The Avs lost to the Sharks 3-2 last night. The Avs played a good game against a strong San Jose team, but found themselves down 3-1 on a fluky goal from Mike Grier. Andrew Brunette would score later to make it 3-2, but it wouldn't be enough to earn a point. This is not to be confused with Friday's game, when the Avs played a good game against a strong San Jose team, but found themselves down 3-1 on a fluky goal from Mike Grier and Andrew Brunette's late goal wasn't enough to earn a point.
Colorado has played rather good hockey lately. Playing their 3rd game in 3 cities over a span 4 days the Avs played well for 60 minutes, despite missing a ton of players. Joe Sakic missed his 2nd straight game, propelling Paul Stastny to the first line and Tyler Arnason to the 2nd line. The Avalanche had their chances, but San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, starting his 320th consecutive game this year (actually 25th...out of 25) was outstanding.
The Avalanche defense has been strong of late. They've been more physical, better at clearing the zone, and less prone to turn the puck over. They are joining the rush more, starting the rush more, and just playing good all-around hockey in both halves of the rink. I'm interested to see what happens when Jordan Leopold and Kurt Sauer come back, as it would leave the Avs with 8 defensemen playing solid hockey at the moment.
San Jose started the scoring when Milan Michalek beat Jose Theodore at the 3:14 mark. There was barely time to start chanting "Theodore Sucks" when 12 second later the other Milan - Milan Hejduk - took a long head-man pass from Kyle Cumiskey, skated down the right wing, and blasted a rocket past Nabokov.
In the 2nd, Joe Thornton took the puck from Scott Hannan and fed Steve Bernier at the top of the faceoff circle. Bernier's first shot was blocked by Brett Clark, but Bernier got it back and beat Theodore. All three goals Theo let in were kind of weak in a way, but this is the one that he certainly should have stopped.
Midway through the 3rd, Mike Grier let an innocent looking shot go at the net that took a wild bounce that fooled Theodore. It was an incredibly fluky goal, but it sunk the Avs. Until then, the Avs had been pushing hard against Nabokov (16 shots in the 3rd), but couldn't beat him. When Grier scored, giving the Sharks a 2-goal lead, you knew the Avs might get one more, but probably not 2 against the razor-sharp Nabokov. Sure enough, Andrew Brunette scored with about 4 minutes left off of a faceoff, but all it did was tease the 15,213 (!) in attendance. The Sharks held on to win 3-2.
The Avs should have had a late powerplay to help in the comeback cause. For the 2nd time in the game, Craig Rivet flattened an Avalanche player before they had a chance to touch a puck. Earlier, it was a hit on Tyler Arnason and late in the 3rd he smashed a puckless Jaroslav Hlinka into the boards. Both were in clear view of the ref, and both were in the same end of the rink. I assume it was the same ref swallowing his whistle, but I'm not sure if it was Gord Dwyer or Wes McCauley. It's certainly not the reason the Avs lost, but at a time when players are getting injured around the league on similar plays, you'd really like to see stuff like that called.
Game notes from last night are here
With all the injuries, there were some wild lines last night.
- Stastny, Smyth, Hejduk
- Arnason, Wolski, Hensick
- Richardson, Smith, Brunette
- Guite, Hlinka, McCormick
On defense, Brett Clark and Scott Hannan teamed up again (they spent the first 7 games of the season together before splitting up) and Kyle Cumiskey skated with Karlis Skrastins (a pairing I thought would be a disaster, but wasn't).
- Theodore has been the better goalie shorthanded by a country mile. He's allowed just 4 of the 19 PP goals against the team, compared to 15 for Budaj. His GAA shorthanded is a stellar 3.48 (just a shade worse than his not-so-stellar 3.33 EV GAA). Budaj's SH GAA is 9.62. Last year, Budaj had a 6.75 GAA, while Theo's was 8.05.
- Karlis Skrastins has 3 points (1g 2a) in the 5 games he's played in since returning from his injury.
- John-Michael Liles and Paul Stastny have each been on the ice for 13 of the Avs 16 PP goals scored this year.
The Avs travel to Columbus (and the Eastern Time Zone - yay!) on Wednesday to face the upstart Blue Jackets before returning home to host the Flyers on Friday.