Wojtek Wolski was 15 months old when the Quebec Nordiques drafted Joe Sakic with the 15th overall pick in the 1987 draft (one pick after Stephane Quintal, right ahead of Bryan Marchment). 19 1/2 years and two Stanley Cups later, Wolski was the goal scorer on the assist that moved Burnaby Joe into a tie for 10th on the all-time scoring list. It was a vintage Sakic pass that led to Wolski's rifle shot past Pred's goalie Chris Mason, and it was a vintage Sakic celebration after the goal (as in, there wasn't much of one). As good as he is, and as much as I've loved watching Joe Sakic play hockey over the years, it's his demeanor on the ice that has made him my favorite athlete of all time, by a wide, wide margin. In an era when athletes across all sports often seem more interested in drawing attention to their obnoxious personalities rather than how they play the game, Joe Sakic just goes out and does his job. I've never met Joe Sakic, and probably never will. I don't know firsthand what he's like in person, and, frankly, I don't give a damn. Where it matters to me - on the ice - he's been nothing but a true professional through and through, and I'm going to miss that the most when he finally hangs up the skates.
And oh, by the way, Colorado beat a very good Nashville team wearing very ugly uniforms today to snap a 3-game losing streak. Joel Quenneville thankfully resisted the urge to sit Peter Budaj after two losses, and Budaj responded with a pretty good 26-save performance. Budaj has not been sensational over his last 3 games, but he hasn't been bad either. Going back to him at that point and having him respond with the win has to be a tremendous confidence builder for the young goalie.
Quenneville did do something else that I suspected he might: he broke up Colorado's one good line (Sakic, Brunette & Wolski). Q dropped Brunette to the Stastny and Hejduk line and moved Svatos up to the first line. The result? Brunette scored, Hejduk scored, Svatos had two points, and Wolski and Sakic continued their hot pace. It was a gutsy move separating Brunette and Sakic, and it paid off today. Perhaps the growing buzz to replace Quenneville will die down a bit for the time being.
Kyle Cumiskey made his NHL debut tonight, and looked surprisingly good. Cumiskey wasn't exactly a highly touted young prospect until a strong training camp this fall opened up some eyes to his ability. He's a smallish puck-moving defenseman in the mold of John-Michael Liles. That's a player the Avs could certainly use right now - Colorado defensemen have just 2 PP points in the last 9 games, both from Liles. Barring more injuries, it's doubtful Cumiskey will have a long stint in the NHL this time around, but he showed he might be ready sooner rather than later to contribute on this team.
Brad Richardson (elbow) was a scratch, as was Brett McLean (back) for the 3rd straight game, so the Avs again dressed 7 defensemen and used Ken Klee on the 4th line. This time, though, Quenneville stayed with the plan, sticking with Cumiskey and Kurt Sauer at key points in the third period. If you're keeping score, that's three big things Q got right today. Patrice Brisebois (back) also missed his 3rd straight game.
- Sakic, Wolski, Svatos: 12:42, +9, 9 shots
- Arnason, Laaksonen, Laperriere: 11:04, -1, 6 shots
- Stastny, Brunette, Hejduk: 11:00, +3, 8 shots
- Turgeon, Rycroft, Klee: 9:14, +1, 3 shots
- Clark & Skrastins: 15:53, +3, 2 shots
- Liles & Vaananen: 16:06, +3, 4 shots
- Cumiskey & Sauer: 11:07, +2, 0 shots
- This is, of course, the first game of the season where Colorado has allowed 2 or more PP goals and won the game.
- The first overall pick in that same 1987 draft was Pierre Turgeon. Turgeon has cooled off considerably from his hot start. He had 7 points in his first 7 games this year, no points in the 5 games since.
- Colorado has allowed more than 1/4 of their PP goals in the last 4 games - 10 goals (39 for the season).
- Wolski's empty net goal was their first of the season. Only two teams are still without an EN goal - Vancouver and Pittsburgh.