I knew the Oilers were struggling. Devastated by injuries, out of the playoff hunt, heart and soul traded to Long Island. I knew they were dressing 4 rookie defensemen, and that a decent number of Edmonton fans are actually pulling (secretly or not) for the Avs to overtake the Flames and make the playoffs. Even so, I wasn't really prepared for what I saw last night. Simply terrible, terrible hockey from the Oilers.
Thankfully, the Avalanche came out and did what they had to do - played strong hockey without gearing it down for a lesser opponent. That sentence applies to the first two periods only, as Colorado took a 5-goal lead into the final frame and pressed the cruise control button. The Avs had to win this game, and played like they knew that. The teams meet again on Friday, and they will need to duplicate that effort to nail down another victory.
Highlights of the game...
(disclaimer - this might have been the dullest game I've seen in a while: might want to go one size up on the coffee before reading about this snoozer)
20:00 After seeing the Avs wear their third jerseys on Tuesday, I get to watch my 2nd favorite 3rd jerseys in action - the Oilers terrific alternates.
19:51 Unfortunately, I get to watch the great jerseys on the backward rink at Rexall Place. Well, the rink isn't backward, but the location of the cameras is different from most (all?) other NHL rinks. I'm always a bit disoriented when I watch a game in Edmonton.
18:31 Colorado starts it early, with Ian Laperriere finding the loose puck in a battle in front of Dwayne Roloson.
18:07 Richardson and Arnason come very close to making it 2-0. So far, all Colorado.
15:37 Joe Sakic scores, making it 2-0. Andrew Brunette controls the puck (everybody now...) behind the net. Sakic sneaks in, Brunette sends a perfect pass in front, and Roloson has no chance. This is looking very ugly for Edmonton.
14:05 We're not even 6 minutes in, and the Avs have taken 12 shots already. Playing well early and not allowing a struggling team to feel they have a chance was extremely important, and the Avalanche have pulled it off.
11:52 Colorado gets sloppy in their own end, allowing defenseman Matt Greene to find himself all alone with the puck in front of Peter Budaj. Greene bobbles it a bit trying to make a play, allowing Budaj to come out and make the play.
7:33 Altidudes Mike Haynes and Peter McNab report that Karlis Skrastins will practice today (Thursday) and hopes to play by the end of this road trip. That means either Friday (Edm) or Sunday (Van). This will be a very interesting decision for Quenneville. Colorado has had success dressing 7 defensemen, but I doubt you'd see that at this critical point of the season. Who sits? Ossi Vaananen is probably the weakest of the group right now, but even he is playing good hockey. Jeff Finger is the least experienced, but he's been playing strong hockey. My one wish, and I know I'm not alone here: no matter who sits, please, please, please do not put Brett Clark and Karlis Skrastins back together. Clark has done really well with his "alone time", and I'd like to see that continue. If it was me, I'd sit Ossi and pair Skratch with Klee.
7:27 Fernando Pisani looks a little strange with no strings on the neck of his jersey.
2:41 The Arnason line has yet another solid shift; they've been simply terrific tonight.
17:38 A beautiful play, again from the Arnason line. Richardson has the puck on the side boards and passes it to Arnason behind the net. Without looking, Arnason redirects it in front, right to the stick of Laperriere. Lappy gets his 2nd goal of the night, Arnason gets his 2nd assist of the night, as well as a nice kiss - a suitable reward for that gorgeous pass.
15:53 Paul Stastny finds Milan Hejduk alone in front of the net, but Hejduk throws it high.
11:52 Edmonton has no fight at all.
11:19 Laperriere makes a good play at the blue line, poking the puck away to break up a potential 2 on 1.
10:58 Pisani gets called for slashing. It's the first penalty of the night.
10:16 Patrick Thoresen has a shorthanded chance, breaking in one on one against John-Michael Liles. Liles breaks it up.
8:48 Lappy, looking for his 2nd career hat trick, got some time on the powerplay. I'm about to switch over to Lost, picking up the rest of this game on Tivo afterwards. I would imagine I'll be making judicious use of the fast forward button: other than the Lappy hat trick watch, this game is a snoozer.
6:19 Marcus Nilsson gets called for a hook against Brett McLean.
