It's the most wonderful time of the year
Both Photos Courtesy Dave Reginek (Getty)
It's always nice to receive unexpected gifts. My preview yesterday was not some bit of Lou Holtz manufactured anti-hype; I really thought the Avalanche were going to be toast against the Wings. I was wrong, and that makes my day.
The Avalanche came out strong against a Detroit team that seemed to be expecting a win to be handed to them. I'm not sure if there was a promo running at the Joe last night, but on the ice it was Puck Giveaway Night. The Wings handed the puck to the Avalanche all game long, starting just a minute in, leading to the gorgeous Wojtek Wolski goal above. Just a few minutes later, with Tomas Homstrom in the box, both Red Wing defensemen got caught staring at the dreamy Milan Hejduk, leaving Paul Stastny all alone on the left wing. Hejduk feathered a pass through Ryan Smyth's legs and onto Stastny's stick. Stastny, in turn, fired the puck over a sluggish Chris Osgood. Like that, the Avalanche had a 2-0 lead and the Red Wings had no shots on net.
And that's where Andrew Raycroft comes in. Raycroft, starting his first game since the Eisenhower administration, had a very solid game, turning aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced, including 14 of 15 in the 3rd period. Detroit's defense and goaltending were crap last night, but the offense was on and Razor was up to the challenge. He was particularly good against the league's top-ranked powerplay, turning aside all 9 PP shots he faced (Tomas Holmstrom did score a goal just 30 seconds after a Detroit PP had ended, though).
After that Holmstrom goal, the Avalanche nursed a tenuous 2-1 lead going into the 3rd. The Avs had won 18 straight games when leading after two periods, but the Wings were gaining momentum. But early in the 3rd, Brett Lebda got caught covering the puck with his hand in the crease (he saved a goal, so it was something he really had to do). The Avalanche were awarded a penalty shot, and Tony Granato could choose any of the players on the ice to take it. Unfortunately, those 5 players were McLeod, McCormick, Dupuis, Salei and Leopold. Guh. Granato chose Jordan Leopold, a guy who wasn't one of the 12 players Joel Quenneville used in that crazy shootout in Pheonix last year. Leopold had never taken an NHL penalty shot. How'd he do?
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Some Marian Hossa guy scored a pretty goal off of a faceoff to make it 3-2, but that was all she wrote for the Dead Things. Andrew Raycroft and the Avs defense bent a bit but didn't break in the game. The Avs win big, and are rewarded with a trip to Philadelphia. It doesn't seem fair, does it?
Svatos missed his 2nd straight game. He, Darcy Tucker and Ben Guite are traveling on this trip and all might make an appearance by the time the Avalanche train rolls into Florida.
- Smyth, Stastny, Hejduk
- Wolski, Arnason, Hensick
- Stewart, Laperriere, Jones
- McLeod, Dupuis, McCormick
Hensick played left wing on Friday and was moved to right wing last night.
For the 2nd straight game, Granato basically kept the lines intact all game long. That's a good sign - he'd been tinkering a tad too much of late.
- David Jones had just 2 shots and no points, but he was all over the place last night. I just wish he was able to make a little bit more happen with all of that effort.
- The Versus producers cut to a commercial during the one scrum in the game. Great choice, guys!
- Paul Stastny had more than half of the team's faceoff wins.
The Avs are in Philadelphia tonight, taking on an improved Flyer team than we saw in October. With a win, the Avs would move into a tie for 7th in the conference and sole possesion of 3rd in the division.
"I yelled down to 'Boods' on the bench and asked him if my warm-up move would work and he said, 'Yeah.' So I went with it," said Leopold, who shot the puck past Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood's left shoulder at 1:51 of the third period.Leopold said his only previous penalty shot came when he was 17 years old. - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
" 'Leo' is good on breakaways just from practicing," Granato said. "Anytime we have any sort of competition, he always seems to find his way into the finals. We have him in the back of our mind for shootouts as a potential guy. He was a guy that we were very confident would make a good play." - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
The Avalanche scored two goals in losing all four games to Detroit last season - AP
Raycroft's best save of the night was probably his chest stop of Henrik Zetterberg's one-timer in close in the second period. Raycroft got a little luck when one Wings shot hit the crossbar on the 5-on-3, but otherwise was excellent, especially in the game's final 10 minutes. - Adrian Dater, Denver Post
Don't adjust your monitors. You read that correctly. Andrew Raycroft played very well tonight. - Shane Giroux, Avs Talk
In a game that no Avs fan really thought that they could win (don't deny it!), the Avs pulled off the absolutely unexpected and beat the team that has plagued them for longer than I can remember on their home ice. - Adam Hersh, An Avalanche of Thoughts
Avs deserved the two points tonight. No, they weren’t always the better team in the game, but overall they were, especially in the first period. - Adrian Dater, All Things Avs
Something I really noticed was the impressive number of Detroit shots that the Avs players blocked, particularly in the second period. While Detroit officially had 36 shots, if you included the number of blocked shots it would be a lot higher. The Avs blocked 16 shots while Detroit only blocked two. Kind of a big difference. And it wasn't just that the Wings played poorly, the Avs were getting their bodies in the Wings shooting lanes and blocking shots. - Christy Hammond, Winging it in Motown
The Wings had won five straight at home, most recently rallying against Calgary and Chicago. - Helene St James, Detroit Free Press