Okay, award for worst Avalanche blogger this week goes to me. I’m terribly sorry if you’ve checked in during the past five days, only to find things static. I’m back, and ready to blog (at least every other day) for the foreseeable future during this long offseason.
Alright, time for World Championships updates, Avalanche style.
-Team Canada has played two games. Matt Duchene scored two goals in the first game, (and was named Best Player for Canada), a 3-1 win over Denmark. In the second game, Canada lost to Switzerland in the shootout. Duchene was used three times, and he scored once and was denied twice by Martin Gerber, Switzerland’s goalie. Duchene has gone 16-8 on faceoffs thus far. Ryan O’Reilly has yet to earn any points, but he has gone 9-2 in the faceoff circle.
-Team USA has also played two games since I last posted, and won both of them. Erik Johnson scored two goals in his first game, and had one assist in the second. Matt Hunwick scored in today’s contest. Aaron Palushaj scored in the first game. Paul Stastny has three assists so far, was named Best Player in game one, and has gone 32-13 at the dot. Also, goaltender Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lightning), is a native of Denver Colorado.
-Semyon Varlamov was not in the lineup for Team Russia’s first game, but he was in the net for their second, a 4-1 win over Germany. Varlamov made 26 saves on 27 shots to earn the victory.
-Jan Hejda and Gabriel Landeskog’s teams faced off yesterday. Neither had any points, but Landeskog added to his penalty total, while Hejda’s team added to their win total.
Tomorrow evening, the Avs are going to play St. Louis to finish off the home and home series between the two teams. The Avs have won all of the games at home against the Blues since April 12, 2009, but their record in their last three games in St. Louis is 0-2-1. If the Avs are serious about this spoiler role, and finishing the year out the right way, they need to come in and break that little losing streak.
Last night’s game was not a typical outing from the St. Louis Blues-they’re usually much better defensively, and their goaltending is usually superb. Let’s face it-Brian Elliott has never done well in the Pepsi Center, and the Avs, playing in front of military personnel and their families gave an exciting offensive performance. I’m expecting tomorrow to be a much tighter game, similar to the first 1-0 win for the Avs earlier this season. It will almost undoubtedly be a more physical, more nasty game (isn’t the second game in a home-and-home series always?).
There’s been no word on who the starting goaltender will be, although I would lean towards Giguere, as Sacco has been riding him for the past couple of weeks. (I would expect to see Varlamov at least one more time this season, as the final two games are on back to back nights.) Erik Johnson didn’t practice on Saturday, so even if he is back to practice today, I’m not sure he could be considered ready. Although the Avs haven’t said so, I think we can safely assume that Ryan Wilson is done for the season. If this really does turn out to be Milan Hejduk’s final season, then shame on Joe Sacco for scratching him so much during the past couple of weeks. The man has only given the franchise over 1,000 games of blood, sweat, and tears for Roy’s sake. While I like having Olver in the lineup, I’d rather see Hejduk. Hopefully he’ll be in for the next three games.
The Oilers are coming in to town tomorrow night. This will be the last time these two teams will face each other as divisional opponents, as realignment is scheduled to go forward for next season. Edmonton will win this season’s series, as they currently have won three games to the Avs single win. However, Colorado can do as they did to Vancouver last week, and make this final game between these Northwest division clubs a loss for the opposition.
To win, the Avs simply need to play in Edmonton’s zone. The Oilers defense is worse than the Avs, but there offense is probably a little bit better. If the Avs can spend the majority of time in the Oilers zone, and if the forwards can be as defensively responsible as they’ve been in the past few games, I think that the Avs will give themselves a good shot to win. Varlamov will earn his first start in six games, and Milan Hejduk is scheduled to return. According to Coach Joe Sacco, Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson will remain out with injuries.
While Colorado has been eliminated from the playoffs, they’ve played well in these last few games, and I’d like to see this good streak continue. Ending the season on a high note (unlike last year and the year before) should hopefully lead into a good start next year.
The Avs don’t play again until Friday. Hopefully during that time Milan Hejduk’s shoulder will heal up fully. The past few games he’s either been “a healthy scratch” or “day to day with a shoulder injury”. There’s been a lot of speculation that this will be Hejduk’s final season, and I’d like to see him play a couple more games before he retires if that ends up being the case.
Erik Johnson is still listed as day to day with his injury (wrist), and it’d be nice if this stretch of a couple of days could really help him heal up. The Avalanche still haven’t given a timeframe on Ryan Wilson, and I’m pretty much assuming that he’s done for the season.
There are five games left of the season, and then I’ll be reviewing each player’s season individually. Which means this a friendly reminder that even though the Avs won’t be on the ice, I’ll still be here, at least every other day, to talk Avalanche hockey.
