Inthecheapseats returns today, after a brief absence due to illness. Unfortunately, it's to recap a tough, tough loss for the Avalanche. The team - including Jose Theodore - played well overall, but, in the end, couldn't get anything past Roberto Luongo and couldn't keep Ken Klee out of the motherfucking penalty box. Calgary, of course, won last night, stretching the deficit to 7 points with just 6 games left. The Avs essentially have to win it out, and hope for help from the Flames.
I missed Sunday's game, so it's been a while since I've seen the Canucks in action. I have to say, I was impressed with the way they played in their own end. Any loose puck, they seemed to be right there to pounce on it. If they weren't able to get there first, their sticks were on the ice to break up ensuing play. That, coupled with the play of Luongo, made for a very long night for the Avalanche offense. Colorado just seemed "off" all game long - the puck kept finding itself either on the wrong side of the stick, or behind the player entirely. It was a frustrating evening, to say the least.
Something I noticed this morning while I was going over the box score: one of the referees was Dave Jackson. I don't believe officiating is why we lost, but I did feel that it was brutally awful, and Jackson's name was familiar to me. Sure enough, he was one of the refs in charge of the January 26th fiasco against Phoenix - the game where whistles were swallowed while our guys were roughed up all game. Probably just a coincidence. Right?
Highlights from the game...
20:00 Jose Theodore is in net. Karlis Skrastins returns to the lineup, and starts the game paired with Ken Klee. Both moves are the right decision, in my book. Theo has played well against the Canucks this year, and Budaj has shown signs of fatigue lately. Meanwhile, kudos to Joel Quenneville for leaving Kurt Sauer with Brett Clark instead of Skrastins.
19:25 Wojtek Wolski is playing tonight after being a scratch on Sunday, but Marek Svatos starts the first shift on the Sakic line.
19:01 Kurt Sauer races towards the net looking for a deflection opportunity.
18:00 I didn't realize Brett McLean and his wife had a baby yesterday. He follows up one of his greatest professional days on Tuesday with one of his greatest personal days on Wednesday. Not a bad week.
17:14 John-Michael Liles makes a good play to take away the angle and track down the puck ahead of a Vancouver player. We've seen much better D from Liles lately.
16:08 The Sakic line comes back out, this time with Wolski. That's not the first time that Quenneville has held back one of his youngsters for the first shift to send a message. I want to say that happened the last time Wolski was scratched as well. Svatos has received similar treatment a couple of times. Not saying it's a bad thing...just...predictable.
14:59 Ben Guite steals the puck in the Vancouver zone and then gets completely mugged by Rory Fitzpatrick and another player (no call, of course). Marek Svatos gets control of the puck on the side boards, drops it back to Jeff Finger, and Finger blasts a shot on net. Luongo makes the save, but the rebound goes right to the stick of Mark Rycroft. Rycroft has a wide open net, but fires his backhand off the post. The rebound goes toward Ben Guite, but he can't make the play, as he's in the process of being mugged (again) by Fitzpatrick.
13:55 Tyler Arnason takes a shot right from the faceoff.
13:17 Vancouver does not have a shot on net yet.
12:03 Finally, Theodore is in the game with his first save of the night.
9:27 Theo is not very good with the puck normally, and I think his rust has exacerbated that condition; he misplays the puck here for the third time tonight.
6:52 Skrastins shows up on my radar for the first time...when he turns over the puck in the Colorado zone leading to a scoring chance for the Canucks.
19:46 The period has a wild start, when a routine dump in takes a crazy bounce right to the stick of Jan Bulis, but Bulis shoots it wide of the net (and a sprawling Theodore).
18:20 And a second crazy bounce leads to a scoring chance. This time, the puck just jumps over the stick of Henrik Sedin.
14:57 The Arnason line puts in a solid, extended shift in the Canucks zone, which, hopefully, will shift some of the momentum back towards the Avs.
12:51 Skrastins makes one of his patented sliding stops on Jeff Cowan.
12:32 Ken Klee interferes with Alex Burrows - the first penalty of the night.
9:34 Vancouver seems to have their best scoring chance of the night, when a Matt Cooke shot goes off the post. Turns out, it wouldn't have counted anyway due to a hand pass.
6:55 Cowan makes a mystifyingly stupid play. He gets stood up by Liles coming into the zone, and then, amazingly, kicks at Liles and then follows that brilliance up by punching Liles twice in the face. This wasn't one of those "behind the play" things - this was right in front of everyone. As the play continues, Matt Cooke goes batshit crazy, hitting anyone wearing an Avs jersey in an attempt to draw someone into taking a penalty to even things up. Cowan gets two minutes for roughing. Cooke gets nothing, although I believe he earned two minutes as well.
