Archive for the ‘Avs vs. Chicago Blackhawks’ Category

Finally, I have a reason to post a Peter Budaj picture. What reason? Semyon Varlamov has tied Budaj’s franchise record for consecutive starts without a regulation loss.
After a couple of days off, Colorado capped off the quick two game road trip with an OT win over the defending cup champion Blackhawks. The Avs jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals from Tyson Barrie, and Ryan $’Reilly. The goals came within 62 seconds of each other, and really stunned the Blackhawks and the United Center crowd. From there, Chicago slowly took over the game. Johnny Oduya scored in the second and Andrew Shaw in the third to knot things up and send the game to overtime. Andre Benoit drew a penalty from Jonathan Toews at the 3:34 mark of OT, giving Colorado 1 minute and 26 seconds of 4 on 3 powerplay time. They needed only 35. Barrie slapped home his second of the game to give Colorado the win.

Next, Patrick Roy and co. were set to dual with their counterpart in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals- the New Jersey Devils. Martin Brodeur got the night off, with Cory Schneider getting the start for the Devils. $’Reilly continued show his skill, netting the only Avalanche goal, on a very solid play from Patrick Bordeleau behind the net. A lot of fourth liners don’t have the presence of mind, or skill to get that puck to O’Reilly, oops sorry I mean, $’Reilly in front. Reid Boucher added the lone Devils goal in the third. Ultimately it was the birthday boy Matt Duchene who scored the shootout winner, giving Colorado another 2 points.
A square dance in Nashville produced highs and lows for fans of both teams. At one point in the third, Matt Duchene scored a goal, ending his 13 game goalless drought, making the score 5-1 Avs. Peter McNab declared the game over, and is 100% to blame for the 3 Nashville goals in the last 12 minutes of the game, almost costing Colorado the victory. Bottom line, 2 more points.
Cliche Crop
The more I watch the Avs play, the more I start to think that this team can contend, and contend this year. With uncertainly surrounding Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly’s future with the team, this may be the year to go for it.
I know it sounds crazy with like likes of Chicago, and St. Louis standing in our way within the division, but I believe it can be done. Yes, right now the team is leaning heavily on goaltender and Vezina trophy candidate Semyon Varlamov, but is that any different than what the LA Kings did a couple of years ago with Jonathan Quick?
Right now, against the 7 other teams in the playoffs, the Avs combined record is 8-4-3. They are 0-2 against St. Louis this year, and 0-1 against Vancouver. They have a winning record against the other five teams. In a season where the western conference is clearly the bestern conference, that’s a solid record. Even if you throw out getting points for OT losses, they’re still 8-7 on the season.

St. Louis scares me. The Avs have looked terrible against the Blues in both matchups this year, and therefore Avs fans should be the biggest Blues fans around, hoping St. Louis can overtake Chicago for the 1 seed in the Central division. I’d rather see the defending champion Blackhawks in the first round than a hungry Blues team. Who would that leave St. Louis against right now? Vancouver. A team, that despite their well-documented playoff struggles, matches up well against the Blues, and is 2-0 against St. Louis this year.

Of course, the biggest knock on the Avs right now is defense, and rightfully so. Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda are a clear cut top line pairing in the NHL, and both are having great seasons. Assuming all are healthy, which is a big assumption for some, that leaves Ryan Wilson, Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden, Andre Benoit, Cory Sarich, and Nate Guenin to fill the bottom 4 spots. Of those, I’ll take Wilson, Barrie, Holden, and Sarich right now. That leaves Nate Guenin and Andre Benoit as the odd men out, and potential trade bait.

#2 Nick Holden

#2 Nick Holden

All year long, Avs fans have been clamoring for another top 4 defenseman, while one may be developing right under their noses. Nick Holden, while having played in less than half of Avalanche games this season, has taken advantage of his opportunity to get more consistent ice time. Holden leads the defense in points per game, and while he is playing more of a sheltered role than Johnson or Hejda, he has shown to be effective killing penalties, and has been one of Colorado’s best defensemen in 2014.

Understandingly, fans might not want to rely on the 26 year old rookie to play a pivotal role come playoff time. That’s where a trade could come into play. If Colorado is comfortably in a playoff spot come early March, they may look to make a deal to bolster the blue line. Taking a look at some teams who might be willing to deal a top 4 guy come March; I’ve identified the Islanders, Panthers, Sabres, and Jets as the ideal teams for Colorado to deal with.
Starting with the Islanders, they’re not scared to make bold moves (see: Vanek, Tomas) and no longer have a first round pick because of it. They’re also in desperate need of goaltending. They have a couple of guys who could interest Colorado: Travis Hamonic, and Andrew MacDonald. In this hypothetical the Avs are in win now mode, and the guy who helps the Avs more, in my opinion, is MacDonald. The 27 year old is having a fine season on the island, accounting for 22 points in 50 games, averaging almost 26 minutes in ice time and is leading the league in blocked shots, but is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

Andrew MacDonald, #47

Andrew MacDonald, #47

So what would it take? If Tomas Vanek is worth a 1st and 2nd to the Islanders, I propose a sending Sami Aittokallio and a 2nd to New York for MacDonald. If Colorado is pretty securely in a playoff spot, I’d be fine with that pick becoming a 1st, but I think NYI would accept the previous deal. The deal helps NYI recoup a draft pick lost to Buffalo, and gives them a very solid goalie prospect in Aittokallio to compete for the number 1 spot when Evgeni Nabokov decides to hang them up.
That leaves Colorado with these three potential defensive pairings:
All three lines look solid defensively, while having a lot of offensive upside. I’d be comfortable rolling that come playoff time.
Offensively, Colorado is 6th in the NHL with 2.90 goals per game. If the Avs can get a little blue line help without giving up any offensive players, they could be very dangerous. Time for a little math; if you take the goals for per game, minus the goals against per game of the last 6 Stanley Cup champions, you get these numbers: 2013 CHI: 1.08, 2012 LA: .22, 2011 BOS: .68, 2010 CHI: .72, 2009 PIT: .59, 2008 DET: .89. Taking the average of those six numbers, you get .6966666 and so on. What’s is the 2013-14 Avalanche team at right now? .52. I know health is a big assumption to make, but I think adding a healthy Alex Tanguay pushes that number up .1, as does adding a top 4 defender…hypothetically bringing the Avs number to .72.

And let’s not forget who Colorado has between the pipes. Semyon Varlamov is currently sitting T-3 in the NHL in wins, 13th in goals against (for goalies that have 20+ games), and 5th in save percentage for 20+ game goalies. The Russian goaltender’s confidence may be at an all-time high, and that’s with a mediocre defensive core in front of him. And remember his 2009 playoff performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins? You know, keeping the Capitals in that series even though Pittsburgh was the better team. Remember this save?

How about the 2011 Winter Classic against those same Penguins? Yeah, he stole the show by making 32 of 33 saves and was named the game’s first star. Bottom line: Varly’s clutch. Don’t worry about him.

I’m not saying that the Avs should be cup favorites, but I am saying this team could be on the brink of something special. Colorado has consistently found ways to win games against the best competition this year. It hasn’t always been pretty, but there are a lot of pieces already in place for the Avs, enough for me to think that with a Joe Sakic brushstroke or two, this team could look like a beautiful work of art.


Colorado have struggled in the past couple of weeks, going 2-2-3 over the past 7 games, but thanks to Minnesota’s struggles of their own, the Avs remain in playoff position.
Cody Mc
Starting with the second half of a home and home with Dallas, the Stars were able to rebound to collect 2 points thanks to a late third period goal. Dallas is 6-2-2 in their past 10 games, and might be more of a threat to the Avs than Minnesota at this point. The Wild have lost Zach Parise to a foot injury, and Dallas is really started to gel. The Avs have 5 points on Dallas, but no games in hand.

Next was a rare win for the Avs against Devan Dubnyk. Colorado doubled up the Oilers 4-2, dominating special teams with a powerplay and shorthanded goal in the game. Max Talbot notched his 16th career shorty, giving the Avs a 3-2 late in the second period and Colorado never looked back. Matt Duchene added a late empty netter, securing the win.
Avs Goal
A string of four straight losses halted any momentum Colorado was building. First was a shootout loss to Los Angeles, followed by another shootout loss to San Jose. The Sharks game was bizarre. Erik Johnson fired a slapper to tie things up at the 18:09 mark in the third period. 12 seconds later, Jamie McGinn through a puck on net that happened to find its way though, giving Colorado a 4-3 lead, and absolutely stunning the Sharks. A couple of above average Joe’s did some stunning of their own. Joe Thornton made an amazing pass to Joe Pavelski in the slot, with just 20 seconds left in the game, and the big Pavelski took advantage and sent the game to overtime. Colorado lost their third staright shootout after Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon couldn’t find the back of the net, while both Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture netted goals for the Sharks. I still am not sure if I should be happy or sad with getting 1 point out of that game.

