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

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