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Game Recap: Blackhawks 5, Avalanche 3

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There's been a lot of debate recently about the difference between sports journalists and sports bloggers. I - a blogger - am about to demonstrate one of the differences: bad language.

What. The. Fuck? This is patently fucking stupid. For the 2nd straight game, the team had a chance to win a game that they had no business winning. Unlike the last time, though, the team blew it? Why? Because our coach can't make up his fucking mind about which goaltender he should start.

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Let's be clear: I don't blame Jose Theodore for the loss last night. He certainly should have stopped that go-ahead goal with just 1:25 left in regulation...but his struggles should NOT be a surprise to anyone, certainly not the head coach of the motherfucking team. Even casual observers of the team know that Theodore is not the goalie he used to be - he doesn't react quickly enough, he gets caught out of position, and he's prone to losing focus at key points in the game. Is he washed up? Maybe not; I'll be the first to mention that he can still turn his career around and, if he does, it'll be a great asset to the team.

But, until that happens, he needs to be on the damn bench. The team has a very capable goalie in Peter Budaj. He's young, he's shown steady improvement, and, unlike Theodore, he's shown that he can be consistent in the net for long stretches. He's earned the starting job. Yes, he's had some bad games - last year and this year. He's 25 years old and he plays in front of a defense made of Swiss cheese; what else would you expect? But his bad games are much less frequent than his good games. When Budaj starts, you know what you are going to get: a steady, pretty-good-but-not-elite goalie - and that's good enough to get this team to the playoffs. When Theodore starts, no one knows what will happen. It's like some science fair experiment, except that this team can not afford to lose games in the name of science. If anyone should know that, it's Quenneville - he saw his team squander one too many chances last year and it cost them a playoff berth. What would possess him to fuck around with the goalies again, just 7 games into the season? For crying out loud, coach, give Budaj a chance to anchor the team like he did last spring. Making knee-jerk changes after a bad outing is only going to hurt the team, their playoff chances and, ultimately, your job.

As for the game itself, the team continued to struggle defensively in the 1st period. While the offense had a lot of pressure (14 shots) on Nikolai Khabibulin, they also gave away the puck far too often, leading to several odd-man rushes for the Blackhawks. Chicago's youngsters capitalized on the chances they were given, staking a 3-0 lead in the game on goals from Jonathan Toews (a dandy of a goal), Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.

Several of the "big guns" on the Avalanche blue line continue to struggle with inconsistent play: Brett Clark, Scott Hannan and Jordan Leopold all are making more mistakes than they should be. I think it might be a good idea to break up Clark and Hannan; they both seem like they need a bit of a shakeup. Meanwhile, Leopold had a terrible game last night. He's joining the rush like he's Paul Coffey. Great! Unfortunately, he doesn't handle the puck like Coffey, and, when he turns the rubber over, the Blackhawks would invariably have an odd-man rush in the other direction. How he escaped the game without getting "credited" for any giveaways, I don't know. He also took a very stupid boarding penalty. That's certainly not the guy we've been patiently waiting for, is it?

Just like the Tuesday game, the Avalanche kept working despite an early deficit. (They also had another fight - this one Ian Laperriere against James Wisniewski - to help fire them up). Khabibulin was sensational tonight, and stopped the first 30 Avalanche shots. The Avs kept firing, though, and finally managed to score on a goal from Wojtek Wolski late in the 2nd period. When just 40 seconds into the 3rd, Marek Svatos scored on a superhuman effort to make it 3-2, it felt almost inevitable that the Avs would tie the game. Sure enough, Ryan Smyth scored on the PP at 7:35 in the 3rd to not things up again. The Avs looked like they were going to do the improbable - 2 straight comebacks.

Not. Just as our minds were drifting to OT and the guaranteed point, Theodore let in a soft goal - a deflection from Tuomo Ruutu on a shot from Magnus Johansson. It was a deflating goal to say the least, and one that seemed entirely stoppable. The good news, I guess, is that at least it will mean that Budaj will get the next start. Until he falters, that is...

Game Notes

My notes from the depressing game can be found here

Lines

The line report is posted.

Wyatt Smith played on the 3rd line (if I hadn't wasted so much of my energy ranting about Theodore, I'd talk more about this), and Jaroslav Hlinka moved to the 4th line. Milan Hejduk returned to the lineup (and Parker scratched in his place); Hejduk didn't play in the 3rd period at all when his back started bothering him again.

On defense, Skrastins and Sauer switched their partners - Skrastins played with Leopold and Sauer played with Liles. Jeff Finger, unfortunately, was a scratch for the 2nd straight game.

Quick Hits


  • The Avs won just 39% of faceoffs in the game.

  • Yanic Perrault, who the Avalanche have no use for, won all 12 of the faceoffs he took. These two facts are completely unrelated. Or something.

  • One nice Jose Theodore fact: He has yet to allow a PP goal this year.

  • The Avs are now 0-3 against the Central Division, 4-0 against the rest of the league.


Other Recaps

Avalanche Guild (with video of that pretty Toews goal)

Avs Talk

Next Up

The Avalanche play the 1st place Wild in Minnesota on Sunday. The Wild might be tired, as they play tonight in St Louis.