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12/29 Blues 4, Colorado 2

On the surface, there's a lot of things to be satisfied with about the latest loss. Colorado played relatively well, and got defeated by a dramatically improved St Louis team (not to mention Avs killer Manny Legace). Other than the first St Louis goal, scored by Martin Rucinsky after Ken Klee just flat out gave up on defense, the Avs can't really be faulted for too much for their on-ice play. The 2nd Blues goal was a blistering one-timer from a revitalized Bill Guerin on a 5-on-3 powerplay - a shot that was so hard, it was tough to see even in slow motion. Rucinsky's 2nd goal - a powerplay goal in the 3rd - was a nice redirection that Peter Budaj had little chance on. Tack on Radek Dvorak's empty netter (officially credited to Keith Tkachuk who cheesily "deflected" a puck heading to an open net), and it's hard to really single out any one Colorado player for poor play. Other than Klee, perhaps. More on that in a bit.

But even with the effort, it's hard not to get discouraged with what effectively is the 12th regulation 1-goal loss for Colorado. Think about it: 12 of 17 losses the Avs needed just one goal to force OT and guarantee at least one point. Do that in just half of them, and you have a 4-point lead on the rest of the NW. It won't mean much if the Avs make the postseason, but it will mean everything if they don't.

A week or so ago, I almost wrote about how it seemed the Avs had finally put the sloppy line changes behind them. I can't imagine there's a team in the NHL that takes more too many men on the ice penalties than the Avalanche...this season and last season. Could they finally have their act together in this area? Is Gillette foamy shaving cream thick and rich enough to stop a moving car? Hell no. Wednesday, the Avs got busted late in the 2nd, the Stars scored to close the gap to 4-3, and, of course, eventually won the game. Last night, another ridiculous too many men penalty led to Howie, Bill Guerin scoring to take a 2-1 lead. Both huge goals, directly caused by something as simple and routine as a line change. How come we are STILL talking about this?

Since we're talking about line changes, just what the hell is Joel Quenneville doing? I recognize that lines will change because of injuries and for motivational purposes. If I was a coach, I think I'd want to move personnel around a bit myself. But is he tinkering too much? Last night, with one forward roster change - McLean out and Svatos returning - Q shuffled 3 of the 4 lines, moving 6 forwards around. And that's just the starting lines - things got moved around almost every shift. Take Tyler Arnason, for example. He started his first 4 shifts with Ian Laperriere and Mark Rycroft. His next shift was a PP shift. No problems so far. His next shift? Milan Hejduk and Antti Laaksonen. Two more PP shifts followed, and then back with Lappy and Rycroft, then Rycroft and Wolski, Svatos & Turgeon, Rycroft & Laperriere (three shifts), Turgeon & Hejduk, PP, Svatos & Turgeon, Laaksonen & Svatos, and Svatos & Turgeon. He played with SEVEN different forwards at even strength. I recognize that Quenneville might be trying to jump start his game (0 points, -5 last 4 games), but that seems to be beyond extreme.

EV Lines:

Svatos returned from a groin injury. Brett McLean was a surprise scratch (back).

  • Sakic, Wolski, Brunette: +1, 15:19, 7 shots

  • Arnason, Rycroft, Laperriere: -2, 10:05, 5 shots

  • Stastny, Laaksonen, Hejduk: E, 11:56, 10 shots

  • Turgeon, Richardson, Svatos: +1, 9:05, 4 shots

EV Pairings

Brisebois was out (back), giving Kurt Sauer another shot to play for 2 periods and ride the bench for the third. Sauer was solid, but Q shows how much faith he has in him by giving him just 3 shifts in the 3rd period. Meanwhile, Klee makes a huge gaffe that leads to one goal in the first, and another mistake that should have led to another goal in the third, and he gets 10 shifts.

Quick Hits

  • I wasn't fond of moving Wolski to the Sakic line, because I didn't think the rookie was working hard enough to earn it. It's certainly worked, though. The trio have 40 points in the 10 games. Brunette has a point in 9 of the games. Sakic leads the three with 15.

  • When Dvorak / Tkachuk scored the EN (officially a powerplay goal), a bunch of non-penalty killers were on the ice, with Wolski and Arnason allowing their first PP goal of the year (they average just 7 seconds of SH ice time a game).

  • The game was played with just one lineseman, as the wife of one of the scheduled linsemen was in labor. The previous Avs - Blues game was also played with one linesman short for two periods, when one left after the first due to injury.