All of the pre-series hyped focused on two storied rivals revisiting the past. Once the game started, though, the Avalanche seemed to be channeling a team from the more recent past - November of 2007. Last night's team looked a lot like the not-so-storied club from last fall that couldn't play defense, clear the puck or complete two passes without making a turnover. Not surprisingly, it didn't work out very well, and the Avs fell to the Red Wings 4-3.
As they've done in all seven of their playoff games, the Avalanche scored first when the superb Ryan Smyth beat out an icing call before working his behind-the-net magic and dishing a backhander to Paul Stastny in front. Unfortunately, that was the sole bright spot of the first period. Henrik Zetterberg tied it less than a minute later when Cody McLeod botched up coverage and let Zetterberg sail in alone against Theodore. That tied the game and brought the crazies at the Joe to their feet.
It also opened the floodgates.
Simply put, the Avs looked completely outclassed against the talented Wings. Detroit out-everythinged Colorado in the first period and seemed to spend the entire time in the offensive zone (15 shots on Jose Theodore). After the Zetterberg goal, the Wings made it 2-1 when Ruslan Salei left his man (Daniel Cleary) to go for a big hip check on Johan Franzen in the middle of the ice. He did hit Franzen, who collapsed into Wojtek Wolski - and knocking him out of the game with an "upper body" injury. It also left Cleary wide open on the right wing. His shot was stopped, but the puck flew about 17,000 feet in the air before landing behind Theodore and bouncing into the net.
I felt the Avs started to play a little better after that goal. But, they still found ways to get burned. Late in the 1st, McLeod got beat by Zetterberg again and took a hooking penalty trying to slow his man down (perhaps we can avoid that matchup going forward?). On the ensuing powerplay, Franzen made a beautiful deflection of a Nik Kronwall shot past Theodore. I think even Smyth and Tomas Holmstrom were impressed by that one - it was picture-perfect.
Franzen made it 4-1 just 1:13 into the 2nd period when he ripped a shot past a sliding Theodore. The play was made possible by the umpteenth Avalanche turnover of the game (this one by Andrew Brunette). It ended Theodore's night, although it's hard to fault him - he was completely left out to dry by his team. Apparently, Theodore missed the morning skate with the flu and he ended up leaving the arena before the start of the 3rd period. Tyler Weiman suited up as an emergency backup - a move I find most curious.
After the change in goalies, the Avs finally managed to put everything together. They started playing defense, began to play physically, began clearing pucks and, most importantly, began to generate some scoring chances. John-Michael Liles cut the lead to 4-2 when he converted a nice transition pass from McLeod with a slick shot past Chris Osgood. Milan Hejduk cut it to 4-3 towards the end of the 2nd when he scored on an odd-man rush.
Unfortunately, that would be it. The Wings tightened it up in the 3rd and Osgood made a couple of brilliant saves - including a point-blank stop against Liles with 8 seconds left. The Avs had their chances, but just couldn't get the equalizer. Peter Budaj stopped all 20 shots he faced (including a couple of gorgeous stops on Holmstrom and a terrific save on Zetterberg in the 3rd) to keep the Avs in the game, but Colorado was ultimately sunk by playing dumb hockey for far too much of the early game.
In case you missed it, Peter Forsberg injured a groin in the morning skate and did not dress for the game. He is, as always, listed as day to day for the next game. Cody McCormick played in his place (albeit on the 4th line) and played very well. He led all players with 4 hits and was involved in several good scoring chances. As I mentioned above, Wolski left the game. According to Quenneville, "(Wolski) had an upper-body injury. We're hopeful that he can play going forward." Even casual followers of this organization knows that could mean pretty much anything. Scott Hannan also left the game after taking a puck to the foot. Fortunately, he was back on after a brief time behind the bench.
Our powerplay was 0-3 on the night, registering 4 shots. That won't get it done. Nor will we be able to take 5 penalties a game and expect to keep the Wings off the board. Even though we killed off 4 of them, the one PP goal we allowed - the Franzen deflection that made it 3-1 - was a killer.
Adam Foote did not have a great game last night (I guess now people know that Henrik Zetterberg is a tad bit better than Marion Gaborik), but his performance was nothing compared to the stinker Ruslan Salei put up last night. Salei's game was riddled with bad decisions. After he had such a stellar series in round 1, it was a tad jarring to see be so, um, Skrastins-like, but I bet there's a lot of Florida and Anaheim fans out there who could say that he's just going to have games like that from time to time. Let's just hope he got it all out of his system.
- The Avs won just 40% of the draws last night, with Joe Sakic the only one managing to get above 40%.
- The Wings had 3 players with five shots - Cleary, Zetterberg and Franzen...their 3 goal scorers.
- With the goals by Liles and Cleary, the two teams have 23 players with a goal in the postseason.
Game 2 is Saturday at 3pm eastern. Again, Game 2 is Saturday at 3pm eastern (just wanted to make sure the team knew when to show up). Due to some other commitments, I may be scarce around here for the next few days. I may have some brief updates over the weekend, but otherwise will return to regular programming on Tuesday.
Thanks to a tenacious forecheck that had Avalanche defensemen treating the puck like it was a live grenade, the Red Wings controlled the flow through the first third of the game Thursday. On the occasions when Colorado's breakout passes didn't completely miss the mark, they often ended up in teammates' skates. In most cases, Detroit forwards won the battles for the puck just inside the Avs' blue line, creating scoring opportunities and keeping the visitors on their heels. - Mike Eidelbes, Rocky Mountain News
After 20, it looked like the Wings might run away with this series. After 60, it looks like it’s going to be very tight, just like expected. And that was without Peter Forsberg in the Colorado lineup. - Matt Saler, On the Wings
But another lesson is that even with a suddenly-depleted lineup, the Avalanche can hang with the Red Wings. After a shaky start, the Avs shifted the momentum and controlled the pace of play for the second half of the game, often scaring the Wings with close-calls and great chances (and some clangers). If the Avs are healthy, the Wings are beatable. - Joe, Mile High Hockey
In the end, the Avalanche put in a terrible 30 minutes followed by an above-average 30 minutes and lost by one goal. - Shane Giroux, Colorado Avalanche Talk
No moral victories, then, except for an awareness that, without one of their legends, with a sick goaltender in net and the loss early of one of their young studs, the Avs gave as good as they got. - Bernie Lincicome, Rocky Mountain News
The main problem for the Avalanche, other than losing Peter Forsberg and Wojtek Wolski to injuries, and a subpar performance from an ill Jose Theodore, was falling into a 4-1 hole against a team like the Red Wings. - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
I wonder how good the Avalanche can/will be if Forsberg and Wolski return and play? If those guys play, and Theodore regains his level of play (we'll blame this on his flu-like symptoms) this should be a fantastic series. That was fun hockey to watch. - Ted Kulfan, Wings Blog
Goal four. This one is squarely on Jose Theodore. And the proof is in the replay, literally. If you recorded the game, and it was broadcast on Versus, go back to that goal, look at the slow-mo replay, and watch Theo in the upper right of the screen. While the play is shifting to his right against the boards, Theo is standing up, lazily, not set for a play to happen. He remains this way for a while, knocking his glove and blocker around for a but. The puck gets passed to his left across the ice, with plenty of time to get set. Plenty of time if you are set already. Which he was not. This should have been a shot that Theodore stops. Yes, he is moving side to side, which you want a goalie to do. But he is also out of the play, mentally. He isn’t ready for anything to happen, and has taken himself out of the play. He might as well not have been in goal. Not being square to the play is death to any goalie that plays butterfly. Ask J-S Giguere. - Tapeleg, Jerseys and Hockey Love
