Thursday, October 30, 2008

Game #10 Preview


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game #8 Recap

Before I get into tonight's game, I apologize for the lack of updates for the last two games. On Monday night, I was consumed by the Patriots on Monday Night Football and with my FFF (fantasy football fate) hanging in the balance, I held off on watching the Avs/Kings game until after football. By the time the game ended, and I had gloated in front of my dad (the world's biggest Kings fan) for a good five minutes, I was too tired to formulate my emotions on the game into coherent thoughts. I then got sick Tuesday morning, and am still trying to fully recover from it.

Luckily, the Avs have kept their win streak alive as it now stands at FIVE, count 'em, five straight games after dropping the first three contests of the season. The latest victim on the way to a 79-3 season were the previously 6-0-1 Buffalo Sabres. I was a bit nervous going into this game after seeing their record this season, and seeing as the Avs haven't truly been tested by a team playing at the top of their game yet this season, but the team seemed to match up pretty evenly against the Sabres. The first period was quite exciting, as their was a ton of action at each end, and hitting galore. Adam Foote got hit in the ankle by a shot early in the game, which seemed to be serious, but a few minutes later, he was back on the ice like the trooper he is. After returning to the ice, he seemed to be playing with an extra step out there, blocking shots, following up his hits, and attempting to fight Adam Mair who cheap-shotted him and then skated away. Jeez! In the second period, Budaj gave up his lone goal-against of the night, and the Avs seemed to be a bit out-played, but managed to keep it a one goal game going into the third. About midway through the third, the ice started to tilt towards the Sabres goal, as Miller was peppered with shots from just about every angle imaginable. The one that happened to go in started on Jordan Leopold's stick, hit off a Sabres' d-man's skate, off another Sabres' helmet, and past a stunned Ryan Miller. Miller instantly darted to the ref calling for goalie interference, but the replayed showed that it was actually his own teammate who bumped into him during the goal sequence. Sorry Ryan! The teams skated to a 1-1 tie in regulation, and again in the overtime period, the ice seemed to be tilted towards Miller. To be honest, if he wasn't such a solid goaltender, I think they would've found a way to put one past him before time expired. However, a shootout was necessary to decide this one. Hejduk made a great move to put one past him, but it was completely over-shadowed by one of Wolski's signature triple-deke moves as he totally faked out Miller. Go Wolski-Goalski! After the original three shooters, the score was still tied. Next up for the Avs was Svatos, who didn't do much of anything with his shot. Luckily, Budaj came up big on the following save, and round five was on! Smyth was up, and buried a wrister below Miller's arm, and Budaj again came up with a big save for his third straight victory, and his second straight one-goal-against game. Did he see Raycroft's winning streak as a challenge? WHO CARES! This is the Budaj we need this year and he finally seems to be finding his groove.

Positives from the night have to start with Budaj's play. Also, this was the first game that the penalty kill didn't allow a goal! I'm really loving the consistency in the line-up, especially with the defensive pairings. The six defenders seem to be really getting a feel for each other on the ice and are learning to trust each other to be in the right place at the right time. No more Q line-juggling please! The fourth line was a bit invisible tonight which upsets me a bit since those are three of my favorite Avs, but what can you do. I expect a bounce-back game from all three of them come Tuesday night. I was sad to see Mr. McCormick sit tonight, but Davey Jones proved me wrong and was strong on the puck all night and definitely deserved to be out there. All in all, an extremely solid performace from the boys, and they proved to the league that they can play with the big boys. From the looks of things, this will be a VERY exciting season, and I can't wait!

Also, thanks to Shane over at AvsTalk for posting that great picture of Tucker.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Game #5 Recap

Another game, another win. You know, I could really get used to this. In what seemed like a blowout but became a nail-biter, the Avs came out on top for their second straight win. A 5-2 lead at the start of the third period quickly became 5-4, and very nearly a 5-5 tie, if not for Brendan Morrow punching the tying puck in the net with his glove. Once again, the Avs powerplay was effective, finishing 2 for 7 with powerplay tallies by both Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth. Overall, Raycroft seemed more comfortable in net than he did in Thursday's contest, though there were times where he was caught way out of position and paid for it by giving up "soft" goals. But as with last game, a win is a win, no matter how it happens.

