Sunday, October 25, 2009

Andy! Andy! Andy!

Well the Avs did have a game tonight against the Wings but the main story of the night was Craig Anderson. Again, Andy was the best Av on the ice all night. He finished with a whopping 48 saves! Detorit's shot total was helped in large part by the 8 powerplays given to them by the guys in the stripes.

The Avs PK was good tonight leaving most of the Wings shots to the outside while Andy kept the other chances out of the net. They finished 8 for 8 on the PK. The only goal that got past Andy was on a shot that was screened by Draper and then batted in by Draper.

The Avs tied the game at 1 on a goal by TJ Galiardi (1st) who was left all alone in front of the net after Chris Stewart took the puck from Jonathan Ericson in the corner and then fed Galiardi for the roof job over Howard. They took the lead in the 3rd when Chris Stewart came in 1 on 1 and fired a quick snapper over the blue line that went far post on Howard for his 1st. Stastny finished the scoring with an empty netter coming out of the penalty box in the final minutes. Assisting on Stastny's goal was Ryan O'Reilly who extended his point streak to 7 games. He is now tied for the lead in rookie scoring and is leading rookies in +/-. He's truly going to be a special player for the Avs for years to come.

Still, the main story of the night was the play of Craig Anderson. His 48 saves were a season high. He was again voted 1st star of the game and during his interview, the crowd kept chanting "Andy! Andy! Andy!" He was also getting the crowd into it during the interview. It was great to see and hear. It seems pretty safe to say that the city of Denver has fallen in love with their goalie finally.

Avs now get ready to hit the road for 4 straight including back to back games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Oilers and Flames respectively followed by rematches against the Sharks and Canucks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

4-1-2 Not too bad

Avs finally wrapped up their 7 game road trip last night with a 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota. They finished the trip with 4-1-2 record taking 10 of a possible 14 points and remain atop the Western Conference with 14 points.

The trip ended up just like it started out against Nashville. Avs had a 3rd period lead that they let slip away in the final minutes. Unlike in Nashville though, they still managed to get a point out of Minnesota. Still, sandwiched in the middle of those games, the Avs managed to walk into Boston, Montreal, Toronto, and Detroit with wins and even earned a point in Chicago. Very impressive trip.

Craig Anderson was the main reason for the Avs successful road trip. Despite finishing with a 2.71 GAA on the trip, he made the big saves that kept giving the Avs a chance to win the game and then the team did their job and scored some goals.

2 of the biggest goals of the trip saw rookies Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene get their first NHL goals. O'Reilly now sits tied for 2nd among rookie scoring (1+6=7) while Duchene sits in a tie for 4th (1+3=4) along with teammate TJ Galiardi. Both are confirmed to be sticking around past the 9 game tryout. 28 year old Matt Hendricks also scored his first NHL goal on the trip against his former team, the Boston Bruins.

Next up, the Avs return home for a back to back set against Carolina on friday and then the Wings are in town on Saturday. After that short home stand, the Avs get back on the road for another trip, this time only 4 games.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Should Anderson make Team USA?

Pierre LeBrun over at mentioned in his blog today that Anderson is trying to make a case for himself to get looked at for a goaltending job with Team USA in February's Olympics in Vancouver. His stats speak for themselves as to why he would make a great option for the Olympic team. He is capable of handling a heavy workload (especially since he's getting a lot of practice with the Avs).

Team USA is expected to finish around the same as the experts predicted the Avs to finish. Look how that's turning out. Andy wasn't one of the goalies that attended the orientation camp but he is definitely outperforming his American born counterparts. The favorites to go to Vancouver are Boston's Tim Thomas and Buffalo's Ryan Miller. Both are good choices and Thomas is the reigning Vezina winner but when comparing this season's play, Andy comes out on top.

Anderson is currently leading all American born goalies in wins (6) and is currently only behind Miller in GAA (2.09) and save% (.935). Miller has a 1.58 and .938 in those categories but he has faced half as many shots. The season is still early but Brian Burke and co. should definitely be giving Anderson a good look.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

These kids are good

Any win against the Wings is a sweet one but last night's victory over the winged wheel was about as sweet as a victory could get (well unless this is the result). The Wings were dominating the game through the first 50 minutes but, again, Craig Anderson made save after save and gave the Avs the chance to stay in the game.

Up 2-0 going into the 3rd, the Avs looked finished and it got worse when Svatos took a double minor for high sticking with about 16 minutes left in the period. Once again, the PK got it done with much help from Anderson including a beautiful save with the right pad to keep the puck out of the net and the game still in reach. That kill was definitely the momentum changer in the game.

