It seems like it has been a tale of two seasons for Peter Budaj as the Avalanche approach the halfway mark of the 2009-2010 season. Entering the season as a demoted number one, most pundits figured that Budaj would be usurped from the number one netminding position, but would likely still see quality minutes as he and first year Av Craig Anderson platooned for what was thought to be the worst team in the Western Conference. But Anderson got hot out of the gate and Budaj didn't see a start until over a month after the season started, November 4th (a nice 4-1 win over the 'Yotes, stopping 28 of 29 shots). Granted, he had a case of the Hinny at the end of October, but still... I mean, Weiman didn't see any of those flu starts, did he? Budaj didn't see the ice again until 10 days later when he came in to relieve Anderson in the horrible Canucks game that never happened. Four days later he had a bad outing against the Oilers (5 goals on 32 shots, 0.844 save percentage). Three appearances, 10 goals against, a 4.32 GAA, and a 0.855 save percentage to that point of the season.
Budaj opened and closed the bench door until he was thrown in for 42 seconds of work in OT and the shootout (4 saves on 5 shots in the SO) on December 2nd after Keith Ballard "Ballarded" Anderson in Florida. Since then, he's on a pretty good run. As we've mentioned in previous posts, Budaj is sporting a 1.32 GAA and a 0.957 save percentage for the month of December including a shutout of the Blues.
That leads me to wonder if those horribly disjointed outings after he returned from the Swine-Flu-O-Death were more a result of fatigue from the flu and overall rust and maybe, just maybe, he's more than likely a goalie along the lines of the $1.25 million goalie the Avs retained this off-season. Anybody with experience with something like the flu can attest that some days you feel fine, but even weeks after you're supposedly 'over' the flu, you can still get fatigued or just feel off. Could he be the same goalie with a career 2.73 GAA and 0.903 save percentage and not the SUXXORZ that he was portrayed last season and early parts of this year's campaign? Granted, this is a small sample size to a degree, but Budaj is getting the W's when he gets goal support, just like the early parts of last season before the holiday shipment of postage stamps arrived and everybody started mailing it in.
Therefore, these musings lead to a few question for the MHH masses: Is Budaj back or did he ever really leave? Has Budaj's run in December re-affirmed the organ-i-zation's faith in him to the point that they will spell Craig Anderson a little bit more? Or is this just a flash in the pan streak that will ultimately not change the likelihood of Andy getting 95% of the starts from here on out?
Editor's Note: All stats per my own calculations, so if they differ from previous posts/sources, sue me.