Instead of suffering through yet another radio broadcast of an Avalanche preseason game, I decided to pony up the cash and go to my first preseason game ever last night. Really, listening on the radio does not give one much more than an iota of an idea about what's going on on the ice. I wanted to see the kids, the vets, and the all around play of our up and coming 09-10 Avalanche team with my own eyes. So, without further ado, I present the game recap with the most positive spin I can.
First, it has to be said that the Avs iced a much better roster than Friday night's blow out game against the Blues. At least the team was competitive as evidenced by the Avs domination of the first three or so minutes of the first period. Unfortunately, that was the end of the Avs domination for the rest of the game. I'll stop for just a moment to say Budaj looked really comfortable in net. His lateral movement was crisp, his puck handling has vastly improved (I only noted one time where he miss handled the puck all game), and his rebound control has improved as well. I'll go out on a limb here and say I'm not worried about our goaltending tandem for this year. I'll back up this claim by saying I saw goal support. I'll say it again. Goal support. Throughout the entire game, Budaj had goal support which is a major improvement over last season.
Some minutes into the first period, Stastny (? I have no note of this) took a penalty. Darcy Tucker, being the team player and savior he is, takes an unnecessary hooking penalty creating a 5 on 3 for the Blues. The result? You guessed it. In fact that is something you can hear on the radio. The Blues score. Thank you, Sham Wow, for being the Shammiest Sham Wow you can be.
The next highlight was Duke's breakaway on yet another penalty kill. He seemed to skate just a bit too close to the goalie or his release was off by a split second. Either way, the puck ended up in the goalie's chest. Each penalty the Avs took in the first period allowed the Blues to gain confidence and further dominate the play. The Blues were all over the Avs at any time they had puck possession. Yet, the battles were hard fought. There was no laying down and losing this game for the Avs. There were good tape to tape passes, on ice communication, and chemistry forming.
Matt Duchene almost scored in the first period on a beautiful play but missed on a tough angle shot. Cody Mac got into a fight with a Blues player; I don't know who. Since I was taking notes at this moment, it looked to me like The Highlander landed more blows and won the fight. However, the replay on the jumbo-tron showed the Blues player landing a good three blows so I can't really call the winner of this fight. Thanks to SOS on a breakaway in OT, the Avs squeaked this one out. But it wasn't a pretty win. And it's only the preseason.
Overall, my impression of the team so far is physicality is still in question. The Avs fought hard along the boards but STL seemed much more physical and knocked us off the puck quite a bit. Sadly, Adam Foote is not looking so great. Maybe he just needs a few more games to warm up but he missed several crucial passes at the blue line which turned over the puck. His positioning is sound but the finish is not there.
Hensick was all over the ice and made some good defensive plays. I think our defense still has a lot of work to do in the areas of chemistry, positioning, and timing. The Power Play.... Hmmm. It's still not very effective. The Avs had trouble getting in the zone and staying there. That being said, this was not a bunch of guys standing around making the same pass to the same player, rinse, repeat. The Avs were actually cycling the puck. Maybe with more practice we won't be in the botttom of the league this year?
I think I've rambled on long enough. I tried to be as positive as possible because I did see some positive changes. If the energy and work ethic remain throughout the season, the Avs are going to be fun to watch; win or lose.
(Update) Since the question was asked in the game thread, there were as many people there last night as the last game of the season in 09. Since this is preseason and there were that many people there, can we hope for more rockin' Can goodness this year? I'm not answering that...