The Avalanche get their proverbial lump of Christmas Coal
"Can you hold down the fort for a while, Ryan?"
Photo by Doug Pensinger (Getty)
You already know the bottom line: Paul Stastny broke his arm in the game and will be out indefinitely. That means the Avs' new best center is Tyler Arnason, a guy who scores about as often as that Frank TV guy makes a recognizable impression. Yes, the news is grim. I know that injury is being covered extensively both here at the M Double H ranch and elsewhere around the Avosphere, so I'm going to try to focus more on the game itself.
It started out poorly. The Avs came out flatter than the pre-Columbus world. Ryan Smyth got called for hooking just 29 seconds in, forcing the Avs to kill off an early penalty. They did...only to see Joakim Lindstrom beat Andrew Raycroft gloveside from 50 feet away. Actually, a more accurate description is that Lindstrom's shot was going high until Raycroft deflected it into the net with his glove (complete with a "gee, there must be a hole in this thing" staredown by Razor of said glove after the fact). It was ugly and 40 seconds later Cody McLeod tried to challenge Ed Jovanovski after Jovocop's hit on Ben Guite. All McLeod got out of it was a trip to the box. Five minutes in, and this thing looked like it was headed for disaster.
The Avs turned it around, though. They killed off the McLeod penalty and started playing with the same hustle as they had last week against Tampa. The Avs were stealing the puck, beating Coyotes to lose pucks, diving for pucks, getting shots on net...it was a thing of beauty. With Ed Jovanovski in the box for roughing, Stastny (who else) opened up the scoring for the Avs banging home a rebound from the slot. He seemed to repeat that goal just over a minute later, but video replay did not show the puck completely crossing the goal line. Overall, the Avs were the dominant team (Pheonix had played the previous evening) and outshot Phoenix 17-4 in the first. Unfortunately, all that work earned them just a 1-1 tie, thanks to some good saves by Ilya Brizgalov and that one non-save by Raycroft.
In the 2nd, the Avalanche barrage continued and they would put up another 17 shots on Brizgalov. Only one got past him though and it was a fun one: at the 7:06 mark Ryan Smyth and and Milan Hejduk had an odd-man rush. Smyth was on the left wing and was losing control of the puck. He made a diving play to sweep the puck to a wide-open Hejduk in the middle. Hejduk's attempt was blocked by Bryzgalov...but then the rebound hopped up in the air and, after several tantalizing nanoseconds, dropped just inside the goal post. Much like the Tampa game, the Avs didn't have much to show on the board for their solid play on the ice. After two, Colorado held just a tenuous 2-1 lead.
And, of course, after two strong periods of pressure on the Coyotes, the Avs took the foot off the gas in the 3rd. And, of course, it cost them. Just under 7 minutes in, Peter Mueller took the puck in along the right sideboards and launched a long shot at Raycroft. Raycroft stopped this one, but gave up a big rebound to Ollie Jokinen inside the blueline and Jokinen buried it. Like that, the lead was gone.
That goal changed the entire complexion of the game and the final thirteen minutes of the 3rd period were hectic. The Coyotes started playing for the first time all night, and the Avs woke up from their stupid little 3rd period funk.
The Avs took back the lead at the 12:05 mark. Mueller was in the box for a high stick. Paul Stastny was robbed by Bryzgalov point blank, but Liles was able to get there and backhand the rebound over Bryzgalov's stick. Less than 2 minutes later, another turnover in the neutral zone sprung Smyth on a 2-on-1. This time, he was free up the right wing and had Stastny up the middle instead of Hejduk. And this time he was shooting, not passing. He watched Stastny the entire time, fooling Bryzgalov into thinking he was passing, before firing a no-look shot on net that somehow found it's way. That put the Avs up 4-2, and should have let everyone take a sigh of relief.
