Avs versus Sharkticons.
I am both excited and nervous for this game. I have been very, very impressed by the Sharks this year. More so than in other years. So here we go.
TANGENT 1: Since the Avs are playing the Sharks and a shark is essentially a sea monster, I decided I should drink something reminiscent of the sea. So I am drinking Laphroaig Quarter Cask. You should all know how I feel about that scotch by now.
The first period started off back and forth with very few chances until Johnson made a beautiful rush and almost scored on a wrap around. My god he is playing well. Then the Stastny line had a strong shift and Sarich got a great chance. The newly formed Malone line is playing great as well which followed a blatant too many men on the ice call that the ref missed. Oh well. Again, really refs? Sorry, I rarely complain about refs, but they let the puck sit under Varly for 2 second while San Jose was jamming at it before they blew the whistle. That’s a load of crap if that goes in.
TANGENT 2: Those Coors Light ads annoy me. Having individual beers submerged in ice and paying two guys to retrieve them one at a time is an extrememly untenable business model. I have to imagine they’ll change that at some point.
The period was very even for the first half, maybe leaning the Sharks way as the Sharks have had some good chances. They really create a ton of space for themselves. But, the Avs had some chances as well, mostly coming from Johnson.
With 8 minutes left, Mitchell had a perfect passing lane to Benoit at the point but, surprise surprise, didn’t pass. I am thinking that he is uncomfortable with his passing ability. It's not that he's a puck hog, he just doesn’t see the passing lanes it seems. Oh well. When the Avs are healthy, I think he’ll go back to the 4th line with McLeod and Malone.
With 5 minutes left, Duchene walked through about 5 guys and drew a penalty. I think he and MacKinnon are playing a "who can stickhandle through the Sharks better" game. The powerplay worked PERFECTLY! The Avs moved the puck back and forth to the point and Benoit put a smart quick wrist shot to the net. It was seemingly tipped by either Landy or MacKinnon. I’ll come back and correct this later depending on who tipped it. They are currently giving it to MacKinnon. 1-0 Avs.
And right after, Duchene almost got the second goal for the Avs. He drove the net perfectly in his newly patented (Thanks TSN!) "Duchene move" and Big McLargeHuge almost got the rebound.
Then Roy smartly put out Talbot, MacKinnon and Duchene for a half shift. The line almost scored as Duchene and Mack were just so fucking fast. Then a bad break for the Sharks, Desjardins got hit in the face with the puck, hopefully he’s okay as it was close to his eye.
TANGENT 3: I love EJ’s new statue of liberty pass. He’s done it about 10 times in the last few games. It’s a really clever play and messes with defense's timing. This time the defenseman swatted it away.
With 2 minutes left the Avs almost got really unlucky. They almost scored on a bounce and then Marleau had a semi-breakaway. Duchene was racing him, which was really fun to see.
TANGENT 4: When McNab is in the bench talking, can the players here him? Can they hear his commentary?
TANGENT 5: I wonder if anyone calls Cory Sarich, Cory Sriracha?
Period over. A good period for the Avs. In fact it was a good period of hockey. The Sharks played very well.
Systems update: The Sharks are trying to clog the neutral zone and shut down the Avs speed. That means that when the Avs have a complete breakout (starting behind the net with time), they have few options. During the first they were basically slamming the puck through, but they were able to work their system on turnover and transition. When the Avs gained possession from a takeaway or a bounce, the Sharks can't get their clog in order. That was the result of most of the good chances. The Sharks on the other hand play a really nice mix of dump and chase and low-board possession. Each line plays a little different for them and it will tough work for the Avs defenseman to adjust. Except EJ and Hejda. They are great.
TANGENT 6: Keefe and Raycroft are drunk.
Penalty on Jumbo Joe 23 seconds into the game. Stastny made a beautiful pass to Landy, but Niemi came out to stop it perfectly. No goal on the PP, somewhere a VCR trembles nervously. Guenin then makes a stupid behind the net pass that almost leads to Sharks goal. He must cut that out. At 15:07, Duchene caused mayhem on the forecheck and McGinn roofed it home. McGinn is taking advantage of this opportunity with PA down. 2-0.
A minute later "Snubbed" got a lucky goal by just putting the puck on the net. HAHA FUCK YOU POILE. Still, these breaks happen all the time for both teams and good job by the Avs to take advantage of it. 3-0.
