The "streak" is over; Colorado lost their first home game after six consecutive wins at the Pepsi Center. It wasn't very pretty. The Avs never led in the game...and seemingly had no answer for Vancouver's Super Top Secret Game Plan.
What was Vancouver's Super Top Secret Game Plan, you ask? It basically went like this:
- Get puck
- Drive straight to the net
- Make her open the box
The Avalanche defenders were completely flummoxed by this (maybe it was the catchy melody?). The only thing they could do when a Canuck forward drove straight to the crease was either a) stand around waiting for either Budaj or a Vancouver player to grab the puck or b) take a penalty. On the first two or three goals they did the former, culminating with the incredibly ridiculous Ryan Kesler goal where 4 Colorado players stood in the crease watching Budaj struggle to find the puck, only to see it trickle out to a wide open Kesler. After that, they seemed to transition more towards the 2nd tactic: take a penalty. The Avalanche D-men combined for 6 minor penalties in the last 31 minutes of the game. Everyone except Jeff Finger made a trip to the bin. This had the double-whammy effect of putting the Canucks potent PP on the ice while at the same time cutting into the Avs chances to come back into the game.
Joel Quenneville did not look like a happy man on the bench last night. I don't have my Avalanche Media Guide yet to confirm, but I'm pretty sure Q set a record in the game for eye-rolling. Kurt Sauer turned the puck over to lead to the first Vancouver goal, and was in the box for delay of game on the 2nd. Brett Clark looked silly on the 2nd goal, falling to the ice while trying to chase his man to the net. Scott Hannan had two holding calls, the 2nd of which (which was more like a tackle) led to Vancouver's 4th - and ultimately game winning - goal. Ugly stuff from the big three last night.
At the other end of the rink, the Avalanche's 21st-ranked powerplay continues to sputter along. The team is behind where they were to start last season (when they sucked ass with the man advantage for the first two months). Through 13 games last year, the Avs had a measly 14 PP goals, with 4 multi-ppg games. This year, it's and even measlier 10 goals and just 2 multi-ppg games (their last game with more than one PP goal - October 13th). In his Behind the Mask segment, Kelly Hrudey pointed out that the Avalanche don't have anyone with a big shot from the point (allowing opposing teams to bunch up down low on the kill) and speculated that the Avalanche might trade John-Michael Liles for someone with a bigger shot. While I'm not sure that such a trade is essential, I do think that the point men need to shoot more. The Avs have guys who work well in the crease (Brunette and Smyth) and guys who can find open ice in the slot (Hejduk and Svatos). Taking more shots from the point will open up more chances for the rest of the unit.
No Game Notes for last night's game - I watched the game in bed. (TMI?)
Lines and Shift Charts
Some strange juggling from Mr Q. For some reason, he felt it necessary to break up the 4th line after a solid 5 point game on Thursday. Instead, he moved Jarsolav Hlinka and Milan Hejduk (wha?) there. Wyatt Smith and Ian Laperriere were bumped up to the 3rd line, and Andrew Brunette played on the 2nd line. I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind any of those moves. If it was me, I would have left the 4th line intact, and put Hlinka and Hejduk with Arnason. I guess that's why I'm a lowly blogger and not an NHL coach.
- Jeff Finger's nifty shorthanded goal was the Avs' first shorthanded goal of the season.
- In a game that featured the league's 2 worst faceoff teams, the Avalanche won the battle of the draw for the 3rd straight game, and have climbed up to 46.7% for the season.
- Peter Budaj has two games where he's held the other team to just one goal. Unfortunately, he's followed up both with 4-goal games.
The Avs host the Flamers on Monday. I would bet good money that the alternating goalie thing will continue (making Jose Theodore the starter).
Shane at Colorado Avalanche Talk has been playing hookie lately, so the Avalanche recaps are a bit thinner lately. Hope you're feeling better, Shane.
Yankee Canuck (live blog, with some lovely MS Paint artwork)