It was the right decision. When Peter Budaj was pulled in his last start, there was some talk that Joel Quenneville might slip back into the old, ineffective "lose and you sit" goalie rotation. Thankfully, he went right back to his young goalie, and Budaj responded by stealing a victory away from Anaheim.
Even with Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemen missing from the Ducks roster, Colorado had a difficult time generating any sort of offensive pressure. The Avs were outshot 10-7 in the first period...and that was the good period. For the final 2 periods and the 5 minute OT, the Avs mustered just 7 shots (to Anaheim's 30). Avs defensemen didn't record a single shot on net in the game, and the 8 wingers accounted for just 7 shots. This was no offensive clinic. Andrew Brunette scored in the first on a nice move from behind the net (a goal that wouldn't have been possible if Kyle Cumiskey hadn't done a nice job pinching in to keep the play alive) and Wojtek Wolski celebrated being named to the Young Stars game by scoring his 16th goal in the 2nd.
Defensively, it was better at times, but still uneven. There were some big chunks of the game where Avalanche clearing attempts were intercepted by the Ducks. And the Anaheim forecheckers kept relentless pressure on the Avs defense. There was effort, but not quite the consistent 60 minute effort that's needed. If not for Budaj, this would have been a blowout. That's the 2nd game in the last 3 where Budaj has not only kept his team in the game, but put them in position to steal a point (or, in this case, two).
Seeing Budaj rebound after a mediocre game was very encouraging. He has now played in 16 of the last 20 games (2 in relief of Jose Theodore). His record is 9-5-1 in the span, and his GAA is a solid 2.58. Most importantly, he's been consistent - he's only given up more than 3 goals in two of the games (and he won one of those). If the rest of the team had that sort of consistency, we'd be much higher than 9th in the conference.
The other bright spot in the game was the penalty kill. Anaheim has the 3rd best powerplay in the league, but Colorado did a nice job of shutting them down with what might have been their most energetic effort yet. The Avs moved around well, keeping solid pressure on the Ducks. In the last 4 games, the Avs have given up just 2 PP goals (and have scored 1 SH goal).
Brad Richardson returned to the lineup after being recalled on Thursday from Albany, replacing demoted Ben Guite. Antti Laaksonen also played, with Pierre Turgeon (0 pts in 8 games) a healthy scratch for the 2nd time in 4 games. Richardson played with Brett McLean and Ian Laperriere on the 3rd line, with the struggling Tyler Arnason moving down to the 4th line (a line that ended up -6).
- Sakic, Wolski, Svatos: 17:48, 2 pts, 4 shots, +2
- Richardson, McLean, Laperriere: 10:41, 0 pts, 2 shots, E
- Stastny, Brunette, Hejduk: 14:01, 2 pts, 6 shots, +4
- Arnason, Laaksonen, Rycroft: 8:17, 0 pts, 5 shots, -6
- Clark & Skrastins: 20:34, 0 pts, 0 shots, E
- Klee & Vaananen: 19:20, 0 pts, 0 shots, E
- Cumiskey & Sauer: 12:58, 0 pts, 0 shots, E
- Colorado has struggled on faceoffs all year long. Last night, Stastny, Arnason and Laperriere combined to go 28% on the draw.
- Peter Budaj also made the NHL's Young Stars squad, along with Wolski. Paul Stastny, 3rd among all rookie scorers, somehow did not make the cut.
- You've probably already heard the rumors that the NHL might be suspending the 3rd jersey program next season, and that some (many? all?) teams will be getting a makeover as Reebok introduces a new "streamlined" jersey. That depressing news (not official, yet, but widely accepted as truth) might be tempered by another rumor - that the NHL will go back to white jerseys for home teams next year. Personally, I prefer the darks...but I know most people out there seem to prefer whites. At any rate, jerseys are supposed to be unveiled at the All-Star game, if not sooner.
Updated and posted.