Saturday, December 31, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Anaheim Ducks, 12/31/11

The Good Guys: Are a little less "good" than they were two days ago at this time. Matt Duchene's knee injury, suffered on Thursday night against Phoenix, will keep him out of action for at least a month. Winger David Jones is expected to be back in the lineup sooner rather than later, but the loss of Duchene for a wicked January stretch that sees the Avs on the road for 12 of 15 games will put this young team to the test.

Bunch of Dicks: the Anaheim Ducks started the 2011-12 season by winning 4 of their first 5 games. Since then, the Ducks have gone on a wretched 6-19-6 stretch that saw Stanley Cup winning head coach Randy Carlyle lose his job. In his place, the Ducks hired jolly fat fuck Bruce Boudreau, who hasn't fared much better than his predecessor. A lack of depth beyond the Ducks' killer top 4 forwards, in tandem with the failures of Lubomir Visnovsky (NHL Second Team Allstar) and Jonas Hiller (Allstar Game participant) to duplicate their outstanding 2010-11 campaigns has conspired to leave Ducks fans in a FOWL mood, and has left fans and media members alike to make really bad foul/fowl jokes.

We Like: The recent resilience shown by the Avalanche. After showing themselves to be an extremely fragile team during their midseason collapse a year ago, and at times early in this season, the Avs have faced down adversity in the form of injuries to top 6 forwards Peter Mueller and David Jones. In addition, this is a team that seems to have recaptured some of the magic and enthusiasm of their 2009-10 playoff season behind veteran goalie JS Giguere, who will start tonight in his first trip back to Anaheim since he was traded from there to Toronto in 2010... Semyon Varlamov had another one of "those games" on Thursday against Phoenix where he's shown the flashes of brilliance expected of him.... TJ Galiardi has continued to be the grinding, agitating force he needs to be when he's at his best... Seeing old friend Shjon Podein on the ice (and scoring one of his patented greasy goals) during the Flyers/Rangers alumni game today.

We Don't Like: The idea of a team that's already sorely lacking in scoring depth lose it's most electrifying player during a key stretch of the season. Who's going to step up?... The idea that Teemu Selanne will end his illustrious career on this struggling Ducks team. Forget Winnipeg; wouldn't he look really good in a Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks, or Sharks jersey heading into the playoffs? How about another chance in burgundy and blue, if the Avs are still in the playoff race at the deadline?

Randomly: Do you think Bobby Clarke's hockey pads smell like a colostomy bag?

Tonight's Hero: goalie JS Giguere makes a triumphant return to the city that saw him raise a Conn Smythe trophy and a Stanley Cup with a sparkling performance.

Tonight's Goat: It pains me to say it, because he's one of my favorite players to watch, but Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has been playing a remarkably inconsistent game as his team has struggled. Watch for a matchup against Erik Johnson and Giguere to provide Getzlaf with another frustrating night.

Final Thought: Seriously, what genius thought this was a good idea?

Avs 4, Ducks 1

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Winnipeg Jets, 12/27/11

The Good Guys: ...have been good. REAL good. 5-wins-in-a-row good. What does it all mean? It's still too early in the season, and 40+ more games is alot, but there aren't too many Avs fans that have found fault with their favorite team lately.

Unless they lose tonight. Let's think positively though.

Bunch Of Dicks Jets: Just can't bring myself to call the Jets a bunch of dicks, at least not yet. Ask me again in about 4 hours, but for now, I'm just happy to have been able to look forward to playing the Winnipeg Jets again. The Jets have been a sneaky opponent, one from which not much has been expected, but have jumped up and bitten better teams a few times this season. Alex Burmistrov is fun to watch. Happy to have you back, Winnipeg.

We Like: Actually, "like" isn't strong enough, we LOVE this song from a band called "Les Dale Hawerchuk"...and the song is CALLED Dale Hawerchuk. Of course.

