It was No Gaborik, No Problem for Colorado last night as the Avalanche stomped the Northwest-leading Wild 4-1. Minnesota has been a defensive juggernaut to this point, having held opponents to 2 goals or less in 9 of their first 10 games. But Colorado was all over the Wild, outshooting them 36-21 with a strong effort in most facets of the game for a full sixty minutes. Minnesota looked nothing like a team with the second best record in the West.
Colorado's powerplay is still hurting the team. Colorado was the recipient of several gift calls from referees Mick McGeough and Craig "young turk" Spada, but could not convert to widen their lead. The wins won't always come this easy (Colorado has scored just 3 more goals than opponents this season) and converting powerplay chances is a must if the Avs have any chance at making the playoffs.
Jose Theodore made his first appearance since the Montreal debacle, and was barely tested. He faced just 21 shots, very few of them being of much quality thanks to strong play from his blueliners. It's tough to really evaluate his performance in a game like that, but at least he didn't give up any goals to Martin Lapointe.
Colorado's offense at even strength continues to be exciting. John-Michael Liles had three assists and his pass from way down low in the Wild zone set up Hejduk's first goal on a rebound. Later in the first, Tyler Arnason intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, worked a nice give and go with Brett McLean, and then made Petteri Nummelin look ridiculous, deeking the defenseman to the ice before blowing a shot past Manny Fernandez. I'll be the first to admit, I had no idea we'd see those sorts of play from the troubled center this year - Arnason has already doubled his point production from his 19 disatrous games with the Senators last year.
And hats off to Ian Laperriere with his 100th career NHL goal. Earlier in the game, Lappy had a goal disallowed after a whistle - the second time this season that's happened. He's had so many chances to get that milestone goal - nice to finally see him get that monkey off his back.
- I can stop talking about Brad Richardson. Colorado finally gave up a 5-on-4 goal while Richardson was sitting on the bench.
- What an odd schedule. This week, Colorado will play back-to-back games for the third time this season, and all three series involve travel in between. That's 6 back-to-back games in the first 13 games, a stretch that's also included a 4 and 6 day layoff. Oddly, Colorado has at least a point in all four of the games so far, and, after next week, only have one more set of back-to-backs: road games against Boston and Buffalo in early March.
- Antti Laasksonen didn't get his name on the score sheet last night, but he played a nice game. He and Brad Richardson had a lot of extended shifts early on in the Wild zone, and that helped set the tone of the game, allowing Joel Quenneville to roll four lines against the Wild.