Monday, November 30, 2009

NHL Gamecenter and Avs Thoughts

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I spent it back home in Albuquerque. I knew I wouldn't be home to watch the Avs Preds game on Wednesday or the Avs Wild game on Friday so what did I do? I purchased NHL Gamecenter Live from Gamecenter is great for watching all the games going on that night especially being able to watch 4 games at once. You also get all the player stats and even a chatroom to talk to other fans about the game.

I understand local blackouts and all when talking about TV and even online when the game is live but why black it out for 48 hours after the game is over? That is the case if you are in one of the teams' local markets. Apparently Albuquerque is in Denver's local television market so I wouldn't be able to watch either game for 48 hours after either game ended.

It makes sense when the game is blacked out locally on TV but usually you can catch a re-air later that day or night. With Gamecenter, you must wait 2 whole days. The whole reason I purchased Gamecenter was because I knew I was gonna be too busy to catch the game live so I would just check it out on the archive when I was around. That wasn't the case and I had to miss both of my team's games while I was away.


While I was away, I didn't appear to miss much as the team is starting to come back down to mediocrity. November has been the exact opposite of the red hot October. Only 4 wins in the 13 games so far this month, the Avs would like to end the month on a positive note with a win tonight against the Lightning in Tampa.

Not only are the Avs losing games now, but they are doing it in horrible fashion. They seem to want to just take the foot off the gas when they get a 2 goal lead. As we saw in the game against the Flyers, if we could just put that goal in that gives a 3 goal lead, we can win the game. That doesn't happen. 2 goal lead and then no more pressure and ultimately lose the game.

Games arent the only things being lost now, players are as well. Confirmed Hejduk will be out tonight with that knee issue. The huge loss for the Avs occured against the Wild on Saturday as a Wild player fell onto David Jones' knee causing a tear in his ACL. The injury will keep him out 4-6 months (possibly the rest of the season). Brian Willsie was recalled after Jones was placed on IR. What a horrible loss as Jones was beginning to have a break out season and looked really healthy. He has been showing that he will definitely be part of this team long term. I hope this injury doesn't affect his game when he's back.

Despite the injuries, the team is still getting some positive performances from key guys and even some stepping up their games. McLeod has been his usual self and scoring hard working goals. Durno and Hendricks have both been working hard and getting their chances. Biggest of all, Matt Duchene is starting to get some goals and even got his 1st goal at Pepsi Center on Saturday. The Avs will need Duchene to keep playing like this if they are even thinking about the playoffs.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Avs remain atop Northwest

Avs 3
Flames 2

After a recent slide which saw the Avs lost 5 of their last 7 including Saturday's embarrassing performance against Vancouver, the Avs came out with a much better effort in the C of Red in Calgary as they earned a 3-2 win over the Flames. The Flames came into the game just 1 point back of the Avs in the Northwest division and made this game a battle for 1st in the division.

The Avs struck 1st blood in the 1st period as Ryan Wilson put home his 1st NHL goal after he snuck in from the point to bang home a loose puck. The Avs would take the 1-0 lead to the 2nd period. Jerome Iginla was his normal self as he sent a lazer over Anderson's glove from the high slot. Shortly after that, Rene Bourque took advantage of a stickless Avs defenseman and put one over Anderson's glove for a shorthanded goal. Immediately after that Paul Stastny took a pass over the blueline and gave a nice centering pass to Cody McLeod who fired a one timer past Kipper. Only 66 seconds later Milan Hejduk put a puck on net that looked like it went off Darcy Tucker's skate but was later ruled to go off Jay Bouwmeester's skate for his 8th of the season. That would be all the scoring the Avs would need as they went into a defensive shell in the 3rd and Anderson made the saves he had to.

This was a very important win for the Avs who were having a very bad November after their strong October. Not only did they beat a division opponent, but they did it in regulation and gave Calgary 0 points. The penalty kill was perfect and the power play even got a goal. The most notable improvement in this game was in the faceoff circle. For once, the Avs dominated faceoffs winning 32 of 51 faceoffs. All around, it was a great game by the whole team.

Performer of the night goes to Ryan Wilson who got his 1st career NHL goal in the 1st period. He came to the Avs from the Flames in the deal that sent Jordan Leopold back to Calgary. The 2nd round pick used to get D Stefan Elliot was a big enough of a win from that deal. Wilson playing this well is an added bonus.