We Don't Like: Nope. This is an uplifting, hater-free Gameday Primer, in honor of the Jets' return. Besides, if the Avs blow this game, we'll have plenty of hate to spread later on.

Randomly: When somebody can't hear you, they point at their ear and make the "can't hear you" face, instead of saying "Hey, I can't hear you", as if I'M the one who can't hear. What is that?

Tonight's Hero: A lazy pick, because when hasn't he been heroic this season? But Ryan O'Reilly does so many little things right, and players like that make the difference on the second night of back-to-back games.

Tonight's Goat: Hater-free, so no goats tonight. Let's give it to former Jets owner Barry Shenkarow. While the demise of the original Jets isn't entirely on his head, they left on his watch, and that's goat-ish enough for tonight.

Final Thought: Hey Winnipeg, bring back Queen Victoria's portrait in the arena, for god's sake. I understand not bringing back the original logo and uniform, but GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

Avs 3, Jets 1

Monday, December 26, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Minnesota Wild, 12/26/11

The Good Guys: "Don't look now", but your Colorado Avalanche have reeled off four wins in a row, and have given themselves a chance to be in the playoff discussion as the new year rolls around. The up-and-down nature of this season thus far isn't going to keep the "yeah, but..." whispers at bay, but if the young team can keep gaining confidence, they could be a wild card in the playoff race during the second half of the season.

Bunch Of Dicks: the Minnesota Wild have to be considered the surprise team of the NHL this season, riding an inexplicable hot streak to the top of the Western Conference, in the face of any metric whatsoever that could explain it. The Wild lack compelling players, any discernable talent on the blueline, and certainly trustworthy designated drivers. They have received better-than-expected contributions from guys like Kyle Brodziak and Clayton Stoner, but the skeptics will tell you they dont expect that to be enough to sustain the Wild through the midseason grind. The Wild have shown cracks lately, as they've gone on a three-game skid. How will they respond to their first adversity of the season?

We Like: JS Giguere,'s third star of the week...hey, looky at what the Avs have: a #1 defenseman. Can Erik Johnson keep it up? Something seems to have clicked for him in the past month. Can we say it's coincided with the arrival of Stefan Elliott?... Ron Wilson and Brian Burke relentlessly trolling the self-important Toronto media... Another guy who is at his best when he's not down on himself, Matt Duchene, had his best game in weeks against Tampa on Friday... Not hearing too much about Joe Sacco's job security lately. Tune in, as that could change by the end of the night.

We Don't Like: Eric Duhatschek's knee-jerk characterization of Semyon Varlamov's performance thus far. I'd wager Duhatschek has seen Varlamov play three times, maximum, this season. Context is key, and while Varlamov's performance has been admittedly spotty thus far, "unmitigated disaster" is a bit overdramatic... Two days with no NHL games for the Christmas break? Good for the players and organizations, not so much for the fans. The NFL and NBA have a presence on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, why doesn't the NHL? On second thought, I wouldn't want to spend the holidays on the road either... Playing Minnesota, ever. I don't care that Jacques Lemaire isn't the coach anymore, I don't care that the Wild don't play that strict trap system they became known for, I don't care that they brought in "name" players like Devin Setoguchi and f---in' all-stars like Dany Heatley, they just are flat out boring to watch. I respect and like their fans, but I respect them even more for pretending they enjoy what they're watching from the home team.

Randomly: "Quaaludes" is the only word in the English language that contains the string "q-u-a-a". The only reason I thought of that? You bet, WE'RE PLAYING MINNESOTA.

Tonight's Hero: Gut feeling: Semyon Varlamov makes a few big saves to ward off a late flurry.

Tonight's Goat: being that Kerry Fraser has retired, we don't have to worry about the Avs getting whistled for a penalty 30 seconds after every goal they score against Minnesota; that said, with everybody still a little sluggish from the brief holiday layoff, I could see a bad call or two turning the tide of the game one way or the other. Let's hope it's in the right direction.

