In the first two games of the season, the Avalanche were the better team but lost both games. So, on to plan B. Against Calgary last night, the Avalanche were not the better team - no more domination in puck possession. It still didn't work; the Avs lost their 3rd straight game to fall to 0-3 on the season.
Last night, reader Todd asked "should we be concerned about Budaj?" Concerned? Absolutely. Budaj's achilles' heel last year was his poor performance against the powerplay, and he's already given up 5 PP goals in 3 games (and has a 17.16 GAA in those situations). Budaj is a goalie who relies more on positioning than reflexes. The former helps him a lot at even strength, but the latter is killing him when the guys in front need it most. Calgary came into the game 0-13 on the powerplay. Every Avalanche fan watching heard that stat and new it was going to be a bad omen. Sure enough, the Flames scored 3 including Jarome Iginla's back-breaker in the 3rd with Adam Foote in the box for Delay of Game.
Still, it's three games in. Several NHL goalies are off to a slow start. Miikka Kiprusoff has a GAA higher than Budaj's. So does Martin Biron (who is the starting goalie for our next opponent). JS Giguere, Vesa Toskala and Pascal Leclaire all have GAA's over 4. That doesn't mean Budaj will magically bounce into form, but it does say that it's still a little early to panic. Well, Adrian Dater is panicking, going off on the team for not caving in to Jose Theodore's exorbitant demands (even though Theodore is giving up 4 goals a game himself). This rocky start isn't a lot of fun to watch, but it's not time to ditch Budaj yet. He's shown in the past that he has talent. As Dario said this morning, Budaj doesn't have to be great he just needs to be average for this team to win. And I still believe he can be better than average.
As for the team in front, it was definitely a drop off from the first two games. The Avalanche had trouble all night with Calgary's aggressive forechecking and penalty killing. The Avs took too many stupid penalties, couldn't capitalize on the chances the Flames gave them, and the defense just hasn't been as good as it's capable of being. None of that matters, though, if the goaltending doesn't improve. The Avalanche have had exactly one lead this year, for 4:09 in the 2nd period of the opening game. In every game, the Avs have allowed a goal in the first 10 minutes of play and a goal (the winning goal) in the final 10 minutes of play. That simply will not work.
In the 3rd game of last year, Joel Quenneville made his first wholesale line changes of the year, moving around all the forward lines and sitting Karlis Skrastins for Jeff Finger. Thankfully, Tony Granato is showing more patience; his only change so far is sitting Marek Svatos last night for Cody McCormick (who had a good game). I am curious about one thing though. In all three games, Granato has switched up the lines somwhere in the 2nd period, usually having Sakic play with Smyth and Tucker and Wolski joining Hejduk and Stastny. It's just for a shift or two, and then he goes back to the original lines for the rest of the game. I wish I had a clue what that was all about.
- Smyth, Stastny, Hejduk
- Wolski, Sakic, Jones
- McCormick, Arnason, Tucker
- McLeod, Guite, Lappy
- Clark, Foote
- Liles, Hannan
- Leopold, Salei
The game report can be found here.
- Budaj has allowed just 1 2nd-period goal this year, but 6 in the 1st and 6 in the 3rd
- Joe Sakic normally is only used to kill 5-on-3 powerplays, but he was out there with Jones tonight on the that 3rd period Iginla PP goal. Ruslan Salei and Jordan Leopold were also on the ice - not exactly our top PK unit.
- Tyler Arnason and Ben Guite were a combined 4 for 14 in the circle.
"You seemed to be having a nightmare." - Padme, Attack of the Clones
The Avalanche face Ossi Vaananen and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday