The first pre-season game for the Avalanche didn't go well enough to end with a win, but it didn't go so bad that the prospects for the team look bleak. In fact, in a lot of ways, it was a very good game for the Avs. I'll get to those in a minute.
First of all, what happened? The Avs got out to a great early lead with a goal by Ryan Smyth on the power play, just over three minutes into the first period. Assists were tallied by Milan Hejduk and Paul Stastny. That means Granato used the illustrious RPM line on the power play, which is a freakin' awesome idea.
The RPM line stayed together at even strength, too, which is also a great plan.
Five minutes later the pairing of Darcy Tucker with Joe Sakic didn't seem so weird, as Tucker scored a goal with the helper from Super Joe. By the end of the first period, the Avs were up by 2-0.
The second period was uneventful with the exception of one goal by the Kings.
The third period saw Peter Budaj pulled for Jason Bacashihua, and more scoring by the Kings. Some guy named Moulson tied the game with a PP goal just 20 seconds into the third, but the RPM line struck back to take a 3-2 lead at 11:36. Smyth scored, with Darcy Campbell and Son of Stastny contributing assists.
Unfortunately, Anze Kopitar tied the game again late in the third. The Avs hung in there through overtime but gave up a lone shootout goal to Teddy Purcell. I don't know who that is, either, but I know I don't like him.
Here are some general observations from the game:
1. The RPM line is, as I like to say, money. And I'm not talking fake, equation-based money like all those credit default swaps currently destroying our economy, but cold, hard cash in the bank. Separating this line for any reason would be a mistake. Granato, don't do it.
2. Peter Budaj was money. 21 saves on 22 shots in two periods, and he never gave up the lead. In fact his performance was all the more impressive considering my next point:
3. Sitting on a lead is a bad, bad idea. I'm not sure if it was Granato's specific instructions for the Avs to sit back once they got up by two goals, but the score sheet seems to indicate that's what they did. Both teams were tied with seven shots on goal in the first period. By the end of that frame, the Avs were up 2-0. Then, it gets ugly. Colorado was out-shot 15-4 in the second period and 17-5 in the third. That seems to suggest a very definite strategy of trying to sit on a lead. Budaj had to be that much better in the second period because his team was letting the Kings take it to him, and he did very well. It's no surprise that Bacashihua didn't fare as well. But, considering he faced 19 shots in one period and overtime (and three more in the shootout), he didn't do all that bad, either.
4. The Avalanche defense is good, but not good enough to just let the opposing team run around doing whatever they want without any effort by the Avs offense at the other end of the ice. Granato is going to be in a world of hurt if he tries to rely on this "strategy."
4. Granato was smart to sit Wolski and Svatos. These games don't matter, and the players' health over the season as a whole is a lot more important than winning a couple of nothing games in September.
5. Maybe it's just me, but playing Bacashihua in the first pre-season game over Raycroft seems kind of weird. But whatever, I'm not complaining.
The next pre-season game is tonight at Dallas, 6:30 PM Mountain time. I assume it can be heard on the radio, but there will be no official game thread. Feel free to create one in the FanPosts section if you wish.