Okay, I think I've figured this out. All the Avalanche need to do is figure out a way to play all of their games at home. The Avs have been Mr Hyde on the road, getting shellacked in both games away from the Pepsi Center. In Denver, though, it's been all Dr Jeckyll. Last night, the Avalanche pasted the Blue Jackets 5 to 1.
If you read yesterday's St Louis recap, you saw me express concern over Joe Sakic maybe losing a step, Ryan Smyth not spending enough time in the net, Scott Hannan making mistakes in his own end, special teams, faceoffs, and the general, all-around suckitude of Jose Theodore. Theodore did not play (although he looked wonderful on the bench, as usual), but the rest of my concerns were all thrown back at me last night. Sakic had a hat trick and looked far more energized than he has all this year (note Dario's comment after game one that "like I told someone last year after five games in or so, the last person on this team you need to worry about is Joe Sakic."). Smyth spent much of the night causing havoc in front of Pascal Leclaire and, honestly, might have deflected two of the Avs 3rd period goals. He only got 1 point, but he had a tremendous amount of impact on the game. Hannan looked much better, and it was his home run pass to Hejduk in the 3rd that led to the Avs key 3rd goal. Special teams were solid last night and, get this: the Avs won 50% of their faceoffs tonight! It's like all my wishes came through at the same time. Next time, I'm going to wish for money and naked women. Sorry, Avs fans.
The game got a bit nasty in the 3rd period as several members of the Blue Jackets started to get chippy with the Avalanche players. Joel Quenneville kept Ian Laperriere and Scott Parker out for a lot of the 3rd (5 of Parker's 6 shifts came in the final frame) to keep things in line. They backfired a little bit, as Parker ended up with a bloody mouth after a cross check to the face from Duvie Westcott in the waning moments of the game. Later, with Parker safely locked away in the box, Oli Tollefsen chased after Jaroslav Hlinka to, you know, show his toughness. Although there was no serious altercation (save Parker's cut lip), there were a total of 38 penalty minutes and 3 misconducts (Tollefsen, Westcott and Parker) in the last 90 seconds of the game. These teams face off again on December 5th.
Curiously, in all the crap at the end of the game, Jason "Douchebag" Chimera was nowhere to be found. Chimera, you might recall, fought Jeff Finger in a late-February game last season - he took exception to a hard (and clean) hit from Finger and chased him down after the whistle to drop the gloves; Chimera got an instigator penalty for that bit of manliness. Early in the first, you saw an almost instant replay, when Finger helped Chimera taste some plexiglass with a firm (and clean) check into the boards. Chimera got up and continued playing as if nothing had happened. Then, after a whistle, Chimera turned on his "I'm mad" switch went after Finger and tried to goad him into a rematch. Finger did not oblige him, and I don't blame him (the play was long over by then). He did, though, happily run Chimera even harder into the other corner on their next shift together. Chimera looked generally stupid an inept through much of the early part of the game - when he wasn't getting leveled into the boards, he was falling to the ice to draw a cheap penalty (hooking call on Svatos), taking potshots at our skilled players (an "accidental" bump while skating by Milan Hejduk) and, best of all, KICKING Andrew Brunette while Bruno was laying on the ice. This is one classy individual we're dealing with here. See you on December 5th, Jason.
My not-so-brilliant ramblings on the game can be found here
One lineup change tonight: Ben Guite was a scratch while Scott Parker dressed. While I'm not against Parker getting some ice time, I don't really understand why Guite got the hook and not Wyatt Smith. Is there something I'm not seeing with Smith? He doesn't seem to be bringing much to the ice. Honestly, at this point, I'd rather see Mark Rycroft there, or maybe Cody McCormick. Also, Wojtek Wolski moved up to the Sakic line, with Hlinka moving down to join Tyler Arnason. Both players looked good on their new lines.
On defense, Jordan Leopold sat out his 2nd straight game. Kyle Cumiskey was called up before the game, but did not play. According to McNab, Leopold should be ready to play on Tuesday in Calgary.
- Wolski - Sakic - Brunette
- Smyth - Stastny - Hejduk
- Hlinka - Arnason - Svatos
- Parker - Smith - Laperriere
- Clark - Hannan
- Sauer - Skrastins
- Liles - Finger
- In the first 3 games at home, the Avs have two hat tricks (Sakic and Stastny) and two 2-goal games (both from Hejduk).
- Brett Clark has 6 blocked shots in the game
- The NHL (motto: We Get Nothing Right) continues to amaze me. This year, they introduced these new, improved box scores. Most people don't like the looks of them very much. Personally, I think they look fine. My beef is that they often contain errors. I've already talked about the Sakic 5 on 3 PP goal against SJ that was listed as an EV goal for several days. In looking at last nights score, I noticed something odd. For the goal that made it 3-1, Hejduk scoring on a long pass from Hannan...Hannan is given an assist, but isn't listed as being on the ice for the goal. I don't remember there being enough time for him to change between the time he passed to Hejduk and Hejduk scored, but the summary shows Liles and Finger on the ice. So, I check the new, snazzy, nowhere-near-as-helpful-as-the-shift-chart TOI report. Sure enough, Hannan was on the ice when that goal was scored. As was Brett Clark. Finger and Liles were not. That means the +/- numbers for those 4 players are wrong, until the NHL fixes it (it took them a week to figure out the Sakic error). I have no idea how many other mistakes are there that I'm not seeing, but it's tough to use these when they have such glaring mistakes as that.
The Avs have a key stretch coming up, one that likely will have a big effect on the playoff races next spring. They host Calgary on Tuesday. That game kicks off a string of divisional games: 15 of the next 18 games are against a divisional opponent. We'll see Vancouver just twice, but have a whopping 4 games against Minnesota and Edmonton and 5 games against the Flames (the 3 non-divisional opponents are no cakewalk either - Chicago, Dallas and Pittsburgh). The dust finally settles on November 28th; where the Avalanche are sitting in the division at that point is going to be huge.
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