I'm not really sure what to write here. The Avalanche followed up their worst game of the season on Friday with their second-worst game of the season. The Wild dumped the Avalanche 4-1 in a game that had a lot of similarities to the Debacle in Dallas™.
The game started out fast, with both teams grabbing some early chances. The Wild settled down quickly on defense, but the Avalanche couldn't quite do the same. Minnesota gathered momentum as the period went on, and finally scored with about 4 minutes left. The Wild's 4th line - consisting of recent AHL call-up Aaron Voros, 9-game healthy scratch Matt Foy and rookie James Sheppard - took advantage of a John-Michael Liles turnover to score the first goal of the game. It was not the Wild's only chance of the 1st frame; like the Dallas game, the Avalanche were extremely lucky to be down just 1-0 going to the first intermission.
And, like the Dallas game, the Avalanche gave up the eventual game winner on a soft goal just under 4 minutes into the 2nd. This time it was Foy, scoring his first NHL goal since the '05-'06 season. Foy skated in hard down the right wing boards with Voros breaking towards the net. Foy fired a weak, bad-angle shot at the net, probably with the hope that Voros could grab the rebound. He didn't have to. Budaj tried to angle the rebound away from traffic, and ended up misplaying it and redirecting the puck into the net.
Minnesota sealed it about 10 minutes later on one of those "what if" moments. The Avalanche had their best opportunity of the night when Tyler Arnason was able to break in alone against the Wild's Josh Harding. Arnason made a nice play, but Harding made the stop. Old friend Martin Skoula gathered the puck behind the net and fired it hard around the boards all the way up to the Avalanche blue line and an all-alone Stephane Veilleux. Veilleux walked in alone, used a trailing Marian Gaborik as a decoy, and blasted a shot past Budaj. If Arnason converts that chance, it's 2-1. He doesn't, and it's 3-0. Not that Arnason is to blame for the loss - he had 7 shots in the game and was probably the best Avalanche player in both of these blowout losses.
Milan Hejduk scored on a fluky goal from behind the net about 45 seconds later to give the Avalanche a minor spark, but the Wild's Brent Burns sealed the deal with about 2 and a half minutes to go in the 2nd. Down 4-1 in the 3rd to a defensive team like the Wild, the Avalanche had no shot to comeback in the 3rd, and played like it. They managed just 6 shots in the 3rd period, most (all?) coming with less than 10 minutes or so to play.
The team is, quite simply, playing terrible hockey right now. Forwards, defensemen and goalies - all just plain old bad. In both games, the team exhibited terrible puck possession and were out-hustled to almost every loose puck on the ice. With the exception of maybe Ben Guite, no one is hitting anyone. That's not all that unexpected, as this is now an incredibly small team. But they aren't playing like a small team - no speed, lousy passing, bad shots...there's no skill in their game at all right now. The defensemen are getting knocked off the puck consistently in their own zone, and, if they do have a chance to clear, often miss. They also aren't doing much to help out their forwards - either with a crisp head man pass that several of them are very good at, or by pinching in to apply extra offensive pressure. None of that is happening. Instead, the Avs are trying to generate all of their offense from their 3 forwards. It's not working.
My notes on the game can be found here
As I mentioned during the game, the line combination Joel Quenneville used tonight makes the most sense. I prefer Smyth on the Stastny line, and Richardson looked terrific with Arnason. Obviously, the team looked terrible overall last night, which means Q might change things up next time. I, for one, hope he sticks with it a bit longer.
- Sakic, Wolski, Brunette
- Stastny, Smyth, Hejduk
- Arnason, Richardson, Svatos
- Guite, Smith, Hlinka
I should have the report up later tonight.
- Milan Hejduk's goal was his first since October 13 (9 games).
- Just 4 players - Wolski, Svatos, Sauer and Arnason - did not have a negative +/- in the 2 blowouts. All 4 were even. Parker too, but he didn't play both games.
- On the other end of the spectrum, Scott Hannan and Paul Stastny were both -4 over the last two games.
The Avalanche Dump And Don't Chase Circus continues it's road show this week, with a visit to Calgary on Tuesday and Edmonton on Thanksgiving. As I've mentioned previously, I won't have notes or recaps for either of those games (I'll be away for the holiday).