put it,
Four games into the preseason, and we’re already getting apologetic tweets to fans from Avalanche players. This can’t be good, right?
So what I'm wondering is, does Colorado's current 1-3 preseason record (two games to play) indicate anything about the season to come? I took a look back at a decade's worth of preseason games and compared those results with the amount of regular season success. Here's what I found:

Preseason: 5-2-1
Regular Season: 118 Points, President's Trophy, Stanley Cup Champions

Preseason: 2-5-0
Regular Season: 99 Points, 2nd in West, Lost in Conference Finals

Preseason: 2-5-0
Regular Season: 105 Points, 3rd in West, Lost in Round One

Preseason: 4-2-1
Regular Season: 100 Points, 4th in West, Lost in Round Two

Preseason: 4-0-2
Regular Season: 95 Points, 7th in West, Lost in Round Two

Preseason: 5-1-0
Regular Season: 95 Points, 9th in West, No Playoffs

Preseason: 4-0-2
Regular Season: 95 Points, 6th in West, Lost in Round Two

Preseason: 4-1-1
Regular Season: 69 Points, 15th in West, No Playoffs

Preseason: 3-3-0
Regular Season: 95 Points, 8th in West, Lost in Round One

Preseason: 2-5-0
Regular Season: 68 Points, 14th in West, No Playoffs

For those of you keeping score at home, over the last ten preseasons, Colorado has had a winning record six times, a losing record three times, and a .500 record once.

In the years they had a winning record, the Avs averaged 95.3 points. There are two outliers (the team's best year, 2000-01, and one of the team's worst, 2008-09) but even if we take them out, the average only rises to about 96 points.

From these winning preseason teams, there came one Cup Champion (01), three Round Two losers (04, 06, 08), and two No Playoffs (07, 09).

In the years they had a losing or .500 record, the Avalanche averaged just 91.75 points.

From this group, there was one Conference Finals Attendee (02), two Round One losers (03, 10), and one No Playoffs (11).

What does all of this say?

Not much. The Avs are normally a pretty decent preseason club, with an overall record of 35-24-7. Is the 3.55 point gap between the winning and losing teams that significant? Not at all. The Avs have remained remarkably consistent through the years. If we take out the stellar Stanley Cup season, the winning preseason record teams are left with an average of just 90.8 regular season points.

The lesson from all of this?

These games don't count, and for guys who have to put 100% effort into 82+ games over the next 7+ months, it has to be pretty hard to get full adrenaline pumping over a meaningless preseason game.

I understand that people are worried that Landeskog hasn't scored and that Duchene isn't dominating, but things will come around. If Avalanche history has taught us anything, we're looking at, the very least, 95 points this season.

If not, be ready for a lottery pick, Capitals fans!
Go Avs

*Thanks to AvalancheDB for preseason numbers - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Avs Training Camp: First Cuts

First of all, props to Mile High Hockey and The Avalanche Guild for being all over Avalanche training camp. For those of us who can't be there, it's a tremendous help to have recaps and tweets every single night. That said, all of the analysis (if any) surrounding training camp will be based from what I've read by people who were actually there.

We're now a day away from Colorado's first pre-season game against the Dallas Stars. Per tradition, the Avs made their first cuts today, one day after the annual Burgundy and White game.

No surprising names on that list. Perhaps the most interesting player reassigned is Sami Aittokallio, who by all accounts has been phenomenal over the last week.

More cuts will continue to come over the next week, and there are still several position battles to be fought. Here's a look at the current shoo-ins, as well as the guys with a legitimate chance of earning a spot on the opening night roster.

Apparently, this Lindstrom guy is for real. It would be REALLY nice to have an actual top-6 left winger for a change.

Any questions?

Landeskog hasn't been fantastic, but word is that the kid is ready to play in the NHL.

A ferocious battle to play on the fourth line. In order of likelihood of landing the spots: McClement, Winnik, McLeod, Malone, Yip

It's actually really exciting to have a true shutdown defense pairing

Two of the four defensive shoo-ins. They probably won't be paired together, depending on who takes the 5th and 6th spot.

The candidates for the last two spots (in no order) are Ryan Wilson (no training camp due to injury), Shane O'Brien (solid but unspectacular), Duncan Siemens (impressing, but probably too young), Matt Hunwick (NOOOOOO), Jonas Holos (terrible camp), Cameron Gaunce (not much being said about him), Stefan Elliott (turning heads, great camp), Kyle Cumiskey (again, terrible camp), and Tyson Barrie (solid camp).