Final Thought: the season Minnesota has been having thus far reminds me a little of the Avs season last year. The wheels fell off for Colorado right around this time last season; hopefully the Avs brought their socket wrenches to, ahem, loosen those nuts a little more today.

Avs 3, Wild 2

Saturday, December 17, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Washington Capitals, 12/17/11

The Good Guys: ...were good for 40 minutes on Thursday night. In fact, they were REALLY good for 40 minutes, outplaying the San Jose Sharks in their own building, en route to a 4-2 lead heading into the third period. Then, the lack of experience showed up in the third period, the Sharks turned the game around on the Avs, and escaped with a 5-4 win. Still, the team showed flashes of what they could become.

Tonight's Dicks: The Washington Capitals. Hmm, haven't heard too much about them this season. Wonder how they're doing? I'm sure Alex Ovechkin has about 30 goals by now, and I'm sure that after dumping that nobody goaltender on July 1st (what was his name again?) for a SUREFIRE #1 overall draft pick and following that up by signing Tomas Vokoun (lifetime playoff record: 3-8), the Caps are humming right along toward another Stanley Cup championship. Wait, what?

We Like: Again, not to put too fine a point on it: the Avs performance through 40 minutes on Thursday night wasnt just good, it was outstanding. After an early hiccup, Semyon Varlamov was very good, and Erik Johnson had what was perhaps his best game as an Av. Paul Stastny accounted for two of the goals, and looked more comfortable and involved than he has yet this season. We also like: Phoenix's end of today's trade of Kyle Turris to Ottawa for David Rundblad and a 2nd round pick; seeing Dale Hunter back in the NHL. Hunter was my first "hockey hero" as a child, when he was a Nordique.

We Don't Like: Another head injury for the Flyers, this time to rookie Sean Couturier; Los Angeles' impending hire of Darryl Sutter (another genius move from the most overrated GM in hockey, Dean Lombardi); Washington's chances of winning anything of significance with their current core.

Randomly: there's a liquor store located right next to the hockey shop where I get my skates sharpened. My skates are never dull.

Tonight's Hero: goalie JS Giguere, who has not gotten nearly enough credit for how good he's been this season.

Tonight's Goat: the Caps power play

Final Thought: Matt Hendricks is going to score at least two goals tonight. I have no doubt in my mind about this. I'd bet my next two paychecks on it. Colorado fares well against teams that like to play a more uptempo style, so I won't be shocked to see guys like Matt Duchene and David Jones have multi-goal games too.

Avs 5, Caps 3

Thursday, December 15, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: San Jose Sharks, 12/15/11

The Good Guys: The Avs took a 4-3 decision over the Sharks on Tuesday, the capper coming on a Gabriel Landeskog shootout tally. A late goal by the Sharks (due in part to dreadful plays by both Ryan O'Byrne and Jay McClement...and why are those two out there in the last minute of a one goal game, anyway?) left some with a bad taste in their mouth about the game, but the Avs went into the third period facing a 2-1 deficit. Beggars can't be choosers. Good win for the Burgundy and Blue.

Tonight's Dicks: San Jose comes into tonight's tilt only having won 3 of their past 10, which naturally prompted whispers that Todd McLellan and his salt-and-pepper hair structure may be on the hot seat. This is silly, of course, as the ebb-and-flow of an 82 game season allows for the occasional dry spell. Consider: the currently streaking Bruins went on a similar 3-of-10 streak early in the season, and they pulled through it swimmingly. The Sharks are a good team who usually find a way to beat the Avs...but the Avs also seem to play the Sharks tougher than they play most other teams.

We Like: Gabriel Landeskog's knack for stripping pucks on the poke-check near the blueline; Ilya Bryzgalov, who may be Gozer's long-lost third minion (Keymaster, Gatekeeper, Netminder?); Erik Johnson's game since he returned from his groin injury (intelligent, aggressive); this hat; Sidney Crosby's self-discipline in the face of what must be extraordinary frustration; TJ Galiardi's December; Rob Blake, still (Mueller hit nonwithstanding); watching Patrick Kane.

