Tuesday, January 31, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Edmonton Oilers, 1/31/12

The Good Guys: Are finally back after a weeklong hiatus for the All Star game. It seemed like about a month, after a sketchy 3-2 loss on home ice to Minnestupid. The Avs' sloppy play in that game, in my opinion, underscored the importance of the absent Ryan O'Reilly. O'Reilly has been a stabilizing force on ice, always making sound decisions with the puck and without it, and that game featured several forehead-slappers, most notably Shane O'Brien's puckhandling gaffe in the neutral zone. That one led to the game-winning goal on a 2-on-none for the Wild, and a night of teeth-grinding from yours truly.

Bunch Of Dicks: Every time I watch a game involving Andy "Expert" Sutton, I wonder who on the other side is going to be maimed by his reckless, careless play. Tonight will be no different. Also: Taylor Hall was ugly to begin with. If anything, that scar is doing him and the rest of us a favor by giving us something to focus on other than his relief map of a face.

We Like: Hockey's back, BRAH. The All Star game blows.

We Don't Like: Now that the trade deadline is a month away, Avs fans' Spidey Senses should be tingling. Greg Sherman has been anything but bashful in the trade market, and while the jury is still out on the two biggest deals that brought Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlamov, is it possible we see a "desperate" move that nudges the Avs into the playoffs but hurts them long-term? Probably not, but if you don't think it's a possibility, you haven't been paying attention. I live in fear of these things.

Randomly: Props and kudos to my friend and ace Flyers fan @cassiecup for being the first person to identify Kris Letang as Opera Man's clone. No clue how I didn't make this connection before.

Tonight's Hero: Let's see if Semyon Varlamov can get the Avs' stretch drive off to a good start. Positive thoughts.

Tonight's Goat: Me, for completely forgetting I was out of beer. Dry Island in the Jones residence this evening.

Final Thought: Seriously, how did I forget that? I thought about it all day.

Let's get the theoretical second half of the season off to a good start, gentlemen!

Avs 4, Oilers 1

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Minnesota Wild, 1/24/12

The Good Guys: Started putting pucks into the net about 54 minutes too late Sunday night in a 3-2 loss to Anaheim. The Avs outshot the Quacks 44-16, but Jonas Hiller was undizzy, and careless puckhandling during an early power play led to a short-handed goal by Bobby Ryan that had the Avs playing from behind for most of the game.

Bunch Of Dicks: O HAI THERE MINNESUCKWADS! Good to see that absolutely EVERYBODY IN THE UNIVERSE was right about you during your Smoke n' Mirrors start. You are who we thought you were!

We Like: The opportunity to dig Minnesota's hole just a little bit deeper going into the All Star break.

We Don't Like: It started out as a minor annoyance, then grew into something that made me grimace every time I saw it, then morphed into something that actually made my belly ache every time I saw it, and finally metastasized into a shorthanded goal in Sunday night's game at the Quacketeria: that stupid drop pass in the neutral zone on the power play breakout that is somehow supposed to generate extra speed coming into the zone. In theory? It makes sense. In practice, it ends up being four guys having to slow down to various degrees because the trailer is lagging, so you have one man bursting into the zone while four men are trying to get back to top speed. Is Tony Granato sending signals directly into Joe Sacco's head? If so, isn't that somehow illegal?

Randomly: When you ask someone for their telephone number or email address, 99% of the time, the person will race through it, forcing you to ask them to repeat it S L O W L Y. Can we legalize some sort of mildly physical negative reinforcement for people who do this? Maybe a light tap on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, like you'd do with a bad dog? A spritz of water?

Tonight's Hero: Joe Sacco, for not sitting JS Giguere tonight despite the loss on Sunday. Rotating your goalies based on the result of the last game, unless it was an exceptionally poor showing, doesn't work when you have one goalie clearly outplaying the other.

Tonight's Goat: The NHL. We're REALLY digging being forced to watch 6 Avs/Wild matchups a season, guys!

Final Thought: Minnesota is an odd resident on my list of unforgivable teams, in that they are on there due to one thing and one thing only: the 2003 first round playoff series, remembered most for Andrew Brunette ending Patrick Roy's career, Kerry Fraser taking games 6 and 7 and turning them into his own personal bidet, and Richard Park turning into Richard, Maurice. All the other teams on that list (Detroit, Vancouver, Dallas, Calgary) have found themselves there due to multiple transgressions over the span of years.

