Last night, the Colorado Avalanche showed what can happen when you combine good defense and steady goaltending as they dropped the Nashville Predators 2-1. With Peter Budaj in net, the Avs gave up no soft goals and, as a result, we're able to win the game. The razor-thin offense is still struggling to put points on the board (just 2 goals), but Budaj and the defense held the Predators of the board for most of the game.
Much like the Columbus game the night before, this one was well-played by both teams and extremely tight defensively. The teams combined for just 13 shots in the first period and no one was able to score. Things opened up a bit in the 2nd period (24 shots), but, still no team was able to put one in the net. Actually, Nashville did score around the midway point of the 2nd, but it was waved off thanks to an early whistle.
By the start of the 3rd period, it seemed like we'd never score on Chris Mason. We hadn't scored in 5 periods against him this year, and he seemed on track to record his 3rd shutout against us in two years. Turns out, he's human after all. At the 4:58 mark, Ryan Smyth let go an innocent looking shot off from the faceoff circle. To be honest, it looked like Smyth, at the end of his shift, was just looking to get a faceoff in the Nashville zone. Instead, it snuck through the 5-hole and gave the Avalanche a 1-goal lead. Later in the 3rd, Ian Laperriere - back in the lineup after missing 12 of 12 games - put home a sweet pass from Jaroslav Hlinka to give the Avs a 2-goal lead. It turned out to be the game winner, as Alexander Radulov scored with just 21 seconds left, spoiling Budaj's shutout bid. Jason Arnott had a chance to tie the game as time was expiring, but couldn't get his stick on the centering pass; if he had, this recap would have had a decidedly different feel to it.
I mentioned Ian Laperriere's return to the lineup. Also making an appearance was Jordan Leopold, who just missed 21 games with an injury. Joel Quenneville dressed 7 defensemen to ease Leopold back into the lineup (Tyler Arnason missed the game due to injury and TJ Hensick was a healthy scratch).
Leopold didn't play all that much (9:06), but looked generally steady in his own end (a 180º turnaround from the last time we saw him). With all the defensemen playing well recently, I'm curious to see who sits on Saturday (or whenever we go back to 6 defensemen). To see if I could find any hint, I made a list of ice time for the defensemen in this game, and compared it to their average ice time for the season...
- Hannan, 24.9 Minutes, +25%
- Skrastins, 17.9 Minutes, +20%
- Clark, 17.8 Minutes, +6%
- Finger, 16.4 Minutes, +1%
- Liles, 12.1 Minutes, -17%
- Cumiskey, 9.6 Minutes, -18%
- Leopold, 9.1 Minutes, -56%
It's kind of surprising to see Skrastins up there in minutes like that (and those were almost all EV minutes for him). Although I think most people would prefer to see him sit, based on the ice time in this game, it looks like it might be a choice between Liles and Cumiskey. Neither saw a ton of ice in the 3rd (6 shifts for Liles, 4 for Cumiskey). Since Liles plays on the PP and Cumiskey generally does not, I'm figuring Cumiskey will sit for now.
Game notes are here
With just 11 forwards and the critical loss of Tyler Arnason, the lines were tweaked a wee bit. The first line remained intact. Jarsolav Hlinka replaced the scratched Hensick on the 2nd line. Lappy replaced Richardson on the 4th line...promoted to the 3rd line in this game, leaving Svatos and Richardson to double up on the final line. Richardson actually played quite a bit (11:43). Svatos, on the other hand, did not (6:50).
- Stastny, Smyth, Hejduk - 20:28, 1g 0a 1pt, -2
- Hlinka, Wolski, Brunette - 14:02, 0g 2a 2pt, +3
- Guite, McCormick, Laperriere - 13:26, 1g 1a 1pt, +2
- Richardson, Svatos, Leopold - 8:27, 0g 0a 0pt, +1
- Stastny has won 23 of 35 faceoffs in the last two games (65.7%).
- John-Michael Liles is 3rd on the team in blocked shots (49).
- In the 10 games since Hlinka was scratched for 2 games, he is +7 (2nd to Stastny's +8) and he has 6 points (2 g, 4 a).
The Avalanche host the Predators on Saturday before taking another 2-game West Coast road trip next week.