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Written by Sean Payton | 07 January 2011

GAME41
  • Big, physical teams that are willing to sit back and disrupt the Avs offensive game really give us problems.
  • Avs are lucky they aren't playing in the Pacific Division, where they'd have to go against Phoenix and LA (so far 0-3 - and all have been at home!) 6 times a year each (not to mention San Jose).
  • The only way to describe Matt Hunwick's game in this one is "awful".  His puck confidence in both zones is completely shattered right now - horrific giveaways behind his own net, forced passes to covered teammates in the offensive zone, lost his man on the game winning goal, it was difficult to watch.  He can't continue to stay in the lineup playing like that.
  • Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one baking up turnovers - this one probably should have gotten to 2-0 or 3-0 after 2.  I guess it was just one of those nights where the puck wasn't going to go in for either team.
  • Lots of good chances didn't make their way on net in the 1st.
  • Yip's best game in a while - finally looking like that player that I enjoyed watching so much last year.  Keep him with O'Reilly and Winnik, Sacco!
  • This was game 41, next game is the official start of the 2nd half of the season.  Look for ABD's Games 21-41 Season Review on Saturday morning!
Next game: vs Islanders, Saturday, 1PM mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 05 January 2011

GAME40
  • The wins sure aren't coming too easy recently.
  • Avs are 2-4-1 in their last 7 - both wins coming after regulation.
  • Tough night for Tyler Ennis.  Not only did he take the penalty in OT that decided the game, but he also prevented his team from scoring the go ahead PPG with less than 6min left in the 3rd.
  • Nice fill in game for Galiardi, who played center with Stastny out sick.  Great pass on Winnik's goal and got Buffalo to take a stupid cross checking penalty that was somehow missed by both referees.
  • Duchene scores some big time goals when his team needs them. 
  • I couldn't believe how ineffective last year's Caulder winner Tyler Myers was in this game.  
  • Fleischmann was just fantastic in the OT period.  
  • Wilson, Winnik and O'Reilly are playing some great hockey right now.
  • Remember really early this season where something seemed just a little off with Hejduk's game?  I'm getting that same feeling again.
Next game: vs Coyotes, Thursday 7PM mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 04 January 2011

TOPSHELF
Heather over at the wonderful TopShelfBlog.com was good enough to answer some questions I had about tonight's opponent, her beloved Buffalo Sabres.  I returned the favor - check her blog later today for my answers to her questions about the Avs.

Q: How have former Avs Cody McCormick and Jordan Leopold looked this year?

A: Cody McCormick and Jordan Leopold have actually been two of the few highlights of the season so far. I had some doubts about Leopold in the preseason - though in fairness to him, as a huge fan of stay-at-home d-men, I'm naturally a little wary of offensive defense. But he's been pretty okay in the defensive zone and he's been fantastic on the offensive side. The Sabres haven't really gotten a lot of offensive contribution from the defensive corp since Brian Campbell left a few years ago so Leopold has definitely filled a hole. At one point, Buffalo was leading the league in goals from d-men and they're still up there on the list. Leopold is the biggest reason for that.

And McCormick is exactly the kind of player that Buffalo traditionally loves: not necessarily super skilled but tough and hard-working, a real blue-collar guy. The Sabres roster of the last few years has gotten a lot of flack - much of it justified - for being fragile mentally and soft physically and McCormick has been a great antidote for both of those things. My Twitter feed sees a number of "Extend McCormick!" and "If he gets extended, I'm getting an 8 jersey" tweets during almost every game. I would definitely like to see him stick around and I know I'm not alone there.

Q: Do you miss the Buff-a-slug?
A: I do not miss the Buff-a-slug.  I hated the slug with a burning passion and while most fans grumbled but eventually got over it, I flatly refused to buy anything with the slug on it for all the years it was in existence.  (I realize a sports logo is ultimately a pretty silly thing to boycott but sports make you crazy sometimes, you know?)  I really love the classic buffalo/crossed swords logo so I'm glad it's back.  I kind of wish the Sabres had stuck with the classic bright blue instead of the navy blue but that's a minor nitpick.
 
Q: Going into tonight's game, Buffalo sits in 12th spot in the East.  What has been the biggest reason for Buffalo's slow start?
A: The slow start has been very much a team effort. It took some time for the defensive corp to get sorted out after losing both Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman in the off-season. (Both the kind of player that you don't really think about much until they're not there.) Tyler Myers in particular really struggled out of the gate. It took a while to find a partner that worked with him (Tallinder's absence again) and he admitted at one point that he was really feeling a lot of pressure to succeed. The organization did move very quickly from "This kid is a pleasant surprise!" to "This kid is the center of everything for the next decade! Ryan Miller was really poor at first too. He had some trouble with some nagging little injuries for the first couple of months of the season and he's really come down to earth from the amazing season he had last year both with the Sabres and the US team. It's probably unfair to put as much weight on him as we do, but the fact is, the way the Sabres are currently built, they really rely on Miller to be very good every night and he's been pretty average. I can't think of a single game that he's stolen and last year he was doing that left and right.

