photo courtesy of Will Powers/AP
I don't believe Joe Sakic is really 38 years old.
Despite getting a slow start to the season, the Colorado Avalanche captain took off in a big way against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring a hat trick and leading his team to a 5-1 victory at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
For the first time this season, the top offensive line led by Super Joe was able to score at even strength. They did it twice against the Jackets, in fact. The second line, which continues to consist of Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth on the wings with Paul Stastny in the center, also had another good outing. Hejduk scored at even strength at 9:34 in the second period.
The Avalanche power play scored twice, once by Sakic and another by Hejduk, with Smyth, Stastny, John-Michael Liles and The Duke earning assists.
For the first time the Avalanche penalty kill was perfect, stopping five Blue Jackets power plays. And as far as defense in general, the Avs were strong. Despite the loss of Jordan Leopold to a hip injury (here we go again), the Colorado blue line played very well, led by standout performances by Scott Hannan, Liles and newly-crowned Mile High Hockey favorite Jeff Finger. Finger continues to make his mark with physical play along the boards and a hard-nosed style that the Avalanche have lacked for several seasons.
The Blue Jackets were looking for a good performance from their young goalie Pascal Leclaire, who had two shutouts in as many games prior to facing the Avalanche last night. Unfortunately for him, Colorado wasn't going to let him stop the onslaught.
The goalie who did have a great night was Peter Budaj, who again showed everyone that he should be the starting goaltender for his team by stopping 24 of 25 shots (the lone goal was a fluke deflection off teammate Kurt Sauer's skate). He showed perfect positioning throughout the game and had nearly perfect rebound control. The player most frustrated by Budaj had to be Rick Nash, who had several excellent scoring chances and just couldn't get the biscuit in the basket despite his best efforts. Budaj had his number all night.
The Avalanche continues to play very well at home, winning all three games played at the Pepsi Center by a margin of 16-7. They play Calgary at home on Tuesday but then depart on a four-game road trip that includes three divisional rivals---Calgary again, Edmonton and the so-far undefeated Minnesota Wild. In the two road games the team has played so far, the Avalanche is 0-2 with a scoring deficit of 1-8. Obviously, that will have to improve.
Stars of the Game:
- Joe Sakic
- Milan Hejduk
- John-Michael Liles