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Recap: Avalanche 4, Stars 3

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The Avalanche started the new season on the right foot (mostly) to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 last night. The much vaunted new first line was kept off the score sheet, but the 2nd line of Paul Stastny (3 goals), Andrew Brunette (3 assists) and Jaroslav Hlinka (2 assists) was sensational. Sophomore Wojtek Wolski also looked strong last night, scoring a beauty of a goal that eventually turned out to be the game winner. With Stastny, Wolski and Hlinka shining, and Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk...um, not shining, we should all start getting our "changing of the guard" metaphors ready. Too early? Yeah, I agree.

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The new Colorado Avalanche looked a bit like the old Colorado Avalanche, as they built up a 3-goal lead and then did their best to try to squander it. The Stars scored 2 PP goals in the 3rd period and goalie Peter Budaj had to hold off a ridiculous flurry in the last few minutes of the game to preserve the win. I'm not against the concept of building a lead and then sitting on it; teams like Minnesota and New Jersey have had great success with that. But the Avs are simply not built to be a defensive team. From top to bottom, most of their players are guys who move better forwards, not backwards. If they get an early lead, the best defense they have is to keep offensive pressure on. Shutting it off and moving to defensive mode just doesn't work for this squad, and it mystifies me every time I see them do this.

Besides trying to be a team they aren't, the rest of the game was generally solid for the team. The defensemen looked good as a unit - I didn't notice any glaring mistakes in our own zone. Peter Budaj of 2007 looked a lot like Peter Budaj of 2006: steady, not sensational, but making the big save when it counts. The Avs can have a good season with that sort of goaltending. I'm not convinced that will get them far in the playoffs, but it's way too early to start obsessing about that. Obviously, the Stastny line was sensational tonight, easily the best line on the ice. Stastny showed no evidence that he'd be slowing down this year, or ignoring his defensive responsibilities. Brunette looked slow at times, but excelled in his office behind the net. Jaroslav Hlinka was a joy to watch - what a coup his signing looks to be. Wolski also looked strong tonight. More often than not (and more often than last year) he was trying to generate a play rather than waiting for the puck to come his way. After those four, though, there wasn't much in the way of offense from the rest of the forwards. Perhaps they were saving it for Nashville...

Before I get to the rest of my observations, I'd like to once again give a shout out to the NHL for being the worst-run sports league on the face of the planet. At 7:00, I sat down with my dinner and flipped on some hockey to tide me over until the Avs came on. I settled on the Montreal - Carolina game. And, the broadcast is in French. French. I'm sure the 37 French-only speaking hockey fans in the US were overjoyed. The rest of us were just left to shake our heads.

Of course, it gets better. In honor of opening night, the NHL stacked two games back to back on Vs, with no time in between. Against all odds, the first game went to overtime and then a shootout, cutting into the beginning of the Avs game. Seriously? No one at the league or Vs has any clue that hockey games might go longer than 2 1/2 hours? Really? Idiots.

Back to my observations. Let's see if I can read my chicken-scratch notes...

First Period

12:11 The Wings - Ducks finally ends thanks to a goal from über utility player Rex Hudler. Man, that guy can do ANYTHING.

11:21 My first official Ryan Smyth sighting. Do I have to like the mullet now that he's on y team?

11:04 I was secretly hoping the new ugly-ass uniforms would look a little better on the ice. Nope. If possible, they look even worse. I make sure my wife knows that I don't want one of those things, even as a gift.

10:34 Smyth gets a good one-timer chance, but Marty Turco makes a save.

10:06 Back to the uniforms. The Stars looked okay when I saw the jerseys in photos, but they don't look very good on the ice either. For the first few minutes, I thought it was the Blackhawks out there. Both of these teams suffer from losing their unique striping at the bottom of the jersey - the mountain stripe for the Avs and the star for Dallas. Those were distinctive markings that grabbed the eye from a distance (like watching on TV). At least to Dallas' credit, the jerseys do look good when viewed up close. The Avs' look like ass no matter what distance you are watching from.

8:08 Vs analyst Daryl Reaugh says that he's in favor of a bigger net. Other than the fact that it would make Roberto Luongo retire, this is one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard. Which means there's a 85% chance the NHL will implement it.

