(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
He's back. And he brought some magic with him.
No one really knew how Peter Forsberg would play last night, perhaps not even Forsberg himself. After almost a year away from the ice, Foppa barely missed a beat in his return. From the moment he stepped on to the ice to a standing ovation, 28 seconds into the game, Forsberg showed that he still has a lot to offer this game. While his skating looked a little tentative early on, his creativity with the puck opened up chances all game long and his physical play drew the attention of several Canucks. He and linemates Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk combined for 13 of the team's 31 shots. They didn't score, but their steady offensive pressure notified the Avs upcoming opponents that there's a new line to be reckoned with in Colorado.
That might free up more room for the team's leading point producer, Paul Stastny. Stastny played on a line with Wojtek Wolski and Andrew Brunette and scored the first goal of the game. The goal was started by Jordan Leopold when Leo broke up a scoring chance after Ruslan Salei's clearing attempt was turned over. Leopold crisply outletted to Andrew Brunette at the red line and Bruno quickly deflected it across the ice to Wolski (that little deflection pass is one of a number of "little things" that Brunette quietly does to help the team on a regular basis). After taking the pass, Wolski carried it in, and dropped it back to Stastny. Stastny had a clear lane, as the Vancouver defensemen had to cover Wolski and Brunette. With a little space, Stastny was able to easily roof a shot over Robert Luongo's shoulder to give the team an early 1-0 lead as well as some momentum lost after an early powerplay opportunity fizzled.
While the Avalanche slightly outplayed the Canucks in the 1st period, they ramped things up in the 2nd period. Colorado dominated for the first half of the period, with the Canucks getting their first shot around the 10 minute mark. None of the Avs' 13 shots could beat Luongo, though, and the Canucks were able to tie things up late in the 2nd on a powerplay goal by Ryan Shannon (while Adam Foote was in the box for hooking).
Thankfully - and unexpectedly - the Avalanche powerplay was able to answer. Just 2:27 into the 3rd, John-Michael Liles' point shot was deflected by a sliding Mike Pettinger past Luongo. It was a bit of a fluky goal, but the Avs PP was generating some action for much of the night with the addition of Forsberg. Teams are still content to collapse down low and give up the perimeter to the Avs, something Colorado has yet to really take advantage of. But with Liles shooting (4 shots last night) and the addition of Salei, perhaps we can get a little spark going with the man advantage.
With the 1-goal lead, the team predictably went into prevent defense mode for much of the final 17 minutes of the game. Last night was a great example of why I don't like this technique (despite the win). Frankly, it's not the strategy I take exception to: it's the execution. For two periods last night, the team played generally excellent defensive hockey (the additions of Foote and Salei seem to be just about perfect for this squad). Then, with a lead, the team goes into "defensive mode" and suddenly can't play defense. Vancouver had their best scoring chances in the 3rd period when Colorado was in lockdown mode. I don't really understand why the team defense seems to fall apart when the focus has shift to, you know, team defense. While it worked out okay - Jose Theodore turned aside all 10 shots he faced and the team killed off two key 3rd period penalties - I again have to wonder out loud if this team has the correct personnel to be sitting on leads like this...
The line / shift report is up. All jokes about the Parker effect aside, is there anyone else wondering where Jaroslav Hlinka is? Hlinka has been a scratch for 7 straight games and hasn't seen the ice since his disastrous game against Detroit on February 18th. Meanwhile, Parker has played in 6 of the last 7. Although, by "played" I mean he's watched the game from the bench instead of the press box. Is there a reason we're seeing Parker instead of Hlinka? Is his muscle that critical? Alex Burrows and Kevin Bieksa both took shots at Forsberg last night; obviously, having the Sheriff in the lineup didn't scare them at all (it helps that he only had one shift in the final two periods). Wouldn't it make more sense to have Hlinka out there instead of forcing a player (Stastny, for example) into double shifts? I kind of wonder if we've seen the last of Hlinka over here - it certainly wouldn't shock me to see him come down with a Pierre Turgeon-like "calf injury" that puts him on the shelf for the rest of the year before he returns home next year. Just thinking out loud.
- The Avs have allowed 2 goals or less in 9 of the last 13 games.
- Scott Hannan had 7 blocks in the game. He also had his first fight in the Avalanche unipron, tangling with Alex Burrows after the first shift of the game.
- Ruslan Salei was tops for both teams in TOI with 24:17
The Avalanche host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. That also happens to be my birthday.