The biggest problem, however, has been a complete lack of secondary scoring. For the first couple of months it really felt like Derek Roy was the only one putting the puck in the net. Thomas Vanek finally heated up for a bit though he's back in a cool streak and is probably going to be the most affected by Roy's injury. Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, and Tim Connolly have been terrible. Drew Stafford has been good but has spent a lot of time on IR. Just not enough offense to compete from night to night.

Q: Who do the Avs need to watch out for?
A: Woo boy.  The fact that no one immediately leaps to mind probably speaks to how tough the season has been so far.  If I'd answered this question a couple of days ago, it definitely would have been Derek Roy.  He's been great and is probably the only reason the Sabres aren't completely out of everything at this point.  His season just ended with a torn quad muscle though.  Quite frankly, the Sabres season probably ended with him.
Thomas Vanek always has the potential to be dangerous although he's in a bit of a cool streak right now.  So I'll go with Drew Stafford.  He's gotten a lot of criticism for being inconsistent during his time here and I think a lot of fans were kind of done with him, but when he's been in the line-up this season, he's been very good.  Definitely a pleasant surprise.

Q: Did you get tickets for the 2011 World Juniors? 
A: Yes, I did.  It took me a while to get excited about the World Juniors, I think because of the lack of player recognition more than anything else, but now that it's here and there are flags and banners up all around the city, I'm starting to get into it.  A friend and I have day passes for the games on January 2nd which are quarterfinals so by then hopefully I'll know a little bit about the players we're watching.  If nothing else, I think it'll be kind of fun to hang out at the arena pretty much all day and night.  The Sabres have a couple of prospects on the Canadian team (Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno) so I'm hoping we luck into seeing them.  (A great post on her WCJ experience is here.)
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Written by Sean Payton | 03 January 2011

GAME39
  • Stupid seam in the glass.  
  • Luongo actually played like the star goaltender he always gets credit for supposedly being.  If he gives them goaltending like that in April / May, the Canucks have a good chance to be playing in June.
  • A huge point in the game in the 1st when Porter has a great look from the between the circles, but couldn't bury it - sending Vancouver on a 2 on 1 where Bolduc beat Andy 5 hole.
  • In the past two games, every really good chance in the 1st / 2nd seems to be going to either Porter and Hunwick - and neither of them have lit them lamp.
  • Yip was actually somewhat noticeable in this one - although there was a time not too long ago when he seemed to outwork everyone on the ice, every single shift.
  • Vancouver now has collected 8 of an available 8 points in 4 games against Colorado.  The Avs have managed only 1 point - and it took a last minute Duchene goal to get that point.  
  • When do we get Stewey back?
Next game: vs Sabres, Tuesday 7PM mountain no comments

Written by Sean Payton | 01 January 2011

GAME38
  • The Avs aren't going to win many games when both Duchene and Stastny aren't going.
  • Duchene / Hejduk / Fleischmann should have been spilt up after the first.  They had nothing going offensively - passes were way off - and on the road, coaches know this line isn't great defensively and so they match their best line up against it. 
  • It's a little weird that they are so awful defensively - ok - Fleischmann is the team's worst defensive forward, but Duchene and Hejduk have proven that they usually solid in their own end. 
  • I'm convinced that Kevin Porter and Matt Hunwick are simply incapable of scoring.  
  • Rycroft quote of the night: "The Avs were bakers in this one because all they wanted to do is make turnovers all night."
Next game: vs Canucks, Sunday, 6PM mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 31 December 2010

GAME37
  • *Whew*
  • Two points is two points, I suppose.
  • This was the classic case of 'turning it off' and not being able to 'turn it back on'.  
  • The Duchene / Hejduk / Fleischmann line is the most entertaining line we've seen in Colorado since the 2003's AMP line.
  • Sadly, it can also be lacking defensively - 9 and 14 were on the ice for the Oil's 2nd goal and 9, 14 and 23 were on the ice for their game tying goal.
  • I'd pull of Stastny off of the top PP unit in favor of Fleischmann.
  • When was the last time you saw both teams in an OT go on the PP and neither score?
  • The Avs are 2-6 in games that are decided during OT and 3-0 in SO.  Maybe they should playing for SO?
  • Andy was absolutely dominate in the SO - his trademarked calmness was just oozing.  Hopefully he can build on that - goaltending is only going to get more important the further into the season we get.
Next game: at Flames, Friday, 6:00 mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 28 December 2010