7:47 Sakic beats the defense to be the first one to get to a Ryan Smyth pass. Nice to see that his wheels are still there.

7:20 Skrastins stays in position to make a solid defensive play.

6:48 I see Ben Guite on the ice. The RMN (motto: "We Don't Do RSS") reported he would sit for Scott Parker. I thought that seemed a little odd.

6:26 Gorgeous Mike Modano dekes the pants off of Andrew Brunette at the blueline.

6:18 A good example of the type of things Stastny can do. Stastny starts this play behind the Colorado net (nice to see he's still committed to good D). He outlets, gets the puck back at the blueline and is off to the races. Hlinka was cherry-picking a bit and breaks out with him. Brunette joins as well. The trio complete some pretty passes. Hlinka gets a shot and immediately circles the net to be ready for a rebound (looked a lot like Hejduk there). He does get a rebound chance, but it hits the post.

5:56 Reaugh uses the word "elephantine" to describe a Turco save. I look around uncomfortably.

3:40 Dallas is putting some solid pressure on (for a change)

3:07 Guite comes up with a big block.

1:50 1-0 Colorado! Stastny scores on a wrist shot from beyond the faceoff circle. Not a good goal for Turco to give up.

1:15 Brunette really looks slow out there. The new EDGE jerseys are supposed to be 7% faster. I wonder if Bruno can get his money back, because I don't think that's happening.

:56 Brett Clark and Brendan Morrow get together in an ugly accidental collision in the corner. Morrow goes into the corner and loses his footing right at the boards. Clark is going in to make a routine hit, and ends up kicking the falling Morrow in the face with the back of his skate. OUCH. Luckily, it was the boot part of the skate hitting Morrow, not the blade - this could have been a horrific accident. Clark immediately bent to the ice to make sure Morrow was ok.

:40 Smyth centers to Sakic from behind the net. This is something I expect to see much of during the season.

2nd Period

19:50 Sakic's centering pass goes off Modano and onto the Dallas net, forcing Turco to make a save.

19:19 Scott Hannan makes a strong defensive play. Antti Miettinen centers the puck to Nicklas Hagman, but Hannan holds up Hagman enough to keep him from getting to the puck. I like it.

18:57 2-0 Colorado! 84-year-old Sergei Zubov makes a weak clearing attempt that is intercepted by the circling Hlinka (this guy looks a bit like a mosquito on the ice). Hlinka carries it in, passes it to Brunette (where else) behind the net, who dishes to Stastny beating his man (Zubov) to the front of the net. Stastny puts it home easily to give the Avs a 2-0 lead.

15:44 Reaugh or the bozo doing play by play mention that Colorado Assistant Coach Tony Granato was surprised to see Smyth's speed. Remember, Granato's brother-in-law is the color analyst for the Oilers. Granato has played and coached against Smyth on many occasions. I don't think he was surprised at all.

14:56 Andrew Brunette gets a delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. I hate this penalty. I don't understand why shooting the puck to the end of the ice is icing, while shooting it over the glass is a delay of game. This makes NO sense to me. I thought I was alone here, but I read Tapeleg's interview the other day, and he riffed on the same thing. Now I'm just a copycat.

Here's the PK rotation used on this first penalty kill of the year:


  • Guite, Wyatt Smith, Clark, Hannan

  • Laperriere, Hlinka, Clark, Hannan

  • Stastny, Hejduk, Skrastins, Sauer


Joel Quenneville did the 3 sets of forwards at times last year, but not all that often. I'll be watching to see how this plays out.

12:50 Dallas scores. 2-1 Colorado. Just as the penalty is killed off, Trevor Dayley's slapshot from the point is deflected by Jeff Halpern past Budaj. Over the PA Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" starts playing. Come on, people, this is a hockey game, not a Promise Keeper convention. If the message you are trying to convey is steely resolve, a Tom Petty song just isn't going to cut it.

11:50 Wolski shows some great puck control behind the net. He looks really good tonight. I can't say the same for his linemates Laperriere and Arnason.

9:53 Guite takes the puck away from someone in a white jersey.

9:01 Jussi Jokinen rings one off the post. Dallas is putting on some pressure here.

8:45 Stastny scores! Colorado 3-1. Dallas was getting close, but Stastny scores to get his first hat trick. And it was a beaut. Bruno dropped it back nicely to Hlinka who centered Stastny perfectly, giving Stastny an easy tip in to the right of Turco. Reaugh and the other guy openly express their desire to adopt Stastny.

8:13 Wolski with a nice takeway. Perhaps this would be a good place to mention that I predicted Wolski would outscore Stastny this year?

8:02 The obligatory "Tuuuurcoo" chant starts. I have a sneaking feeling that Turco will (unfairly) be the scapegoat if Dallas struggles this year. It would not shock me to see him moved if the team drops out of contention. Personally, I would love to see Turco in burgondy.

5:41 Hagman gets a point blank shot as he receives a pass that evaded a sliding Jordan Leopold

4:30 Behind his net, Clark reverses the puck to Hannan. Hannan has no clue, and there's an awkward moment as Hannan looks around wondering what is going on. Not quite on par with some of the comedy Vaananan and Brisebois brought to us last year, but it still made me chuckle.

3:06 Wolski scores! Colorado 4-1. It looked like a rather innocent play, with Wolski taking a pass from Lappy and moving horizontally about 15' in front of the net. Then Wolski makes a little stutter step to give him separation from Zubov and a better angle on Turco and then he blasted it home. Pretty goal from Wolski. Stastny rightfully will get a lot of praise from tonights game. Hlinka too. But Wolski looked great too, and didn't have a lot of help.

1:20 A mad scramble inside the Avalanche zone. The Avs are dead tired, but can't clear them out. Heck, Stastny looks like he can barely move.

:57.9 Stephane Robidas can't keep the puck in the zone, giving the Avs a much needed break.

3rd Period

16:46 Smith (not Smyth) intercepts a pass in the defensive zone

16:14 Smyth (not Smith) gets hit by someone after he makes a pass. I think it was Joel Lundqvist, but I'm not sure. It's only notable because it was probably the biggest hit of the night, and it was really rather tame.

13:50 Marek Svatos, playing on the 4th line, finally gets himself noticed. He gets called for hooking. Bleh.

12:22 Dallas scores to make it 4-2. Jussi Jokinen shots and Budaj makes the stop. Jokinen takes another swing, and jars the puck loose from under Budaj. The Vs cameras jump to a fat guy standing up wearing a Stars jersey; the jersey has stains all over the front. Lovely.

11:53 Hannan blocks a pass. Solid game from Hannan tonight.

11:17 Smyth gets a breakaway, but Robidas does a nice job getting back to defend the play. On the bench, Granato expresses surprise at Smyth's lack of speed.

7:08 An odd sight: Sauer with the puck, circling behind the Dallas goal.

6:41 Wolski feeds Guite in front of the net. Guite's shot is blocked, as is Svatos' rebound attempt. Svatos gets mugged a bit after the play. Dallas' Ericksson gets a hooking call.

3:35 Colorado gets called for too many men. Seriously? Could there be a worse time to get a bench minor like this?

2:50 4-3 Colorado. Hagman banks a fluky shot off of Clark's skate and into the net. Tough goal. The Avs have been playing soft in the 3rd, and now they've almost blown their lead.

2:00 Hejduk fans on a clearing attempt. Dallas is pressing hard.

1:00 Turco to the bench.

:30 Stastny makes the 2nd big defense play of the period, getting back to cover an empty net.

:17 Guite has a chance to clear, but can't do it

:10 Hejduk finally clears it

:01 One last gasp. Halpern shoots, but Budaj gets a glove save.

Lines


  1. Smyth, Sakic, Hejduk

  2. Hlinka, Stastny, Brunette

  3. Wolski, Arnason, Laperriere

  4. Smith, Guite, Svatos



  1. Clark, Hannan

  2. Skrastins, Liles

  3. Sauer, Leopold


Quick Hits

  • You should see some fancy new graphics in the upper right corner of your screen. Those will show the 2007 team compared to the 2006 team in terms of points, goals scored and goals allowed.

  • The Avs were a woeful 39% on faceoffs. Arnason was 25%. Surely, there's someone on the team who can win more than 25%? Right?

  • Sergei Zubov was on the ice for 6 of the 7 goals scored last night.

  • Scott Hannan and Brett Clark put up monster minutes (28:05 and 27:04). No one else on the Avs cracked 20 (Smyth was next with 19:16)


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