Milan Hejduk is absolutely on fire this year, with five goals in five games thus far. He is dominant on the powerplay, and is making some great defensive plays as well when he needs to. After a couple years where he was nearly forgotten, though still putting up decent numbers, I think this is the year where he completely returns to form and joins the elite players of the league once again. Sakic and Stastny both have a goal and seven assists each so far in the first five games and show no signs of slowing down. Paul Stastny might be the most under-rated player in the NHL as he gets nearly no press coverage at all but is consistently one of the best players in the game. Wolski seems to be coming into his own as well this year, putting up a pair of assists in this game, both coming from his hard work in the offensive zone, which he had previously been criticized constantly for.

As much as I miss seeing Guite on the ice, the "punch" line looks like it's here to stay. With all three members, Cody Mac 1, Cody Mac 2, and Lappy getting in fights against the Stars, the name seems more than fitting. The three of them play extremely well together, and never stop working for that puck. This line could be just what the team needs for a fourth line to round out the lineup each night.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Game #5 Preview

Today, at 11am out here on the coast, the Avs travel to Dallas to take on the Stars. Both teams are off to a slow start this year so I expect both teams to come out flying from the start to try to take control. In the Avalanche net will be Andrew Raycroft, for the second straight game. He didn't exactly stand on his head to win the last game, but a win is a win and I guess Tony felt that it was enough to warrant a second straight start for the "backup". I will once again stay away from making a prediction this game due to my current record on the year, but we all know what I'm rooting for. Oh yes, and I'd love to see a Lappy/Avery or Tucker/Avery or even both fight before the end of the game. We all know how much they love each other!

Edit: And once again, no Guite. UGH!!!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Game #4 Recap

To quote our own Mike Haynes, "HE DID IT! HE DID IT! MILAN HEJDUK WINS IT FOR THE AVS!". If you don't recall, he shouted those very words on March 18, 2007 when the Avs beat the Sharks in overtime to keep them in the playoff race. Now of course, this game wasn't nearly as important as that one, and Hejduk's goal wasn't in overtime, but it was still the game winner and came on the powerplay, one of the team's Achilles' heels from last season.

Overall, this was a very solid game played in all three zones by the Avs, though I really don't know how much can be said about the effort from the Flyers. In reality, they barely showed up to play.

Andrew Raycroft got his first start of the season, and while he didn't necessarily do anything incredible, he also didn't completely blow the game and got that ever-elusive first win of the season that Mr. Peter Budaj is still searching for. To be honest, I really think he just got lucky that they were matched against what seems to be a somewhat incompetent Flyers squad, because there were many times where he seemed out of position or just plain confused out there. The only goals he gave up were on a penalty shot (which 100% should not have been called), and on a 5-on-3 Mike Richards blast from the point that our own savior Patrick Roy would've had a hard time stopping.

A big positive we can take from this game is the powerplay, which finished 3 of 11 for a 27% completion rate. Not too shabby if you ask me, especially compared to last season. Also, two of the three goals were scored with Sakic down low, as opposed to his typical spot on the point, which I and other Avs fans have been begging to change. I hope Granato realizes this and it wasn't just a fluke, as I know on one of the goals, he started on the point but shifted down low on his own. See? Joe knows where he belongs! Also, Cody McCormick made another huge statement for the roster spot that he definitely deserves, by making a great play on the forecheck to strip the Flyers player from the puck, allowing David Jones to take over, and then darting to the net to receive the pass on a 2-on-1 and roof it over Biron for the goal. PLEASE keep the Cody Mac attack in the lineup, but also put my Ben back :(. Please?

Game Preview #4

Here we go again. Game four of the '08-'09 season comes against a pretty unfamiliar Eastern Conference opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers. As a team making it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, expectations were very high for the upcoming season in Philadelphia. But some lackluster goaltending from Martin Biron (6.32 GAA, .800 save percentage) has led to an 0-2-1 record, and has no doubt put some fear in the hearts of Flyers fans thus far. As Avalanche fans, could this be our chance to finally see the first win of the season for our squad? I wouldn't get too ahead of ourselves, as sandwiched between our own Peter Budaj and the Flyers Martin Biron for the bottom three goalies in terms of GAA in the NHL is Calgary's Mikka Kiprusoff, the very goalie who beat the Avs on Tuesday night.

