I'm not totally sure how to do this. I don't know that I've done a recap yet when the Avalanche have had a 3-point lead on the division. This is new territory for me. Instead of looking at the schedule to see where we can make up ground, I'm looking at the schedule to see how long we'll be in first. For the record, the Wild can't overtake the Avalanche until at least Thursday. So, enjoy the next few days, folks - your Colorado Avalanche are in first place again.
The way the Avalanche are playing, I expect them to hold that top spot for a while. Just look at those lovely, gaudy numbers on the front page. The Avs have 7 more points than they did at this point last season (at this point last year, they were in the middle of a 4 game losing streak). At this pace, they'll reach 111 points - surely good enough to make the...er, I don't want to say the "p-word" yet. They have 3 more goals than they did through the first 17 last year, and, most importantly, 7 less goals allowed.
The Wild were again missing their two best forwards last night - Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik. They also were coming off of a 5-game layoff, and it showed. The Wild iced the puck 5 times in the first 4 minutes of the game and managed to win just 37% of the faceoffs in the game. While the shot totals were exactly even (27 each) and the score was close (just a 1-goal game before Wolski's empty-netter with 1 second left), the Avs seemed to be the better team for much of the game last night. The had a lot of chances that just missed the net, while the Wild scored two very fast goals on the powerplay (20 seconds and 11 seconds) to keep themselves in the game.
For the Avs, Paul Stastny had 3 more points at home (20 of his 22 have come at the Pepsi Center). Wolski had 2 points. Ryan Smyth had 2 points. Brett Clark blocked 8 shots (and remember, some of those Minnesota players have a hard shot). Peter Budaj wasn't heavily tested, but had some big saves when it mattered and improved to 7-3.
The team has proven that they can score at home - they are 9-1 in Denver. They are just 2-4-1 on the road, though, and are starting on a 4-game road trip (Dallas, Minnesota, Calgary, Edmonton). The Avs won't see the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center until the Saturday after Thanksgiving (11/24). Needless to say, this is an important trip.
My notes on the game can be found here
Here. There was a bit of juggling. To start the game it was:
- Sakic, Smyth, Brunette
- Stastny, Wolski, Hejduk
- Arnason, Smith, Laperriere
- Hlinka, Guite, Svatos
For parts of the 2nd, Svatos was up on the 1st line and Brunette was on the Arnason line. Laperriere left the game in the 2nd (he's out 2-4 weeks with a sprained knee), causing some of that juggling. With the game still close in the 3rd, Hlinka and Svatos were both swallowed up by Quenneville's giant bench - Hlinka had just 2 shifts in the period, and Svatos had just 4.
I have to wonder if Hlinka will be on his way to Cleveland soon. He's not playing much, and the Avs have numerous other options for the kill on the team. Especially with Lappy out for a while, I wonder if the team will look for someone with a bit more size and forechecking skills to play on that 4th line. How disappointing it must be for Hlinka - this surely can't be the season he envisioned when he came over.
- Jeff Finger fought recent callup Aaron Voros last night after Voros skated hard towards Budaj after the whistle. In my notes, I commented that Finger seemed to have a unusually quick trigger there, and wondered if the two long-time AHLers had a bit of a history. Sure enough, my intuition was correct (for once) - according to hockeyfights the two fought twice before in the AHL - last year and in 2004.
- As mentioned above, the Avs won a whopping 63% of their draws. Leading the way was - sit down for this one - Tyler Arnason with 71%. I have no words.
- 6 out of the 8 matchups between these teams this year are on a Sunday.
The Avs have 4 days off before visiting the Dallas Stars in Dallas on Friday.
It's not a recap, but there's a semi-related article from Tapeleg at J&HL had a chance to go "backstage" at a recent Wild game.