Miserable. That word describes the weather here in NH today. It describes how I feel after shoveling 8 inches of heavy slush this morning. It refers to how Brett Clark must be feeling today after crashing arm first into the boards last night ("probably not good" is how Joel Quenneville described the prognosis). It can also describe the call on Ian Laperriere that put the Ducks on a key 5 on 3 powerplay last evening. And, of course, it describes my mood today after watching the Avalanche take a tough 2-1 loss.
Not too long ago, the Avalanche went into Detroit and essentially turtled against a much more talented team. This game was completely different. The Avs went after the "Mighty" Ducks from the get go and proved capable of matching up with Anaheim in both skill and physicality. Unfortunately, Colorado fell just a little short in the scoring department.
The Avs started the scoring early. As usual, it was the Arnason line doing the damage, with Marek Svatos backhanding a rebound of a Wojtek Wolski shot above Anaheim's J.S. Giguere. Arnason, Svatos and Wolski have 32 points in the last 10 games. The other 19 players who have appeared in that stretch have a total of 51. This line was our shining star offensively all night long. However, this would be the only goal they'd manage.
The Avalanche got stung by another terrible call by the officials, something that has happened far too often lately. Marek Svatos took a penalty for high sticking at the 19:52 mark of the 1st (I can only assume he was trying to trip Scott Niedermeyer and got carried away). The Avalanche had about 8 second of the penalty to kill before the end of the period. On that kill, Ian Laperriere blocked a shot with his stick, dropped his broken stick, and moved to the side boards to check Todd Bertuzzi. The referee at the far end of the ice called Lappy for playing with a broken stick - a lousy, lousy call. While I don't really know what was going on in the mind of that ref, my suspicion is that he was fooled by Lappy holding his hands while hitting Bertuzzi in a crosscheck fashion, as if he still had a stick in his hands. Whatever the reason, it was a terrible call and it put the Avalanche on a long 5 on 3 to start the second period. On that 5 on 3, Teemu Selanne scored the first goal of the year to knot things up at 1.
The rest of the 2nd period was marked by an increase in the physical play. Both teams were registering hit after hit along the boards, and you could sense that it was just a matter of time before tensions reached a boiling point. A little past the 8 minute mark, Cody McLeod hammered Duck defensemen Kent Huskins hard into the boards. George Parros immediately went after McLeod, but it was Brian Sutherby who ended up dropping the gloves. McLeod and Sutherby engaged in a long, drawn-out grappling match in front of the Colorado bench; it was exciting to watch, but there was no clear cut winner.
That wasn't the end of the rough stuff. With just a few ticks left in the second period, Laperriere smashed good ol' Huskins into the boards. This time it was Ryan Getzlaf coming to his aid - probably a poor choice. Although Getzlaf had a decided height advantage on Lappy, he was clearly in over his head and the look on his face when the two got together said as much. He took a few hard punches before getting slammed hard to the ice. It looked like that was going to be it, but before the two combatants could be ushered off the ice, Huskins and Ben Guite squared off. This one was over quickly, with Guite dropping Huskins to the ice with a couple of hard right hands; probably should have gotten help on that one too, Kent. Guite and Huskins were both thrown out of the game for the late fight. There's an added bit of irony in that fight: before they got together, it looked like Chris Kunitz and Brett Clark were going to go. Had they been the ones to fight, they would have been kicked out of the game...and Brett Clark wouldn't have been around to injure himself in the 3rd period.
After this brouhaha, Ducks coach Randy Carlysle sent out the big guns - Parros, Sutherby, Pronger and, for all I know, Bubba the Love Sponge. Joel Quenneville, with the last change, responded by sending out Milan Hejduk, Andrew Brunette and Jarsolav Hlinka. While I appreciate that one of the two coaches had the common sense to settle the game down, I'm not sure that taking the high road was the best thing to do in that situation. With no muscle on the ice, Sutherby hilariously tried to engage Hejduk by swatting at him several times with his stick and jawing constantly. What is he thinking there? By trying to goad Hejduk into a fight, Sutherby looked both foolish and cowardly. Not that I'd say that to his face or anything.
The third period saw both teams going back to just playing hockey. The Avs short bench became an issue. Quenneville dressed just 11 forwards for the game due to injuries and a flu bug to Scott Parker (the second time this year he's had a chance to play but couldn't go because of illness), and used Karlis Skrastins at forward for the first half of the game. When Clark hurt himself early in the third, Skrastins was able to move back to defense, but that, along with the Guite misconduct, left the team with 10 forwards. That led to events such as Cody McLeod on the ice late in the game as the Avs were trying to tie the game (Sammy Pahlsson scored with just over 4 minutes left - the eventual game winner).
The Avalanche were so close on this one. Despite all the injuries, they held their own against a strong Duck team. But, the end result - a zero-point loss - is frustrating and is something we're seeing far too often from the Avalanche. It's great that they can compete with the good teams...but they need to convert those good games into points.
Notes are here
For most of the game, these were unchanged from the norm of late, save the appearance of Karlis Skrastins at forward in place of injured Cody McCormick. Once Clark was injured, Skrastins moved back to defense, and Quenneville was left to juggle 10 forwards in the final period.
- Arnason, Wolski and Svatos accounted for almost half of the team's shots - 16 of 33
- The Avalanche failed to convert on the PP. Had the scored a PP goal, it would have given them a PPG in 5 consecutive games for the first time this year.
- Four of the last six regulation losses have been by one goal. Five if you count the 2-0 loss to Detroit which involved a late empty net goal.
The Avalanche host the St Louis Blues on Thursday. I'm not sure of my status for this game, as my wife and I will be out celebrating Milan Hejduk's birthday (well, and Valentine's Day and her birthday) - consider me questionable.