So it would be an understatement to say that there are going to be some interesting decisions to be made. My money would be on Wilson, O'Brien and Elliott staying in the big leagues at the start of the season.

One day until hockey (sort of).
Go Avs - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fantasy Help / Blogger Roundtable

Two programming notes:

For the third year in a row, I was invited back by the wonderful people of Fantasy Hockey Scouts to answer seven fantasy questions about the Avalanche. You can check out the article at this link. The Scouts produce some really great stuff, and some of their resources have really helped me out in my leagues over the past few years.

Also, Mile High Hockey is the midst of the 2011 Avalanche Blogger Roundtable. Definitely worth reading if you haven't already.

Regular content here will return shortly.

24 days until hockey. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lyle Richardson: Where Are They Now? [2001 Avalanche]

It feels like a million years (actually, almost two full months) since I've made a post, but to be honest, it has taken me a little longer this year to feel that hockey itch. Don't fret, original content will be back soon. It also feels like a million years ago (actually, a little over ten years) since the last time our beloved Avs won the Stanley Cup. That said, check out this awesome piece by Lyle Richardson of Spector's Hockey.

Lyle went through the 2001 Stanley Cup winning Avalanche squad and figured out what each player has been up to.

My personal favorite:
Scott Parker. Retired in 2009, currently runs a barbershop in Castle Rock, Colorado.
Anyone ever get a haircut from the Sheriff?


We are 37 days away from hockey.

Go Avs - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Free Agency Verdict

By now, you Avalanche fans have heard and probably made up your mind about what took place on July 1st, the opening day of NHL free agency. A quick summary of what took place in Colorado:


Semyon Varlamov (G) - 3 years, 8.5 million
Jan Hejda (D) - 4 years, 13 million
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (G) - 2 years, 2.5 million
Chuck Kobasew (RW) - 2 years, 2.5 million


2012 First Round Pick (Washington)
2012 OR 2013 Second Round Pick - Conditional (Washington)
Peter Budaj (Montreal)
Tomas Fleischmann (Florida)
Brian Elliott (St. Louis)

Over the last two days, many Avalanche fans have been highly critical of GM Greg Sherman's decision to give up a first round draft pick (one that might be a lottery pick next June) for a goaltender with injury woes and very little experience.

I have to admit, it's been hard to wrap my head around this deal. Actually, it's been hard for me to wrap my head around many of Sherman's deals.

I'm still not over Sherman's trading of young Colby Cohen (physical defenseman with a booming shot) for Matt Hunwick. And trading JM Liles for a second round pick, followed by re-signings of Kyle Cumiskey and the aforementioned Hunwick? Some of these decisions are beyond perplexing.

Bloggers take a lot of heat for acting like experts when they're really just fans with above-average typing abilities, but if Matt Hunwick outplays John-Michael Liles this season, I'll shut this blog down and become a Leafs fan.

But I think fans are overreacting to the Varlamov deal.

Instead, I'm siding with Jibblescribbits' view of the situation.
But those weren't the moves that made headlines today. The Avs, who were in the middle of the rebuild, traded a 1st & 2nd, round pick for the young, talented, and slightly injury prone, goaltender Semyon Varlomov. And the trade did more than give the Avs the #1 goaltender they craved. The trade ends phase one of the Avalanche rebuild.
The first round pick is a ridiculous price for an RFA that the Avs could have just as easily signed for the modest compensation of a second round pick, but only if the Avs end up in the league's cellar for the second year in a row.

Looking at the roster that Sherman has assembled, does that seem likely?

Some argue that most of the Avs' troubles last year came from the ridiculous amount of injuries that the teams faced. I argue that the epic second half collapse stemmed from putrid goaltending and an undersized group of forwards and defensemen (especially defensemen).

Management has taken steps to correct these problems.

Former Columbus rearguard Jan Hejda (6-3, 229) joins Erik Johnson (6-4, 236), Ryan O'Byrne (6-5, 234), Kyle Quincey (6-2, 207), and probably Ryan Wilson (6-1, 207) -- five defensemen who are big, physical, and can land big hits to forwards entering the zone and in the corners.

Don't forget about Stefan Elliot, Tyson Barrie, Cameron Gaunce, Joel Chouinard, and yes, Cumiskey and Hunwick, as the candidates to fill that sixth spot.