And 30 second after that, MacKinnon absolutely blew by the Sharks on a great pass from Mitchell (HA!) and scored a beautiful goal. 4-0.
Then the Sharkies got testy and people starting getting fighty. A bad spear by Desjardins into Mitchell's little Mitchells AND THAT WAS AFTER I HOPED YOU WOULD BE OKAY!!! Actually that spear is fine-able in my opinion. Holy shit that was bad. Avs get a powerplay out of it though. Credit to the Sharks, that play, however dirty, changed the period in their favor.
While the Avs are on the PP and Duchene was doing his Forberg impression…um what the hell did the refs just call? You are allowed to shield yourself like that. What a load of crap. The Avs almost scored on the ensuing 4 on 4 after a great play by EJ, again. In retrospect, I see why they called the Duchene penalty, but I have never EVER, in my life, seen that actually called. The embellishment definitely helped.
The Avs took another penalty and it was be 5 on 3. This was a huge kill for the Avs. They needed to keep the Sharks out of the game. But Pavelski scored with two seconds left on the first penalty so the Avs were still on the PK. 4-1 Avs.
Then the game turned into mayhem. Talbot was going to be called for holding but the Sharks scored with the extra man. They needed to calm down ASAP. Varly was really pissed at Guenin for the lazy and stupid screen. Very pissed. 4-2 Avs.
Credit to the Avs though and especially EJ, the next shift was a great one and helped calm the play down. The game became very, very choppy and the Sharks started working their low-board possession game on the Avs.
TANGENT 7: Pavelski looks like Phil Kessel with a beard.
The Duchene line, now with more MacKinnon, had a good chance and the Sharks get called for a too many men on the ice. This could be a big power play, but it fizzled. The Avs didn’t do much, but it was pretty clear they just wanted to shut the period down (especially using Hejda and EJ as the defensemen on it). Some people might not like this plan but it’s what Roy wanted
The start of the 3rd was very slow and there were a lot of whistles, but credit the Sharks because they took advantage of a lucky bounce and scored This just became a different game. 4-3 Avs.
With under 10 minutes left, the Avs did a good job after the Sharks goal and turned it into a tight game. In fact, for about 4 minutes the Avs prevented the Sharks from getting any possession without really threatening offensively. You don’t need to always be attacking, to have control of the game; you can do it with systematic breakouts and forechecking. The Avs exemplified this.
With 4:30 left, Hejda got called for a pretty weak infraction. It was a penalty for sure, just a bit soft, but the Avs needed a gigantic kill. They did a great job at first but then, again, a breakaway occurred. Roy has got to fix this issue. But, Varly came up HUGE. He stopped that and the rebound. The Sharks threatened for a bit but the Avs did a great job shutting the offense down. The best part though was how loud, even through the TV, the fans were on every clear and defensive play. That makes a difference to the players and I am happy for them, and the fans, that the spirit is returning to the arena. The Avs couldn’t get an empty net goal, sadly, but that did it. 4-3 Avs win.
Final Thoughts: It was a great game. The Avs played better than the score (despite what the Sharks blog seems to think, but it's cool when both fan bases think their team played well), but that is what it takes against at top tier team. Great defensive effort, they did a great job shutting Joe Thornton down. The offense did a great job in the 1st and took complete advantage of their breaks in the 2nd. The 3rd was just a shutdown period, that is not turtling, that is smart hockey. 3-0-1 so far on the homestand. That is the way you take a stranglehold on your playoff spot before the Olympic break.
Third Whore: MacKinnon – The kid was flying all night and his two goals were just the icing on the cake of a great game.
Second Whore: Varly – What else needs to be said. Stopped the Sharks when he and the Avs needed him to. No goal was his fault really and he correctly yelled at Guenin for the screen.
Johnson "Snubbed" – I didn’t intend to talk about him so much, but he played so fucking well. He controlled his own zone, created great pressure, and most importantly is so rock solid even when defending Thornton or Couture that he actually creates calmness and confidence in the entire team, even against a great Sharks team.
Drinking Update: I'm kind of drunk now.
Tweet of the game:
The Avs are getting killed on possession. Corsi is 65-35% in SJS's favor. That's... less than outstanding.
@andidee15 When you put 6 guys on the ice, interfere with everyone and are immune to offsides that's pretty easy to do