In many ways, this game was almost the exact opposite to the night before. This time, Colorado, having played the evening before and arriving in Minnesota around 3 AM, was outjumped early on by the pumped up Wild. Minnesota outshot Colorado 11-5 in the first period, and held a 2-0 lead early in the second.
The Avs turned things around though, battling hard when they could have easily just mailed it in and started thinking about next week's homestand. While never quite looking dominating, Colorado hung in there. Peter Budaj kept the Wild off the board, Karlis Skrastins kept knocking the puck away from Marian Gaborik, and Brad Richardson kept looking like the best player on the ice in a white uniform. While Minnesota did pull out the win in OT - note to Patrice Brisebois and Wojtek Wolski: feel free to challenge opposing players entering your zone - this has to be looked at a bit of a moral victory for Colorado. They didn't look great (very few of the 31 shots they took were quality), but they kept working and hung in there to get a point.
- Colorado has yet to allow a powerplay goal, killing off all seven man advantages they've faced.
- Peter Budaj looked very sharp. On opening night, Jose Theodore certainly looked like he might be returning to his old form. But if he falters, Budaj seems to be ready to step in. At the very least, he gives Colorado a solid option when Theodore rests, and maybe even can apply a little motivation for Jose to perform.
- Minnesota got a lot of press about the improvements they made in the offseason, and that line of Gaborik, Demitra and Radivojevic looks like it could be very deadly. I'm only mentioning that here in case you missed FOX's broadcast, where they alluded to it about 16,000 times. And oh, by the way, Manny Fernandez is now the number one goalie. Dwayne Roloson got traded or something. Just in case you missed that one too.
Karlis Skrastins. I'm not sure that I can continue to call Karlis underrated, considering his $2.5 million salary, but I still don't believe he gets the credit he deserves around the league. The Minnesota game was a perfect example of Skrastins' game. Three times, Marion Gaborik went against Skrastins one-on-one with a strong scoring chance. Three times Karlis poked the puck away. Cleanly. Many NHL defensemen would have been beaten outright on those plays, and the few that would have stopped Gaborik would likely have drawn a penalty in doing so. Skrastins is simply excellent at knocking the puck away from a guy one-on-one.
A big part of Skrastins' game involves dropping to the ice, either to block a shot (he was among the league leaders in that category last year) or to take away a passing lane. Occasionally, this can lead to taking him out of a play if he makes a wrong decision - he didn't go down on the first goal, but his overpursuit took him out of position on the play.
Skrastins is not flashy. He doesn't line up for the big hit, and he has almost no offensive ability. But he is easily our steadiest defender. His positioning and shot blocking are among the best, and it's why he is put on the ice against the opposing teams best forwards. It's also worth noting that Karlis hasn't missed a game since 2000, the second-longest streak for a defenseman in NHL history.