We Don't Like: Concussions (the "fix" is to allow LIMITED obstruction, and mandatory softer padding); ass-backwards Pat Hickey, and I won't dignify him by linking to his disgusting column; waiting for Joe Pavelski to tear out our still-beating hearts at some point in the 3rd period tonight; Ryan O'Byrne being entrusted to do anything more challenging than keeping a seat in the press box from floating away; the fact that I remember the Avs haven't beaten Calgary this season within a half hour of waking up every single day.

Randomly: Au Bon Pain puts NUTMEG in their macaroni and cheese. I forget the term they use to play that fact up on the menu. Nutmeg is the most underrated ingredient in good egg nog.

Tonight's Hero: a well-overdue Paul Stastny

Tonight's Goat: Shane O'Brien would like to remind you he takes really stupid penalties at really bad times. He will choose tonight to do so.

Final Thought: Not sure if there's a "frequent" playoff opponent of the Avs that I respect more than the Sharks. The two teams have split four meetings in the playoffs, but the Sharks have never been a particularly detestable bunch, like the crybabies in Vancouver, the pricks in Dallas, and Detoilet.

Sharks 4, Avs 2

Friday, December 9, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Oilers, 12/9/10

Team Preview: Avalanche vs Oilers, 7pm MST

Leading Scorers:
Avalanche (O'Reilly, 6g 15a, 21pts)
Oilers (Del Greco, 14-19 FG, 13-13 xp, 55pts)

Players to Watch
Avalanche: explosive forward Matt Duchene, a tough player to contain in tight quarters. Can turn a routine looking play into highlight-reel material.
Oilers: explosive RB Alonzo Highsmith, a tough player to contain in tight quarters. Can turn a routine looking play into highlight-reel material.

Coaching Matchup
Avalanche: head coach Joe Sacco, whose claim to fame is a series of questionably hopeless decisions, such as playing hapless defenseman Matt Hunwick at forward.
Oilers: head coach Jerry Glanville, whose claim to fame is a series of questionably hopeless decisions, such as leaving game tickets at the ticket window for deceased rock legend Elvis Presley.

Suggestions For Each Slumping Team
Avalanche: trade hapless defenseman Matt Hunwick for deceased rock legend Elvis Presley.
Oilers: waive Hunwick immediately.

Bold Predictions For Each Team
Avalanche: defenseman Erik Johnson, yet to score a goal this season, will parlay his recent good play into his first two goals of the season tonight.
Oilers: quarterback Warren Moon will take advantage of an inexperienced Avalanche defense for a 400+ yard performance.

And The Winner Will Be...
The Oilers home field advantage will be too much for the young Avs to overcome, given their lack of experience playing on Astroturf. Oilers win on a late Del Greco field goal, 5-4.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Vancouver Canucks, 12/6/11

The Good Guys: Colorado beat Detroit 4-2 on Sunday behind Ryan "Radar Love" O'Reilly's two goals. Possessive forms of names that already have an apostrophe in them look dumb. Avs record stands at 13-13-1, 27 points. THREE game winning streak, AH AH AH.

Tonight's Dicks Du'Jour: Vancouver, defending Western Conference champions, still populated by assclowns and ne'er-do-wells. Maxime Lapierre somehow makes Alex Burrows seem like a decent human being. The Canucks are 15-10-1, good for 31 points.

We Like: Seeing Reboundo Luongo starting in goal for Vancouver tonight; Radar Love finding another gear to his game; actual structure and discipline on the power play lately; Semyon Varlamov making big stops early in games, exempting the Avs from the Budaj Effect; keeping the fading Flames in the same division under realignment for future payback beatings; watching Caps fans beginning to squirm about their goaltending.