Nope. I think we can officially put a kibosh on using the phrase "red hot" and "Raycroft" in a sentence together for the time being. He looked incredibly uncomfortable between the pipes and every save he made was a nail-biting adventure. Shane Doan grabbed a loose puck and fired it past a...I'm not really sure how to describe Raycroft's half-hearted play here. Twirling? Okay, Shane Doan grabbed a loose puck and fired it past a twirling Andrew Raycroft. That made it 4-3, setting the game up for the heartbreaker in the final minute.
I don't mean Doan's tying goal, of course. That, with Brett Clark in the box for stupidity, was inevitable. I mean the shot that Stastny took off his forearm. Stastny immediately dropped his stick after taking the hard slapshot off of the arm. He stayed on the ice to try to help with the penalty kill (the Coyotes had pulled Bryzgalov and had a 6-on-4 advantage). As soon as the goal was scored, Stastny skated right off to the locker room. Guh.
Birthday boy Brett Clark did redeem himself in OT, when he made a gorgeous move to beat a Coyote defender before rocketing a bullet into the net. It was such a great play, it begs the following question: Just where the fuck has that Brett Clark been hiding?
The game gave us a lot to ponder over the Christmas break. The Avs managed to look dominant with two completely invisible lines (Arnason & Guite) and won despite getting terrible goaltending. They scored two PP goals, looked good on the PK, and the defensemen helped out offensively. And, of course, there's the injury. With better goaltending, the Avs could put together quite a run if they were to repeat this effort more often. Unfortunately, the loss to Stastny is a huge blow to an already thin offense. The timing couldn't be any worse...
Merry Christmas, everyone.
For the 2nd time in just over a week, the lines in the game were different than the projected lines Altitude broadcast. I don't think Granato is trying to trick the Altitude folks - I think he's just kind of making it up as he goes. Although the lines changed often, the basic setup was:
- Smyth, Statny, Hejduk
- Wolski, Arnason, Hensick
- Stewart, Lappy, Jones
- McLeod, Guite, Tucker
ITCS report is here.
- 32-year old Steven Reinprecht is the 2nd oldest player on the Coyote's roster (Ken Klee being the oldest). There are 7 members of the Avs who are older than Reinprecht.
- Liles led the Avs with 6 shots, and he and Clark combined for 10 of the Avs 48 shots.
- Colorado is now 12-0 on the year when leading after 2 periods.
The Pheonix game marked the start of a looooong home stand for the Avs. Between now and February 5th, the Avalanche have just 4 road games (Phoenix, Nashville, Columbus and St Louis) as well as just 4 games against the NW. Next up on the calander is Detroit. The Wings visit on Saturday.
In the final act, Clark made a nice move past a sliding 'Yotes defender, stepped to the top of the circle and rifled the winning goal past a shell-shocked Ilya Bryzgalov. - Shane Giroux, Avs Talk
"Colorado outskated us, outhit us and outplayed us," [Gretzky] said. "But to come away with a point, it was a positive. It's going to be a big point come the end of the year." - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
Perhaps the lack of oxygen or the insane on-the-road schedule is what caused the yotes to play so sluggishly. - Hockeygal, Fanster
All the good vibes from their OT victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at the Pepsi Center cannot make up for what figures to be the devastating loss of Stastny. A team struggling to stay afloat in the Western Conference without captain and future Hall of Famer Joe Sakic now must ponder a post-Christmas situation without its young, gifted center. - Adrian Dater, Denver Post
Avs coach Tony Granato rarely criticizes players publicly, but he has occasionally chided Arnason in the papers. And Tuesday morning he sent a clear message to the rookie Hensick that he's expecting better scoring numbers, and implied that if they don't come Hensick might have to rediscover his touch in the minors.- Adrian Dater, Denver Post
The win was Colorado's 200th at the Pepsi Center. - AP
Marek Svatos, who has missed the past six games because of a back injury, practiced Monday at the Family Sports Center and a decision will be made this morning about the availability of the forward for Tuesday night’s game. - Jim Benton, Rocky Mountain News [Svatos did not play]