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Game 3: Flames 5, Avalanche 4

Well, that sucked.  The Avs continued their sloppy play in their own zone, Peter Budaj became a rebound machine and Colorado let themselves get beat by Todd Freakin' Bertuzzi, falling to the Flames 5-4.

The Avalanche are now 0-3-0 on the season, including two divisional losses. 

The good news?  The offense is getting points from nearly every line, and the power play managed two goals.  Unfortunately, the penalty kill was about as useless as it could have been, allowing three opposing goals and essentially forgetting how to clear the zone altogether.

I'm very happy that Tony Granato completely overhauled the offense during the summer.  I'm not at all happy that he overhauled the defense.  That's the one thing Joel Quenneville was pretty good at, and Granato's system either forgot about it or doesn't allow for it at all.  Despite looking so good on paper, the Avalanche blue line is porous and uncoordinated, and follows through about as well as a golfer with a torn Achilles tendon.

And look, I love me some Peter Budaj, but he crapped the bed in Game 3.  Whereas in the first two games he was really hung out to dry by his defense, against Calgary he was as much at fault for his failures as anybody else.  Some rebounds are just unavoidable.  Others, like many of the ones he coughed up last night, are not.  In baseball they use the term "gripping the bat too tight" to describe a slump caused by stress and self-doubt.  Budaj is gripping something too tight, and he needs to regain the poise and confidence we've seen in him before.  It's there.  He's capable of it.  He just has to do it.

It's one thing to get blown out every game.  At least that would be humorous in a dark, cynical kind of way.  We could all revel in the awfulness and brag about how many goals against the Avs could allow.  But every single game so far has been a one-goal loss.  5-4, 3-2, 5-4.  The Avs are right there but just can't make it happen.

Is it time to panic?  Nope.  Is it time to get frustrated?  You betcha, goshdarnit.  A couple more losses and both Peter Budaj and Tony Granato are going to find themselves scouting with Joel Quenneville before they know what hit them.  And I can only imagine the hell Budaj will face if Andrew Raycroft manages a shutout on his first relief start., which could come in the next couple of games.  Oh god.

Make no mistake, though.  This is not the sole fault of the goalie, or the coach, or just a couple of defensemen.  This is a team-wide bed-crapping that absolutely must be addressed ASAP.  Stat!

If the Avs are going to lose, at least lose big.  And if they're going to win, they had better start soon.

ADDENDUM: It's really funny to watch Adrian Dater go completely ape shit.  Theodore signing with the Capitals must have been like a bad breakup to him, the way he's crying about it.  Three games, dude.  Three games.  For a guy who admires Scotty Bowman so much, he's definitely not listening to the great coach's advice.