We Don't Like: the inevitable Sedin-to-Sedin-to-Burrows power play goal tonight; having to wait for Alain Vigneault to start wearing the ascot we all know he DESPERATELY wants to wear during games; "conferences"; watching Ryan O'Byrne trying to keep up with skilled teams in the defensive zone; the fact that Johan Franzen has blown out his knee against every single team in the NHL except the Avs.

Randomly: Alex Ovechkin should tell the world he's not on PEDs, that he's on Minute Maid. It almost worked for Daniel LaRusso.

Tonight's Hero: Matt Duchene

Tonight's Goat: Luonnnnnnnnnngggggggggooooooooooo

Final Thought: Three games against western Canadian rivals coming up; gotta win 2, would love to win 3. Strong effort against a struggling goalie will be a good start.

Avs 4, Canucks 3

Sunday, December 4, 2011

AVS GAMEDAY SPECIAL: The Poison Pen on Dispelling the Detroit Draft Myth

One of our ongoing themes here at Bad Altitude Hockey is our insistence that more casual/novice NHL fans have been sold a bill of goods by the league about the infallibility of the modern-day Detroit Red Wings Presented By Amway. Watch a TV broadcast of an AmWings game, look anywhere on the internet, and it's nonstop glowing stories about Nick Lidstrom (deserved, grudgingly), Mike "Hi Ho" Babcock (not so much), and others associated with Detroit hockey (seriously, the "Chris Osgood for the Hall of Fame arguments were an insult to any fan even semi-familiar with the NHL for the past 15 years). Earlier this season, we re-familiarized ourselves with some of the shady history between the Avs and Wings, and some of the more loathesome among the current cast of characters in Detroit. Today, we focus on the mindless mythology surrounding Detroit's drafting capabilities. In particular, we'll examine the widely-held notion that Detroit's late-round picks have been a consistent, recurring boon to their current roster and system.

First off, let's get this out of the way right off the bat: yes, Detroit drafted Pavel Datsyuk in the 6th round of the '98 draft, 171st overall. Detroit followed that up in 1999 by picking Henrik Zetterberg in the 7th round with the 210th overall pick. These were two generational low-round draft picks, two guys that put an aging Wings core on their back to keep the team respectable as the Yzermans and Shanahans faded away and left, and then combined with the holdover Lidstrom to take a solid team with questionable goaltending to a Stanley Cup in 2008. Credit where it's due. Certainly, by any standard, finding two arguable, borderline Hall Of Famers in the 6th and 7th rounds in consecutive seasons is remarkable; so remarkable, in fact, that we are willing to ignore the duds the AmWings picked BEFORE those players in their draft years. Illustrious names such as Ryan Barnes and Tomek Valtonen (both 2nd rd, 1998), Brent Hobday (4th rd, 1998), Jari Tolsa (4th rd, 1999) and Andrei Maximenko (5th rd, 1999) dot those draft lists. Certainly, AmWings apologists will howl "WELL, 28 OTHER TEAMS PASSED THOSE GUYS UP, WE KNEW NOBODY ELSE IS AS SMART AS WE ARE, SO WE COULD AFFORD TO LET DATSYUK AND ZETTERBERG FALL!", and that's because AmWings fans are insufferable, arrogant simps. The thought process to truly believe that the Wings just KNEW those two players would fall into their laps that late in their draft years takes an almost unbelievable stretch in logic.  Undoubtedly, their scouting department did their due diligence on the two players, but to insist that they were anything more than just late-round flyers that panned out famously is simply obtuse. In fact, to completely buy into the argument that Detroit knew what they were doing because they're smarter than everyone else in the room would lead one to believe that the Wings would have drafted EVERY late-round "steal" in subsequent seasons. To that end, let's start in draft year 2000, and work our way up through the first post-lockout draft, 2005, and see how our delicate genius friends in "Hockeytown" did in the late rounds (6th and beyond).

