Okay, these aren't exactly things I know for sure. But "Things I have a pretty good feeling are true" didn't have the same ring to it. Plus, it gives me a chance to plug a CD that I like. So, here are some things I know for sure:
The Avalanche are a different team with Peter Forsberg.
It's amazing how much of a dynamic one player can add to the team. With Foppa in the lineup, the Avalanche suddenly became a much more creative team offensively. Instead of relying on the down-low cycle, the Avalanche were using aggressive outlet passes from the blueliners and focused on moving the puck around in front of the net instead of behind it. Strangely, the Avalanche had some success with this even when Forsberg wasn't on the ice (the Cody McLeod breakaway goal against Vancouver). And yet, with Forsberg out yesterday, it was right back to the old ways. He's just one guy, right?
The Avalanche hate Avalanche fans.
Adrian Dater has a long rant on the recent episode of Forsberg Follies. Short version: Forsberg plays (brilliantly) Friday, misses overtime, the shootout and the stars-of-the-game acknowledgment due to being "out of gas". He must have been really out of gas, because he still wasn't able to play last night. The iron-curtain secrecy of this franchise is legendary, and it drives me crazy. Injured players aren't allowed to talk to the media and injuries are often either not reported (Joe Sakic) or are misrepresented (too numerous to list). Can't this team just go with the "upper / lower body injury" like normal teams do? I won't even mention raising ticket prices at a time when the on-ice product was not very good or the ridiculous way that broadcasters are prevented from making critical statements. Oops, I guess I did mention it. Well, at least I didn't slam them for the disgustingly awful hockey jerseys. Damn, there I go again...
Something is wrong with Joe Sakic.
Not officially, of course, because he's been allowed to speak to the media. But, Friday's heroics aside, that's not the same Joe Sakic out there. I've talked about his poor skating off and on this season - both before and after the injury. There's been a lot of plays in the other direction where, if the defensemen are back, he gives up the pursuit. That's not Joe Sakic, a guy who's normally the first forward back on such a play. Yesterday was the topper, though. At one point in the 2nd period, he lost a foot race to...Keith Carney! Whether it's conditioning, age or injury (smart money's on the last item), there sure seems to be something up.
Ryan Smyth has been better than people think.
Yes, 37 points is not exactly what we were expecting when Smyth was signed to the big contract this summer. I've seen a lot of criticism aimed at Smyth lately and I think it's a little unfair. While he doesn't have a ton of points to show for it, he's been doing a lot of those "little things" expected of him. He's been fighting the battles down low and in front of the net. He's been in the face of the opposing goalies (he certainly has been under the screen of Dwayne roloson). And, he's been consistently been one of the most emotional players on the ice - a key on a team that, frankly, could stand to play with a bit more "oomph" at times. I do wish he was scoring more. But at least when he isn't, he helps out his team in other ways. You can't say that about all of his teammates.
David Jones is ready to bust out.
He's already the best player EVER to wear a #54 Avalanche uniform (okay, he's also the only #54). Still, his combination of size, toughness and skill is encouraging. He's got some things to work on, though. His positioning needs some polish -at least twice yesterday he missed a scoring opportunity by not being in the right spot. On one play, he followed the play to the opposite side of the net, only to see the puck find it's way to a wide open net, right next to where he should have been. With a bit more experience under his belt, he's going to find pucks on his stuck much more often. The good news is, he's probably got another 30 games or so before coach Quenneville starts benching him to send him a message.