But don't fret yet, fellow Avalanche fans! We will be seeing a new face in net in our corner tonight. A man who goes by the nickname "Razor", Andrew Raycroft. Yes, THAT Andrew Raycroft. The same Andrew Raycroft who won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in '03-'04 with the Bruins, won a franchise record 37 games with the Maple Leafs in '06-'07, and posted a 2-9-5 record last season, leading to him being bought out at the end of the year. I agree that it was time to shake things up at the goaltending position, but is Raycroft really the answer? Only time will tell.

I will not be making a prediction on tonight's game, as I am 0-3 on the season, and don't want to further curse this team. Though I will say, I would love to see Jones and the bench and McCormick in the lineup tonight. Please, Tony?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Game #3 Recap

Another game, another loss. I don't know about you guys but I'm not exactly fond of this trend, and there's still 79 games left to play. For the third straight game, the Avs were tied going into the 3rd period, SCORED A GOAL in the third period, but managed to let in not one, but TWO goals in the 3rd and were never able to overcome that deficit in any of the three games.

As with last year, the Avs biggest problem seems to be the PK unit. Last year, the team finished 28th in the league on the penalty kill. As of right now, even though the season is only a week old, the Avalanche are ranked dead last in the league with a 58.3% Penalty Killing percentage. The Flames came into this game 0 for 13 on the powerplay on the season, yet somehow managed to overcome their previous shortcomings and burn Budaj for THREE powerplay goals against. I don't know what it is about this group that has so much trouble killing penalties, though I'm pretty sure that David Jones isn't the answer to this team's problems. He somehow racked up 2:17 of ice time on the penalty kill last night, but, at least to me, remained pretty much non-existent out there, as he has during even strength situations as well so far this season.

In my opinion, at least for now, David Jones should be riding the bench in favor of Cody McCormick as he had an excellent game out there last night, racking up an assist on the first goal of the game scored by his fellow Cody Mac, a +1 rating on the night, and a fight against Jarome Iginla, who was so scared of him that he wouldn't even remove his helmet with a visor. Talk about a baby! I think Cody made an extremely solid effort out there last night to try and convince Granato that he's worthy of a roster spot each game, and to be honest, I hope Granato rewards him with that.

As for the rest of the game, the Avs powerplay unit has been looking better than last year already, scoring two goals last night on six chances, leaving them with a 21.4% powerplay conversion percentage to start the year. Not too shabby, if you ask me. However, I still strongly believe that Sakic needs to be moved off of the point once and for all. No goalie is going to be scared of a Sakic slapshot from the point. But put him on his off-wing side by the net and goalie's league-wide will be shaking in their skates in fear of that deadly wrister that he's so famous for. If this was my team, my first powerplay unit would consist of Hejduk, Stastny, and Sakic up front, with Liles and Leopold manning the points. Someone please pass this along to Tony so maybe we can finally see this in action!

Tomorrow is Game #4 against our old friend Ossi Vaananen and the Philadelphia Flyers. I will have a quick pre-game write-up at some point before the game tomorrow so be on the lookout for that.

One more thing, Cody McLeod scored YET AGAIN (and received the Mike Haynes call of the year thus far, "THE CODY'S DID IT!"), putting him on pace for a whopping 55 goals on the year. MVP! MVP! MVP!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Game Preview #3

Quick write-up as the game is about to start. The Avs flat out HAVE to win tonight. Budaj's confidence will fall even lower with a third straight loss, and 0-3 is the exact opposite of the way a season should begin. Continuing with my homer streak, i will go with a 4-3 win for the Avs with goals by Sakic, Hejduk, Smyth, and Liles.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Game Preview #2

Tonight, our boys travel to Edmonton for the first divisional matchup of this young season. Last year, we posted a 6-2 record against the Oil, with Budaj winning five of those six. If you ever needed to find the antonym for Kryptonite, you would find a picture of Tyler Arnason playing against the Oilers. The guy is an absolute beast whenever he steps on the ice against them. Let's hope that streak continues tonight as scoring from the third line is always an added bonus. I assume the line-up will be the same as the opener, as Tjarnqvist, McCormick, and Raycroft don't seem to be the answer to our game one problems.