3 Stars
3. S. Hannan
2. R. Bourque
1. R. Wilson

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Avs unveil new 3rd jerseys

The Avs finally unveiled their new 3rd jerseys today. They are the same ones that were leaked back in August. I said then that they weren't the greatest but after seeing them on the players, I really like them and may indeed be purchasing one. One of the other things I didn't notice when the leaked pictures came out was the black on the underarm. It's an interesting touch but the jersey is still an A+.

They were unveiled in the Avs locker room with Kyle Quincey and Paul Stastny being models for the new unis. They both looked energetic in the pictures which fits in with the way the team is playing this season. The jerseys will be worn in a game for the 1st time on Saturday night against the Canucks.

Milan Hejduk was originally scheduled to make the appearance with Stastny. My first thought was Hejduk's injury was more severe than at first thought but Dater confirmed that Hejduk wasn't allowed to go since the Avs have a policy of injured players talking to the media.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Avs terrible PK leads to 1st home loss

Avalanche 3
Oilers 5

The Oilers took advantage of a terrible Avs PK and a less than stellar Craig Anderson as they skated to a 5-3 victory over the Avs. This was the Avs 1st loss at home this season as they couldn't break the club record for best home record to start a season. They were also the last team in the league to lose a game at hoome.

The Avs took stupid penalty after stupid penalty and it ultimately cost them the game. The Oilers scored on their first 3 power plays, all of which came in the 1st period and took a 3-1 lead into the 2nd period. The Avs made it 3-2 in the 2nd with a goal that went off Stastny in front of the net and then hit TJ Hensick's skate and slid over the line. It was Hensick's 1st of the season. Oilers made it 4-2 early in the 3rd as Ryan Potulny took a cross ice feed and put it past a sliding Anderson again on the power play. David Jones put the Avs back in the game 3 minutes later as he chipped the puck in an empty net as Nikolai Khabibulin was way out of the net trying to cover the puck. Another stupid too many men penalty lead to the Oilers 5th goal. Right after the penalty ended Andrew Cogliano tipped a rebound past Anderson to make it 5-3.

The play that changed the game came on an Avs power play in the 2nd period. The Avs were dominating the period at this point. The puck bounced over Khabibulin and landed right in front of the crease. Paul Stastny had an empty net and as he batted at it, Jason Strudwick got his stick on the puck right after Stastny hit it to force it to miss the empty net. If Stastny gets that one, it's a 3-3 game and a very different game.

Craig Anderson didn't look like his usual self. He made some big stops but looked as though he couldn't find the puck as well as he normally does and looked uncomfortable sliding side to side. TJ Hensick was inserted into the lineup after warm ups because Milan Hejduk hurt his back and was unable to play.

Performer of the night goes to Paul Stastny. He skated hard and again was solid in all three zones. He got his usual 2 points at home as he assisted on Hensick and Jones' goals.

Underperformer of the night goes to the entire Avs PK. They allowed 4 goals on 7 opportunities. They weren't aggressive on the kill and didn't get sticks in the passing lanes.

Three Stars
3. P. Stastny
2. D. Penner
1. R. Potulny

Friday, November 6, 2009

Avs win another shootout thriller

Avs 4
Blackhawks 3
Final (SO)

Coming from behind yet again, the Avs managed to stave off the Blackhawks in another long shootout between the two teams this one going 8 rounds. Chris Stewart got the go ahead goal in the 8th round of the shootout before Craig Anderson made the final stop for the win for the good guys.

The Avs erased an early 2 goal deficit after the Hawks scored 2 goals in the first 10 and a half minutes. Ryan O'Reilly started the comeback as he chipped in a rebound with a little over a minute left in the 1st. David Jones then scored a shorthanded goal on a beautiful power move past Dustin Byfuglien. A minute later as the penalty was expiring, O'Reilly got his 2nd of the game on a breakaway on the 2nd attempt. The Hawks tied it up in the 3rd as Ladd tapped in a rebound as Kyle Cumiskey forgot to cover the man in front of the net. In the shootout, Kane scored for the Hawks. Marek Svatos scored 1st for the Avs and then Chris Stewart got the winner in the 8th round.

The Avs were dominated by the Hawks in the last 10 minutes of the game and in overtime. Once again, Andy stood tall and did not let in any bad goals. He was again one of the main reasons we won the game. The Avs also killed off 2 penalties while allowing 1 PP goal (the Hawks 1st goal). The power play was ineffective again going 0 for 1.

On the injury front, John Michael Liles left the game in the 1st and did not return. It is being called another shoulder injury and there is no details on how long, if at all, he will be out. Matt Hendricks returned to the lineup after being on the IR so because of his return, Chris Durno was sent back to Lake Erie today. Tom Preissing was also sent to Lake Erie on a conditioning stint so his debut should be coming up soon. He will help our power play get back on track.

Performer of the night goes to Ryan O'Reilly. He had his 1st multiple goal game of his young career and again was very solid defensively finishing the night with a +2. His 14 points are tied for 1st among rookie scorers.

Underperformer of the night goes to the team in the final minutes of the game. They couldn't get the puck out of the zone and if they did, it was an icing call and they still couldn't get off for a change. The game was almost lost in that time.

Three Stars
3. C. Stewart
2. C. Anderson
1. R. O'Reilly

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Much better effort for the Avs

Avs 4
Coyotes 1

The 4-1 final tally for the Avs is not too indicative of how close the game was all night. The Avs opened the scoring on a power play in the 1st minute of the game on a tip in goal by Milan Hejduk. It remained 1-0 until almost 7 minutes into the 3rd when Marek Svatos put a little rebound in from the stick of Paul Stastny past Bryzgalov. The Coyotes made it a game just 3 minutes later after Ed Jovanovski's power play point shot was tipped by Kyle Quincey over Budaj's shoulder. That would be all Budaj would allow. David Jones added an empty netter in the final minute followed by a breakaway goal by Hejduk 19 seconds later.

The best line all night for the Avs was the McLeod-Duchene-Svatos line. Yes, for once, Svatos did not bring the line down. McLeod played with a visor but didn't shy away from the rough stuff. He created tons of space for Duchene and Svatos to fly around and they did just that. Svatos did of course take a dumb stick penalty late in the game as usual but the fact that they were able to kill off the penalty and the fact that he still had a goal nullified the dumb penalty.

The power play finally scored tonight on Hejduk's first goal and went 1-6 overall. Apart from the one that ended in a goal, the PP still looks like it needs work. Phoenix cleared it relatively easy and were able to skate around the Avs zone while on the kill. The PK was pretty good again as usual. Their penalty killing streak ended at 23 but the goal was a fluke off Quincey's stick. The Avs killed 3-4 of their penalties.

Performer of the night goes to Peter Budaj. He made the big saves when he needed to and was solid in net for the most part. There were still iffy moments in his game but nothing more than 1st game jitters in my opinion. His normal "always open for business" 5 hole was kept closed all night and the only shot that beat him was tip off Quincey's stick right in front of him. Perfect game for a back up goalie.

Underperformer of the night goes to Chris Stewart. The kid was sent down in the middle of last month and then came back flying. Tonight, he went back to lazy and slow ways. It seemed every time he was on the ice, the puck was in the Avs zone for his whole shift. I'm sure Sacco will deal with him appropriately.

Three Stars
3. P. Budaj
2. M. Svatos
1. M. Hejduk

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Budaj to Make 1st start

Dater confirmed that Peter Budaj will make his first start tomorrow night against the Coyotes. He was supposed to make his first start two weeks ago but he was diagnosed with swine flu which caused him to miss all of last weeks games while Tyler Weiman filled in as Andy's back up.

Budaj has received some unfair treatment by fans (myself included) but not all of it is fully warranted. Last season, goaltending was a huge problem for the Avs and Peter was the number 1 in that department. Does that mean he is a number 1 in this League? Absolutely not. Is he a good goaltender? Sure, in a back up role. Thinking back to the days when Theodore came over from Montreal, Theo was hurt and Budaj was the one in charge of making sure the Avs didn't lose their playoff spot. He did really well in that role and sure enough the Avs made it into the playoffs. The next year, Theodore was about as terrible as he had ever been in his time in Denver which was costing us a shot at the playoffs. This was when the rest of the team decided to finally play good team hockey and it was lead by solid goaltending by Budaj. Even though they missed the playoffs, it was a damn good run by Budaj.

Bottom line is that Budaj is a perfectly capable back up goalie. Anderson definitely needs and deserves the rest and Budaj is a great option to have backing him up to give him that rest. I'm confident in Budaj's ability to win when he's asked to fill in. He's proved it many times before.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Avs flat in Vancouver

Canucks 3
Avalanche 0

Well the Avs decided to pick up right where they left off in San Jose. They went into Vancouver and got shutout by Andrew Raycroft (yes the same one that helped land us Matt Duchene last season). Raycroft only had to stop 18 shots and that was mainly because the Avs couldn't get any kind of sustained pressure in the Nucks zone. Raycroft himself even said it wasn't his best performance. Thats how bad the Avs played.

Craig Anderson, who was the clear MVP for the Avs in October, wasnt as sharp as usual. He stopped 17 of 20 shots but when the team in front of him can't even muster up 1 goal, it's pretty hard to pin the loss on Andy. He looked noticeably fatigued throughout the game and it almost seems like we'll see Budaj in next game.

Performer of the night goes to O'Reilly because he did have a couple of chances and looked like he cared. Honorable mention goes to Phil Dupuis who was in his 1st game of the season. He got a few chances as well.

Underperformer of the night goes to Paul Stastny. He was finally benched by Sacco in the 3rd period. He was his usual self defensively but nearly invisible anywhere else on the ice. The guy has got to learn to perform offensively like a 6 million dollar man is supposed to. Stastny is looked at by many as the future captain of this team but I would not want this type of player leading my team. Hopefully Sacco benching him will light a fire under him.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Record setting October

No one who knows anything about hockey could have guessed that after the 1st month of the NHL season, the Avalanche would be sitting atop the Western Conference. Even the most die hard of fans could see this coming. The Avs' 22 points is the most the Avalanche have put up in the month of October in their 14 year history. Yes, that also means that it is more than the 96 Cup team (15 pts) and the 01 Cup team (20 pts) had. The 20 points by the 00-01 team was the previous record for points in October.

Speaking of records, it would've been hard for the Avs to reach this great record without goalie Craig Anderson. Andy started all 14 games in the month so he is also 10-2-2 and is still yet to give up a soft goal. Obviously 10 wins in any month is a career high for him but it is also a team record edging out some guy named Patrick Roy.

It has been a team effort on the Avs part to get them to where they are currently sitting. Everyone is chipping in. Despite being benched in 2 games by Joe Sacco, Wojtek Wolski seems like he's finally starting to get it. He has been great in the last few games since his last benching. His 13 points are tied for 1st with Paul Stastny. The most surprising of contributions is coming from rookie Ryan O'Reilly. Tied for 2nd on the team with 11 points, he also sits 2nd overall in rookie scoring, 1 point behind Rangers rookie Michael Del Zotto.

One person who is bringing the team down (despite what the standings say) is Marek Svatos. He's got 2 goals, both of which came on power plays, and he is a team worst -7. Not only is his defense horrendous but he gets knocked off the puck too easily and gives away the puck to frequently. How Sacco has failed to bench this guy is beyond me but something tells me this will be Mr. Svatos' last season in Denver.

Just like the last few seasons, injuries have been a huge problem for the Avs. Throughout October, the Avs have lost Darcy Tucker, Cody McLeod, John Michael Liles, Peter Budaj, Matt Hendricks and most recently TJ Galiardi. Liles has already returned and Budaj, who had the swine flu, is also back with the team. Galiardi, who is a huge loss to the very good PK, is out 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury.

The Avs still have to work on some problems if they want to be taken seriously in the league. There are still issues with allowing the other teams to keep the puck in their end for long periods of time. They also have to start limiting the number of shots their opponents get on net. It's great that Andy is almost perfect everynight, but with the number of games it looks like he's going to get, he doesn't need to get that much work everynight.

Now that October is over, the Avs can look forward to a new month, November, that will see a few more home games than last month (7). The month gets kicked off tonight in Vancouver. Anderson will be making his 15 consecutive start for the Avs against former Av Andrew Raycroft since Luongo is out with a rib injury. Anderson shut the Nucks out in the 1st meeting October 3rd.