2000 late-round "steals": Henrik Lundqvist (G, round 7, 205th overall, NYR); Matthew Lombardi (C, round 7, 215th overall, Edm); Paul Gaustad (C, round 7, 220 overall, Buf); Antti Miettinen (LW, round 7, 224th overall, Dal)
2000 late-round Detroit picks: Par Backer (C, round 6, 187th overall); Paul Ballantyne (D, round 6, 196th overall)

2001 late-round "steals": Dennis Seidenberg (D, round 6, 172nd overall, Phi); Ryane Clowe (LW, round 6, 175th overall, SJ); Marek Zidlicky (D, round 6, 176th overall, NYR); Jussi Jokinen (LW, round 6, 192nd overall, Dal); Brooks Laich (C, round 6, 193rd overall, Ott); Johnny Oduya (D, round 7, 221st overall, Wsh); Marek Svatos (RW, round 7, 227th overall, Col); Milan Jurcina (D, round 8, 241st overall, Bos)
2001 late-round Detroit picks: Nick Pannoni (G, round 6, 195th overall); Dmitry Bykov (D, round 8, 258th overall)

2002 late-round "steals": Ian White (D, round 6, 191st overall, Tor); Maxime Talbot (C, round 8, 234th overall, Pit)*; Dennis Wideman (D, round 8, 241st overall, Buf)
2002 late-round Detroit picks: Jimmy Cuddihy (C, round 6, 197th overall); Derek Meech (D, round 7, 229th overall); Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu (D, round 8, 260th overall); Christian Soderstrom (D, round 9, 262nd overall); Jonathan Ericsson (D, round 9, 291st overall)
* - denotes player(s) that singlehandedly outscored Detroit in game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final

2003 late-round "steals": Joe Pavelski (C, round 7, 205th overall, SJ); Tobias Enstrom (D, round 8, 239th overall, Atl); Dustin Byfuglien (D, round 8, 245th overall, Chi); Shane O'Brien (D, round 8, 250th overall, Ana); Matt Moulson (LW, round 9, 253rd overall, Pit); Jaroslav Halak (G, round 9, 271st overall, Mtl); David Jones (RW, round 9, 288th overall, Col)
2003 late-round Detroit picks: Andreas Sundin (LW, round 6, 170th overall); Stefan Blom (D, round 6, 194th overall); Tomas Kollar (LW, round 7, 226th overall); Vladimir Kutny (LW, round 8, 258th overall); Mikael Johansson (C, round 9, 289th overall)

2004 late-round "steals": Roman Polak (D, round 6, 180th overall, StL); Troy Brouwer (LW, round 7, 214th overall, Chi); Chris Campoli (D, round 7, 227th overall, NYI); Pekka Rinne (G, round 8, 258th overall, Nsh); Mark Streit (D, round 9, 262nd overall, Mtl); Jannik Hansen (RW, round 9, 287th overall, Van)
2004 late-round Detroit picks: Anton Axelsson (LW, round 6, 192nd overall); Steve Covington (RW, round 7, 226th overall); Gennady Stolyarov (RW, round 8, 257th overall)

2005 late-round "steals": Matt D'Agostini (RW, round 6, 190th overall, Mtl); Sergei Kostitsyn (RW, round 7, 200th overall, Mtl); Patric Hornqvist (RW, round 7, 230th overall, Nsh)
2005 late-round Detroit picks: Juho Mielonen (D, round 6, 175th overall); Bretton Stamler (D, round 7, 214th overall)

Some things we can take away from this list:
  • Most teams are represented at least once, with several showing up two or more times
  • Detroit drafted exactly ONE player past the fifth round that is still with the team (Ericsson), and two fringe players that saw any time at all in the NHL (Bykov, Meech).
  • Interesting to note several players passed on by the "geniuses" in Detroit that have come back to haunt the Wings (Talbot, Pavelski, and Clowe, most notably).
Just remember this list the next time you hear some mindless talking-head shrilling at the draft about Ken Holland's late-round "gems", and bear in mind that if they're referring to anything that's happened in the past 13 years, they're just not paying attention.