Madhouse. That's the word that kept running through my mind today. There were more people there than ever went to training camp, and that was packed. Media people were everywhere, often standing in the sight-lines for us grubs in the stands. They interviewed people, including our very own Stazz21, on camera. "Are you here to see Forsberg?" "Do you think he'll be able to play?" "What do you think he'll bring to the team?" I really wanted them to interview me so I could say, "No, I'm not here to see Forsberg. I'm here to see the Avalanche. And you're in my way. MOVE." But they didn't ask me.
This was one of the hardest practices I've seen the guys have this year. Physical, hard skating, not a lot of down time. And even a little bit of bag skating going on...but before I get to the details of the Avs practice, I wanted to give a shout out to the Arapahoe Youth Hockey League and, in particular, the Predators and Islanders, who played a game before the pros took the ice. These kids played their hearts out and a couple of slick plays were enjoyed by all. A little into the third, #4 on the Islanders completely leveled a MUCH bigger #14 of the Preds. Solid mid-ice hit at the blueline to stop him from entering the zone. Shortly after that, a very fast-skating #12 of the Predators busted out of the defensive zone on a short-handed breakaway. Sweet little deke and he found the back of the net. 5-2 Predators. The Islanders didn't let that phase them, though, as #12 and #3 had a nice little give and go, carrying it into the offensive zone, #12 sent a beautiful pass right across the crease and #3, Canadian Mason Jousey, tipped it home. It was a gorgeous play. In an attempt to close the 5-3 gap, the Islanders pulled their goalie and got some sustained pressure going on. Then #12, the star of the Predators, grabbed a puck at the blueline for another breakaway towards an empty net. But Islanders' #30 plowed him into the boards and regained control of the puck. Tough little buggers. The Islanders had one last chance as #30 then sent the puck across center ice for another strong give and go; just after the puck was sent through traffic into the slot, the buzzer sounded, ending the game. It was so fun to watch, and I might start going to the games just cuz. Pretty damn good players for 11-12 year olds.
Okay, on to the Avalanche:
- O'Reilly was out on the ice first wearing the orange non-contact jersey. I was hoping he was going to practice with the team for at least a bit, but he didn't, sadly. It's still a good sign that he's out there like that; it shouldn't be too long before he's back with the guys. He did some drills on his own: skating the length of the ice, stickhandling the puck across his body and pulling it back to the side; he also did a skating drill within the face off circle where he'd start from the dot and skate to the four "corners" working edges and speed; finally, Sacco spent some one-on-one time with him before the other guys started filtering out.
- There was a bit of nervous energy on the ice as the guys were flipping their pucks on net and skating around. The fact that there were a gazillion people and media folk there and that applause and cheers broke out as soon as Forsberg hit the ice probably had nothing to do with it. Winnik looked annoyed; a few others looked a bit star-struck. No one really chatted with Foppa though there wasn't a whole lot of chatter in general.
- Full roster hit the ice, but then Foote disappeared. Don't know what that was about.
- First skating warm up drill worked crossovers; then they moved to backwards; and then speed through the center. Forsberg started out slowly and upped his pace as the warm up went on. Within a few minutes, he was pushing himself and looked comfortable doing so.
Team moved into a two-on-one drill:
- Hunwick had a very nice poke check on someone. He has his moments like that, but then he gets completely outworked on the next run. It's frustrating to watch.
- Stewie completely beat Cumiskey skating to the net...and he did so by skating faster than Cumiskey. I miss Road Runner.
- Forsberg and Porter were paired; Forsberg sent a perfect pass across the crease to Porter who sent a wrister into the top right corner past Budaj. It was so pretty. All practice long, Forsberg was doing that "I'm going to make you all look silly with my awesome passing skillz."
- Stoa seemed hesitant to pass often, losing the open lane and missing scoring ops. I want him to do well so badly.
- Koci played defense all practice to replace Foote. It was comical, but he tries so hard and is such a trooper.
- Porter completely schooled Hunwick for a shot on net
- Wilson beat Duchene to tie him up and prevent the shot
- Wilson then had a great poke check on Forsberg, stopping his offensive drive
- Stewie and Shattenkirk had a big battle in front of the net, lots of pushing and shoving. Neither was dominating the other. Shattenkirk had a great practice, btw. He was strong all morning long.
- Jones undressed Cumiskey. Totally. Again, Cumiskey's speed just doesn't seem to be there like it was last year.