The Avs followed that up with a couple of disappointing losses in a couple of different ways. First was a 7-2 blowout loss at the hand of the Blackhawks, including a Patrick Sharp birthday hattrick. The Avs followed that up with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Colorado allowed a goal with just 2 seconds left in overtime, which prevented getting Semyon Varlamov and Co. into a shootout.

Colorado got out of their funk with a huge 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The new line of Jamie McGinn – Matt Duchene – Ryan O’Reilly all netted a goal.

The Avs have lost PA Parenteau 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, hence the above line for the Blue Jackets game.

Paul Stastny, but somehow not Erik Johnson, was selected to the USA Olympic National team.

The Avalanche faced their first bit of adversity in the season, losing three UGLY games in a row, but minimized damage with a big 5-1 win over the defending Stanley cup champions.
The only game I watched of four, was the Carolina game, in which I caught the second half. What I noticed was an Avalanche team that was not playing with any urgency and intensity, and ultimately it cost them 2 points.

Fortunately I couldn’t watch the Blues game, because the Avs got destroyed 7-3. The game was filled with ugly fights, and questionable decisions. Chris Stewart led the way with a questionable fight against Cory Sarich. It will be interesting to see how the Pepsi Center crowd treats Stewart when the Blues come to Denver.

However, the low point of the Avalanche season was a 4-1 loss to the lowly Florida Panthers at home.

The Avs lost Matt Duchene to an oblique injury, but Patrick Roy was able to rally the troops to a dominating 5-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. That’s the difference between a Patrick Roy coached team, and a Joe Sacco coached team.

Duchene will not travel with the team on their upcoming two game road trip to Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Well, it was a tough loss for the Avs in Chicago on Wednesday, allowing a goal in the final minute of play to lose by one, but the Avs fought back and picked up a big 6-2 win to end Chicago’s points streak to open a season.

Photo from

Photo from

Colorado has really turned things around the last three games. Despite their 1-2 record, they have played as well as they have for as long as they have at any point in the season. While the simple answer may be Ryan O’Reilly, let me remind you that correlation does not mean causation.

Everything went right for the Avs on Friday: Matt Duchene had a career high 4 points, they scored a couple of powerplay goals, Semyon Varlamov was strong, and they picked up the two points. While right now it’s easy to praise the Avs, and certainly they are getting some national attention for breaking the Hawks streak, Colorado also has a reputation for letting praise get to their head. It will be interesting to see if they can continue playing with the effort and drive they showed yesterday.

The Avs actually went down 1-0 early in the game, and there was a little sense of panic, but they responded well thanks to a late Paul Stastny powerplay goal, and in the second period, added 4 more for good measure. Their best players were their best players on Friday. Duchene led the team, Parenteau and Stastny both had 3 points, Erik Johnson was amazing, had an assist, and finished the night at a career high +4. All of that in his first game back from a concussion. This team is finally getting their core group back together and healthy.

Colorado still remains near the bottom of the Western Conference, but is also just 4 points away from the 8th seed.

San Jose will travel to Denver to take on the Avs on Sunday. The game will begin at 6 p.m. Mountain time.

Around the NHL tonight, everything went well for the Avs. Minnesota lost to Columbus, Phoenix beat Dallas, but most importantly, the Avs beat the Blackhawks thanks to two huge goals from David Jones.

The game started out like most games have recently. The Avs controlled play early but could not get the puck into the net. They took an early penalty, which seems to happen most games, but they killed it off. They played well, and I was feeling about as confident as I could for a team which has lost 5 in a row. They had three, 2-1 breakaway chances in the first period, but did not capitalize on any. Their best chance came in the last minute of the period when Chuck Kobasew fanned on a one timer set up from Stastny with a near empty net.

The second period started with a bang. Brent Seabrook scored 31 seconds into the period on a one timer from a bad angle. I thought Giguere should have stopped the puck, because it was not a quick developing play, and from a bad angle there was even less to shoot at. The goal did come with a positive though, as Seabrook scored some key fantasy points for me, against a tough matchup this week. Silver lining, right?