The loss of Liles is tough in terms of the leadership he brought to the team, but this group of defenseman will undoubtedly be tougher to play against in 2011-12.

In goal, Varlamov is a huge risk. That much is obvious. But with high risk comes high reward.

His 30-13 NHL record is impressive, as was his .924 SV% last season. At 23, he may well be the long-term solution for the Avalanche.

Of course, we said as much about Craig Anderson this time last season. Only time will tell.

I'm actually much more excited about the addition of Giguere. He's an experienced veteran (when's the last time you could say that about an Avalanche backup?) who won't make us hold our breath every time a puck is shot. He seems excited about coming to Denver and appears to have embraced his role as a mentor to Varlamov.

Overall, this offseason has yielded a possible future star (Landeskog), bigger defensemen (Hejda, Siemens), and a possible franchise goaltender (Varlamov).

The costs seem high now, but they'll be much lower if this team is able to make some noise in April.

For now, this judge has ruled in favor of optimism and positivity. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Landeskog Draft Video

Via Puck Daddy , check out Gabriel Landeskog's draft day experience, complete with Landeskog's first handshake with Coach Sacco and Joe Sakic. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Friday, June 24, 2011

With the Eleventh Pick...

...the Avalanche selected Duncan Siemens.

Siemens is a big 6'3" defenseman from the Saskatoon Blades of the Ontario Hockey League.

The Hockey News - in their annual Draft Preview - had this to say:

Scouts see Siemens as a dependable defenseman who can contribute at both ends of the ice and in a physical game. "He has solid all-around skills," a scout said. "He's good offensively and solid defensively. He's tough and is willing to fight. He projects to be a solid top-four D-man."

With the loss of John-Michael Liles (and the apparent inexplicable re-signing of Matt Hunwick), Siemens will join Stefan Elliot, Tyson Barrie, Cameron Gaunce, Joel Chouinard, and Erik Johnson as the future of the Avalanche blueline.

Not a bad start to the draft, Mr. Sherman. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Avs Draft Gabriel Landeskog Second Overall

With the second pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Avalanche selected the physically intimidating Swede, Gabriel Landeskog from the Kitchener Rangers.

The winger is expected to play in the NHL next season.

Note: He's a Forsberg fan!

The Avs, pending a trade, will pick next at #11. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Liles Traded to Toronto

Colorado has traded defenseman John-Michael Liles to Toronto for a 2012 second round draft pick.

Tough to see a guy who many thought would be our next captain leave for next to nothing in return.

Liles played seven seasons for the Avalanche, accumulating 68 goals and 207 assists in 523 games. Last season was his best offensively since the year following the lockout.

He leaves Colorado as having played the fifth most games for the team since 1996, ranking behind only Hejduk, Sakic, Foote, and Forsberg. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Thursday, June 23, 2011

EXCLUSIVE: (Other) Guys The Avs Might Draft

Hishon was a surprising pick. Who's next?

Last year, the Avalanche shocked the draft by selecting center Joey Hishon with the 17th overall pick. Hishon was ranked 55th by the Central Scouting Service and many believed that the Avs had gone too far off the board with the pick.

Now, however, Hishon looks like a real steal for Colorado, as he put together an extraordinary season for the Owen Sound Attack in the Ontario Hockey League.

"He wasn't off our board," Pracey said. "Our board had him very high, based on his skill set. There are certain traits we use in our evaluation of players that are very important to us, and compete, skill and instinct are major components. Joey fit the bill. Opinions are varied, depending on which list you're looking at, but for us it was right on pace."
With the 2011 Draft right around the corner, it's time to ponder who the Avs will take with the #2 and #11 pick. A bunch of names have been floating around - Landeskog, Huberdeau, and Larsson to name a few - and it seems that every "expert" has a different take on who Colorado will/should take.

But The Avs Factor has received inside word that the Avs - always an organization that has valued secrecy and silence - may be defying conventional wisdom yet again and going way, WAY off the board with their first round picks.

The following are quick profiles of the players that appear to be very high on the Avalanche's list of "must-have" talent. If everything falls into place, we may very well see one of these guys in burgundy and blue next season.

