The Avalanche squandered another superb effort from Jose Theodore, losing to the Capitals in Washington 2-1. The Avs are on their way to Carolina for a game on Saturday, which means they are headed south both literally and figuratively. When we broke for Christmas, the Avs had pulled into a first-place tie in the NW, and had the 4th best record in the National Hockey League. I worried then that we might be due for a repeat of the post-Christmas collapse we had endured the season before. Sometimes, it sucks to be right. The Avs are an anemic 1-5-1 since then, and now rank 9th in the Western Conference and 14th overall in the league.
Frankly, I don't have a ton of optimism about a potential turnaround. This team has become wafer thin on offense. Paul Stastny has all but disappeared, swallowed up by the attention he's been getting as our most dangerous weapon. Ditto for Milan Hejduk. The two have 1 point (an assist) in the last 8 games. Coach Quenneville split them up last night in an effort to get one of them a bit more breathing room. Stastny had a pretty good game, although did not have anything to show for it. Hejduk was generally invisible all night. The only two guys contributing offensively right now are Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski. I like both players, but if the hopes of our season rests on them...
For the 3rd straight game, Jose Theodore put in a sensational, 60-minute effort between the pipes. This may be the best he's played since coming to Denver and, of course, he has just 1 win and 2 losses to show for it. I imagine that he will be the starter for a little while. I think we all know how this story ends, though. He'll continue to play until he loses say, 4-2, and then we'll be right back in the thick of Goalie Insanity™. Forgive me if I'm a tad unenthusiastic about the whole thing.
The Avalanche power play continues to be...how should I put it...oh yeah: the laughing stock of the league. We're 0 for our last 19 (how sad is it that this isn't even the longest stretch of futility on the season?). There may be a glimmer of hope, though. Brett Clark played on the first unit of both powerplays last night. He and Liles did a nice job moving the puck around, and activating up as necessary. He also did a sensational job keeping the puck in at the blueline on two occasions late in the game, something I'm sure [insert name of any forward here] wouldn't have done. I hope Quenneville keeps working with this "experiment" - I think it could pay dividends before too long.
Game notes are here
I think in an effort to get Hejduk / Stastny some chances, Quenneville separated the pair. It wasn't a bad move; Stastny seemed to work well with Wolski and new linemate Marek Svatos. Hejduk didn't fair quite so well with Jaroslav Hlinka and Andrew Brunette, but I wouldn't give up on this line yet; I think it could be a very effective line.
The Guite / Laperriere / McLeod line was - thankfully - unchanged. Which brings us to the fourth line. Oh, that fourth line. Tyler Arnason, Kyle Cumiskey, Cody McCormick. I really have no major ax to grind with any one of those players, although it's worth pointing out that Quenneville thinks those guys are better than Brad Richardson and TJ Hensick. Seriously, whoever decided that those three guys could complement each other's skills has to be on acid. Individually, I like these guys. Collectively? They have no business being lumped together and it showed on the ice. They were chasing the play left and right last night and we're lucky Theodore was on his game to bail them out. It wasn't pretty at all. Arnason had a couple of big shots late in the game, but that was not with this line. I'd be happy if this monstrosity wasn't repeated. Ever.
- Jeff Finger fought Matt Bradley in the first period. Comcast showed almost none of the fight, so I can't really tell you how he fared.
- The team won just 41% of their faceoffs, their 2nd worst night in the circle since December 7th. Hmmm, I wonder why that would be...
- Oh yeah, Tyler Arnason was 5 of 14...39%.
The Avalanche visit the Hurricanes on Saturday. I have some family stuff (daughter's birthday party) and other stuff (Patriots game) on Saturday, so I'll be watching this one on Sunday morning. If I have a chance, I'll do a recap Sunday, but I'm not sure I'll have time.