The Avs marched back 3 minutes later after a turnover by the Blackhawks lead to the Avs fourth 2 on 1 on the game. Ryan O’Reilly made a great shot fake, and passed the puck to Mueller who easily shot it into the net. The underrated play was the shot fake by O’Reilly. It was so convincing, it froze both Emery and Duncan Keith on the play, which led to the easy pass to Mueller.

The Avs were just getting started though, and 36 seconds later, a Duncan Keith turnover at the Blackhawks blue line led to David Jones crashing the net, getting a nice pass from Hejduk, and beating Emery blocker side. The Avs never should have even had the puck because it was a terrible play by Duncan Keith, who had a horrific game, but I’ll take goals any way the Avs can get them. I thought this was going to be a turning point in the game. The two goals in 36 seconds were the fastest two goals the Avs have scored all year, and all momentum was with the Avs.

But Patrick Kane came back just over two minutes later and scored on a backhand that beat Giguere short, glove side. It really was a weak goal that really could have changed the momentum, but the Avs fought hard the rest of the period to keep it tied.

Both of the goals Giguere let in tonight were pretty weak goals, but overall he stopped 29-31 and had a good game. He didn’t make any game changing saves, or robbed anyone, but he got the Avs the win and that’s all that matters.

The Avs came out in the third, and scored an early goal for the second straight period. This time it was Landeskog. Paul Stastny made a nice pass along the boards and put the puck between Keith’s stick and skates to get it to Landeskog, who picked his corner and fired it past Emery high glove. This kid has really picked up his game the last couple of weeks, and has probably been the Avs best player over the past 6 games. He does not score a ton of goals, but he scores the big ones.

The game was pretty low key over the next ten minutes. The Avs sat back on their lead a little, and did a nice job killing off two penalties to keep their lead. At the 11:42 mark of the period, Stastny made a nice pass off the boards up to David Jones who flew in down the wing and on a semi-breakaway wristed one past Emery’s glove for a comforable 4-2 lead. The pass by Stastny was equally as pretty as the shot by Jones.

The Avs played solid defense over the next 9 minutes, and didn’t allow many quality chances for the Blackhawks to get back into the game. The Hawks pulled Emery with over 2 minutes left in the game to try and have a late spark and get back into the game. This lead to Kyle Quincey accidentally scoring a goal. From behind the red line, he banked the puck off the boards looking to skate past the defenseman on the other side and catch up to the puck. He did not catch up, but the puck was angled perfectly off the boards and wound up in the net.

So yes, the day after I say the Avs should trade David Jones, Paul Stastny, and Kyle Quincey, Jones gets 3 points, Stastny has 2, and Quincey has 1. Clearly I’m motivating them. However I stand by my thoughts, the Avs should still trade them before the deadline.

The Avs are currently only 1 point out of the last playoff spot. They have played more games than their competing teams, but at least they have a chance.

The road for the Avs does not get any easier. They play Carolina on Friday, and then travel to St. Louis to play the Blues on Saturday. Playing the Blues at the Scottstrade Center is hard enough, but on the second game of a back to back, it is going to be VERY tough to win. The last time they played St. Louis, it was the same situation, and the Avs played one of their worst games of the year. That makes Friday’s game against the Hurricanes that much more important. They can’t lose that game, because in all likelihood they will not win in St. Louis. Losing 7 of 8 this time of year is unacceptable.

I ran across a stat the other day that I thought was very revealing of Joe Sacco’s time with the Avs. He has more coaching wins with the Avs in October, than he does in February, March, and April combined. A stat like that makes me very nervous about what is coming up for the Avs over the next 8 weeks.

The Avs next game is Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center. The game starts at 7 p.m. Mountain time.

Huge win for the Avs. I did not see them going into Chicago and beating the Blackhawks, who were coming off of a loss. You have to give Varlamov a lot of credit tonight, because every good chance the Blackhawks had tonight, he made it look like an easy save.

The game started off exactly how I thought it was going to- with the Blackhawks dominating play early. There were keeping the puck in the Avs zone for a long time and the Avs could not get much going offensively. It was very similar to the Kings game.

I really had not seen a great chance for the Avs in the game when TJ Galiardi just cruised around the rink with the puck for awhile, and after taking a shot, getting his own rebound, and skating around some more, he passed the puck to Erik Johnson who shot the puck and David Jones tipped it in for the goal.

It was a good play by Galiardi, but I’m not sure that keeping the puck for so long is the best way to generate chances.

And it’s about time that David Jones scores a goal. It had been a long, long, time and scoring a goal might help him get back into a groove. Especially a goal that was as important as the first goal in a game against a very good opponent. Hopefully he can keep it up.

