Budaj stole another one. For the 2nd time in 3 days, the Avalanche were outplayed by a tough Nashville team but, thanks to solid goaltending from Budaj, came away with the win. In the two games, Budaj turned away 62 of 64 shots to keep his team in the game. The Avalanche won 3-1 to move within 1 point of first place in the NW division.
For all the goaltending antics pulled by Joel Quenneville of late, Budaj's actually been playing well of late (this is his 6th win in his last 9 starts). With the Avs struggling to put goals in the net, the Avalanche goalies need to be good to win. In games where the team has given up 2 goals or less, they are 14-0-1. Give up more than two, and the team is 4-13-0. For the record, Budaj has given up two or less in exactly half of his starts (9 of 18) and Theodore a bit less than that (6 of 14).
(This is probably more a discussion for a later time, but the zero OTL in 3+ goal games is rather disturbing. 6 of those 13 losses were by either 1 goal or 1 goal and an empty netter.)
One thing that I think has been key to Budaj is that he's better in the 1st period. He didn't allow a goal in 23 first period shots by Nashville, raising his 1st period save percentage this year to 909. It's his best period statistically, and his good starts are helping his team either get off to a good start, or stay in the game until they get rolling. I'm going to expand on this a little more tomorrow at MHH. But, until then, I'd ask: When you are getting outplayed in the first period, do you want Budaj (.909) or Theodore (.864) in net?
The Avs started out slowly against Nashville, getting outshot 17-5 in the first period (the Avalanche had just 5 shots despite having 2 PP opportunities). Budaj was sensational, though, and kept the Predators off the board until the 15 minute mark of the 2nd period. By then, Colorado had a 2-goal lead. Early in the 2nd, Paul Stastny joined Ryan Smyth on a rush, and took a few steps to gain separation Dan Hamius just as Smyth was feeding him the puck. Stastny's one-timer beat the suddenly-beatable Chris Mason to give Stats his 953th goal of the season (oops, sorry, just his 14th). Later, former Manchester Monarch Jerred Smithson missed a check on Marek Svatos, and then failed to pick him up as Svatos circled in front of the net, fired, and then blasted home his own rebound to put the Avalanche up 2-0. The Preds finally beat Budaj when Martin Gelinas' backhander rebounded right back to him on the forehand side giving him a relatively easy scoring chance. That was all they'd get, though. Jordan Leopold essentially iced it for the Avalanche when his shot from the blueline through traffic beat Mason midway through the third.
So, there you have it. The Avalanche were outshot 32-16 and were generally outplayed for much of the game. But the steady play of Peter Budaj gave them the win. Imagine that.
No game notes for this one, but I do already have the line report up. The Avalanche injuries continue to pile up, with Brad Richardson now out with a shoulder injury. TJ Hensick replaced Richardson in the lineup (and played an oh-so-sparringly 7:39). The Avs went with 7 defensemen again. How marginal does Scott Parker feel at this point - he was the only healthy player not in the lineup, and he's getting passed over to put an extra defenseman on the ice.
As for the injuries, Adrian Dater has a lot of information on them (summarized below):
- Joe Sakic skated yesterday, but did not make the trip to the West Coast
- Kurt Sauer's neck injury is actually a concussion. These can be difficult injuries to recover from, and there's no time table at all for his return. Tough break for a guy having a good season
- Tyler Arnason has a fractured wrist, and he'll be out about 4 weeks.
- Brad Richardson - the 3rd center on this list - is expected to miss 7-10 days.
Meanwhile, John-Michael Liles skated off slowly for the 2nd straight game (this time after an awkward collision with Andrew Brunette). While he returned to both games, he's got to be feeling some pain somewhere.
- Nashville's Pete "Bubba" Webber and Terry "The Lisp" Crisp have to be two of my least favorite announcers in the NHL. I did like two aspects of the broadcast, though. One, I like when they talk to the Pred's backup goalie (generally Dan Ellis) on the bench during the game; it's always interesting. And two, that intermission piece on the training of Nashville's ice girls was, um, enjoyable to watch.
- Cody McCormick, Ben Guite and Ian Laperriere each had over 15 minutes of ice time.
- Leopold, the 7th defenseman, was mostly teamed up with Kyle Cumiskey when he was on the ice.
The Avalanche visit the LA Kings on Monday (I almost said hapless, but we pissed off a few Kings fans with our comments in the Marc Crawford story). I'm still on the fence about watching (it's starts at 10:30 here). On Wednesday, they face Doug Weight for the 3rd time this year, as we visit the Ducks in Anaheim.
The only non-AP recap (that one's linked above) I could find was from the Denver Post (Terry Frei)