Monday, March 26, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: San Jose Sharks, 3/26/12

The Good Guys: Raised their degree of difficulty for sneaking into the playoffs on Saturday with a 3-2 loss to Vancouver in overtime. The Avs had a 2-0 lead midway through the second period, but two quick Canuck goals deadlocked the game until Chris Higgins Magnum PI'd a shot past Semyon Varlamov in the extra frame. Rookie Tyson Barrie got knocked off the puck by Jannik Hansen on the play that led to the winning goal, which leaves one to wonder whether or not that happens to Erik Johnson were he healthy and in the lineup.

Bunch Of Dicks: There may not be a team on the bubble with more at stake than the San Jose Sharks. If the Sharks miss, do they re-tool around the same core of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, etc and give it another crack next season? Or does GM Doug Wilson follow the Philadelphia Flyers model, blow it up, and rebuild on the fly around Logan Couture as the Flyers did with Claude Giroux?

We Like: Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Seriously, in that desert island scenario where you pick just one album, or just one celebrity, or just one book...isn't CTC your one cereal? And if not, what the hell are you thinking?

We Don't Like: That loss Saturday at home, after blowing a two goal lead, hurt more than the loss at Phoenix last Thursday, despite obtaining the OT "loser" point. If there are five games at the end of this season I wish Colorado could replay, that one is on the list.

Randomly: Think this will be the game that Sharks fans finally figure out the singsong "LETS GO ______" chant only works when the team name is more than one syllable? Nah, me neither.

Potential Hero: Matt Duchene. Period. I got faith in this kid.

Potential Goat: No goats. Positive thoughts.

Final Thought: I play in a rec league that is run via draft. Tonight is the first game of our spring season...and of course I was drafted by the teal team. Jesus Christ, karma.

Avs 3, Sharks 1

Saturday, March 24, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Vancouver Canucks, 3/24/12

The Good Guys: Suffered a critical blow to their playoff standing with a 3-2 loss to Gary's Orphans on Thursday. The Coyotes jumped to a 3-0 lead by the end of the 2nd period, and held off a late Avs rally in the third to preserve the win. Raffi Torres And His Freaky Eyeballs scored twice for Phoenix. The Avs are currently sitting in 9th in the Western Conference, one point out of playoff position, jockeying with the LA Kings, Phoenix, San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Bills, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pisces, and the prison guards from "The Longest Yard" for the final available playoff spots.

Bunch Of Dicks: Did you guys hear that 50% of the Canucks Creepy Twin Squad is out of the lineup due to a malicious headshot? Daniel Sedin has a concussion and will miss tonight's game thanks to a retaliatory elbow to the head from Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith in a game earlier this week. The elbow earned Keith a 5 game vacation from NHL disciplinary hypocrite Brendan Shanahan, and earned Sedin an uncertain near-future. Wouldn't it be a shame if the Canucks' season was negatively impacted by a cheapshot, Maxime Lapierre? How about you, Alex Burrows, what do you think? Kevin Bieksa, opinion on that? Aaron Rome, anything to say? Vancouver is the most chickenshit organization in the league, with a roster full of guys that will yap and hit you in the back of the head and talk tough when there's a referee standing between them and someone who will push their faces in, but when the real games start, they turn into shrinking cowards. It's been that way there since Brian Burke ran the show. It's always fun to beat these clowns.

We Like: Thursday's game was an absolute stinkbomb for the first 40 minutes, but once again the young Avs showed resiliency and chutzpah, battling back in the third period and giving themselves a legitimate chance to win the game at the end. If the game was 62 minutes long, the Avs tie it. Alas...

We Don't Like: Tyson Barrie has played well in Erik Johnson's absence, but the Avs clearly miss the big guy. He's out again tonight with back spasms. When EJ does get back, Ryan Wilson should sit a few games and hit the reset button. He's been a hot mess for the past 3 or 4 games.

Randomly: It was awesome to hear the Pepsi Center crowd as invested as they seemed Tuesday night against Calgary. Hopefully tonight will be more of the same, because while it's not an actual playoff game, it may be the closest thing to it we see this season. Hop to, Avs fans.

Potential Hero: Critical home game against what passes for an elite team in the Western Conference...Anybody and Everybody can be/should be a potential hero in this situation. That said, it'd make my weekend to see Matt Duchene come out and play a strong game after his 3rd period benching against Phoenix.

Potential Goat: No goats in burgundy and blue tonight. Positive thoughts.

Final Thought: Win or lose tonight, at least the national anthem won't be as ghastly as tonight's performance in Ottawa:

Avs 4, Canucks 3

Thursday, March 22, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Phoenix Coyotes, 3/22/12

The Good Guys: Gutted out two points against the Calgarian dicknoses on Tuesday night. The Avs spent most of the night trading chances with their mediocre rival, and while they really didn't play their best game, they got the job done in the end. David Jones was the man of the hour, slipping a puck past Miikka Kiipprruussooffff in overtime for the critical extra point. Paul Stastny also was key, scoring the first goal and buttering up the chance that Jones put away in overtime.

