For the 2nd time this year, the Avalanche have been shut out by the Nashville Predators. This time it was backup Dan Ellis, who looked stellar while turning away all 38 shots he faced. At the other end of the ice, Jose Theodore looked not-very-stellar behind a defense that seemed confused for much of the night.
The game was close for the first 40 minutes, with the only tally going to the Predators' Shea Weber. Weber knuckled a one-timer past Theodore from the point at the 4:51 on the power play. Other than that, Ellis and Theodore stopped the other 45 shots the two faced in the first two periods (with a little help from the posts - at least 5 shots hit the pipes last evening).
Both seemed to have a tenuous hold on their defensive game for much of the night. Although there wasn't an abundance of scoring chances, it seemed like either team was on the cusp of having their little mistakes compound into a bigger mistake. In this case, Colorado was the team to break down first. All year long, the 3rd period has been Theodore's best period, but that wasn't the case last night. The Predators scored 3 times on 8 shots. The three goals came in the first 5:53 of the game [EDIT: er, period, I mean] as the Avalanche moved from "still in it" to "well out of it" within a matter of minutes.
In the last few weeks, Theodore has cemented himself as the starter. Last night, he seemed to have cemented himself into the crease, as he barely made an effort on any of the 4 goals. The worst was the 3rd goal by Alexander Radulov. The play was set up by a really freaky pass by JP Dumont from the front of the net to Radulov by the post. It would have required a difficult sliding save to make the stop. Instead, Theodore kept his feet planted and casually waved at the puck with his stick as it was going in. Super. Am I blaming Theodore for the loss? Not at all; the Predators were the harder working team by a pretty far margin tonight, and really earned the win. But, that looked a lot like the old Theodore - the one we're all far more familiar with here in Avalanche land. While he was keeping the Preds off the scoreboard for most of the first 40 minutes, he didn't look all that sharp in doing so.
I don't think he got a lot of help from the team in front of him either. The Preds scored two PP goals, both while one of our defensemen was off for a penalty (Clark on the first, Hannan on the second). The Predators bread and butter is the one-timer from the left side; Jason Arnott alone seems to have scored 6,000 goals this year from just outside that faceoff circle. Nashville loves to get the puck down low to the right of the net and then cross it back to the left side for that one timer. You'd think our boys would be ready for that, but 3 of the 4 goals were scored on one-timers on the left. That's two games in a row where we've seen some dicey defense; they pulled it together in the Columbus game, but didn't here.
I'm curious to see who Quenneville goes with in net on Thursday. With the All-Star break coming up, I speculated that Budaj might get a start this week, as his last appearance was on January 2nd. But, if Quenneville goes to Budaj on Thursday, we're right back to benching a goalie after a loss, and that's not going to help the situation. While I'd like to see Budaj get some work, this just isn't the place for that to happen.
Jordan Leopold returned to the lineup, sending Johnny Boychuk back to the press box. Everything else stayed the same, although I did see Hensick, Jones and McLeod out there for one LEM reuniting shift.
- Theodore's 3rd period save percentage dropped from 921 to 910.
- The season series with the Predators is over (buh-bye Weber and Crisp), with each team getting 2 wins.
- Wojtek Wolski was probably the best player for the Avs last night, with a few more of his lengthy puck controlling sessions.
We host the Wild on Thursday, our only divisional matchup this month.
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