Chuck Simmons / LW, Lafayette Senior Recreational League
17 GP, 10 G, 15 A, 25 PIM
Born: 7/10/52, 6'3", 210 Ibs

A real up-and-comer from Louisiana's rec. league program, Simmons has the size, the dedication, and the tenacity to compete at the NHL level. A dermatologist during the day, Simmons drives a '92 corvette to ensure that he gets to all of his games on time. About to turn 59 next month, Simmons' best days may still be ahead of him. Scouts have compared Simmons to an older Wendel Clark, and many believe that that he will eventually be capable of earning a letter on his jersey. One scout opined, "Hell, he's old enough to have seen Stan Mikita play. If that doesn't give him the ability to lead, I don't know what does." There are concerns about Simmons' life outside of the game, specifically his weak knees and a stack of bills that need to be paid.

Phil Lansing / Skip, Detroit Curling Club
10-2, 21 In-Turns, 23 All-Draws
Born: 2/16/87, 5'7", 150 Ibs

After getting cut by United States Curling before the 2010 Winter Olympics, Lansing responded with a monstrous season in the renowned Detroit Curling Club. He led his team to a 10-2 record (though he did miss three matches in order to make his bowling league) and also won first place in a weekend tournament towards the end of March. Now, Lansing is ready to move on to a new challenge. In an interview with his local paper last month, Lansing stated, "I figure that both games are on ice, and they both involve discs of some sort. How hard can it be?" Scouts admire Lansing's on-the-spot decision making and his ability to work well with others. Lansing says that he's not worried that he's never actually picked up a hockey stick. He maintains that brooms are close enough. Despite his apparent inexperience, one onlooker believes that Lansing may have already surpassed highly-touted Gabriel Landeskog in terms of draft rank and career potential. "With Landeskog, you have a kid with a lower ceiling than most of the top-end guys. But with Lansing? He hasn't even begun to realize what he might be able to do."

Bobby Cooper/ C, D, W, G, California YMCA
No Stats Available
Born: 10/11/06, 3'5", 40 Ibs

"Baby Cheeks Bobby" has been labeled a "long-term project" by scouts, but a handful of teams believe that the floor hockey phenom may be worth it. One league observer said he's been following Cooper for awhile now. "I was there when he took his first steps and when he was potty trained. Just last week, I was there for his kindergarden graduation." The lack of stats for the youngster may scare some teams away, but the California YMCA is known to be a breeding ground for future success, producing such talent as 2010 Anaheim draftee Emerson Etem and famed rapper "Coolio." Cooper played all over the floor this season, and he became the team's main post-game snack provider. Teammates rave about Cooper's stickhandling skills, as well as his Mom's brownies. "They're really good. She puts M&Ms on them sometimes," blurted Cooper's teammate and classmate, Sam Jones. Cooper says that he models his game after Alex Burrows, in the sense that he is also a thumb sucker. "But only my own thumbs," says Cooper.

Of course, there's no guarantee that the Avs will go after any of these hot prospects. But if last year is any indication, it wouldn't be a surprise.

Note: Players mentioned above may or may not be real. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bryzgalov Off The Market (For Now)

Peter Budaj won't be the answer and if the hockey gods have any mercy on Avalanche fans, Brian Elliott won't have the chance to be.

The question:

Who the heck is going to be the goaltender for your 2011-12 Colorado Avalanche?

A bunch of names have been thrown out there including Vancouver's Corey Schneider, LA's Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, and yes, Phoenix's behemoth Ilya Bryzgalov.

It now appears that Bryzgalov won't be the answer either.

Per TSN:
The Phoenix Coyotes have traded the negotiation rights of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward Matt Clackson, a third-round pick in the 2012 draft, and future considerations.

The deal gives the Flyers an exclusive window to negotiate a new contract with the 30-year-old Russian before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has made this kind of move before. In June 2007, the Flyers dealt a first round pick to Nashville for the right to exclusively negotiate with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, both of whom were set to become free agents on July 1. Both players were subsequently signed.

The cap situation for the Flyers will make signing Bryzgalov tricky. According to, the Flyers have a little over 400k to spend before they hit the cap. This means that Philadelphia will likely deal one of their highly paid forwards, perhaps Jeff Carter or Kris Versteeg (or both) along with a defenseman (Matt Carle) to make room for Bryzgalov.

Bryzgalov has been very outspoken this offseason (especially regarding the Winnipeg situation) and has made clear that he wants to become one of the highest paid goaltenders in the league.
Ilya Bryzgalov, the unrestricted free-agent goaltender, will be seeking a huge contract that probably will dwarf the $12.75 million he has been paid over the previous three years.
So how does this affect the Avalanche?