The Avs earned three out of four points on this California roadtrip, and played two excellent games. Tonight was special, as it was Sami Aittokallio’s first ever NHL start. (Not too shabby for a 20 year old kid, in his first year pro, and his first year in North America.)
The Colorado Avalanche won their first game in over a week, beating the Anaheim Ducks. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to be writing about a win!
Today is defenseman Erik Johnson’s 25th birthday. Johnson, the number one pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, is now in his third season with the Avs, after a blockbuster trade in 2011. He’s been the number one defenseman for the Avs most nights, earning the most icetime, and playing in all situations. While he hasn’t reached his potential as a strong two-way defenseman yet, his defensive game has improved drastically in his time with Colorado. In 316 games in the NHL, Johnson has 131 points. He represented the United States in the 2010 Olympics, and won a silver medal.
I’m sure you’re exhausted when you read it: the Avs have to win the game tomorrow. You’re exhausted because after the first 10 games, I think I’ve said it in every single preview (plus, I probably said it a couple of times in those first 10). The fact of the matter is though, that the team is a failing failure cascading down in a failure avalanche towards failure valley where the failure inhabitants mumble inspiring words that they fail to come through on. You could say I’m feeling a bit bitter about the past couple of losses. I just don’t understand how a team with their talent, a team with so many young players supposedly eager to win, can continue to perform at such a subpar level. I can speculate that Sacco’s message is no longer getting through, or that they are the ultimate procrastinators, thinking that “there’s plenty of time to turn this thing around”, but at the end of the day I don’t understand it. I can’t threaten to walk away, or say that I’ll choose another team, because the I’ve been cheering for this team for 17 years. I’m in this thing for life, even though the Avs seem determined to make it a pretty miserable next 70 or 80 years. I’m sure after their next win (so long as it comes within five games), I’ll go back to a sunny attitude and start saying that there’s a chance, because I’ve seen what this team is capable of when they work hard for sixty minutes. For now, though, I’m going to a miserable old bat.
The Wild will come into the Pepsi Center with a ridiculously good record against the Avs there. Then we will all here about how the Wild like to clog up the neutral zone so we won’t see any goals. Then the Wild will proceed to have an outburst of goals (shocking everyone, even though they’ve scored three or more goals against the Avs in eight of the last nine games between the clubs) while the Avs are having their defensive failures of the night. Then the Avs will mount a comeback, which may or may not work. J.S. Giguere will be in net for the Avs, earning his fourth start this season. If I was Sacco, I’d move Palushaj in (probably for Jones, give the kid a chance on the Landeskog-O’Reilly line that’s staying together), maybe switch Bordeleau with Olver, and replace Zanon with O’Byrne. However, I’m not Sacco, and Sacco never seems to consult me for these things, so we’ll probably see the same lineup. Or O’Byrne will replace Johnson because Sacco had the nerve to blame Johnson when Zanon fell on his butt and Cullen skated around him and scored.
I’m predicting the Wild score four goals. The Avs will either score three or six. See you fellow sufferers tomorrow.
The Avs will remain in 15th place in the Western Conference, for another couple days at least. The Minnesota Wild continue to have the Avs number, as they earned their second win over the vs this season, and fifth point.
Minnesota scored first. Matt Hunwick lost the puck to his mark, Paul Stastny failed to pick up his man, and Varlamov let in the shot. I would have liked to see Varls have that one, but if the players in front of him had been better, he wouldn’t have even faced a shot. Late in the first, on a power play, P.A. Parenteau scored with a kind of bizarre shot. In the second, Minnesota scored three quick goals, in the middle of the period, with an Avs goal in the mix from Gabriel Landeskog. More defensive errors led to Minnesota’s goals, and Varlamov just wasn’t able to make that one key save. Parenteau picked up his second goal of the game halfway through the third, but the final goal was an empty netter for the Wild.
The Avs have 22 games left this season. They need 32 more points by my estimation in order to get into the playoffs. 14-4-4 is the worst record they can have to earn that number of points in that number of games. It’s a tall order, and it’s not going to happen if the team keeps winning two and then losing three. The Colorado Avalanche need to put their big boy pants on, suck it up, and get wins. Varlamov hasn’t been his best self the past couple of games, and he needs to pick it up and play to his capabilities. The team needs more dirty goals, more players going to the net, and they need to backcheck as if there’s no tomorrow. If the team didn’t play so poorly in their own zone, they wouldn’t find themselves chasing so much.
-Greg Zanon may have had an assist, but he played poorly. Why did we switch him out with O’Byrne? Oh, because O’Byrne’s been taking bad penalties. What did Zanon do tonight? Take two bad penalties, and fall on his butt because he’s a poor skater.
-Erik Johnson had a really good game.
-Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog found themselves back together late in the game, and I imagine that we’ll see them together again next game.
-Chuck Kobasew and Cody McLeod each got into a fight.