On Friday, the Avalanche could barely muster a shot against the Detroit Red Wings, let alone a goal. On Saturday, things went a little better, as Colorado put up six on the Blues to win 6-4 in a wild one. Both of these teams put up strong defensive efforts on Friday; the Avs kept 4 or 5 guys back all night against the Wings, while the Blues shut out the Ducks 1-0. After those defensive efforts, there apparently wasn't anything left over Saturday. It was a fast, back-and-forth affair all night, with both teams making some huge gaffes in their own end. The Avalanche managed to get the win, though, continue to be hot and cold on offense. In the last 5 games, they've been shut out twice and have posted two 6-goal outbursts.
Colorodo jumped to an early lead when Ian Laperriere and Cody McLeod pressured Barrett Jackman off the puck in the corner and Lappy was able to center it to a wide open TJ Hensick in front of Manny Legace. The lead wouldn't last long, though, as freaking Dan Hinote scored his 5th goal against his old team on a wraparound attempt. At that point, you could get a sense that this wasn't going to be the end of the scoring. Jaroslav Hlinka, back on the 1st line after a few games away, found himself all alone in front of Legace (a common theme on the evening) to bang home a rebound of Wojtek Wolski's shot. As with the first goal, the lead would last less than a minute; with Karlis Skrastins in the box for tripping, Paul Kariya blasted a one-timer from the slot that Peter Budaj had no chance on.
There was only one goal scored in the second period. That doesn't mean that the defense was getting better. It just means that both Legace and Budaj were at their best in the period, as both goalies made some terrific saves. The only goal of the period was scored at the 10:01 mark. Budaj has gone off for a delayed call pending against the Blues. His replacement, Wojtek Wolski, skated in and fired a strong shot from the blueline that was deflected in front by Ben Guite. I don't know where that shot was hiding when Wolski was manning the point on the powerplay earlier in the season, but he picked a great time to find it.
The Avalanche took a 4-2 lead just a minute into the 3rd period. The Avalanche were on the powerplay, thanks to a penalty to Bryce Salvador as time expired in the second. Curiously, Joel Quenneville tabbed the 2nd unit - Tyler Arnason, Jaroslav Hlinka and TJ Hensick - to start the period, and it paid off. Arnason had the puck behind the net and attempted to move out to the front. His path was blocked by Jackman, but he was able to shuffle the puck off to Hensick, again sitting alone in front of the net. Hensick scored his 2nd goal of the game. Quenneville rewarded Hensick's goal-scoring outburst by benching him for the rest of the period (he had just 3 3rd period shifts).
Hensick wasn't the only guy getting some rest in the third. Quenneville's bench shortened up substantially in the third, especially after Jordan Leopold's ill-advised pinch 6 minutes in gave the Blues a 3-on-2 the other way that they converted on to close the gap to 4-3. Leopold and John-Michael Liles had just 5 shifts each in the 3rd, while Karlis Skrastins only saw the ice twice, leaving the bulk of the work to Jeff Finger, Brett Clark, Scott Hannan and Kurt Sauer. At forward, Quenneville went with just 3 lines in the third, leaving Hensick and Cody McLeod (3 shifts) to watch the action from the bench. Coincidentally (or not?) one of the rare shifts they did get was the shift when Tyler Arnason scored the eventual game winner (this time, his wraparound attempt worked without help - you'd think St Louis would be expecting that after seeing so many goals scored in the last two games against the Avs in this manner). Arnason's tally at the 11:16 mark put the Avs up for good. Keith Tkachuk would close the gap to one goal again just over a minute later, but the Avs would hold on (barely, thanks to 3 shots hitting the post in the 3rd). Guite iced it (literally and figuratively) with an empty netter at the end to close out a frenetic final frame.
Peter Budaj looked sharp at times, but shaky at other points (that late Tkachuk goal was eerily reminiscent of the Perreault softy on Wednesday). And while I don't want to come across like I'm making excuses for Budaj, the defense did hang him out to dry on several occasions. Karlis Skrastins and Jordan Leopold have played strong hockey in recent weeks, but they both seemed to doing everything they could to earn a healthy scratch in the next game. Kurt Sauer was eased into the game, with just 11 shifts in the first two periods. But he got the call 12 times in the all-important third period and, health permitting, I'm certain he'll be on the ice again on Monday.
Game notes are here
Marek Svatos missed the game with a groin injury (hey, at this point, why not?) and Sauer dressed as a 7th defensemen, causing the lines to be scrambled again. Laperriere played in Svatos' spot on the Arnason line. Jaroslav Hlinka was moved back to the 1st line in place of Hensick. As I mentioned above, Sauer started out with limited ice time, but by the end of the game was taking regular shifts with his old partner, Brett Clark. I'd be surprised if that pairing isn't repeated on Monday. The line report is up.
- Hensick and Guite both recorded their first two-goal game, while McLeod had two assists for the first time.
- The Avalanche won just 37% of the draws. On the PP with 3 centers - Arnason, Hensick, Hlinka - Arnason was the one taking the draws, even though he won a team low 31% of faceoffs in the game. Meawhile, Hejduk and Wolski - the guys taking the draws on the other powerplay unit - were a combined 0 for 5.
- Adrian Dater reports that the Avalanche intend to be in the chase for Forsberg when the center does decide to come back.
The Avalanche host the Coyotes on Monday - one of just four home games this month.