Colorado ended a critical 5-game homestand in disappointing fashion, losing 6-3 to the Thrashers. The Avs, desperate for points and riding a momentum wave from a big comeback on Tuesday, came out firing. Unfortunately, they were firing blanks. Not one of their 14 1st period shots got by Thrashers G Kari Lehtonen. Meanwhile, their focused attempt to slow down Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovulchuk lasted about 10 minutes. By the midway point of the opening frame, the game had taken on a high-flying feel. Jose Theodore was not able to match his performance against the Panthers, and when the dust settled after 20 minutes, the Thrashers had a commanding 3-0 lead.
Anyone watching had a fairly solid idea that Lehtonen wasn't going to give up much to the Avs. Indeed, he ended up with 45 saves on the night. And, of course, the Avs couldn't keep Atlanta to just 3 goals. Instead of mounting a comeback in the 2nd, the Avs were outscored 2-1, and opened the third period with an insurmountable 5-1 hole to climb out of. The did manage to goals - both on the PP - to make it 5-3, but it was far too little, too late as Hossa put it away with an empty netter at the 18:05 mark.
Colorado had a challenging schedule in January (all but two games against playoff teams) and aquitted themselves well (16 pts in 12 games). This 5-game road trip to start February was supposed to build from that before the Avs embarked on a brutal road trip (18 of the final 28 games are on the road). Instead, Colorado went 2-3 and lost ground in the playoff chase. And they are losing the battle at what used to be their strength - even strength play. Earlier, Colorado would roll over teams at 5-on-5. In the last 6 games, the Avs are -9 at even strength. In the 1st half of the season, the Avs players were, collectively +67 with just two players in the negative (Leopold at -2 and Parros at -1). In the 2nd half? -64, with just 3 players in the black (Sauer, McLean and Leopold all at +1). Brett Clark was +8 in the first 41 games, -12 in the 13 games since. Skrastins: +5, -7. Sakic: +9, -4. The Avs are no longer the force they were at even strength and that is what is sinking this ship.
Brad May returned as expected (he played pretty well too). Quenneville went with 7 defensemen again, with Klee again taking on both forward and defensive responsibilities. Brad Richardson was scratched to make room for May.
C Sakic, LW Wolski, RW Brunette: 14:35 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 8 shots, -6
C Stastny, LW Svatos, RW Hejduk: 10:31 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 8 shots, -3
C Arnason, LW McLean, RW Laperriere: 14:33 ATOI (EV), 3 pts (EV), 15 shots, -3
C Guite, LW May, RW Klee: 11:07 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 10 shots, -1
D Clark & D Skrastins: 17:19 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 2 shots, -5
D Leopold & D Vaananen: 12:58 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 2 shots, -2
D Liles & D Sauer: 13:02 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 3 shots, -1
- Karlis Skrastins was honored before the game as he broke Tim Horton's ironman streak for defensemen (487 consecutive games played). Two of the late Horton's daughters were on the ice, and I was particularly impressed with the way Skrastins seemed to make extra effort to thank the two of them.
- I have to expect the 7-defenseman thing will end with the next game (Dallas). With the way the ice time has gone, it sure looks like Ossi Vaananen will be the odd man out. X-Factor here, though, is the trade deadline. Ossi is probably one of our better, tradeable commodities. So, perhaps he'll play as a showcase to interested teams.
- 54 games into the season, Jordan Leopold became the 4th Av defenseman to get a PP point.
- Thanks to the NHL's ridiculous schedule, I don't know much about Thrashers D Garnet Exelby. But that was heck of a play he made in the 2nd period. First, he leveled Paul Stastny with a hard - clean - hit. Then, he stood his ground as both Ian Laperriere and Brad May ran into him, and, ultimately, ended up on their asses. Exelby 3, Avs 0.