I'm not sure where to begin. This one was wild! It was a wide-open, back-and-forth affair - both teams squandered 2-goal leads. The momentum changed about as often as Britney Spears goes commando. For both teams, the goaltending was suspect, the defense was terrible. The Avalanche could very easily have lost this one, but, for a change, came out on the winning side of a one-goal game.
Edmonton came out of the blocks hard. After getting outplayed in the last two matchups, you kind of expected they'd be ready to play. And sure enough, just 4 minutes in, they had a 2-0 lead and seemed like they were going to roll. But the Avs weren't ready to fold. Pierre Turgeon cut the lead to 2-1 with one of his patented shots from behind the net that he banked off of the back of Dwayne Roloson's legs. Raffi Torres scored a few minutes later (I believe Ken Klee might still be on the ice at Rexall Place watching that one unfold) to make it 3-1, shifting the momentum pendulum back towards the Oilers. But less than a minute later, Andrew Brunette scored the first of 3 powerplay goals to close the gap back to 3-2. Edmonton went into the 1st intermission with the lead, but the Avs had to feel good about their chances.
The second period was all Colorado. The Avs scored 3 goals - one from Rycroft and two more from Brunette to complete his first career hat trick. Despite the scoring gap, the period was pretty evenly played, with both teams having plenty of chances. Peter Budaj had a so-so first and third period, but was unbeatable in the 2nd, including about a minute of 5-on-3. And when the first penalty expired, Pierre Turgeon came out of the box, and got stuck on the ice for 30 seconds on the kill. Seeing Andrew Brunette kill a penalty in the Chicago game was somewhat disconcerting. Seeing Pierre Turgeon doing it caused me to bite down on my pillow in fear. Edmonton didn't score though, so no harm, no foul.
Predictably, Colorado's 5-3 lead didn't last long. Like 65 seconds long. Just over a minute after Bruno's 3rd goal, and just 31 seconds into the 2nd, Ales Hemsky found a wide open Petr Sykora, and suddenly I'm searching the thesaurus in my brain for synonyms for "disappointment". Paul Stastny scored 3 minutes later (his career high 4th point of the game) to restore the 2-goal lead (6-4). That wasn't the end of it, of course. Ales Hemsky took advantage of Karlis Skrastins to feed Sykora for another goal (and by "take advantage of" I mean "deke the pants off of"), and, just over a minute later Budaj fumbled Joffrey Lupul's long shot allowing Lupul an easy rebound goal. 6-6, now, and it's looking like the game is going to slip away. But Brett McLean, perhaps atoning for the first Edmonton goal scored off of his skate, scored the game winner with yet another goal off Roloson from behind the net. Edmonton pushed hard to tie the game again, but Colorado held on. It wasn't pretty, but it was exciting. And very enjoyable!
Forget Detroit and forget Vancouver: Edmonton is our fiercest rival right now. The teams have a lot of similarities. Both have a lot of depth and skill at forward, and yet have difficulty scoring consistently, especially on the powerplay. Both teams lost a key defenseman in the offseason (Rob Blake & Chris Pronger), but have generally seen solid play from their blueliners (with exceptions, including this game). One big difference? Physical play. Edmonton was credited with 27 hits in the game. Colorado? 6. Other than Ian Laperriere (who has ALL of Colorado's fighting majors this year), the Avs have no one to crunch bodies or offer protection when, say, Raffi Torres is acting like a giant douchebag and taking potshots at our players because he's frustrated with his own crappy play. I think that lack of physical presence will need to be addressed. And no, I don't think Cody McCormick or Brad May is an acceptable answer. It has to be a guy who can hit, fight and play, not 2 out of 3.
Forward Lines (EV)
I'm including this, but they changed all game, with Wolski spending a significant portion of the game on the bench (and rightly so (again), with the way he's been playing of late. These lines represent the start of the game - Svatos was out (groin), Richardson and Stastny switched. But, again, these changed shift to shift throughout.
- Sakic, Wolski, Brunette. 10:41, 5 shots, -3
- Arnason, McLean, Hejduk. 14:09, 7 shots, -6
- Richardson, Turgeon, Laperriere. 9:44, 5 shots, +2
- Stastny, Laaksonen, Rycroft. 11:24, 8 shots, +1
Defensive Pairings (EV)
These also were extremely fluid all game...
- Clark & Skrastins, 18:02, 2 shots, -1
- Liles & Brisebois, 16:12, 3 shots, +1
- Klee & Vaananen, 12:02, 0 shots, -4
- It seems unfair to single out one guy when so many guys played so poorly in their own end (Klee & Skrastins, I'm looking at you), but Patrice Brisebois, what in the name of blueline hell are you doing out there? I don't know you only ended up with 2 "official" giveaways in the game. You are aware that all those guys in blue you were passing to play for the other team, right?
- Brad Richardson finely got some decent playing time. His 15 minutes were his 3rd highest ice time of the season, and his 12:26 of EV time was his 2nd highest total. And he didn't disappoint, with 3 assists - all at even strength. Hopefully, that will earn him the opportunity to spend more time on a scoring line.
- In the 5 meetings between these clubs, there's been 7 2-goal scorers - Sykora and Ryan Smyth (twice each) Arnason, Svatos and Brunette. Brunette is the first to record a hat trick.
- I like Dwayne Roloson, but Craig MacTavish might want to think about resting him the next time these clubs faceoff in February. Roloson has allowed 17 goals in the last 3 games against the Avs, getting pulled twice.
Stats will be updated shortly.