Yes, we can.
The team with the lowest payroll in the NHL went up against the defending Stanley Cup champs last night. Score one for the underdogs. The Colorado Avalanche opened off the 2010-2011 season in fine form, knocking off the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime, 4-3.
This was a high-flying game right from the start. The Avs had 41 shots and the Blackhawks notched 38 of their own, and each team had at least 11 shots in all 3 periods of regulation. The Avs' transition game was in full effect last night, as numerous innocuous turnovers around the blueline quickly turned into scoring chances in the other direction.
The Avalanche got off to a bit of a rough start with Mark Olver getting penalized just a few minutes in (Olver would get just 2 more shifts the rest of the night). The Hawks' Bryan Bickell scored on the ensuing powerplay and then the Avalanche had to kill off two more penalties in the next 10 minutes or so. They weathered the storm well - Ryan O'Reilly and the rest of the penalty killers looked strong tonight and then Chris Stewart knotted things up with a beautiful curl and drag move on Marty Turco on a breakaway at the 16:30 mark. You have to get up on Turco, and Stewart pulled it off beautifully, faking a pass to his wingman, Kyle Cumiskey before potting it top shelf.
The 2nd period was almost all Avalanche. At the 6:13 mark, Matt Duchene deflected Adam Foote's nifty centering feed past Turco to give the Avs a 2-1 lead. Later, Paul Stastny won a key offensive draw on the PP and then positioned himself in the front of the net to bang a rebound of John-Michael Liles' point shot home. Marty Turco was excellent tonight, but that goal was the proverbial "one he'd like to have back."
Unfortunately, the Avalanche couldn't take that 2-goal lead into the locker room. Late in the 2nd period, Scott Hannan coughed up the puck on a dump in and Adam Foote got caught tangled up with Tomas Kopecky in front of the net, giving the Blackhawks too much room with the puck and leading to a Marion Hossa goal with just 96 seconds to go.
If you thought that late-goal would come back to haunt the Avs...well, you were right. With Kyle Cumiskey in the box for holding (the Avs had 7 penalties on the night, and at least 5 of them were of the "what were you thinking" variety), Patrick Sharp intercepted Craig Anderson's misplayed pokecheck to tie the game at 3. Both teams had some chances to take the lead, but Anderson and Turco were both tremendous the rest of the way.
In overtime, Paul Stastny buried a great feed from Matt Duchene to score his 2nd of the night (and 2nd all-time against the Blackhawks) to give the Avalanche an emotional win. The NHL season is incredibly long and there are still 81 games to go, but this was an excellent way to start things off.
- Galiardi, Stastny, Stewart
- Jones, Duchene, Hejduk
- Winnik, O'Reilly, Yip
- McLeod, Porter, Olver
- Quincey, Hannan
- Cumiskey, Foote
- Liles, Wilson
The Avalanche had some interesting looks on their 3 powerplays. Paul Stastny centered Milan Hejduk and Matt Duchene up front, with John-Michael Liles and Chris Stewart patrolling the blueline. Stewart seemed a little unsure of where he was supposed to be, and a couple of times I caught Hejduk going back there (or maybe that was by design?).
The 2nd unit featured Yip, Galiardi and Jones with Cumiskey and Quincey - an intriguing unit.
- T.J. Galiardi looked like the fastest player on the ice tonight. He only had 2 shots (Radar O'Reilly, by the way, had 7), but I thought he had an excellent game.
- David Jones had a good game, but he did not look like he had the blazing speed we're used to seeing. Since this is his first real game since the knee injury, we'll give him a pass. For now.
- Ryan Wilson had an interesting game. I thought he waffled between terrible and invisible in the first 40 minutes or so, but had a solid 3rd period (even then, he had one rough shift where he made an ill-advised pinch on one end and then failed on a weak sauce clearing attempt in his own end)
- I counted good scoring chances on 4 separate Chicago powerplays. Great job...but maybe we can just stay out of the box next time?
- 4 guys in the stands wearing funny wigs and sunglasses is an absolute hoot, and I totally stand behind Versus' decision to show them about as often as plugs for that T-Ocho show.
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The Avalanche leave on a 5-game east-coast road trip, beginning with a game on Monday in Philadelphia.