Its the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend
Well, I'm not quite sure this qualified as the bizarre game that I was expecting based on the way my day went yesterday, but there were certainly some intriguing facets. For a while, it looked like the Avalanche might go to 3-0 for the first time since the franchise moved to Denver. But two goals from Patric Hornqvist over a 2:17 span in the 3rd period sunk the Avs 3-2.
Both teams came into the game undefeated, and neither appeared anxious to give up that status. The first period was played extremely tight by both teams. The Preds held a slight 9-7 shot advantage, but both teams were doing a good job at keep the shots out towards the perimeter and at clearing pucks before much damage could be done. The Predators managed to keep that up through much of the game, holding the Avalanche to 7, 9 and 8 shots respectively. The Avs D loosened up as the game went on (a hallmark of the 2008-2009 Avalanche) and the Predators shots went from 9 to 13 to 15 in the final period.
After the teams skated to a 0-0 tie in the first, the Avalanche got on the board first. Just 4 seconds after Tristan Grant went to the box for interfering with Darcy Tucker, Kyle Quincey rifled a bullet past Nashville goalie Dan Ellis. That's a refreshing sight and I hope we see that over and over and over again this year. About 6 minutes later, the Avs were still up 1-0 and I was making a note marveling that I couldn't remember any odd-man rushes by Avalanche opponents this year. Almost on cue, there was a turnover on our blueline and Radar O'Reilly slipped a bit and the Preds were going the other way on a 3-on-2 rush. The play ultimately resulted in a goal by Jason Arnott, a guy who I've always thought would look really, really good in a unipron. After two, the game was knotted up at 1.
The third period finally brought the "odd" hockey I was expecting. 5:44 into it, Hornqvist blatantly skated right through Anderson in the paint. Anderson went sprawling to the ice and stayed down a little too long for my comfort. He appeared to be okay, but after the recent trouble with the groin, I was a bit worried. As time ran out on the ensuing powerplay, the Avs 2nd unit of Marek Svatos, Darcy Tucker and TJ Hensick (in for Wolski, more on that in a bit) tied it up. Tucker made a nice pass to Hensick who made a slick behind-the-back pass to Svatos in front of the net. Svatos had the puck alone in the paint, and, of course, that's where he is incredibly deadly. He made it look easy, putting the Avs up 2-1 with just over 12 minutes to go.
They couldn't keep the lead. The turning point was really 11 minutes in when Anderson made a sprawling save on Hornqvist but left the puck hanging dangerously in the crease. Arnott came rushing in but Scott Hannan got just enough of Arnott's hands to handcuff him and he missed the puck with his stick and ultimately slid the puck in with his skate. The goal was waved off, but it energized both the Predators and the previously comatose fans in the Sommet Center. The Preds really picked things up at this point, put pressure on the Avs in their zone. The Avs suddenly had difficulty clearing. It didn't help that the Avalanche struggled with defensive-zone faceoffs all night, with Arnott winning 8 of 12 draws inside our blueline. One of those 8 wins led directly to the tying goal by Hornqvist with Arnott drawing it back to Suter and Suter sliding it to Hornqvist. The Avalanche barely had time to kick themselves for blowing the lead when Hornqvist banged home a rebound to score the game winner. 7 minutes after Svatos appeared to score the winner, the Preds were on top 3-2. Same old song and dance, my friend.
Craig Anderson turned aside 34 shots and continues to look like a free agent steal in the early part of the season. I'll probably catch some flack for this below, but I actually didn't think Andy looked sharp all game. He was brilliant in some spots but I thought a little shaky in some spots - maybe too quick to drop the stick or go unorthodox. I definitely felt we were a bit lucky that Nasvhille only had 3 goals. A lot of that also goes on the defense, which looked shaky tonight; the 4 guys not named Hannan and Quincey looked really shaky tonight.
Overall, I don't think the game was a disaster, but there are some warning signs. I continue to contend that the biggest problem the Avalanche faced last year was not goaltending or defense but the inability to put pucks in the net. An improved powerplay is going to help a great deal; the Avs are ranked 5th in that area at the moment. But, they've already slipped to middle-of-the-pack (14th) in 5 on 5 goals. This team is going to have to play a lot better defense than they did last night.
