I'm back in the saddle again
I'm back in the saddle again
-Aerosmith, Back in the Saddle
While it wasn't quite as lopsided as the final score indicated, the Avalanche rebounded from a two-game slump with a solid win over the Phoenix Coyotes tonight in Denver. The Avalanche started out strong, creating a powerplay opportunity on the opening shift and converting on that just 57 seconds into the game when Milan Hejduk deftly deflected a Kyle Quincey pass past Ilya Bryzgalov. (Alliteration bonus: 25 points).
That was all the scoring for a while, as there was no more scoring in the first or second periods. The Avalanche had a lot of the early momentum, but the Coyotes slowly crawled back into the game and shots and scoring chances were pretty much even by the time we hit the 2nd intermission.
The 3rd period got a little wild. First, beleaguered winger Marek Svatos took advantage of a Bryzgalov brain freeze to swoop in and punch the puck home at the 6:43 mark. It was a beauty of a play by Svatos and seemed to supercharge his game the rest of the way. Phoenix finally got on the board at the 9:52 mark when Ed Jovanovski's point shot deflected past Peter Budaj with Chris Stewart in the box for high sticking. It was the first PP goal given up by the Avs' tremendous PK in 25 chances. It was a rather untimely moment for that streak to end, though, as it cut the lead to 2-1.
The final 10 minutes of the 3rd was nerve wracking. The Avalanche had played smothering defense all night, but everything suddenly fell apart in the final half of the period. Numerous turnovers were committed (including a doozy by Kyle Cumiskey) and it seemed the only time the Avalanche could clear the zone was by icing the puck. I'm not sure what happened there, because the first 50 minutes of the game was perhaps their best game defensively of the season. Thankfully, Budaj made some good saves (and the Coyotes missed the net a couple of times) and the lead held up until David Jones could ice it with an empty net goal. For kicks, Milan Hejduk scored on a breakaway with 24 seconds left to pour a little salt into the Coyote's wounds.
Despite the breakdowns in the 3rd, it was a solid game for the Avs. They had good - not great - pressure on the Coyotes, they played physical, they mostly played a great game defensively and, finally, Budaj had a solid first game between the pipes. When the Avs forwards are getting pressure, the team is going to have a chance to win. They didn't score a lot, but they kept the Coyotes on their heels, limiting pressure in the other direction. When the Coyotes did get the puck into our end, the D was there to kick it back up to our forwards.That pressure wasn't there the last couple of games, and we've seen the results. A much, much better effort tonight.
- Wolski - Stastny - Hejduk
- McLeod - Duchene - Svatos
- Stewart - O'Reilly - Jones
- Koci - Hensick - Dupuis
Of course, the best line all night was the one I joked about yesterday: Duchene, McLeod and Svatos. Figures. All three had an excellent game, although I still don't feel they played tremendously well as a unit. It seemed like often it was two guys working well together and the third was off grabbing popcorn or something. Perhaps I'm being to critical?
Interestingly, David Jones played exclusively on the right side tonight, and it seemed like that was a specific plan. Chris Stewart moved over to the LW to facilitate this in the first. That's not that abnormal. What was really odd, though, was that in the 3rd period Jones played with Stastny and Hejduk...and Hejduk moved to the left wing. Interesting.
- Dismal, dismal attendance tonight. Just 11,012 officially. That's the lowest total since at least the sellout streak started, and I suspect it's the lowest since the team moved to Denver.
- The Avs blocked 25 shots. 5 each for Clark, Cumiskey and Foote.
- The worst faceoff team in the league had another terrible game in the circle, winning just 38% of the draws.
- With 3 points, Paul Stastny now leads the team in scoring all by his lonesome. He was previously tied with Wojtek Wolski with 13 points/