I'll predict a 5-3 win for the Avs, with goals from Arnason, Wolski, Leopold, Liles, and Stastny.

Game #1 Recap

So the season, and home opener, has come and gone, and has left us with a loss. Starting the season 0-1 is never the way you hope for, but with 81 games remaining, an 81-1 record for a 98.7 winning percentage is still possible.. pretty good in my books. While there are many question marks on the back-end with the defensemen and Budaj giving up five goals (I'd only put the blame on him for two of them, however), we can take many positives from the team's offensive production from this game. Coach G wasn't lying when he said that he would bring an up-tempo offense to our team this season, as opposed to Q's dump and chase method. The team seemed to be buzzing in the offensive zone for a good portion of the night, and fired off 39 shots on goal, compared to only 20 for the Bruins. Looking at that stat only, you'd almost guarantee a victory, but alas we could not put the cat in the hat, as the coach on the NHL network commercials would say. It's always nice to see d-men getting involved offensively, and we seemed to have a great night on that front as Liles had two assists, Leopold had a goal, and Salei added an assist as well. All in all, we can take a lot of good and a lot of bad from this game. I think the team knows what they need to do and will be able to make the necessary adjustments to pull out the first win of the season tonight in Edmonton.

Also, Cody McLeod is currently on pace for 82 goals this season. Hart trophy anyone???

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Game Preview #1

I was going to write up a whole season preview today but got incredibly side-tracked. I will write something up tonight or tomorrow in those regards, but I wanted to make my game one prediction for tonight.

I see the Avs winning 4-2 with goals by Guite, Sakic, Wolski, and Arnason. GO AVS!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Frozen Fury XI

For the 10th time, my family and I ventured out to Vegas for Frozen Fury. If I had to rank them, I think I'd be forced to put this year's trip at the top of the list. On the second morning of our trip, we found about 15 Avs players playing Craps, and I just couldn't let that glorious opportunity to pass me by so I stepped up to the table wearing a Liles jersey and played for about an hour standing right between my birthday buddy JM-Liles and Svatos. Although I didn't win, it was by far the best gambling experience of my life. When I left, I got Johnny to sign my (his) jersey and take a picture with me. Afterwards, he asked my name, shook my hand, and said he had a great time playing Craps with me. *Swoon*.

Lappy informed me that they would be practicing at 3pm. Around 2:30, a group of us headed over to the arena but couldn't find a way in without getting caught/kicked out. Finally we just decided to take our lives into our own hands and attempt to venture into the arena unnoticed. After tip-toeing around for a good few minutes, who do we see? None other than the man that it's all about. Yes, Lappy! We talked to him for a bit before he went on the ice, and all of a sudden, Super Joe walks out from behind him. I felt bad for bothering him for the third time in a span of a few hours (he signed two separate jerseys on two separate occasions earlier in the day) but I just HAD to get a picture with him. It came out beautifully, and it now graces the background of not only my computer but my cell phone too. What could possibly make me happier than constantly looking at a picture of me standing with my hero? Nothing, that's what! Practice was cool (cool as in fun, but also as in F'N FREEZING!). As the players were heading off the ice, I got the rest of the team to sign my Liles jersey. I think the only player I didn't get to sign was Wolski.

Later that night, my dad played in Luc Robitaille's poker tournament, and I added a number of pictures with Avs players to my growing arsenal. What a great day.

The next day was the game, and as usual, the Kings fans pretend that the game is the equivalent of a Stanley Cup Finals Game 7. And on that note, the Kings lost, just as if it were a game with any sort of relevance or meaning. The game was one of the most exciting Frozen Fury games ever, as there were about eight fights, three ejections, and a shootout winner by Hensick to decide it all.

I won't bother captioning these because I assume that if you're reading this blog, you'll be able to figure out who's who, so here are my pictures from the trip: