photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP
Scott Hannan has taken a lot of grief from Avalanche fans so far this season. He was brought on to the team during the off-season to add physicality and stability to a defensive squad that was far too porous in the past. Through the first ten games or so, however, Hannan found himself on the ice far too many times during opposition goals. His +/- rating has been very low, often the lowest on the team.
Yesterday, though, Hannan earned his sizable free agent pay package, shutting down Minnesota Wild scoring chances all over the ice. He played strong on the boards, haunted the passing lanes and more or less made the opposition fear his very presence. It may have taken a long time, but he played to his full potential last night as the Avalanche defeated the Wild 4-2 to move three points ahead atop the Northwest Division and solidify their place as second-best team in the Western Conference.
Offensively, the star of the game was Paul Stastny, who had two goals and an assist on Wojtek Wolski's empty-netter at the end of the game. Son of Stastny has now scored 100 total points in 99 career games, joining his father Peter and his uncles Marian and Anton, who each accomplished the same feat of scoring 100 points in less than 100 games.
Ryan Smyth and Wojtek Wolski also played very well, each scoring a goal and helping on another. Assists were also made by Scott Hannan, Ben Guite, Joe Sakic and Kurt Sauer.
Peter Budaj played a superb game in net, allowing only a freak off-his-back blooper of a goal and a quick wrister he tried to stop with a futile Hasek move. Both were in the second period and both were power play goals. At even strength, Budaj was perfect. If both Jose Theodore and Budaj keep playing like they have, it's likely Coach Q will just rotate them all season---at least until another team offers a decent trade package for Theo, which has to be the desired outcome for the Avalanche.
On a sad note, Ian Laperriere hurt his knee in the game and is reported to be out 2-4 weeks. That's a big loss for the Avs, who have relied on Lappy to provide not just leadership and comic relief, but also some scoring as well.
Colorado now takes the week off, without another game until Friday, when the team begins a four-game road trip in Dallas. This will be a big chance for the Avalanche to improve their weak road performance so far this season. At home, however, they have the best record (9-1-0) in the NHL.
Stars of the Game:
- Paul Stastny (2g, 1a)
- Scott Hannan (0g, 1a)
- Peter Budaj (25sv, .926)