Avs 2, Wild 0

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Florida Panthers, 1/18/12

The Good Guys: Were absolute guano on Monday, getting raced in Phoenix by the Coyotes by a 6-1 margin. 2 goals apiece for Coyotes captain Shane Doan and double-last-names-guy Boyd Gordon were enough to send Avs starting goalie Semyon Varlamov fleeing from the dressing room without talking to oversensitive beat reporters after the game. Watching the game was only about 50% as uncomfortable as watching people complain about Varlamov not talking to the reporters.

Bunch Of Dicks: Colorado welcomes the Florida Panthers and old friend Tomas Fleischmann to Denver for the teams' only meeting of the season. The Panthers did what many Avs fans hoped their team would do in the offseason and threw a bunch of money at mid-tier free agents in an attempt to drag the team to respectability. Thus far, the weird science has worked, as the Panthers sit atop the Southeast Division, ahead of the mediocre Caps and three interchangeable teams that may or may not be ECHL refugees.

We Like: Not a goddam thing. Monday's game sucked, and I've been pouting ever since. That said: a win tonight puts the Avs back into the top 8. Treading water is just good enough right now, as the Avs slog through a rough January schedule without Matt Duchene, and none of the other Western Conference bubble teams have asserted themselves. Sooner or later, Colorado is going to have to string some wins together again, similar to their December, and a win tonight would be a good start.

We Don't Like: The gradual descent of Brandon Yip, which led to Yip's waiver today. Yip provided some touch and some jam playing alongside Matt Duchene in 2009-10, but last season and this season, the "curse of 18" struck. Yip battled injuries and inconsistency, along with rumors of a lack of commitment. Hopefully the kid can find himself in Lake Erie, if he goes unclaimed. If he DOES get claimed, hopefully it will be by a team in the East, because we all know what happens with former Avs in games against the current team.


Tonight's Hero: Peter Mueller is about a year-and-a-half overdue. Mueller nets two tonight.

Tonight's Goat: Does Greg Sherman pay the price for not trying harder to re-sign Tomas Fleischmann in the offseason?

Final Thought: The Avs are wearing their blue alternate jerseys tonight. Most of the fanbase seems to hate them. Their proximity to Quebec blue gives me eyegasms.

Panthers 4, Avs 2

Saturday, January 14, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Dallas Stars, 1/14/12

The Good Guys: Don't look now, but the Avs have only taken one of the last six available points and have dropped back to 10th place in the Western Conference. A win today over the 9th place Stars would vault Colorado back into a virtual deadlock with 8th place Minnesota (who plays St Louis later today) and Los Angeles (Calgary), and would probably be a good idea. Also a good idea: NOT BLOWING A TWO GOAL LEAD. But nobody needs me to tell them that. Anyway, I really hate Dallas, and I know you do too. Remember why?

Bunch Of Dicks:

Yeah, this is why.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the two consecutive losses to the Stars in 1999 and 2000 are what stands between the Sakic/Roy/Forsberg Avs from being seen in the same category as the Pens/Devils/unnamed Michigan teams of the past 20 years. A win in even one of those two encounters (both of which were eminently winnable series) would have put the Avalanche into a Final series with the Sabres in 1999 (who Colorado would have laid waste to), and the Devils in 2000 (a tougher matchup, but a matchup Colorado subsequently proved they could handle). A third (and possibly fourth) Cup would have cemented those great Avs teams for what they were. Instead, the team was sent home in shocking fashion by inferior Stars teams, and as a result, I HATE YOU DALLAS. Also, Mike Ribeiro is a clown.

We Like: Welcome back, Peter Mueller!... He's never going to be a flashy, spectacular player that draws up a highlight reel, but Gabriel Landeskog does at least one subtle thing a game that shows what type of player he already is, and gives you a glimpse of what he's going to be. He's not a Stamkos/Tavares/Duchene/Kane type of player, but I don't think it's unfair to compare him to a Jonathan Toews type, in terms of style and impact on a team.

We Don't Like: The Dallas Stars. This stands alone. Seriously, f them.

Randomly: Payday candy bars are delicious...but the peanuts are on the outside, and the caramel/nougat is on the inside. It's like a candy bar turned inside out. Maybe that's what makes it so delicious?

Today's Hero: Trying to keep thinking as positively as I possibly can, but every time I think of Loui Eriksson, scary music plays in my head.

Today's Goat: The captain of this Italian cruise ship who ran the boat aground and killed a few people. How do you MISS the water? It's everywhere!

Final Thought: Remember Mike Modano getting destroyed by Mark Messier, and then going on a mini-adventure on the way to the ambulance? TEH LULZ.

