So far this year, the Avalanche have been unstoppable at home, with two decisive wins against good teams. Unfortunately, they've been the exact opposite on the road. Last night, the Blues dumped the Avs 4-1, with former Avalanche Dan Hinote contributing two goals. Colorado has now been outscored 8-1 away from home, and are 0-7 on the PP on the road. Whatever is ailing them, they need to figure it out quickly. After two home games (today against Columbus and Tuesday against Calgary), the Avs go on a key four-game road trip with three of the games coming against divisional opponents.
Speaking of the NW division, instead of pulling into a tie with the Wild for 1st in the division, the Avs saw Vancouver and Calgary get wins last night - something that happened so often last year. Between 2nd and 5th, there's just one point separating 4 teams. Yes, folks, the NW is shaping up to be every bit of the clusterfuck that it was last year.
Like the Predators (who shutout the Avs in Game 2), the Blues are a solid, underrated team, and they played the Avalanche hard for the full 60 minutes. Colorado played relatively well in an evenly matched game, but a couple of defensive breakdowns in the 3rd period led to some quick St Louis goals. While I don't think the team was terrible in either loss, I have noticed a few things that are a bit concerning:
Jose Theodore appears to be no better than he was last season. I personally thought that a summer to adjust to his new role might be good for Jose - that he'd come out hungry this fall, eager to fight for his old job back and a respectable free agent contract next summer. I didn't see that last night. Instead, I saw a goalie who was tentative and missing a sense of urgency. While he had some good saves, he had stretches where we looked "off"...and you can't have those as a goalie. If play like this continues - and, really, we haven't seen much to tell us that it wont - I think it's very plausible that Theodore's start in the AHL won't be his last of the season.
Ryan Smyth has made a career (and a lot of money this summer) by working hard in front of the net. And the Avs have several forwards who work well behind the net and several defenseman who can get the puck on the net from the blueline. So, why don't we see Smyth in front of the net more, especially on powerplays? It really wasn't until the last powerplay of the game, when the outcome was already well decided, that I saw Smyth park his gangly frame in front of Legace. I don't really understand why we're not seeing more of that.
Scott Hannan, our other big free agent signing, has been a bit hit or miss so far. I know it takes a while for a defenseman to get comfortable with a new system, and Hannan has certainly shown some of those growing pains in the form of miscommunication (mostly with his linemate Brett Clark, but also with Peter Budaj). But he's also made a few errors that I wouldn't expect. He looked lost on the last Hinote goal last night, and was on the ice for 3 of the 4 St Louis goals last night. It's only been four games, but already I've noticed #22 just-outside of the play on too many opposing goals.
Joe Sakic? Surely I'm not going to mention Joe Sakic here? Well, I am. Sakic has shown some flashes, but for the better part of all 4 games, he hasn't been a huge factor. He seems to be skating less without the puck, and doesn't seem to have that higher gear when he is moving. I know that it's waaaaaaaay too early to start worrying about the greatest player this franchise has ever seen, but there's a tiny bit of concern gnawing at me from somewhere in the back of my brain that maybe, just maybe, Sakic's age has finally caught up to him. I really hope that isn't true.
Special Teams are almost exactly like they were in 2006: inconsistent. The PP is a woeful 2 for 16 (12.5%) and has been held off the scoresheet in 3 of the 4 games. Through the first 4 games last year, they had 5 goals. I think the PP will get on track, but they look out of sync out there now. The PK was a bane all season long last year, and looked awful in the first two games. They've taken a much more aggressive approach since then, and it's worked well (they've killed 10 of 11 in the last two games). Still, the PK was streaky last year, so we can't know if they've really got stuff figured out until they've got a longer stretch under their belts. By the way, the Avs have 4 PP goals allowed so far this year. Through 4 games last year, they'd allowed just 1, and had scored a shorthander to boot.
Faceoffs. Guh. Put it this way - the Avs were a sad 42% last night, and that improved their season % - they are now up to a whopping 41% for the year. Ooof.
I think several of these things will end up working out. But, if they don't, this season could get really long in a hurry.
I've moved my rambling game notes to a separate blog entry. Notes for this game can be found here
Lines? Yeah, we got that.
The only change for the Avs was the somewhat surprising scratch of Jordan Leopold. Karlis Skrastins rejoined the lineup in his place. Apparently, Leopold's scratch was due to an injury. Geez.
- John-Michale Liles led both clubs with 4 hits
- Ian Laperriere had more PP ice time (1:23) than Wojtek Wolski (0:55)
- The Avs allowed just 2 shots in the 2nd period.
The Avs host the BJs in Denver tonight