GAME36
  • As funny as it sounds, I was very impressed with the Avs in this one.  (Minus the special teams, of course.)
  • They came out and forced Detroit to play their game.  (Seriously, when was the last time that happened?)
  • They completed dominated the game 5 on 5.
  • They kept coming when a combination of good goaltending and bad puck luck (posts, skates, bounces) held them off the scoreboard in the 2nd period, despite outshooting the Wings 23-9 in the period and scoring a total of 1 goal in their last two games.
  • They found a way to get a point (and everyone point is huge) out of a game that would have been completely demoralizing to come away to 0.
  • Duchene / Hejduk / Fleischmann line are going to be a real problem for anyone in the NHL when they play at the kind of level they played at in this one.  
  • Nicklas Lidstrom was absolutely steller.
  • I saw a lot of criticism of Budaj for taking the tripping penalty in OT.  It was a smart play - the Wings forward was coming around a wide open net with a lot of speed - it was very likely to be a goal if Boods doesn't haul him down.
  • It was pretty fitting for Osgood to get his 400 against the Avs - but no question in my mind that he is the Terry Bradshaw of the NHL.  An average player in a very visible position, surrounded by a ton HOF talent his entire career.
Next game: at Oilers, Thursday, 7:30 mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 24 December 2010

GAME35
  • I think the Avs were in the holiday spirit, giving my wife and her Minnesota Wild an easy win.
  • Sometimes, the game can be so simple.  75% of this one could be summed up like this: "Andy = not so good.  Backstrom = good.  Wild win."
  • Colorado didn't look any faster than Minnesota.  I was in awe in their inability to win races / battles for pucks all night long against an average-at-best team like Minnesota.
  • They also answered more adversity with more finesse play. 
  • Eventually the Avs will get a few bounces and get themselves going offensively again, but the bounces they need to do that are unlikely to come until they out work their opponents.
  • Shattenkirk was awful - giving up way much too big of a gap all night long.  And oh yeah, there was also that awful giveaway at the blueline on the PP, leading to Minnesota's 1st / shorthanded goal.  Kopitar completely owned him in the previous game and it looks like it really threw off his confidence.
  • I was extremely disappointed in Fleischmann's play.  With about 10 min left in the 3rd, I watched him turn the puck over at the blueline in his own zone and completely stand still and watch as Boods and the dmen barely prevented what would have been a game-ending 4th Wild goal.  I really hope Footer holds him accountable in the locker room for that kind of an effort.
  • Once the score got to 3-1, the Avs seemed to be waiting for a PP that never came to get back into this one.
  • I'm sure that my frustration with the game had a lot to do with it, but it sure seemed like the refs let the Wild absolutely mug any Avs player who was 5 ft in front of the net and at least 5 other tripping calls.
  • Hejdie and Stewey - if either one of you could get back on the ice on Monday - it'd be pretty sweet.
Next game: vs Red Wings, Monday, 7PM mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 22 December 2010

GAME34
  • So much for that whole "the blueberries are lucky this year" thing.
  • I thought it was a pretty even game - until LA scored its first goal.  Complete domination by LA from that point forward.
  • The Kings took away the Avs speed and transition game and visibly frustrated them.  Instead of responding with a simpler, harder game, the Avs tried to finesse their game up even more.  (Wrong move.)
  • When you see the Avs make that drop pass to no one, you know its gonna be a long night.
  • Only 23 SOG for Colorado - LA's defense had a lot to do with that, but there were also way to many good chances from Fleischmann, Shattenkirk and Porter that missed the net.
  • David Jones is really slumping.  Hasn't scored a goal in the month of December - he had 7 in November.
  • Kopitar completely owned Shattenkirk in the 3rd.  
Next game: vs Wild, Thursday, 7PM mountain
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Written by Sean Payton | 20 December 2010

GAME33
  • Great game by two of the NHL's best.  Both teams were extremely sharp.  Fun, high energy game.
  • In order to win 6 straight one goal games (minus empty netters) you need some lucky bounces, and the Avs are getting them.  They probably got 3 or 4 in the last 5 mins alone when the Habs looked like they were all set up for a tying goal.  Montreal probably deserved a better fate in this one.
  • Andy and Price were both great.  Price's save on the Stastny / Dupris 2 on 1 might have been the best stop on an Avs shot we've seen this year. 
  • The definition of "trying to do too much" is when Andy tried to play 3rd dman late in the 3rd behind his own net.  
  • Yip takes a lot of minors.
  • Galiardi absolutely worked his tail off.  3rd line, tonight? - no problem, coach.  
  • Hunwick was about 100 times better vs the Ottawa game - I don't mind a bad game here and there if he can shake it off quickly. 
  • I'm not much of a Bill O'Reilly fan, but I love that the boys call Ryan O'Reilly "Factor".
  • Koci watch: Sacco must have thought Koci was really going well in this one - 2:52.  Oh, wait, just getting word he was just caught on a long shift in the 1st period...
  • Avs have earned points in 10 of their last 11 games.  
Next game: vs Kings, Tuesday, 7:30PM mountain no comments