The Colorado Avalanche offense woke up last night in a big way, as they dominated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 at the Pepsi Center. The game wasn't even as close as the score indicated, as the Hawks were down 6-1 before putting up two late goals (more on those in a second). The Avs closed out their recent home stand with a 2-2-1 record.
For the game, TJ Hensick was promoted to the top line and Brad Richardson returned to the roster and played left wing on the 4th line. Both changes worked out well. Hensick assisted on the first Colorado goal, with a nice drop pass on a give-and-go with Milan Hejduk. That's the kind of offensive flash we've been itching to see from Hensick. Richardson was also effective, scoring the team's 3rd goal. On this goal, Richardson passed the puck to Ben Guite behind our blueline and then raced straight to the net. Guite skated over the blueline, froze the defense by faking a dump-in, and then raced into the zone and behind the Chicago net, before finding Richardson in a sea of white jerseys. For Guite, it was one of those sneaky-smart plays that he makes that tend to slip under the radar; he plays a very smart game on the ice. For Richardson, it was terrific to see him go to the net not just on that play, but any time one of his linemates had control of the puck down low. As I mentioned in my notes last night, the other guys who've seen time on that 4th line instead of Richardson - Scott Parker, Johnny Boychuk and Kyle Cumiskey - are either unwilling or unable to do that sort of thing.
And that 4th line - Guite, Richardson and Ian Laperriere - was balls-out terrific. They were out most of the night against Chicago's top line of Robert Lang, Martin Havlat and Patrick Kane. While Lang scored a goal (a fluky one), the line was generally kept in check on the night (just three total shots - or two less than the checkers managed). Our line was in the Chicago zone all night long, and that gave the Havlat line no opportunity to muster any sort of offense. Really, all four Colorado lines played well tonight (11 players notched at least a point), but this line was head and shoulders above any line from either team.
There were other bright spots. Marek Svatos had two more goals, and his 12 points was tops on the team in points for the month of January; he's the only guy besides Paul Stastny to lead the team in monthly scoring. Tyler Arnason had 3 points. John-Michael Liles moved the puck well, and was on the ice for 3 of Colorado's goals. The Avs even scored a PP goal, their first at home since December 23rd. Interestingly, Joel Quenneville did something a bit odd here. On the first PP unit, he used three wingers - Hejduk, Brunette and Svatos - and no centers (Hejduk and Brunette took the draws, and one 2 of 3). On the second unit, he had two centers - Hensick and Arnason along with Wojtek Wolski. Although they did score a goal (Brunette with a hard one-timer from the slot), they still looked ineffective for many stretches, including most of the PP on which they converted on.
There was one downside to the game. Jose Theodore left the game after the second period with back spasms. Peter Budaj started the third period, his first game action since January 2nd. I don't know if it was rust, confidence or the pressure to perform but Budaj looked terrible. He gave up two late goals to the previously invisible Yanic Perreault. Both goals were incredibly weak (especially the first one, where Perrault beat Budaj 5-hole from a good 10-15' out) and certainly did nothing to improve his standing with Quenneville. Has Quenneville managed to destroy yet another goalie?
Notes can be found here
I mentioned most of the changes above. The game also saw a reformation of the "McLinka" line - Jaroslav Hlinka, Cody McCormick, Cody McLeod. This line played well all night long, and Hlinka also had a terrific play on the PK when he used both physicality and speed to generate a shorthanded change.
- Hensick, Brunette, Hejduk. 1g 1a 2p +1 9:16
- Arnason, Wolski, Svatos. 3g 4a 7p +8 11:57
- Hlinka, McLeod, McCormick. 0g 0a 0p E 8:49
- Guite, Richardson, Laperriere. 1g 1a 2p -3 16:07
- Tyler Arnason was +3 for the first time in an Avalanche uniform
- The Avs top 3 players in terms of shots - Svatos (6), Hejduk (4) and McCormick (3) all played right wing.
- Laperriere set a season high in ice time (19:40). His linemates Ben Guite registered his 4th highest TOI (16:44) and Brad Richardson had his second highest total (16:38).
- I've finally managed to update the stats page.
The Avalanche visit the Detroit Red Wings on Friday and the Blues on Saturday. I don't know if I'll have any notes / recap for the Detroit game, as I have plans on Friday night. That will definitely be a "game time decision"