5:43 Liles scores on the PP, making it 4-0. Arnason collects his 3rd assist of the night, a career high for him. Dwayne Roloson gets a merciful early exit. If I'm not mistaken, that's the 3rd time he's been pulled against Colorado this year. Not that the score has much to do with his play at all.
4:40 Wojtek Wolski has two good scoring chances, but Jussi Markkanen makes the stop. After the play, Wolski gets harassed by mouth breather Zachery Stortini .
4:02 The Avs score again, this time on a 3 on 1. Brunette and Brett Clark lead the play, with Sakic trailing. Brunette is on the wing and saucers a beauty over the stick of the Edmonton defenseman on the ice. Clark converts easily into the open net.
:05 Kurt Sauer gets nabbed for holding. The Oilers will start the 3rd period with the man advantage.
17:36 The powerplay does nothing, but Joffrey Lupul and Thorensen provide some entertainment when they collide. When you are ravaged by injuries, you hate to see your own players running into each other (both were ok).
15:46 Stortini gets called for boarding against Rycroft. Stortini argues that he accidentally tripped over his own knuckles, but the refs were having none of that.
12:29 Marc-Antoine Pouliot runs into - and over - Brad Richardson. Pouliot is one of 3 Oilers with a jersey number in the 70s.
12:38 Ian Laperriere seeks retribution for the Stortini hit on Rycroft. The two fight, but don't really get much momentum. It's not even severe enough to get majors. Both get roughing minors, with Lappy getting the extra two for holding.
11:41 Torres gets called for high sticking, one of 5 penalties for the team in the 3rd period.
11:29 Colorado has 0 shots in the period so far. Ultimately, they would manage 6, with Edmonton notching just 10.
4:56 Edmonton gets called for too many men on the ice, and Torres gets an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct. I wish Altitude had shown his meltdown - I love seeing him give the full pout.
4:50 Quenneville throws out the Arnason line to start the 5 on 3, with Liles and Finger at defense. Finger looks pretty good out there. He now has 4:07 of PP ice time, which is two minutes more than Kurt Sauer has accumulated this year. I've thrown this out before, but PP scoring from defense is weak this year - Liles has 25, Clark 13. After that, it's Brisebois with 5 and Leopold with 1, and it doesn't seem likely that those totals will increase much this season. The other 6 defensemen have logged 132 minutes of ice time on the PP this year without getting a single point. Ken Klee accounts for 87 of those minutes.
3:30 The second powerplay unit consists of the Sakic line and Vaananen and Klee. No scoring, but both units do well moving the puck around.
2:30 Haynes and McNab incorrectly state that Calgary plays Nashville on Thursday. Actually, it's Friday, the same night the Avs play Edmonton (again). For the rest of the way, Calgary and Colorado will play all their games on the same night. That, of course, includes the two games where they play each other. EDIT: so, they weren't wrong, TSN's website is: they are showing the game as tomorrow night. Thanks TSN.
:49 Lappy gets one last chance, but can't convert. Still, a superb game for him: two goals, a fight, some nice defensive work. His whole line was spectacular, but he stood out as my Pierre McGuire certified MONSTER of the night.
C Sakic, LW Wolski, RW Brunette: 12:36 ATOI (EV), 3 pts (EV), 8 shots, +6
C Stastny, LW McLean, RW Hejduk: 14:10 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 5 shots, -3
C Arnason, LW Richardson, RW Laperriere: 10:37 ATOI (EV), 5 pts (EV), 9 shots, +6
C Guite, LW Rycroft, RW Svatos: 12:01 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 4 shots, E
D Clark & D Sauer: 18:02 ATOI (EV), 1 pt (EV), 2 shots, +2
D Klee & D Vaananen: 17:52 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 1 shot, +3
D Liles & D Finger: 13:58 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 5 shots, +1
- Stastny was held scoreless for the 2nd straight game, the first time that has happened since December 17th.
- Until Tuesday, Arnason hadn't had a PP point since February 6th, and now he has points in back to back games. His disappointing 9 PP points this year is the difference between a suprisingly good season and a career year. It's not like he's wanting for ice time - he's averaging 2:14 per game on the PP.
- I almost forgot about my favorite stat: Lappy's 2 goals is the 8th time someone has scored two goals in a game during the season series. Sykora (twice), Smyth (twice), Arnason, Svatos and Brunette also have 2-goal games. Bruno is the only one to have a hat trick.