Playoff hockey returns to Denver! The Avalanche look to bounce back tonight - taking full advantage of a raucous Pepsi center - as the Avs and Sharks square off in game 3 of their quarterfinal series.
So far we've witnessed two very different style of games in this series. Game 1 was a tight, defensive battle that saw both teams benefit from advantageous bounces. Game 2 was an up and down, run and gun, high scoring affair that saw a combined 11 goals (6 in the 2nd period alone) on 74 shots - sadly the Avs only added 22 to that shot total.
So which style of game play will we see tonight? I think it will be more like game 1 than game 2, but honestly I don't care so long as the Avs continue to move their feet and push the tempo, frustrating the brutes in teal. (PS - If you're lucky enough to be headed to the game: it's OK to BOO Rob Blake. It's the playoffs, and besides, he's worked really hard to earn it).
Bright spots for the Avalanche bullet point style:
- T.J. Galiardi. I don't know if you can create a playoff legacy after only two games, but this kid is a warrior beast of a man. I can't believe the hits he's taking and he just keeps on coming back for more. (side note - screw the Avs non-marketing plan, if you want to sell tickets and merch, just get players to play like beard of blood warrior TJ Galiardi. By Sunday night, there should be a lot of #39 jerseys in the Can). If you still don't believe, watch this Interview. Vive le Galiardicus!
- Craig Anderson: yes, he allowed 6 goals on Friday, but that was on 52 shots, and he can't really be faulted for any of them. He was spectacular in game 1.
- The Avs top lines. Many (myself included) thought the Avs may have trouble against the Sharks top line, but it's the other way around. The ghost line of Thornton-Marleau-Heatley are a combined -4, only have 4 points in the series, and 0 goals. Whereas SoS-Stewie-Galiardi have a combined +1, 7 points, and 3 goals. As of Saturday morning, Chris Stewart lead the NHL in playoff goals with 3.
- Health: despite the plethora of cheap shots, non-calls, and dirty play, the Avs have only lost one player: Kevin Porter, injured on a boarding non-call in game 2 and he will miss at least game 3 per Sacco. It could be A LOT worse, but luckily Dutchy survived a nasty knee-to-knee, and Galiardi seems to be indestructible. If you want to be picky, you could say that the Avs' loss of Mueller was pre-playoffs, but it was still reckless and it was still Rob Blake. Mr. Blake, Bobby, you have effectively tarnished your legacy with the Avalanche - at least here at MHH anyways.
Things that look to improve in game 3:
- Clearing the puck. In game 2 the Avs seemed to channel the 08-09 non-puck clearing Avalanche squad. For a second on Friday night I thought I saw Clark out there. The D has to be better in front of Andy and limit the Sharks chances. The team to outshoot the other team has won both games.
- The Sharks are going to be physical, that being the case, Hendricks, McLeod, and Tucker all need to ratchet up the physical play. I'm specifically calling out McLeod. If you're not chipping in offensively Highlander, you need to lay some fools out and protect our skill players. You don't have to fight (protect the eye injury), but you can still hit. McLeod has been invisible thus far (0 points, 0 PIMs, 1 shot) and I'd like it very much if he kindly reminded the Sharks that "there can be only one".
- Smarter play/Fewer penalties. The Sharks are the team with the pressure, let them drown in it (yes I'm fully aware that Sharks can't drown, but they do choke).
- Arby's roast beef sales. If you don't get this one, don't fret, you're better off not knowing.