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Avalanche Practice Notes: Monday, 1/9/12

I hit up practice on Monday. This was the first one they had after the loss to St. Louis. The first thing I noticed was the atmosphere. This was not a team that was tense, frustrated, or angry. It was a team with a positive outlook and a sincere focus. Not one player joked around while waiting for his turn on the drill; they all watched their teammates. I saw discussions between players, players and coaches, skaters and goalies, etc. There was a lot of working conversation rather than personal conversation like I've seen before. I was honestly surprised at the start they had to Tuesday's game against the Predators because of what I saw in practice. Regardless, here are some of the things I noted and videos of drills. All of the links direct you to additional videos.

As you already know, neither Johnson nor O'Brien was on the ice. All other members of the team were there, including Mueller. He looked great throughout the practice, and he was not any more winded than any of the other players. He stayed on the ice after practice for about 45 minutes. Yip, Giguere, Varlamov, O'Reilly and Hejduk were the first on the ice. The rest filtered in within five minutes. Of course, O'Reilly and Landeskog were the last off. About half the team stayed at least 30 minutes late, however. Galiardi scared me about half-way through as I saw him sitting on bench with his skate off. After a while, the trainer came out and gave it back to him. It must have just been a dull blade or something. Phew!

The lines were the same as we saw them in St. Louis:

  • Stastny, Galiardi, Jones - white jerseys
  • O'Reilly, Hejduk, Landeskog - blue jerseys
  • McClement, Winnik, Kobasew - burgundy jerseys
  • Porter, van der Gulik, McLeod - grey jerseys
  • Yip, Mueller - green jerseys
  • The defensive pairings rotated (black jerseys).

During warm ups, I saw some conversations between assistant coaches and players. The guys who had the most lengthy talks were Galiardi, Porter and Winnik. Goalie Coach Jiggy was giving Varly some instruction, as well. I also saw Deadmarsh working with Varly, first shooting to glove side and then to blocker. Excuse the silliness of the saying, but Deader was dead on with every shot, putting the puck exactly where he wanted it to be. It was pretty impressive.

Drill #1: Passing - four players, two sets of two, skating either on the outside or inside of an area designated by gloves. The outer pair was working on long passes with traffic (the other two skaters) in between. The inner pair focused on short, quick one-time passes.

Drill #2: Skate and Shoot - Player would take puck around the gloves from the defensive zone to the offensive zone, put a shot on net from the side of the face off circle. They rotated sides.

Drill # 3: Break Out - defense break out to forwards who get a shot on net, puck sent to defense on point, defense shoot on net, forwards tip in

Drill #4: Mini Scrimmage - five on five within the blue line, goal was to gain possession, clear or score

Drill #5: Transitions - five on five full length of ice, started with one full squad and two D on point for the other side, other three forwards would jump in once puck was in the offensive zone. Forwards were always on offense. D switched from offense to D depending on the direction.

This video clip includes Peter Mueller. He starts on the left side of the goal from the camera's perspective (left wing that direction); the two cross ice as they move into the offensive zone (still left wing). You can find another video of this drill here.

Drill #6: Cycling puck - offensive zone cycling off the boards and two defensemen on point

Here's one with O'Reilly and Mueller. For another with Stastny, Galiardi and Jones, go here.

O'Byrne led the cool down stretch, and then Sacco brought the team together for a chat. There were smiles at first, some guys that were recognized by him in a positive manner, and then it got serious. Not an eye veered from the coach, and all players were listening intently.

That was the end of official practice. Most of the players hung around for a little while, chatting or flipping pucks. Eventually they started in on drills. Then about half the team headed off to the dressing rooms while the other half worked drills, some with the assistant coaches and others on their own. Nearly all of them stayed for at least 30 minutes. Mueller stayed about 45. Yip, Landeskog and O'Reilly were there at least an hour. I left before they did. The best part about that whole time was how much fun it looked like they were having. If they were losing the joy in playing, I'd be pretty worried about the recent losses. But they still love the game, and with that comes hard work and desire to improve.

Here are some tidbits from the post-practice:

  • Some of the guys were playing keep away with Winnik. He looked absolutely gassed after a while, but the guys wouldn't stop. They were egging him on, throwing around what sounded like playful insults. It was humorous.
  • Jiggy held a little conversation with the team. It really seems we have an extra coach out there, folks. He also chatted with Varly.
  • The guys worked on presence in the crease. Lots of great moments were had, including both Giguere and Varlamov shoving and whacking at the guys, even after the drill was whistled dead.
  • While Landy and Gali were fighting for a puck, Landy held onto Gali's stick, and they both went down to the ice. Gali wouldn't let Landy get up, pushing him back down with his hands, knees, stick, whatever he could. It was pretty funny, with both of them and guys around them laughing. I wish I had video of it. Here are some photos by @crazygirlemy of the incident. She caught the tail end of it.
  • O'Reilly, Jones, Winnik, Hejduk, and Stastny started up another keep away game at center ice. One guy would be in the center while the others would send cross-ice passes to each other. The goal was to tip the puck out of the circle. The player whose pass was intercepted then went into the middle for his turn.
  • Varly was a pylon as the guys and Giguere practiced reduced sight lines.
  • Landeskog was working with Jiggy and Varly on various shots. Deader was coaching.
  • Yip and Mueller worked battles along the boards. It was pretty intense. Mueller looked great to me, generally outworking Yip. He seemed incredibly frustrated with himself, however. Tim Army was coaching.
  • The defenseman and McLeod were shooting pucks from the point. Sly was coaching. After some of the guys left, McLeod and Wilson worked on tip-ins with Sly.
  • Once the others had left, Yip and McLeod took one end of the ice and O'Reilly and Landeskog took the other. Yip and McLeod worked on cycling the puck with a pass from the corner and then a shot on net. Later, they worked on getting a shot from the blue line and then following up with a shot in the slot. Army was coaching.
  • At the other end of the ice, O'Reilly and Landeskog worked with Deader on various shots. First, they were doing top shelf shots from the face off circle. Radar made 90% of them, no joke. He even slammed one so hard it knocked the water bottle off the top and all the way down to the opposite blue line. Then they worked tip-ins like crazy. Again, O'Reilly was at about a 90% success rate. I wasn't the least bit surprised when he scored that goal against Nashville via a tip-in.
  • I took a lot of video of Mueller, obviously; I figured he'd be the guy you most wanted to see. Here's one of the drills the team did, with a focus on him. He also participated in a long skating drill he did after practice.
(Apologies on the quality of some of the clips. I'm still getting used to the new camera.)