5:02 Klee has the best chance on the powerplay, but he fans on his one-timer attempt from the slot.
4:50 Klee gets one more chance as time is expiring with a hard shot from the point. Not good enough to beat Luongo tonight, though.
4:33 And here's where the Klee bashing begins. Just about 6 minutes have elapsed since Klee's last ill-advised penalty. This time, Klee gets sloppy and gets his stick up on Matt Cooke (who falls to the ice like he's been dropped from a 4th-floor window). Cooke's embellishment doesn't make the penalty any less-boneheaded; it's a dumb penalty to take any time, but it's colossally idiotic to do so while tied in a critical hockey game.
2:28 Brad Richardson tries to break Guite in all alone, but the home run pass is stopped in the neutral zone.
2:08 Calgary and Minnesota have gone to OT. No surprise there.
1:37 Jan Bulis trips Joe Sakic.
1:23 I don't understand what happens on this play. Andrew Brunette and Brendan Morrison get together on the side boards, and a penalty is called...on both players. I don't really know what to say here. I'm still scratching my head.
20:00 Calgary wins in a shootout, moving the Avs 7 back
18:34 Penalty is coming on the Avs, and, yes, Ken Klee is on the ice (and yes, I did write that last night before Klee got sent to the box).
18:16 Colorado finally stops the play when Joe Sakic pulls down a guy in a Vancouver jersey. Something else I noticed tonight was that even when the penalties were called, they were calling the wrong thing. Sakic pulled down the player by the shoulder with his stick...resulting in a tripping call. Again, I feel like I'm blaming the officiating for the loss, and I certainly am not. It just seemed "off" tonight, much like other aspects of the game (the crazy bounces and hops the puck was taking). At any rate, Sakic goes into the box...as does Klee. To be fair, I could not see Klee's penalty (it was indeed him getting called as I guessed). But, come on, Ken. 5 on 3 for Vancouver, and Sakic is the guy who kills these penalties.
17:46 And, like that, it's 1-0. Sami Salo fires a rocket from the blue line past Theodore. Blech.
15:57 Something interesting I noticed, and it might just be a random, one-time thing. The Sedins are out on this shift with Trevor Linden. Linden is in front of the net, working to get open against Kurt Sauer. Instead of passing to Linden, though, the Sedin with the puck passes to his brother farther away from the net. This happens three times before the Avs break it up and clear it. Linden was certainly the better option on two of those passes, and the Canucks end up turning it over instead of getting a scoring chance.
14:40 Willie Mitchell interferes with Brett McLean, riding the forward hard into the net.
13:45 Luongo makes the save of the game on Joe Sakic.
10:57 Jeff Cowan interferes (aka trips) Jeff Finger, resulting in another Avs powerplay. At this point, the Canuck's penalty kill is so smothering, I'm not sure having the man advantage is a good thing.
5:25 Lukas Krajiceck gives Colorado their 3rd power play of the final period. Again, I'd almost wish the Avs could stay at even strength.
3:01 And, thanks to more lousy officiating, I get my wish. McLean gets absolutely pummelled by Fitzpatrick. He gets shoved into Luongo, shoved into the net, shoved against the pipes, and, finally, dragged behind the net and tackled. Fitzpatrick gets a roughing minor. As does McLean. McLean gets punished for being Fitzpatrick's tackling dummy. I'm glad the NHL accidentally didn't count Rory's all-star votes...
1:00 Empty net for the Avs
:55 Empty net goal for the Canucks. Cooke. Blech.
:33 Another empty net goal (Daniel Sedin), sealing the deal.
Some changes tonight. Parker and Vaananen were healthy scratches. Skrastins returns, playing with Klee in Vaananen's former spot. Wolski also returns, playing on the top line with Sakic and bumping Svatos down to the checking line.
C Sakic, LW Wolski, RW Brunette: 13:08 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 8 shots, -3
C Stastny, LW McLean, RW Hejduk: 11:39 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 5 shots, -5
C Arnason, LW Richardson, RW Laperriere: 9:41 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 6 shots, -1
C Guite, LW Rycroft, RW Svatos: 7:27 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 4 shots, E
D Clark & D Sauer: 16:30 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 7 shots, -1
D Klee & D Skrastins: 15:07 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 1 shot, -1
D Liles & D Finger: 5:52 ATOI (EV), 0 pts (EV), 3 shots, -1
- By my calculations, Theodore has a 1.97 GAA and .923 Save % against Vancouver this year.
- Paul Stastny has 0 points and is -5 in the last 5 games. While he is struggling offensively, he's still been playing well defensively.