Stars 3, Avs 2

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Nashville Predators, 1/10/12

The Good Guys: The Avs went Jeckyll-and-Hyde during their back-to-back dates in Chicago and St Louis over the weekend, dominating the powerful Blackhawks 4-0 on Friday and then getting turned around and melted by the Blues on Saturday by an identical 4-0 score. Defenseman Erik Johnson suffered an unspecified hand injury (although "hand injury" is specific enough, I suppose) and will not play tonight. Semyon Varlamov will get the start between the pipes for the burgundy and blue. The Caps are off tonight, giving their fans another opportunity to watch the goalie they should have kept attempt to ensure that the #1 pick that was given up for him sink lower and lower in the draft order.

Taunting Caps fans and their July Muscles will not get old any time soon.

Bunch Of Dicks: It always seems like the Avs don't see the Nashville Predators for 4 months, then play them every other day for two weeks, and this season is no different. The Avs host the Preds for the first time this season, then travel to Nashville for a Thursday night rendezvous to finish up the back to back. Say the word "rendezvous" to a Nashville resident, and he/she will likely either gleek a string of Red Man at you, or sic their huntin' dawg on you. Just kidding Nashville fans, I love you! Please don't tie me to a tree.

We Like: That other teams are catching up to the Avs in games played. The fact that Colorado has had 2-4 more games played than the teams they are battling for playoff position kept a shadow of pessimism lurking over the recent hot streak, knowing full well that a Los Angeles, Phoenix, or Nashville hot streak with those games-in-hand would catapult them over the Avalanche in the Western Conference playoff race. It seems like there have been less three-point "loser point" games in the West this season (KNOCK WOOD KNOCK WOOD) and other teams in range with the Avs have struggled lately, making the potential playoff star shine a little brighter.

We Don't Like: Jordin Tootoo. Keep your nose clean the next two games, you weasel.

Randomly: How many brands of toothpaste do we really need? Does it clean your teeth? Is it minty? There you go! Why do we need 15 brands, and thirty varieties of each brand? "Whitens Teeth, Brightens Teeth, Scratches Your Asshole! CREST IS B-HOLE TESTED AND APPROVED". Toothpaste barons are the 1%.

Tonight's Hero: Semyon Varlamov continues his hot streak against a suspect Nashville attack.

Tonight's Goat: Nashville's Arena Music Guy, unless he works in some Conway Twitty.

Final Thought: I always wondered why David Legwand didn't end up wearing the "C" for the Preds. He was their first ever pick, 2nd overall in the 1998 draft. He's been with the team continuously since the 1999-2000 season, has been solid if unspectacular, and has never even been rumored to be moved elsewhere. He likes Nashville and they like him...so why was he never given the chance to captain the Predators? Is it because of all those dismembered bodies they found buried in a safe under the root cellar in his house?

Avs 2, Preds 1

Saturday, January 7, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: St Louis Blues, 1/7/12

The Good Guys: Colorado has won 4 straight and 9 of their last 10 games, barging into the Western Conference playoff race. One week into a tough January schedule, the Avs have given their fans reason for tentative optimism, which is the only kind we've known for the past 6 years or so. Semyon Varlamov shut the door on the Chicago Blackhawks last night for his second shutout of the season (a 1-0 win over defending champion Boston was the first), and steady vet JS Giguere gets the call for the second half of the back-to-backs tonight, against the St Louis Blues.

Bunch Of Dicks: The Blues have been an odd team to observe this season. A mediocre 6-7 start got head coach Davis Payne gassed, and St Louis replaced him with B.F.A. Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock coached teams have always been a colossal pain in the ass for the Avs to deal with; my guess is due to Hitch cleaning out the pre-game buffet and leaving the Avs players hungry. Hard to play on an empty stomach. Am I still bitter for 1999 and 2000? MAYBE.

Either way, tonight's game is going to be a challenge, despite the Avs' recent success against the Blues. St Louis is one of the teams the Avs are trying to hang with for playoff positioning as the season goes along, and two points tonight certainly won't hurt the cause.