Tip in drill 1: Shot from top of circle by d-man with forward camped out to tip it in, transition to one-on-one with a battle to the net, then to a one-on-two with a d-man on the blueline with two forwards in front of net for another tip in attempt
- Shattenkirk was able to outman Winnik but then Winnik found a small opening for a perfect tipped goal
- Shattenkirk was also able to keep up with Forsberg, limiting him to an awkward shot down low that Boods easily stopped
Tip in drill 2: Same deal but with a 2-on-2 and then 2 d-men on the blueline
- Liles contained Duchene, not giving him an inch of room with which to work
- Koci and Hunwick were absolutely BURNED by McLeod and Dupuis. Not surprising, but Dupuis was a beast out there all practice
- O'Byrne had a nice steal to clear it out of the zone
- Stastny and Forsberg reminded me a bit of the Sakic-Forsberg days on one run. Passes across the slot that slipped perfectly between the defenders; Forsberg got the puck to Stastny, Shattenkirk kept on Forsberg while Cumiskey was supposed to cover Stastny; but Forsberg wheeled around Shattenkirk, Stastny pushed off Cumiskey, got the puck back across to Forsberg who netted it. Sexy ass shit.
- Lines: Stoa, Hejduk, Duchene; Yip, Dupuis, McLeod; Winnik, Gali, Porter; and Stastny, Jones, Stewart and Forsberg switching off. (D paired as they are in games)
- Forsberg spent time at both center and wing
- Jones had some slick moves and hard work down low; Andy had a huge save on Forsberg
- Hunwick was getting pretty physical and cleanly pushed Winnik off the puck; of course, he also blatantly tripped Duchene, sending him sprawling to the ice, when he couldn't keep up with him
- Gali had some nice stick work going on to clear the puck out of the zone; on his own with strong pressure from two opposing players, he kept them off the puck with one arm and used the other to control the puck with his stick and push it across the blueline. He was another one who worked his ass off today. He hates Ohio.
New drill (at least for me): nets set up at about the face off dots in each of the circles within the zone, open end towards the corners. One goaltender in each net, half of the team with one net and the other half with the other. They worked on battling for the pucks in the corners and in front of the net.
- Dupuis outworked Yip easily on one run; on another, he was able to hold off the defender, work around the net and put a nice shot on net from his knees. I'm telling ya, he was a beast today.
- Winnik tried to push through Forsberg, going full force, but it was like he hit a brick wall. Totally stood up
- Shattenkirk was showing some pretty slick moves
- Porter v. Forsberg: Porter was dominating the puck, keeping it out of Forsberg's reach, but he had one little bobble and it was done. Forsberg stole the puck, skated behind the net, protecting the puck by pushing Porter off with one arm, and moved in for a close shot which trickled in 5-hole
- Gali and O'Byrne took the physical play up a notch and started throwing some checks on each other
A little bit of bag skating: first, two by two, blueline to center line and back; then upped to blueline to center line back to blue line and out to opposing blueline and back
- Looked like Shattenkirk and Cumiskey were engaging in a little healthy competition; Shattenkirk was able to keep up with Cumiskey easily
- Duchene was just blowing past Stoa at first; Stoa stepped it up as the drill went on and was keeping pace
- Jones and Stewie were dead even (except that one time Jones fell cuz skating is hard); pretty cool watching two big players like that have that kind of speed
- Koci and Forsberg were paired and not only did Koci keep up, he even outskated Forsberg some. It was pretty clear that Foppa was gassed; there didn't seem to be any difficulty skating but that he was just tired. Keeping up with a bunch of 20-year-olds ain't easy
Stretch break and then defensemen went to one end of the ice while the forwards hit the other:
- Defense was working on stopping pucks at the blueline from a pass up the boards; first via hands, then via feet, then via stick; then sending a slap shot on net
- Forwards were taking shots from bottom of the circle and then skating behind the net to pick up a puck and attempt wrap around
- Koci had an amazing backhanded goal taking the puck from behind the net to the front. Stick taps all around from his teammates
- Winnik got one in five-hole (TWSS)
- Forsberg never gave up on the play until it was in the goalie's glove or the back of the net; kind of seemed to surprise both Andy and Boods
- Drill broke up and a free-for-all broke out with Sacco and Kono joining in the play. Andy played defense!
Regular practice broke up and Hejduk, Duchene, Forsberg, Shattenkirk, Wilson, Yip, Stoa and Galiardi stayed out for about a half hour longer
- Seemed the guys got over being star-struck and were chatting and joking more with Forsberg
- Gali and Yip were practicing battles in the slot and getting a wrister or one-timer on net
- Stoa, Duchene, Forsberg and Hejduk accepting passes and throwing pucks on net. It looked like Forsberg and Duchene started trying to hit the cross bar rather than just netting it.
- Shattenkirk and Wilson practicing slap shots
- Forsberg and Duchene chatted about sticks, comparing theirs to the other, looking at length, flex, etc.
So there ya go. The first full practice with Peter Forsberg. I'm hoping to go back on Tuesday and, perhaps, this time won't be such a circus.