There's a few things that seem to crop up more in games against the Coyotes than any other team. On the shortlist of things we can see in a game against Phoenix:
- Former Avalanche players will burn us.
- The refs will do something to hurt us.
- Nick Boynton will act like a dick.
Last night, we got all three (although to be fair to Boynton, he's been much more obnoxious in previous games than he was last night) and added a new item to the list: Make a boneheaded play to cost us the game.
For much of the game, this was shaping up to be just an ordinary, somewhat dull hockey game. The teams traded goals in the first two periods. TJ Hensick opened the scoring late in the 1st period with a powerplay goal, his 3rd goal in two games. Peter Mueller tied it just over a minute later with a blistering point shot while the Avalanche had two players in the penalty box. Phoenix took the lead at the 5:04 mark in the 2nd when former Avalanche minor leaguer Matt Murley fed a great pass for Daniel Winnik to deflect in front of Peter Budaj. But the Avs were able to tie it at the 14:49 mark when Ed Jovanovski's deliciously bad pass lead to a 2 on 1 break by Brad Richardson and Ian Laperriere. Richardson used his speed to create some space for his partner, and then fed him a good pass that Lappy was able to bang home.
And then the game got interesting.
At the 7:13 mark, Brad Richardson wa sent to the box for slashing. The Avalanche were able to kill (more like stifle) the Coyotes' powerplay and Richardson happened to come out of the box just at the right time and found himself on a breakaway. Mikael Tellqvist made the initial save, but could not control the puck that was hanging out dangerously in the paint. Any chance we had to bang the rebound home was nullified when Mathias Tjarnqvist accidentally ran head-first at full speed into the net to knock it off it's moorings. The puck ended up crossing the goal line after the net was dislodged, but seemed to cross outside where the posts had been a few seconds before. Tjarnqvist was not penalized for that blatant move, although he did get a penalty for a slash on Richardson on the way to the net.
On the ensuing powerplay, the Avalanche went with its new top PP unit: The Three Centers - Tyler Arnason, Jarsolav Hlinka and TJ Hensick. They'd already scored once tonight, and seemed to convert again when Hlinka grabbed the puck behind the net and found Hensick in his new favorite spot in front of the net on the back door. Hensick shot it in and the Avs began to celebrate, but Keith Ballard seemed to kick the puck out at the last minute and the ref immediately waved it off while play continued for a good 90 seconds before a whistle finally gave the officials (and us) a chance to review. It was clearly a goal - the puck was well over the line before Ballard kicked it out. For such an easy review, it took the refs forever to come back with the decision. In the end, though, the goal was a goal; Hensick had his 4th goal in two games (3 on the powerplay) and it seemed like it might hold up to be the game winner.
Or not. At the 16:49 point, Peter Budaj froze the puck after an awkward dump in off the back boards. Joel Quenneville sends out the Arnason line for the critical own zone draw (Guite and Hlinka had just recently completed a shift). Arnason immediately gets tossed from the draw (for, in his words "chirping" to the linesman about the guy lined up against him, former Avalanche Steven Reinprecht). Marek Svatos stepped in and used the "stand like a statue" method to try to win it. Oddly, it didn't work. Reinprecht grabbed the puck and took two strides, drawing Scott Hannan's attention. Meanwhile, former Avalanche Radim Vrbata headed right to the space vacated by Hannan while Tyler Arnason apparently had his attention focused on a shiny object in the stands. Reinprecht found Vrbata and Budaj had no chance on the play as the Coyotes tied the game.
A couple of things I don't get on the play (besides the obvious "what the fuck were those players doing" stuff). I'll admit that I'm not much of an x's and o's guy, so I'm really asking for help on this. First, why did Svatos take the draw? Wolski was on the ice. Svatos has taken, by my count, three draws on the season. Wolski, on the other hand, has taken around 30 (and is around 50% effective). Is there a reason Svatos was taking that draw (and again, by "taking" I mean "standing there watching")? And how come when teams line up to take own zone draws, they put one of their defensemen along the boards? Wouldn't it make more sense to put a winger out there and place the two defensemen in the middle of the ice along with the other winger? At any rate, this was a mess of a play and, in the end, cost us a point.
In overtime, the Coyotes predictably scored. The way they scored, however, was highly controversial. At the 3:23 mark, Vrbata (again) took a shot on Budaj. Budaj made the save and then a whole mess of people - Vrbata, Doan, Liles and Finger - collapsed on Budaj. The puck was somewhere under Budaj and, after what seemed like forever, the puck found it's way into the net. This play is screwy for a few reasons. One, Shane Doan seemed to pretty clearly push Budaj into the net. Two, when the puck disappears for that long under a goalie, it usually gets whistled dead. And three (and this one I didn't catch while watching the game) the Avs claim there was a whistle before the puck came loose. If true, that should make it no goal. Unfortunately, the refs did not agree. After a brief review (during with the Coyotes left the ice while the Avs stayed on their bench), the goal stood. My only hope is that the Avalanche can turn their anger from that goal into some hot on-ice action.
One (final) interesting thought on the game. Paul Stastny is due to come back soon (perhaps as early as this Wendesday, and Darren Pang mentioned during the game that he looked like he could have played last night). Someone is going to have to sit. The two biggest candidates for that have been Brad Richardson and TJ Hensick. Richardson, though, has looked terrific on a line with Guite and Laperriere. And Hensick has been playing his best hockey in the NHL and has looked infinitely more confident with the puck. I'm leaning right now towards towards one of the Codys. Since McCormick kills penalties and has gotten a few more noticeable hits of late, I suspect that McLeod will be the scratch. I admit, though, that I'm usually wrong on this stuff.
Notes are here
- Hlinka, Brunette, Hejduk
- Arnason, Wolski, Svatos
- Guite, Richardson, Laperriere
- Hensick, McLeod, McCormick
As I expected (see, I get it right sometimes), Kurt Sauer was paired last night with Brett Clark. Karlis Skrastins was the healthy scratch. Sauer had 23:46 of ice time, and doesn't seem to have any rust.
- John-Michael Liles had 5 blocked shots in the game, tops on both teams.
- The Avs recorded just their 6th multi-PPG game of the season. They are now 5-0-1 in such games.
- Michael Wall was recalled before the game and replaced injured (?) Tyler Weiman on the bench.
The Avalanche visit the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday before a big game in Vancouver on Saturday.