A rare turnover by the Wings in the neutral zone by O'Reilly who fed the puck up to McLeod for the Avs 1st goal with 11 minutes to play. Shortly after that, Matt Duchene finally got his first as he skated the puck along the right wing board from his own zone and fired a beauty of a wrister past a stunned Osgood. Detroit tried to end the game as Val Filppula gave the Wings a 3-2 lead with 6 and a half to play after Anderson had made the 1st save. It was obvious that the Avs were not done and refused to lose. The line of Galiardi-O'Reilly-McLeod clicked again when Galiardi got the puck up to O'Reilly who had a 2 on 1 with McLeod. O'Reilly faked the shot, defenseman went down and then he fed the puck over to McLeod who had an empty net to shoot into for his 2nd of the game and 2nd assist for O'Reilly. In OT, the Avs dominated and looked like a totally different team over the last 15 minutes of the game and then eventually ended the game in the shootout with goals by Svatos and Hejduk while Anderson stopped 2 of the 3 shots faced to complete the comeback.

The resiliency showed by this team last night was something special. It wasnt the old guys getting the job done, it was the kids O'Reilly, Galiardi, Duchene, and McLeod. It is great to see quality hockey coming from the Avs again. This team just may be for real.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Good news on Liles injury

The Avs got some good news today on the status of John Michael Liles' shoulder injury. As Dater first reported, the defenseman did not separate the shoulder in the game yesterday against the Leafs. It is just a bruised shoulder and he will be out 2 weeks at the most so we will probably see him sometime before then.

Since he will not be suiting up on Thursday in Montreal and Ruslan Salei is also on IR, the Avs will give Ryan Wilson a shot on the blue line as he was already called up when Salei went down. Wilson was brought over from Calgary last season at the deadline in the deal that sent Leopold back to the Lames.

4 down 3 to go

The Avs just passed the midway point of their long 7 game road trip after downing the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1. They have continued their surprising play during this trip. Despite dropping the 1st game in Nashville for the Preds home opener, they battled a really high powered Blackhawks team all the way to the 9th round of the shootout. 2 nights later they beat last season's Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins in an afternoon tilt on Columbus Day.

Overall, the team has done exactly what Joe Sacco said they were do and that is play with a lot of energy and be a team that is very difficult to play against. However, the one thing that the team really needs to do is not sit back on leads. They blew the lead in the 3rd period against the Preds that ultimately lost them the game, couldn't hold onto the lead against Chicago and then nearly blew two 2 goal leads against Boston.

Craig Anderson still hasn't missed a game and also has not missed a beat. He's now 1 of only 3 goalies to play 6 games so far this season along with Kipprusoff and Nabokov and he has the lowest GAA and best sv% of the 3.

Against Boston, the Avs got a big spark with the return of David Jones who has been injured all season with a bruised chest. Jonesy has looked incredible so far with a goal and an assist in each of his 2 games and both goals were game winners. His size and speed bring a great element to this young Avs team. Jones is going to be a very important part of this team going forward.

Matt scored his 1st career goal against Boston but it wasn't Duchene. Matt Hendricks, at the ripe young age of 28 scored his 1st career goal by doing what he is supposed to do in driving to the net and chipping in a rebound. Duchene and O'Reilly are still goalless but have added some assists and both have been huge in helping the Avs be so good on both the PP (2nd) and PK (5th). Both are making cases to stick with the club beyond the road trip.

As far as injuries are concerned, Liles left the game against the Leafs in the 2nd after being hit from behind into the boards (uncalled). It looked like a shoulder injury and hopefully it is not serious. Salei was also put on IR and because of that, Ryan Wilson, who was acquired in the Leopold trade last season and was one of the last players cut in camp, was called up from Lake Erie. If Liles goes on IR, we'll get our first look at Wilson on Thursday against the Habs.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Anderson keeps rolling

The Avs didn't pick up the victory Thursday night in Nashville but Andy remained solid. He stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced. They only goals that were allowed were on a Jason Arnott one timer in the slot and then 2 by Hornqvist who was left all alone in front of the net. In total, through 3 games, Andy has stopped 107 of 112 shots faced which equates to the best display of goaltending the Avs have seen since Roy retired.

Anderson has done exactly what he needs to do in every game so far, and that is just to give the team a chance to win every night. He is expected to start on Saturday against the Blackhawks in his home town. This is sure to be a huge test for Anderson who is more than likely going to face a lot more rubber than he has faced with Chicago's high powered offense in their home opener. Andy also is a former Blackhawk so he will definitely have something to prove in his return. Hopefully he stays strong in net and the Avs have a chance in this game.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Not a bad start eh?

So heading into this season, everyone had the Avs written off, myself included. A rookie management staff, rookie coaching staff, an untested goaltender and two 18 year old centers in the lineup should lead to a disastrous season. Instead, Pierre Lacroix is looking like a genius bringing in Greg Sherman who was responsible for bringing in, Joe Sacco and most importantly, Craig Anderson. It's only 2 games into the season but it is really too hard to not be excited about the way this team has started out.

First, last Thursday, the Avs had a very classy and very emotional tribute to their longtime captain, Joe Sakic, by raising his #19 to the rafters of Pepsi Center. Just about everyone in the building, once again myself included, expected the Avs to get destroyed by the league's best (regular season) team. Instead, they came out, clearly inspired and energized by the ceremony for Joe, and beat the Sharks 5-2.

Wolski started the season with 2 goals by using his size to get pucks in the net down low. McLeod, Liles and one of the biggest scapegoats from last season, Darcy Tucker chipped in with goals to lead the charge. The biggest story of the game was goalie Craig Anderson. Overall, he stopped 38 of 40 shots including all 19 in the 3rd period. I don't remember hearing a goalies name chanted in the Pepsi Center since Roy.

On Saturday, the Avs continued that momentum with a great performance against Vancouver. Wolski and Tucker again provided goals as well as Paul Stastny chipping in with his 1st of the season. The story of this game again, though, was Craig Anderson who stopped all 35 shots he faced for the shutout. Anderson has been the biggest reason for this team's great start and he was rewarded for his great play by being named the 2nd star of the week in the NHL.

As for the rookies, Duchene and O'Reilly, they have not looked out of place at all. O'Reilly I still believe will be sent back to Erie after 9 games, mainly just to get ice time as Sacco has been giving him 4th line minutes. Duchene has been just as advertised. He's been the fastest skater on the ice in both games and has shown some really slick moves. No goals have been scored by either player but they have been working really hard and have both been used on the PK where they have also excelled. Both players also recorded assists in the opener against San Jose.

It's only 2 games in but this team has already played better and shown more heart than they did all of last season. I really love how Sacco has the team playing. If they keep playing like this and Anderson keeps up his solid play, playoffs will not be out of the question.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gameday 10/1/09 vs Sharks

SJ 0-0-0 0pts Avs 0-0-0 0pts

Game Time: 10:00 PM ET
Venue: Pepsi Center Denver, CO
Injuries: Col - D Tom Preissing (knee), RW David Jones (bruised chest). SJ - none

This game will feature many 1sts. It's the 1st game for both teams this season, 1st game for Avs rookies Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, 1st game for new goaltender Craig Anderson in an Avs uni, and most importantly for the Avs, 1st game without long time captain, Joe Sakic. This is obviously the biggest story line of the game with Super Joe's #19 going up to the rafters in Pepsi Center. As Adrian Dater mentioned, there will be a pretty nice guest list including Peter Forsberg and Mike Keane to name a few. Also, sure to be in attendance is former Avs blueliner Rob Blake, who just recently was named new captain of the Sharks. It is sure to be a tremendous ceremony for the best player this franchise might ever see.

While the Sakic Ceremony will take the biggest spotlight, there will still be a game played. While not much is expected of the Avs, one would think that they would at least step up their game for their former captain. The Sharks, on the other hand, have so much to prove this season and they will look to get off to a hot start to the season. They finished last season with a league best 117 points but ran into a red hot Ducks team in the 1st round of the playoffs. A team with players labeled as playoff failures (Hi Mr. Thornton!), the Sharks made some significant offseason moves. GM Doug Wilson said there would need to be changes and the first move he made was stripping the captain C off Patrick Marleau's jersey. It will now be worn by Blake with alternates Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle. The most recent move made was acquiring super diva Dany Heatley from Ottawa for Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo. It's hard to imagine the Avs will be able to hang with the Sharks but there may just be that extra spark being opening night and seeing Joe's number go up.

One thing to keep an eye on is the kind of system new coach Joe Sacco runs. With the lineup he has put in place, each line will have at least 1 tough guy on it with the exception being the top line of Wolski, Stastny and Hejduk. Look for Sacco to use a strong forecheck and really have his players finish their checks making the game a tough one for the Sharks' skill guys. As long as the guys go out fighting and not just laying back getting beat, the game will be considered a success despite the outcome.