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Game 34: Avalanche At Ducks, Preview And Open Thread

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Hoo boy, what the hell is going on with the Avalanche?  They're running consistent offensive lines, solid defensive pairings, and they're getting extremely consistent goaltending.  They've won five of their last six games including two of the last three on the road.  It's like some other team has been out on the ice in those horrendous new uniforms.

Tonight Colorado faces the Los Angeles Ducks Of Anaheim or something like that in the second of a two-game road swing that began on Monday with a win over the Kings.  The Los Angeles Kings of Los Angeles.

The Ducks have struggled most of the season, but everyone seems to believe that they'll be Cup-winners again just because some old guy named Niedermayer got off his ass and realized the season started like two months ago and he forgot to show up for it.  How would you like to be Wyatt Smith, playing as hard as you possibly can for months and still getting sent down to the minors while a guy like Scott Niedermayer can sit around for months doing nothing and then, when he decides he's ready, his top-level NHL team just lets him right back into the roster.  I'm not trying to equate the skill levels of Smith and Niedermayer or anything, but you see my point.  It rules to be Scott and sucks to be Wyatt.

At any rate, the Ducks haven't done a lot of goal-scoring this year.  They've managed just 86, compared to Colorado's 101 in two fewer games.  How a d-man (even a skilled one) is going to really turn that around is beyond my knowledge.  The Avs aren't going to make it any easier for Anaheim to score, either, since Peter Budaj will be in net again for his fourth straight start, and he's been like a brick wall lately.

While it's great that Boots is getting some consistent starts for once (and excelling like we all knew he would), you just know that if he loses tonight it will be Jose Theodore in goal on Friday against the Rangers.  Even though Budaj has been better all-around all season, and even though it's two full days between games, and even though it defies all logic whatsoever, you just know that one loss will be enough for Coach Q to bench Budaj like his name was Scott Parker.

Let me explain why this is stupid in just one word: pressure.   Budaj must know that if he loses a game, even if it's not really his fault (I'm looking at you, Hannan), he won't play again for a while.  Boots handles pressure very well in general, but after a while it will nag at him and cause him to over-play.  When he does that, he'll start giving up Theodore-esque softies.  

Coach Q, if you're reading this, Peter Budaj is the starting goaltender of the Colorado Avalanche.  He should know he will play every game, win or lose, with the exception of scheduled rest days.  Not one-and-done, not play-until-you-lose.  Coach Q, you're ruining one of the team's best young assets, and burning the fan's asses, too.  Knock it off already.

The game starts at 8:00 PM Mountain time, 10:00 PM Eastern (damn it all), and will likely result in me missing the third period out of fatigue and a desire not to be fired from my job for absenteeism.  Those of you with more western home addresses should carry the torch for us EST losers.  Preshadit.

ESPN preview.