[Colorado's] other former Hart Trophy winner, Theodore, actually skipped the morning skate after falling ill Wednesday night. But Theodore told his coach Thursday afternoon he felt well enough to play, and Quenneville went ahead and gave him the starting nod. Understandably so, since Theodore's stellar play carried Colorado in the first round against Minnesota. He stopped 188-of-200 shots in six games against the Wild. - John Niyo, The Detroit News
Avalanche rookie Tyler Weiman did not dress for the start of the game, but he was in uniform after Jose Theodore was pulled and left the arena because of illness. Under NHL bylaws, because Weiman was a healthy scratch at the start of the game, he would not have been allowed to play unless Budaj had been injured. - Denver Post
I just heard a television commentator say that Theodore gets a big break (in criticism) because he was so ill. I don't think so. If he's that sick that his performance is going to be that bad, then Theodore didn't do his team any favors by trying to play last night. The Avs would have been better off starting Peter Budaj. - Bruce MacLeod, Red Wings Corner
The parking lot was the place to be on Thursday night. At the end of the second period, Avs general manager Francois Giguere and Theodore hurried out the door, to a cab, not the bus. They didn't pause for questions. - Woody Paige, Denver Post
In the Avs’ case, it came right before Game 1 tonight, and although the Avs tried to put on brave game faces and act like nothing had happened, you could tell it killed them. And this, as I’ve said before, is the problem with having Forsberg around.As a team, you’re just too much a hostage to his health. It’s too much of a roller-coaster emotionally for a team to continually have to scrap their game plans because the top-line guy is out again. - Adrian Dater, All Things Avs
I also think it was a dumb decision by Joel Quenneville to play Cody McCormick in place of Forsberg. He’s already a minus-1 through the first 15 minutes tonight and has no offensive upside. - Adrian Dater, All Things Avs
The loss of Forsberg was a kick to the gut before the puck even dropped. The brittle Avs star took part in the morning skate and all seemed well. But as is often the case with Forsberg, looks were deceiving. - Adrian Dater, Denver Post
The Avalanche hopes to receive positive medical reports on three key players today after losing forwards Peter Forsberg and Wojtek Wolski to injuries and goalie Jose Theodore to illness that affected his play Thursday night. - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
This wasn't exactly old-school Wings-Avalanche hockey because, well, the hitting was sporadic and nary a drop of blood was spilled. That's OK. Really, it is. Because it sure was packed with old-school Wings-Avs thrills and tension, right to the final screeching seconds. The Wings hung on for a 4-3 victory Thursday night that probably was more prelude than flashback, but highly entertaining anyway. - Bob Wojnowski, The Detroit News
Much was made about the bad blood between the two teams after they matched up five times between 1996-2002 - combining to win five Stanley Cups in the seven-year span - but the game had only the usual hits and scrums seen in NHL playoff games. - Associated Press
The atmosphere at the Joe looked awesome, and it's clear that people are really excited for this series. What I caught of this game was some fun hockey to watch, and I hope that keeps up throughout the series, whatever the final result (although, of course, go Wings!) - Steph, No Pun Intended
Paul Stastny had a great game. The second line of Stastny, Milan Hekduk and Ryan Smyth was dangerous all night. Hopefully the Wings will do a better job against that line with Brad Stuart on the ice, as the defeneman missed Game 1. Andreas Lilja, as has been the case all season, struggled playing top 4 minutes. He’ll likely be a scratch now that Stuart is due back for Game 2. - Dave, Gorilla Crunch
Someone has thrown another octopus on the ice. You now have one official with a hoe, and another with a shovel, trying to pick it up. You know, I’ll be interested to see if they put a penalty on the board if it happens again. Remember: it is a delay-of-game penalty if the fans throw something on the ice. - Christy Hammond, Behind the Jersey
To circumvent the NHL's new rule banning twirling an octopus while carrying it off the ice, Detroit zamboni driver Al Sobotka twirled one in the zamboni entrance at the start of the game. - Clark Rasmussen, Detroit Hockey
The Wings own the first
Another Quebecois pulled
Foppa’s scared to play - Brennan, Gloveside