The Colorado Avalanche continue to regain their footing, winning their third straight game on the road. Last night, they dumped the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0. Jose Theodore stopped 32 shots - 22 of them in the 3rd period - to record his first shutout in 110 games. Perhaps even more importantly, the Avalanche scored on the powerplay...twice! It was just their 5th multi-PPG game of the season, and their first on the road. The team now returns to Denver just a point out of first place in the Northwest and have five road games coming up. In other words, a ship that was sinking fast just a week ago now seems to be doing just fine, thanks.
This game started with two fights in the first two minutes of the game. Cody McLeod and Kyle Wanvig squared off just 1:27 into the game and, before they could even get the ice packs onto their hands, Ian Laperriere squared off with Shane O'Brien. An Avalanche team that had 21 fighting majors last year has been involved in 8 fights in the last 4 games.
Both fights were meant to fire up the respective teams, but neither was effective. Both teams looked "off" in the first period. For some bizarre reason, Joel Quenneville was going crazy with his lines, switching things up on every shift. I haven't been able to generate the shift chart yet, but I can guarantee you that it will look like someone just splattered blue paint on the page. He's been doing this a lot of late - starting with one set of lines and then throwing them into a blender for the first period (last night, he began mixing them up before Andrew Brunette and Scott Parker even stepped onto the ice). Then, he calms down in the second period - perhaps this is when the medication kicks in - and he goes with generally consistent lines the rest of the way (albeit different than what he started the game with). I could listen to the argument that he's just trying different combos in the first to see who's ready to play and who isn't...except that he ends up with the same lines at the end of the game. For the 3rd time on the road trip, Cody McLeod started on the Stastny line and, for the 3rd time, he was replaced by Andrew Brunette before the 1st intermission. For his part, McLeod has ended up in every game playing with Jaroslav Hlinka and Cody McCormick; it's a good line, and I really don't understand why Quenneville can't just start the game with these lines. The point of this lengthy paragraph is that the Avalanche had absolutely no flow to their game in the first period and I'm chalking that up entirely to the butchering of the lines.
In the 2nd period, the lines were far more stable and the Avalanche improved substantially on the ice. Meanwhile, the Lightning looked awful. John Tortorella said "It's probably the most embarrassed and disappointed I've been since I've been here" and I don't have any argument for that. They were that bad. The Avalanche outshot the Lightning 12-3 and scored two goals, both on the PP.
The first came at the 5:30 mark of the period. With Paul Ranger in the box, the Avs' 2nd PP unit was called into action (the Stastny line had just come off of a lengthy shift). Just 16 seconds into the powerplay, John-Michael Liles passed the puck to his partner Jeff Finger and Finger blasted a slapshot over the glove of Karri Ramo to give the team a 1-0 lead. It was Finger's first PP goal in the NHL and his 2nd PP point in as many games. Paul Stastny scored his 2nd PP goal of the season at the 16:27 mark when Brett Clark's point shot hit a bunch of bodies in front but found it's way to Stastny's stick to the right of Ramo.
With a 2-0 lead and the Lightning playing lousy for two periods, it was easy to guess the way the 3rd period would go: the Lightning were going to be coming hard. They did. They outshot the Avs 22-3 in the period. Jose Theodore had not been tested until the 3rd, but he was up to the challenge. He turned away every shot - including 4 on the PP - and certainly earned the shutout and the acknowledgment as first star of the game. For better or for worse, it looks like Joe Q is going to be riding the Theo train for the foreseeable future.
I think I've made my point about the lines as clearly as I can. If anyone can make sense out of what Q's doing, I'd love to hear it.
- Stastny, Brunette, Hejduk
- Arnason, Svatos, Wolski
- Hlinka, McCormick, McLeod
- Guite, Laperriere, Parker
- Scott Parker played in 3 consecutive games for the first time this year while Johnny Boychuk - a better forward than TJ Hensick and Brad Richardson - watched from the press box for the 4th straight game.
- Finger's PP goal matches the PPG output of last season by right-handed defensemen: 1 (Brisebois)
- Karlis Skrastins led all Avalanche players in ice time (23:38)
The Avs return to the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center and will stay there for the rest of the month. They host the Blackhawks on Friday.