I'm gonna slide it in
Right to the top,
Slide it in,
I ain't never gonna stop
Slide it in,
Right to the top,
I'm gonna slide it in, slide it in,
Slide it, in baby...
Whitesnake, Slide it In
It wasn't quite a must-win game (sorry, Joe), but it was certainly a game that was going to test the Avs' mettle. The Avalanche had lost some of that new-car smell lately and were starting to show some signs of wear and tear. After getting shellacked by half of the Sedin twins on Saturday, the Avalanche needed to beat a hot Calgary team to stay atop the NW division. Mission accomplished.
The Altidudes raved about the Avs first period, but they really played pretty much even with the Flames. With the way the Avalanche have started games lately, though, "even" with a team isn't bad. And, sure enough, the Avs struck first (for just the 4th time this year, the Flames failed to score the first goal). 8 minutes into the first, former Flame Ryan Wilson swept in from the point to collect a loose puck in the slot before calmly potting a backhander past Mikka Kiprusoff. It was Wilson's first NHL goal. While that's really cool, it still doesn't cancel out the fact that the dude kind of looks like Mitch from Real Genius (everyone under 30 is scratching their heads right now). Anyway, that was the only scoring in the first - after 20, 1-0 for the good guys.
If the Avs were solid in the first, they stepped it up in the 2nd. They really took it to the Flames in the early going, but didn't have anything to show for it. In fact, it would be the Flames capitalizing first on an absolute blistering one-timer from Jarome Iginla. It seems to me that Iginla is the only likeable player on that team and he's kind of quietly become a bit like Steve Yzerman or Joe Sakic, a player that pretty much all hockey fans like even if they hate the team he plays for. So, I wasn't disgusted when Iginla tied things up, but I certainly wasn't thrilled a few minutes later when Rene Bourque gave the Flames a 2-1 lead on his shorthanded goal. Thankfully, the Avs turned it around quickly, tying it up on a decapitating wrist shot by Cody McLeod (on a play started by a head's up pass by Wilson) and then taking the lead just a minute later when Milan Hejduk shot the puck in off of Jay Bouwmeester's skate while Robyn Regehr was in the box for a douchebaggish cross check. After an exciting 2nd period, the Avs maintained their 3-2 lead.
The third period was a little difficult to watch, as Altitude seemed to be having some technical difficulties (unless the stuttering video was some bizarre homage to youtube or something). On the ice, though, it was beautiful. After watching the Avs blow 3rd period leads in recent years by sitting back and allowing teams to walk all over them, it was refreshing to see the Avalanche play smart, defensive hockey. I don't know how many of their 24 blocked shots happened in the 3rd, but it was a significant amount to be sure. The Avs blocked shots, got pucks out of the zone, made smart plays at the opposing blue line. I still would like to see a little more offensive focus when the lead is just 1 goal, but I can't complain at all about the way the Avs executed defensively (especially with Adam Foote knocked out early in the game with a jaw injury). All 5 remaining Avalanche defensemen had a monster of a 3rd period.
In the end, the Avalanche simply outworked the Flames. They won 63% of the draws (amazing considering how much Craig Conroy has owned us in the past). They blocked 24 shots to the Flames dainty effort of 6. They forced turnovers, they won battles to the puck. In just about every aspect, they played better than a good Calgary team. Okay, they were officially outhit 19-4 by the Flames, but I believe those numbers are a whack; the Flames did have the physical edge, though. In the end, it was a good, lunch-pail win by the Avalanche.
- Wolski - Stastny - Jones
- Tucker - Duchene - Hejduk
- McLeod - O'Reilly - Svatos
- Koci - Hensick - Stewart
- Cumiskey - Foote
- Quincey - Hannan
- Clark - Wilson
Adam Foote left early in the game. No clue on his status for Wednesday, but the Avs do have a few other defensive options if he can't go. Matt Hendricks missed the game with a groin injury (the reason for the Chris Durno call-up).
- You say the song lyrics above have NOTHING to do with the hockey game? Actually, I agree. Which is why I thought it odd to hear the song played by the Saddledome staff.
- Wojtek Wolski had 6 shots - 1/4 of the Avs total output
- All the Avs did well in the circle (even Tucker was 1 for 1), but Matt Duchene dominated, winning 10 of 12 draws
The Avalanche visit the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. I will have a preview up, but it will be a bit later in the day than usual.