The Colorado Avalanche played a hell of a game tonight and got shut out at home, 1-0, by a Flames team that had allowed 12 goals in their last two road games. How did that happen?
Well despite a very strong effort from Peter Budaj, who made stopped all of Calgary’s 33 shots save for Daymond Langkow’s try on a rebound in the second period, and a stalwart game by the Colorado defense, which blocked 21 shots, the Avs were absolutely pathetic in the attacking third of the ice. We’re talking 18 shots on net in the entire game and only five offensive-zone faceoff wins in 16 chances. It was actually kind of sad to watch this team send pass after pass to nobody in particular, turn the puck over down low and generally meander around the perimeter with no actual threat posed to Calgary all night.
And by all accounts it’s been that was since Joe Sakic got hurt ahead of the Avs’ Nov. 12 game with Vancouver. Even though the Avs are only 2-2-0 since then (not so bad, but both wins came in the shootout so they’ve given away points to division opponents Vancouver and Edmonton), they’ve leaned heavily upon Budaj who despite a slow start has stood on his head of late. He’s faced 151 shots in his last four games, including 51 against Calgary two nights ago, and stopped all but seven of them (a save percentage of .954). If Budaj regresses from that number even slightly in this little scoring slump of theirs — they’ve only scored 12 goals in eight games so far this month — the Avs are doing a hell of a lot worse than 3-5-0.
The lack of run support was especially bad tonight because Budaj and the defense itself played so well. The 15-shot disparity had more to do with the fact that Calgary had the lion’s share of possession, worked hard down low to draw penalties, and were helped by lazy, careless penalties on the Avs’ part as well. Example: Calgary’s seven power plays may not have yielded any goals, but that’s 14 minutes off the clock in a tight defensive game, and there were, at least, 11 shots Budaj had to deal with.
On the other hand, Calgary only gave up two power plays to the Avs, who proceeded to go 0 for 2 on those, didn’t put one shot on Miikka Kiprusoff and won neither of the two draws they took when up a man. Basically, the Avs’ power play strategy seemed to be to let the Flames win the draw to open the penalty, send the puck the length of the ice, retrieve it, bring it back through the neutral zone, turn it over, and then repeat until two minutes was up. If you were a peewee hockey coach and wanted to show kids how not to run their man-up situations, this was a graduate-level class on the subject.
Basically, the Avs forwards did and have been doing absolutely none of the “little things” correctly. Tonight they won a paltry 13 of their 36 even-strength draws (that’s just 36 percent), went 0 for 2 at the dot on the power play and 2 for 10 on the PK. Overall faceoff win percentage: thirty-freaking-one. They also turned the puck over seven times, had a whopping four shots on goal in the third period and committed six of Colorado’s eight penalties.
Marek Svatos (remember him?) had easily the best night of any Avs forward, posting two shots with two more blocked or wide, turning the puck over once, taking a penalty for diving on an already-obvious trip by Cory Sarich (thus negating a potential Colorado power play) and then putting the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. You have to hand it to him. That’s a hell of a goddamn show.
This team has been out-hustled, out-worked and generally outplayed for like two-thirds of this month. At some point, doesn’t someone have to pull Tony Granato aside and ask what the hell is with this awful, awful team? No offensive cohesion at all. Whoever’s running the power play, which is 2 for 35 (5.7 percent) in November, should be fired. The Avs should be ashamed of the way they’re playing in front of Budaj.
New Jersey 3, Florida 1
Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta each had a goal and an assist as the Devs shook off a bit of rink rust, having not played since the previous Sunday. Scott Clemmensen recovered from a brutal effort that night to make 23 stops on 24 Panthers shots, including 10 in the second period, when the rest of his team decided to take a 20-minute breather (they put one measley shot on the board in the middle frame). The Devs are now just two games under .500 (3-5-0) since Marty Brodeur got hurt.
Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 2
Caught the first half of this one and there were MAYBE 15 people in the lower bowl. It was thoroughly embarrassing. Sid Crosby had a goal and two assists, including the primary helper on Petr Sykora’s game-winner late in the third. This game was as exciting as I’m making it seem.
Montreal 3, Ottawa 2 (SO)
Keep growin’ them mustaches, boys. Nick Foligno’s goal was high comedy, but by the time the Sens finally get out of this streak of now six games without a win, they’re going to look like extras in There Will Be Blood.
Vancouver 3, Minnesota 2
It’s amazing how much better the Sedins are playing now that Pavol Demitra is back from injury and playing on their line. The trio combined for two goals and three assists, including an oh-so-pretty-if-you-like-hard-work goal that had my buddy Mike of mikenhl.com yukkin’ it up.
Chicago 6, Dallas 3
Kris Versteeg continues his ascent to the tops of various voters’ Calder Trophy lists with a 1-2-3 night that should really only count for like two points because it was against the Stars. Meanwhile, Marty Turco continues his descent into various Dallas fans’ “When are we trading this useless turd?” zone with six more goals against. That’s like five times now he’s given up five or more goals, which is so hilarious and sad and yet completely expected at this point that it needs its own term: Turconian.
Detroit 4, Edmonton 3
Why keep three goalies on the roster if you’re the Oilers? Dwayne Roloson has started the last 600 or so games and the results have gotten incrementally worse. Tonight he was finally pulled after giving up three goals on seven shots. My thinking is that he did it on purpose so he can get a goddamn day off. Jiri Hudler had two goals in the win.
Los Angeles 5, Washington 2
Even though his team lost, Brooks Laich had an incredible night. While killing a 5-on-3, he lost his stick and proceeded to block two shots with his hands. After the first man came out of the box, he blocked another one. About three minutes later, he scored a goal. It was completely and totally awesome, but if you didn’t watch the game, you’ll never hear about it. Drew Doughty, by the way, should win the Calder this season and might even win a Norris trophy in the next five years. He’s incredible. He went up against Alex Ovechkin for 19 of Ovie’s 22 shifts and you can tell who won those battles by the scorelines. Doughty: 1-0-1, +2; Ovechkin: 0-1-1 (secondary assist on a 5-on-3), -4. Yeah, that Doughty kid’s gonna be a-okay.