Game 58. Avs-Canucks. Shorthanded Avs Can’t Solve Northwest Woes

Posted: February 15, 2012 in Avs vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game Thoughts

Tough loss for the Avs tonight, who fall to 2-14 in the Northwestern Division games this year. That record is simply unacceptable, and is probably the reason the Avs won’t make the playoffs.

The odd twist during the game was JS Giguere leaving the ice with a groin injury and being replaced Varlamov. The injury did not appear too serious, as Giguere came back on the bench, but tonight his injury kept the Avs in the game. Varlamov came in and was very solid. He stopped 20-21 including a David Booth breakaway in the second period that would have put the Canucks up 2-1 late in the second. I believe this game + Giguere’s injury (he has a history of groin injuries causing a lot of missed games) means Varlamov is the guy down the stretch.

In case you turned on the game 14 seconds late, I’ll tell you what you missed- a David Booth goal. The Avs let Booth walk right into the slot, and beat Giguere with a backhand after Mason Raymond lost the puck. I thought it was going to be a long night for the Avs, but they fought hard and stayed in it.

The Avs were missing Duchene, Mueller (torso injury), and Galiardi (shoulder/torso injury) tonight, and it showed. The Canucks dominated play, and had puck possession for most of the game.

The Avs did come back from the early goal and kept the score 1-0, until the middle of the second period when Milan Hejduk found a wide open Erik Johnson on the far side for a shot that beat Luongo high glove. It was a good play by Johnson to stay low and get open. The Avs seemed to finish the second period strong, but could not solve Luongo.

Erik Johnson now has 2 goals in his last 2 games, and has really become a shut down defenseman. He made at least 4 or 5 great plays defensively tonight, and scored a goal. Avs fans are currently watching him turn into the defenseman that had the potential to be drafted #1 overall.

In typical Avs fashion, they came out sluggish in the third period. Simply put, they were playing for overtime. Varlamov did his best to keep the Avs in the game, and for a long time he did. The Avs missed a powerplay opportunity when 32 seconds into an Alex Burrows penalty, Landeskog ran into the goalie and Luongo drew the penalty. That simply is a rookie mistake. He can’t take that penalty on the powerplay in the third period of a tie game. I’m pretty sure Landeskog leads the league in goaltender interference penalties taken at the worst possible time. That is the one area he really needs to improve.

The Canucks broke the tie when Cody Hodgson made a pass to Jannik Hansen across the slot, who one-timed it past Varlamov’s blocker. I could see the play coming 3 or 4 seconds before it happened, which makes it that much worse to watch, but I think you have to credit Vancouver here.

My theory of the Avs needing at least 10 minutes to score a goal when they are down by one in the third held true again. Hansen scored with 6:29 left in the game and the Avs had very few quality chances in the last 6+ minutes. Vancouver added an empty netter with just over a minute remaining to ice the game.

Tough loss for the Avs, who find themselves 3 points out of 8th place, but also 3 points out of 13th place in the West. With so many teams fighting for that last spot, it is almost impossible to make up ground on any team over the course of a week or month, because they all play each other so much, and someone has to get 2 points. The Avs need to go on a 4-5 game win streak to have a realistic shot of making the playoffs.

For now, the Avs need to hope that all of those teams lose as often as possible.

The Avs next game is Friday against the Oilers at Rexall Place. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. Mountain time.

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