Goaltending has to be a top priority for management in the offseason. Bryzgalov might have been the most talented option available, but he wasn't necessarily the best option.

Bryzgalov's regular season numbers speak for themselves. 8th in wins (36), a 2.48 GAA combined with a .921 save percentage. He had seven shutouts, started 68 games, and helped lead the 99-point Coyotes to the playoffs.

But as we, fans of Patrick Roy, know, playoffs are where players really make their money. And Bryz's playoff performance? It was - uh - shaky.

In just four games played, Bryzgalov's GAA blew up to 4.36 and his save percentage became a putrid .879. Many pundits believed that Phoenix was in a prime position to knock off Detroit in the first round. They didn't even come close, and Bryzgalov was one of the reasons why.

Is he worth the six or seven million that he's most likely seeking?

Absolutely not. For a guy who was playing for a contract, Bryzgalov's playoff performance was a joke.

Keep in mind that the Avs are a season away from having to give big time contracts to Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly, and Erik Johnson.

Even if Ilya is available on July 1st, I highly doubt that the Avalanche will commit a lot of money and a lot of years to a 31-year-old goalie who has a bit of an attitude problem.

If anything, this move simply means that the Avs no longer must face Bryzgalov (whom they have struggled against in the past) four times a season.

But it also means that the Coyotes will now be looking for a goalie in the same price range as the Avalanche.

An interesting summer it will be. - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stanley Cup Pick

Dating back to the 1998 Cup Final (when the you-know-whos swept the Capitals in four games), the finalist with the superior regular season performance - no matter the conference - has taken home Lord Stanley's mug. The only exception to this rule came in 2008 when the Penguins topped the...well, the you-know-whos.

Now in 2011, we're left with the 103-point, division winning Boston Bruins and the 117-point, Presidents' Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks.

Based on the last 13 years, everything is in place for Vancouver to win its franchise's first Stanley Cup.

However, based on an obvious personal bias and strong dislike for all things Vancouver (not to mention having picked the Bruins to come out of the East at the start of these playoffs), I could make a strong case for the Bs to pull a victory out of their black and gold hats.

Unfortunately, I have to go with my head, not my heart, on this one.

in 6 :( - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Boogaard, Hejduk, Conference Finals

New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was found dead Friday in his Minneapolis apartment. He was 28.

The team announced Boogaard’s death on Friday night, but gave no details.

The Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis first reported Boogaard was found dead in his home by members of his family. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office in Minnesota confirmed those details and said an autopsy was pending.

“Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual,” Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said. “He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time.”
RIP Derek Boogaard and condolences to the Boogaard family.

In much less important news, the Avalanche announced on Wednesday that they had re-signed our boy - Milan Hejduk.

Hejduk during the 2010-11 season passed Peter Forsberg for fourth place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list, became Pepsi Center’s all-time scoring leader, reached his 400th career assist and was the first player in Colorado Avalanche history to appear in 900 career games.

“Milan has been a big part of our organization throughout the past 12 seasons,” said Avalanche General Manager/Executive Vice President Greg Sherman. “He’s been one of the top goal scorers in the NHL over the last decade and we look forward to having him back next season.”

Originally selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the fourth round (87th overall) of the 1994 Entry Draft, Hejduk has recorded 357 goals and 400 assists for 757 points in 910 career games. He ranks third in franchise history in games, is fourth in both goals and points, and ranks fifth in assists. Hejduk is the franchise’s all-time leader in regular season overtime goals with nine and his 58 career game-winning tallies rank second in team history behind only Sakic (86). Hejduk is third in power-play goals (132) and fourth in career plus/minus (+120).
Will Joe Sacco bestow the "C" on Hejduk for what is likely his final season?

Finally, I went 3/4 with my predictions in the Conference Semi-Finals, only missing the epic downfall of the Washington Capitals. Here are my Conference Finals predictions:

(3) Boston vs. (5) Tampa Bay

I've picked the Bruins since the beginning of the playoffs and I have no reason to change my mind. Look for Nathan Horton to dominate.
Bruins in 6

(1) Vancouver vs. (2) San Jose

I can't wait to watch how this series transpires because it really does have the potential to go seven. The only certainty? No lead is safe.
Sharks in 7

Until next time... - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

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