Suck it, Grumpy Old Men...be thankful the Young Guns didn't do more damage while they rode through your town.
The Avalanche still have some issues to work out to be sure, and this recap would be a lot different if Peter Budaj and Brandon Yip hadn't come up big in the shootout. But there was a lot of good tonight mixed in with the not-so-good (and utterly awful). And, of course, the end result - an Avalanche win and a Red Wing loss is a combination that just feels right.
It looked like this was going to be a long game. Detroit had the early momentum and the Avalanche defenders were a collective turnover machine to start things off and when Johan Franzen scored just a couple minutes in assisted by [name redacted], I was preparing myself for an uncomfortable nights. But then something happened - namely Cody McLeod kicking the absolute snot out of Doug Janik. That seemed to give the Avalanche bench a spark and by the time David Jones tied it a few minutes later (congrats on the first NHL point, Mark Olver), the Avs were generally the better team on the ice. Although there were definitely some remote-tossing moments.
Detroit made it 2-1 early in the 2nd on a controversial goal. The goal itself wasn't controversial, but the fact that Detroit was on the PP was a mistake. While Brandon Yip was rightfully called for a hold (the Avs one minor penalty on the night), the refs missed an absolute blatant high stick by Mike Modano on Ryan Wilson at the same time. Wilson was cut rather badly near his eye and was covered in blood by the time the play was whistled dead. How that was missed, I have no clue, but the end result was a PP opportunity for Detroit that they shouldn't have had.
About 10 minutes later, Kyle Cumiskey and Adam Foote experimented with a new technique of defending just the left side of the ice and it failed rather miserably, leaving Valterri Filappula all alone in Foote's vacated spot. Filpulla, Franzen and [name redacted] played some nice tic-tac-toe while the Avalanche scrambled around, resulting in a 3-1 Detroit lead and one more remote smashed against the wall. At this point, the theme of the recap was going to be "Avs play good for much of the game, but make too many stupid mistakes against a good (but old) team".
On Thursday, we saw the Blackhawks catch the Avs sleeping late in the 2nd period allowing the Hawks to cut the lead to 3-2. Tonight, the Avs tried it themselves, when David Jones intercepted a sloppy Detroit pass at the blueline and handed it off to Ryan O'Reilly who skated in and blasted a slapper past a napping Jimmy Howard. It was almost a carbon copy of Jeff Carter's steal on David Jones' last night; I guess Jones has learned from his mistakes.
The Avalanche carried the momentum from that goal into the 3rd period where they absolutely dominated early on, culminating in Daniel Winnik's first goal as an Avalanche. In a move highly reminiscent of Ben Guite's first career goal against Dominik Hasek, Winnik used the boards as a give-and-go partner, breaking him in past Janik before beating Howard high with a backhand. Top Jimmy made some big saves tonight, but the goals he let in were almost all duds.
The Avs continued to take it to the Wings after that and likely would have finally taken the lead if not for a bit of bad luck...a Detroit penalty. I say this with every ounce of love that I can muster: the Avalanche powerplay is OMG UGLY. It. Is. Brutal. The Avalanche have tried using Chris Stewart and Milan Hejduk on the point this year, and it hasn't worked. On this powerplay, the Avs had two actual NHL defensemen back there (Kyle Quincey and John-Michael Liles) and it still resulted in a breakaway the other way...and a Detroit shorthanded goal. The powerplay isn't ineffective right now - it is having a negative impact. No longer content to just kill kittens, the Avalanche plowerplay is threatening to wipe out every animal in existence. And yes, that includes the unicorns.
And that's where we with 12 minutes to go - the Wings were holding the 4-3 lead that should have gone to the Avs. My remote at this point is a shattered mess, and I'm readying my "Even Tony Granato would laugh at this powerplay" recap. But a funny thing happened. A new line formed this evening - Duchene, Yip and Jones - knotted it up with Jones' spinning backhand sailing right between Howard's 5-hole.
With that amazing turn of events, the score was tied and both goalies turned away some good late-period shots to force OT. 5 minutes of 4-on-4 wasn't enough to settle it, sending the game to the shootout.
In the shootout, Peter Budaj shined. Budaj was solid tonight. He wasn't spectacular, but he made some big saves at key moments and kept his team in the game. In the shootout, he stopped all 6 shots he faced. Jimmy Howard was right there with him, turning aside the first 5 but he couldn't catch up to Brandon Yip's wrister on attempt #6.
The Avalanche have some issues to be sure. But tonight, at least, winning wasn't one of them.
And this is what happens when you don't pony up for a forward in the offseason. One top 6 guy is hurt and you want to shake things up a bit, leaving you with Matt Duchene centering a line with Cody McLeod and Daniel Winnik. Apologies to both fellas (both of whom had a big impact at different points tonight), but that line is...gross. The later lines of Duchene, Jones and Yip and Radar, Galiardi and Winnick was much, much better. I suspect we'll see the Young Gun line again on Friday, but I don't know that we'll see Hejduk staying on that left wing with Stastny.
- Hejduk, Stastny, Stewart
- McLeod, Duchene, Winnik
- Jones, O'Reilly, Yip
- Galiardi, Dupuis, Olver
- Hannan, Quincey
- Liles, Wilson
- Cumiskey, Foote
- For the 2nd time in less than a week, Eddie Olczyk commended Greg Sherman for the waiver pickup of Kyle Quincey.
- Milan Hejduk looks very inconsistent to me. At times, he's his dangerous self. Other times, he appears disinterested. About 6 minutes into the 2nd we saw a prime example of that. With the Avs on the powerplay, Hejduk fired a great shot from down low, thanks to a great centering feed from Kyle Quincey. Then, he inexplicably stood there and watched while Howard juggled the puck.
- Despite the turnover that led to the Wings' nearly fatal 4th goal, Liles led all Avs in ice time
- Philippe Dupuis didn't have much ice time tonight, but I thought he's looked solid in both games (that's 4th-line solid, not put-him-with-Duchene solid)
The Avalanche head to New Jersey on Friday to take on Ilya Kovalchuk and whatever other 10 players the Devils can fit under the cap that night.