So, what exactly was the problem, people? After days of doom and gloom around these parts, the Avalanche seemed to pull their collective heads out of their asses tonight and played what I think is their best all-around game of the season.
It didn't start out great. Jiri Hudler banged a puck in off of J.S. Giguere's arm from a sharp angle just over 7 minutes in the game, and you couldn't help wonder if this was going to be a long night. The road trip already had been designated as a lost cause, so you wondered if the team would just fold up and save their energy for Saturday. Maybe I should have done that Madlib recap after all...
Instead, John Mitchell happened. I knew little of Mitchell before Greg Sherman signed Mitchell this summer (okay, full disclosure, I'd never heard of the dude). But he is quickly becoming my favorite player. He is just a little ball of work out there. He's taking pucks off the face and swallowing up body checks on the board like a frigging champ. And that shot...oh, that shot. This guy really only scored 5 goals last year? Hell, he even gives an eloquent intermission interview. What a find he has been. And late in the 1st period, he pulled the Avalanche back into the game. He and his linemates Cody McLeod and Chuck Kobasew had a marvelous shift later in the 1st, working hard along the boards to muscle players off the puck and all that hard work ultimately landed the puck onto the stick of Mitchell in the slot and he slung a BB over the shoulder of Mikka Kiprusoff to tie the game at 1. The Avs' bench erupted - a great, great way to close out the first.
Unfortunately, the 2nd period started rather...poorly. Calgary pushed into the Avalanche zone with some nice passing, but didn't have numbers until Matt Stajan came in a little behind the play. With the other two forwards spoken for by the defensemen, Milan Hejduk, David Jones and Paul Stastny all were within coverage distance of Stajan...but none bothered to pick him up. The puck went to him and he quickly slid it open to Jiri Hudler who now had some free ice. Calgary had the lead again.
Colorado answered fairly quickly, though, on a similar play to Hudler's 2nd goal. Giguere started the play with a long clearing pass from his own end. Matt Hunwick pushed it up to Duchene who slid it over to McGinn racing in hard up the left wing. The Flames missed P.A. Parenteau coming in a bit late to the zone - he slid right into scoring position in front of the net and pushed a backhander home off of McGinn's feed. 2-2. That was, by the way, the Avs' first 2nd period goal of the season.
Mitchell's line did it again with about 3 to go in the 2nd, with Kobasew and McLeod outworking the Flames behind the net and dishing the puck to Mitchell wide open in front. Mitchell ripped a great shot past Kiprusoff to give the Avs' their first lead of the road trip.
It didn't hold up, though, as Alex Tanguay blasted one past Giguere with just 20 seconds left in the period. It was a deflating goal, as big for Calgary as Mitchell's first period goal was and it knotted up the teams for the all-important 3rd period.
It was a wild one, and the Avs had to kill an early tripping penalty on Matt Duchene to keep the game tied, and then squandered a PP chance when Mitchell drew a tripping penalty about 5 minutes in. The play was frantic at times, with a lot of back and forth action, few whistles and some big turnovers, recoveries and saves by both teams. It looked like disaster for the Avalanche with 6 to go, when Ryan Wilson's massive hip check was whistled for interference. It was the right call, to be honest, as he hit the Flames player well after he got rid of the puck - but it sure was a pretty hit. The Avalanche killed off the penalty and then with just under 3 to go Matt Duchene kept the legs moving on a drive to the net and drew a tripping call on Matt Giordano.
The Avalanche scored just 8 seconds in, when Paul Stastny - a Flame killer, we told you earlier - slammed home a puck from the side of the net to give the Avalanche a 4-3 lead and, more importantly, A POWERPLAY GOAL! Woot. And then it just got ugly, as the Flames just kind of quit. Stastny scored another goal a minute later and then Parenteau added an empty-netter to complete the scoring.
The 6-3 final score wasn't indicative of the play - this was a pretty close game all night long. This was a big win for the Avalanche and, I think for Mile High Hockey readers. After some stinkers, the Avs played pretty good hockey - especially 5-on-5. In the end, the Avs got 2 goals from each of their first 3 lines (the 4th line played sparingly). Maybe the team doesn't have the depth / coaching / rebound control / motivation / whatever to win consistently...but this team showed that they are good enough to win more than a few. They played good hockey tonight, and smart hockey tonight (mostly). That's a nice recipe for success.
MHH Best Three Avs of the Night + One
- John Mitchell - 2 huge goals
- Paul Stastny - welcome to the 2013, Paulie Walnuts!
- Jan Hejda - the Avs' best defenseman all night by a mile
- J.S. Giguere - the offense will get the ink, but he absolutely kept the Avs in this until late, and he contributed to the Avs' 2nd goal
- McGinn Duchene Parenteau
- Jones Stastny Hejduk
- McLeod Mitchell Kobasew
- Bordeleau Sgarbossa Olver
- Johnson Hunwick
- O'Byrne Zanon
- Wilson Hejda
- The Avs' ice time leader tonight? Matt Hunwick. So fuck all of you all. He was solid.
- Colorado blocked 18 shots in the game.
- Duchene really could have had another tripping penalty early in the game. He needs to get that stick away from other player's skates
- Erik Johnson and David Jones: officially, they played in this game. Could have fooled me. At least Ryan Wilson let us know he was in the game with some turnovers and a bad penalty.
- Parenteau now has 7 points in 3 career games against Calgary
NHL.com Recap & Highlights
The Avs host the Oilers on Saturday afternoon