photo courtesy of Jose Sanchez/AP
Seriously, what will it take for the Avalanche to play consistently, or at least just win one game on the road? Why do they start every single road game like they've forgotten how to play hockey on the plane ride over?
Colorado started their 3-2 road loss to the Sharks in typical fashion: weak and uncoordinated. They spent most of the first period chasing a bigger, stronger San Jose team all over their own zone, and only Peter Budaj's hard work kept the score low. Joe Thornton's power play five-hole shot was the only goal of the first 20 minutes.
Thornton would score again just 4:42 into the second period, again on the power play. Let me take a moment to say that Joe Thornton is a freakin' beast. If he could just win a Cup or two, he'd be a Hall Of Fame shoo-in. The guy oozes talent from every pore. I hate him.
Anyway, the Avs started to show a little bit of life, but mostly just on the fourth line, and especially from Ben Guite and Cody McCormick. It wasn't until the 16:25 mark in the second that the Avalanche scored. Paul Stastny caught a loose puck and shot it forward to a streaking Milan Hejduk, who buried the puck past Evgeni Nabokov for an extremely rare shorthanded goal.
Any momentum that might have been building was subsequently crushed by Mike Grier's skate, which redirected a Joe Thornton pass at a strange angle that Budaj couldn't reach. The Sharks went up 3-1.
The Avs would score again, though, this time on the power play. Andrew Brunette got a helping hand from Son of Stastny and Joe Sakic to close the gap back to one goal near the end of the second period.
Unfortunately, Nabokov closed the door on the game with a scoreless third period. For his part, Peter Budaj kept the deficit from becoming embarrassing by stopping all six shots he faced in the final frame. Boots was named second star of the game despite a mediocre .897 save percentage. It has to be considered a consolation prize for keeping his team from looking completely ridiculous, as they usually do on the road.
Rookie TJ Hensick played 19 shifts for 16:38 of ice time, including 3:16 on the power play, where he learned that you should never actually shoot at the goal, just pass the puck around for a while until the other team is back to even strength. Hensiiick had no shots on goal in the game, his first in the NHL.
There's really not much else to say. The Avalanche were out-hit, out-face-offed, and pretty much out-played the entire game, with a few exceptions here and there. They looked slower, smaller and weaker than the Sharks at every end of the ice. Only Kurt Sauer and Ben Guite showed some physicality and some grit with four hits each. The rest of the team spent most of the night getting shoved around and crushed against the boards. Jaroslav Hlinka even got checked into the Sharks bench. Welcome to the NHL.
Hopefully things improve tonight when the Avs play the Los Angeles Kings. The preview thread will be up sometime this afternoon.
Stars of the Game:
- Joe Thornton (2g, 1a)
- Peter Budaj (26sv, .897)
- Milan Michalek (0g, 2a)