But the Avs continued off their success, and early in the second TJ came up with another nice play, and scored on a near empty net to make it 2-0. I’m really not sure how the puck got to Galiardi, but it did and he was able to put the Avs up by 2.

It was also nice to see Erik Johnson get a couple of assists on the first two goals. He had a good game tonight and also played very well defensively.

About 7 minutes later, after doing a great job of killing a penalty by the Avs, Gabriel Landeskog made a great play and intercepted the puck behind the Blackhawks net. He went quickly for a wrap around, missed, but David Van Der Gulik followed up and scored on the rebound. He has played very well for the Avs, but assuming they stay healthy and Duchene, Mueller, and Wilson eventually get back into the lineup, he could be one of the players that is found back in Cleveland.

It was the third period when Varlamov won the game for the Avs. He faced two breakaways fairly early in the period and stayed all over them, keeping them out of the net. If he lets those shots in, it is a completely different ballgame going down the stretch.

The Avs added a late goal by Chuck Kobasew to bury the Blackhawks 4-0. It was a huge way to start a very difficult stretch for the Avs. Playing Chicago and St. Louis on back to back days on the road is a very tough thing to do, and I thought it was very possible that the Avs would return to Denver with zero points, but we know that will not be the case now. A win tomorrow against the Blues would really assert themselves into being a threat for a playoff spot. As for now, the Avs sit in 8th by 1 point, having played at least 2 more games than the teams in 9th and 10th.

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

I thought the Avs were done. Letting in a third unanswered goal, to go down 4-3 with five minutes left…no chance. But I was wrong! Landeskog comes up with a HUGE goal. His 2nd of the night, and the Avs best player tonight. He alone has provided 4 points for the Avs with his goals in Columbus and now Chicago.

Big two points, the Avs could not afford to be swept in this home and home series. 6-2-0 Sounds a thousand times better than 5-3-0 to me. They started the game off playing very well, and with a 1-0 lead after the first I was feeling pretty good. But the Blackhawks outplayed the Avs for the next 45 minutes.

Everyone knows about the Broncos fans who bought billboards trying to get Tebow to start, well does anyone want to buy a fire Joe Sacco billboard? If I were to rank all the coaches in the NHL, 1-30, I would rank him 35, after 4 AHL coaches, and the Glenwood Springs Peewee coach. I understand he is trying to send a message to Duchene, BUT 11:35 MINUTES OF ICE TIME FOR YOUR BEST PLAYER is not okay. I’m sure Duchene will say all the right things, but deep down a stunt like that has to plant a seed of anger at the coach and organization for that. You simply cannot do that. Also, the Avs are 0-2 at home, where more coaching is involved, with having the last change. Just saying…

The fan to the left of Sacco sums it up perfectly.

The defense played terrible today. Pretty much everyone, but I am going to single out Erik Johnson who gift-wrapped a goal with a bow tie and shipped it first class to Michal Frolik at the United Center. You can watch it HERE if you have not seen it (the first goal in the second period). That was lazy, and had his head down for most of the play. Ryan O’byrne also looked bad out there tonight, but the one specific play that stands out to me was a play where he had the puck in their own zone, right in front of the goal, with 3 or 4 Blackhawks around, and just stood there. It was awful.

The Avs were lucky to win this game. They did not deserve it. But I will take it, that is for sure. The two goals by Landeskog were overall pretty solid, and I suppose I will give credit to Stastny for the tip-in, but I do always think there is quite a bit of luck involved on any tip in, and Jones goal was all luck, but I guess better lucky than good they say.

Got to give props to Varlamov again, who stopped 34 of 38, which is not great, but once again kept us in the game with a number of very solid saves, along with all 3 in the shootout. Keep it up, Varly. Also, Joakim Lindstrom, I was doubting the selection for the third shooter, I was saying Landeskog, but he proved me wrong with a great deke for the win.

The Canucks got better today, acquiring David Booth, and former Av Steve Reinprecht and a pick for not that much I thought; Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm. I think Booth is a very solid player, and Dale Tallon made a mistake trading him. But I bring this up because I think the Avs need some offense. We can’t count on a performance like Landeskog had tonight, on every night, from any person. And it took the a great performance like that just to get to overtime. They need to make a move.

The Avs next game is Wednesday in Calgary against the Flames, it starts at 8 p.m. Mountain Time.