Joe Sacco appears ready and willing to bench players as a motivational tool. Ruslan Salei played his first game after missing two games to the "Sacco Flu". Instead of sitting Kyle Cumiskey as expected, Sacco benched Brett Clark (who, in my opinion, has played two solid games). Salei didn't have a strong game. Cumiskey played better, but brutally double-clutched away a big scoring chance on the powerplay that Svatos eventually scored on. Dude, don't be afraid to shoot that puck.
Up front, David Koci was scratched to make room for TJ Hensick. Hensick played on the 3rd line, dropping an invisible Chris Stewart to the 4th line and played well. I originally typed "very" there, but that would be overstating it. Wojtek Wolski started in his usual spot on the 1st line, but was dropped for Hensick on the 2nd PP unit and was apparently benched for all but one shift in the 3rd period. I would say that Hensick responded well last night to his two-game wakeup call. I wonder if Wolski and Stewart can do the same.
- Just 14,797 fans were in attendance for last night's home opener in Nashville, about 2,000 less than capacity.
- The Avs won 48% of the faceoffs, which isn't bad overall. In fact, they won all 4 PP faceoffs, including Stastny's win (against Guite) to lead Quincey's goal. However, they were just 7 of 18 in defensive zone draws (38%).
- Arnott and Hornqvist combined for 15 shots, just 9 less than the Avs had as a team.
- Cody McLeod had 5 of the Avs' 15 hits.
The Avalanche take on Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks in Chicago Saturday night.
"We had a couple of breakdowns in front of our net," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "It starts in front of our net. But there's a lesson to be learned. You've got to keep the pressure up when you have a 2-1 lead. You don't want to sit back. You want to keep the pressure, you want to keep the forecheck going. We sat back, and they took advantage of it." - Terry Frei, Denver Post
I'm not sure why ANY line-up changes were made, considering the fact that Colorado dominated two good teams the first two games of the season. - Magnum, Disgruntled Avalanche Blogger
When Jason Arnott scored for Nashville at 11:02 of the second period Thursday night, it ended Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson's shutout streak at 122 minutes, 36 seconds. - Terry Frei, Denver Post
Tonight we found out that Anderson IS human! Hornqvist completely faked him out but Andy got lucky that the puck hit his skate AND that the refs made a distinct mistake on the no-goal call. Arnott did NOT make a distinct kicking motion, sure, he knew what he was doing, but I didn’t see the kick, did you? That should have been a goal. - From The Point, Real Denver Sports
Even when the Avs were winning I saw things that made me think og last season and I just saw them ready to implode. Inability to clear the puck, laziness, and inconsistent offensive pressure led to a killer loss tonight - SportsDalaiLama, MHH
These are all some version of a blue line. I'd be pretty happy if the Avs could get the puck past any of them after last night. Clear the puck boys, yikes. - Jibblescribbits
The players certainly took note of the fans effort tonight. After seizing momentum with two unanswered goals, the fans kept the team's spirits high and urged them on to hold off the charging Avs. Momentum is a tricky thing in sports but tonight was a good example of how to use it to your advantage. - Brandon Felder, Hockey Buzz
The no goal call actually just made everything better. In the end, it's what won us the game. The fans channeled their energy into vocal support for the team and the team fed off of that and turned it into something positive. This continues to be one of my favorite things about the team. Resiliency. - Rachel, What the Puck
In his first game as a Nashville Predator, and his first NHL game in nearly three years, Triston Grant was called up this morning due to a rash of injuries to depth players like Jordin Tootoo and Joel Ward. He made sure his friends and family back home knew he played. Seeing NHL ice for the first time since November 18, 2006, Grant put himself on the scoresheet twice – both for interference - amassing four penalty minutes. The first penalty led to Colorado’s first goal of the game while the second was just plain unnecessary and quite blatant. Grant finished with a shade under 9:00 of ice time on 15 shifts and an even rating. - Jeremy K Gover, Section 303