Game 56. Avs-Hurricanes. O’Reilly Fights Frustration, Slaps Home OT Winner.

Posted: February 10, 2012 in Avs vs. Carolina Hurricanes, Game Thoughts

What. A. Finish. Here I was already complaining about the Avs going to a shootout with Giguere in net, who is as good in shootouts as Rory McIlroy is on Sundays at the Masters. And then O’Reilly pick’s a pocket, and rockets home the winner.

I did not get to watch the first period because of some poor channel changing at a restaurant. Apparently a small restaurant in square feet, with 10+ TV’s playing sports game, does not carry a channel that provides the local NBA and NHL team games. That seems like a good business plan.

When I got home and saw the 2-1 score after the first period, I did not feel too bad about it, because I knew they were down 1-0 at one point, but when I looked at the box score and saw the late period goal, only 30 seconds after the Avs tied things up, my confidence level went down. Just a typical Avalanche play to do that. I heard that both of Carolina’s goals were soft, but I cannot confirm that.

But the Avs came out early in the second and stole away the momentum from Carolina. It was a great play of tic-tac-toe passing from Jones to Stastny to Hejduk for the goal. Yes, since I suggested Jones and Stastny should be traded, they have a combined 9 points in 6 period’s played. Hmmm, for now I still say they need to go, for my suggested trades.

The Avs caught a bit of a bad break with 5 minutes left in the second period, when Eric Staal’s crossing pass bounced off of Hejda’s skate and right back to him for a yawning net. One of the easier goals I’ve seen scored all year. I thought that might be the end for the Avs, but they came back strong.

On a completely unrelated note, I have misspelled “Hurricanes” about 50 times tonight. I’ve typed Currihanes, Hucciranes, Cuhhiranes, Hurricants (Which ironically is an awesome pun for tonight) pretty much any combination of those 10 letters that is possible. It’s been a long week.

It was Paul Stastny who scored with only a minute left in the period. And it was David Jones who set him up after a nice back check behind the Hurricanes net. They really seem to be clicking lately, and they have lead the Avs to victories the last couple of days. Stastny showed some quick hands to get the puck to his backhand for the open goal.

The third period provided the Avs with some golden opportunities, but no goals. Ryan O’Reilly missed an empty net with a backhand, practically from the crease, but he had more, maybe even better chances! His best chance came on the powerplay, a Hurricanes powerplay. He had a breakaway, which was saved by Ward, got the rebound, passed to McClement who fired in on net, Ward made another save but left a juicy rebound in front which O’Reilly got to but could not beat Ward high glove. The Avs had 4 shots on the Carolina powerplay.

The overtime was very tense for me because I knew if the Avs didn’t score, they were not going to win the game in the shootout. Giguere is awful in shootout. He has the same number of shootout saves this year (1) as Cam Ward, the Hurricanes goalie, has goals in regulation this year (1). Ouch.

The payoff for O’Reilly was a sweet one. With about 5 seconds left he stole the puck from a Hurricane at center ice, skated in on Ward’s stick side, and let off a slapper from just outside the faceoff circle that beat Ward low blocker for the win. Huge reward for O’Reilly after all those close calls. And a big win for the Avs.

There are a lot of thoughts I have for the game tonight, so here they are:

-I don’t know how this year is going to end up for the Avs, but wow, they have a bright future. If Duchene and O’Reilly learn to finish a little better, they could contend for the cup in the next 2-4 years. Duchene, O’Reilly, Mueller, Landeskog, Johnson, Stastny?, and Varlamov are going to be something special. That core of players could rival the Blackhawks/Penguins core in a few years.

-Landeskog is going to be a star. My goodness, the last couple of weeks he has really picked his game up. At 19 he has a ton of developing still to do, but he can do it all: shoot, pass, score, hit, play defense, kill penalties, make smart plays. I can’t wait to watch him develop.

-Not knowing how those first 2 Carolina goals happened, I thought Giguere played solid. 39-42 saves is great, and he continues to be the best offseason signing maybe in the entire NHL, which leads me to….

-Semyon Varlamov continues to get the short end of the stick. He should be playing more often. Joe Sacco has set him up for failure this weekend so he can continue to not play him. If Giguere is your #1 goalie, and you have back to back games against the worst team in the eastern conference at home, and one of the best teams in the NHL on the road, which game do you play your #1? The harder of the two…but not Sacco. Now Varlamov has to play against the Blues in St. Louis (Where the Blues are 22-3-4) on the second night of back to back games, having played OT the night before and a long plane trip that night in front of what will probably be a tired team. That makes NO sense, and the only reason I can think of, as to why he would do that is to see him fail, so he can play Giguere more often. Either that or he is a complete idiot.

-Erik Johnson has made a complete 180 since the start of the season. He is clearly the Avs best defenseman.

-The Avs have a very tough game tomorrow, and the last time they played the Blues on the second night of a back to back, they had one of their worst games of the year and were demolished 4-0. Do not expect a victory tomorrow.

The Avs next game is Saturday against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottstrade Center, the game starts at 6 p.m. Mountain time.

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