Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Avs retake NW lead

The Avs survived a disastrous 2nd period and Kyle Cumiskey provided the game winner for the Avs in overtime as they beat the Kovalchukless Atlanta Thrashers 4-3. With the win, the Avs move into sole possession of 1st place in the Northwest division with a 2 point cushion on the Canucks. The game also marked the 1st game of the season for Darren Haydar, the AHL superstar who was recalled because of the injury to David Koci.

Haydar didn't factor in the scoresheet but who can blame him as he was on a line with Darcy Tucker. Atlanta started the scoring in the 1st period as newcomer Niclas Bergfors who used his speed to move into the Avs zone and fire a shot past Anderson. Bergfors was one of the players involved in the deal that sent superstar Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils.

Just 46 seconds after Bergfors scored, the Avs answered. They skated into the zone and Paul Stastny gave a cross ice pass to Brett Clark who looked like he was trying to make another pass but instead the puck ended up in the back of the net. That shot knotted the game up at 1 a piece.

In the 2nd period, the Avs looked like they didn't want to be part of the game. The Thrashers tilted the ice and made everything difficult for the Avs. Bryan Little took advantage of a poorly played puck by Craig Anderson and fired a puck right between Andy's legs. It was almost 3-1 with just over 2 minutes left in the 2nd as Atlanta thought they poked the puck past Anderson but replay confirmed that Adam Foote cleared the puck out before the puck crossed the line.

Whatever Sacco told the team during the intermission must not have gotten through to them as they started the 3rd period with as little fire as they had in the 2nd. Then, something turned on and the top line of Stewart, Stastny and Galiardi had a great shift that was capped off with a goal by Stewart with just over 11 minutes left. This goal would give the Avs life. They carried the play the rest of the game. In another hard working shift later in the period by Cody McLeod and Chris Durno, they held the puck in the zone and wore down the Thrashers. A shot from the point was kicked wide by Johan Hedberg and Durno dove to bat the puck into the open net to tie it up.

It would remain tied at the end of regulation so the Avs would receive a point for going to OT. That point would be enough to move them past Vancouver into 1st in the Northwest. But why settle with just 1 point when there's a 2nd to be had? Kyle Cumiskey answered that just 9 seconds into the extra frame. He carried the puck into the zone and wiggled through 4 Atlanta players and made pretty move past Hedberg to give the Avs the win. It was a perfect end to a game which the Avs had no business winning and should be all over the highlights tonight.

The 2nd period was one that the Avs really cannot afford to have against teams that are more skilled than the Thrashers. If this was a team like Chicago or San Jose, it would've been 5 or 6 to 1 after that period. The other thing that really needs fixing (and has all season) is the power play. They went 0-for again this time 0-5. There is simply too much passing going on between the guys on the PP. Someone has to just shoot the puck. It's the only way the PP will be effective.

Interesting stat of the night:
Niclas Bergfors recorded his 2nd goal since coming over to Atlanta from New Jersey. Kovalchuk has yet to record one in NJ.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thoughts on Kovalchuk

So it has been made public that the Atlanta Thrashers have let superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk and his agent know that they will be looking for a trade instead of re-signing him. Many teams in the league have been rumored to be in the running to land the Russian sniper but could the Avs be one of the possible destinations for Ilya? It's fun to wonder.

The Thrashers have said that they would want a top 6 forward, top 4 defenseman and a top notch prospect or high end draft pick. If I was Greg Sherman, I would consider sending the following package:

Wojtek Wolski: He had been in and out of Joe Sacco's doghouse in the early parts of the season but his strong showings on the team's top line through December and January have really increased his trade value. Kovalchuk would be a definite upgrade over Wolski as well.

John Michael Liles: Like Wolski, Liles found himself in Sacco's doghouse a few weeks ago. He was benched for a game and responded well with 9 points in the next 10 games. He's a capable power play QB as he was a huge reason why the PP was so hot early in the season up until his injury. The PP fell to the bottom of the league in his absence but has risen to 18th as he is getting healthier. Losing Liles would hurt the PP but the offensive talent of Kovalchuk would make up for it.

Tyson Barrie: Avs prospect drafted in 2009 (3rd round 64th overall). His 59 points leads his Kelowna Rockets' (WHL) club and also puts him in a tie for 1st in defensive scoring leaders in the WHL.

The big problem with acquiring Kovalchuk is whether he will re-sign with the club or if he will just be a playoff rental. As far as a draft pick going Atlanta's way goes, it would have to be conditional on whether or not he signs with the Avs. The Avs have the cap space to get Kovalchuk under contract especially after giving up Wolski and Liles' contracts. He has already turned down $120 million from Atlanta but that just seems to be him not wanting to be there anymore. Put him on a young, up and coming team, and his price tag should drop. It is a lot to give up on what could just be a rental for a few months but his offense would be a huge help down the stretch and into the playoffs.