We Like: How about role players like David van der Gulik (who sounds like a specialty weed dealer in Amsterdam) and yes, Chuck Kobasew stepping up with goals in a big road game last night?... Another big time performance from the increasingly indispensable TJ Galiardi, who recorded his first GAF Trick (Goal, Assist, Fight...I'm not using the bogus name typically assigned to this feat) last night, battling Canucks fan David Bolland after a driveby hit on Paul Stastny. As Joe Sacco said about Galiardi postgame last night, "When he's skating, he's effective." Galiardi has been skating and playing with confidence for the past month, and it's no coincidence that the Avs have been a much better team in that time. Galiardi was effective during the team's 2009-10 run to the playoffs, and served as a major annoyance to the Sharks during the Avs' ultimately unsuccessful bid for a first round upset. When Galiardi plays with that type of jam, he creates room for his linemates, and he has the instincts and skill to make things happen offensively.

We Don't Like: Clenched b-holes, but thats what we have every time the Avs play against prominent former Avs like Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. When headed into a game against guys like this, it's always smart to budget at least one goal and two or three big plays into your expectations for the opponent... How many times will the producers of the broadcast treat us to Ken Hitchcock's best Gomez Addams look?

Randomly: There's a small, period-sized and shaped spot on my monitor, and I just spent 25 seconds of my life trying to figure out why the "delete" button couldn't remove it. Rubbed it off with my thumb. TWSS.

Tonight's Hero: Rookie Gabriel Landeskog has been quietly impressive, and will have had a notable game on the scoresheet by the end of the evening.

Tonight's Goat: Barrett Jackman sucks.

Final Thought: Absolutely love the Blues goal horn/song combo, which is the organist playing "When The Saints Go Marching In". Original, vintage, cool. That said, I wouldn't mind not hearing it tonight at all.

Avs 4, Blues 2

BONUS PREDICTION: Sorry, Denver sports fans...Steeler fan here. Steelers 17, Broncos 6

Friday, January 6, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Chicago Blackhawks, 1/6/12

Lazy guy version of the primer tonight, so we're gonna look at my two favorite Avs/Hawks memories, and call it a day. HOW YOU LIKE THEM APPLES????

Monday, January 2, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Los Angeles Kings, 1/2/12

The Good Guys: The Avs remain on a bit of a hot streak, having won 8 of their past 10 games after pumping Anaheim on New Year's Eve, and clawing their way back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Pay no attention to the fact that they have played approximately 15 more games than anybody else in the league, and the fact that Matt Duchene will be missing a month of action; our fan base has been starving for something to hold on to, and our team has been giving it to us lately. Can the Avs pull out another win in Hollywood tonight, or are we California Dreamin'?

Or are we looking for excuses to work in lame 60s song titles?

Bunch Of Dicks: In what's been a bloody season for coaches in the NHL, the LA Kings have been one of the few teams that seem to have gotten a boost from their coaching change. The Kings fired their head coach Interchangeable, Unsuccessful Murray on December 12th, and eventually replaced him with Interchangeable, Marginally-More-Successful Sutter on December 20th. Since then, the Kings have gone 4-0-2 and vaulted to the top of the Pacific Division. Our future divisional rivals have done so on the back of solid goaltending from Jonathan Quick, and in spite of a ghastly 17 game goalless streak from Anze Kopitar, a player who has traditionally treated the Avalanche the same way a baby treats a diaper. Kopitar finally scored a goal against Vancouver on New Year's Eve, and is looking to build on that tonight.

We Like: How about a 2 goal effort from the captain Milan Hejduk on Saturday night in the Quacketeria?... Speaking of the Ducks, they absolutely reek of a team that knows they don't have a chance in hell to get back into the race this season. One less team for the Avs to worry about as the season progresses... The Kings are holding their second "Legends Night" of the season, in honor of former King Daryl Evans, and will be rocking sweet retro purple-and-gold uniforms with their original logo. We like them so much, we won't even quibble with the fact that the Kings' original logo is technically a queen's crown.

We Don't Like: The nagging thought that Anze Kopitar is going to run train on the Avs like he usually does.

Randomly: Whenever someone asks you what your New Year's resolution is, they aren't asking because they care about your answer. They're asking so they can tell you what THEIRS is.

Tonight's Hero: Until Anze Kopitar proves that he doesn't turn into a serial killer every time he sees burgundy and blue, pretty hard not to go with him in this space.

Tonight's Goat: Doesn't it seem like we're overdue for one of those games where the Avs take two or three costly bench penalties? Too many men on the ice, unsportsmanlike conduct, etc?

Final Thought: The Kings "Legends Night" tonight, as mentioned earlier, is in honor of former King Daryl Evans. Evans scored the game winning goal in overtime of game 3 of the Kings' 1982 playoff series against a burgeoning dynasty in Edmonton. Big-time highlights here:

Kings 4, Avs 3