Bunch Of Dicks: The NHL's resident welfare state is hanging annoyingly in the playoff race, as they usually do. The Coyotes are a team that's built to survive and outlast, rather than outgun, and that's perfect strategy for today's NHL. Phoenix took advantage of Dallas brainfarts on Tuesday night to erase a 3-1 third period deficit and steal a point for pushing the game into overtime. This is a virtual playoff game for both teams.

We Like: It only took him 75 games, but Joe Sacco finally went off about the perceived officiating iniquities that have seemingly dogged the Avs this season. Whether real or imagined (and having watched 95% of the games this season, I'd tend to lean toward real), perception is reality and the perception is the young team isn't getting the respect it deserves from the officials. Is there bias? I doubt it, but it's good to see Sacco publicly holding those guys to the fire a little bit. Every other coach does it.

We Don't Like: Shane Doan is a sack of crap. The next big game he's a positive factor in will be the first. His elbow to the face of Jamie Benn during Tuesday night's game was malicious, stupid, and selfish. Doan was suspended for three games (tonight being the first) with his team battling to stay in the playoff race. The narrative is that Doan is a good honest hardworking Canadian kid who drinks his milk and loves his family. That doesn't jive all that well with headhunting elbows and allegations of racism that Doan has seen himself involved in over the years.

Randomly: Here's some math: Unseasonably warm weather + virtual playoff games = HOCKEY BONER.

Potential Hero: I called it the other night, it didn't happen. I'm calling it again tonight: Tyson Barrie pots his first career goal. I'll be perfectly happy if he plays as well as he did on Tuesday and doesn't score a goal, though.

Potential Goat: It was a borderline miracle the Mueller/Duchene/Hejduk line didn't finish a combined -15 on Tuesday; they were that bad. Frighteningly bad.

Final Thought: A regulation win tonight means breathing room for the Avs, and adds to the cushion they will need as the rest of the dog pack plays their games-in-hand. You don't really think it's going to be that easy, do you?

Coyotes 2, Avs 1

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Calgary Flames, 3/20/12

The Good Guys: Capped off a successful three game visit to the east coast with a 3-1 win over the Rangers on St Patrick's Day. Semyon Varlamov stole the show in Manhattan, outduelling all-world Rangers keeper Henrik Lundqvist, and kept the Avs in the Western Conference playoff picture. Colorado is currently lodged in the 8th and final spot, tied with Phoenix with 83 standings points, although the Coyotes have a game in hand.

Bunch Of Dicks: There's a good reason I've neglected to do two or three of the Gameday Primers for games against the Flames, and it's the same reason people don't write about their bowel movements. There's never been a greater dichotomy between player I respect and like (Jarome Iginla) and team I don't like. There arent many things in hockey I'd like more than to see Iginla get traded to a team that gives him a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Calgary is about as close to winning a Stanley Cup as my beer league team. Tonight, the Avalanche have a chance to really push the Flames to the very edge of the playoff bubble, and for me, it would be as good as a playoff win, and also, as good as sex.


We Like: Isn't this fun, guys? Remember watching this team at this time last season? Reeling from the aborted Forsberg comeback, trying to process the stunning Stewart/Shattenkirk trade to St. Louis, and watching the team win two games out of what seemed like their final 400. Brian Elliott? Whether this year's version of the Avs ends up making the playoffs or not, this has been a fun season, and lots of the promise we hoped to see is blooming in front of our eyes. Let's enjoy this last two weeks.

We Don't Like: Look, I understand the temptation, I really do. I want it as bad as everybody else does. We only heard mumblings of it early in the season, and I was as guilty as anybody else was. Who knows, maybe eventually it WILL be appropriate, but it sure isn't yet. So I beg you, Avs fans and hockey observers everywhere: please, please, PLEASE stop comparing Gabriel Landeskog to Peter Forsberg. Not only is it premature, it's inaccurate. Love Landeskog already, I'm even willing to replace the "o" in his last name with a little heart. That all said...he's not Peter Forsberg. If anything, I see a potentially more physical Marian Hossa in Landeskog, which isn't Forsberg, but it's nothing to sneeze at either. Comparing Landeskog to Forsberg is unfair to the kid.

Randomly:  When I came out on Twitter and declared my undying man crush on Gabriel Landeskog taking shape in the form of the 3rd-grade-girlish "replace the letter with a heart", I wasnt the only one. I was also joined by our friend Jay of the terrific Avs Hockey Podcast, which is a site you should be visiting regularly if you're an Avs fan. Jay and his partner in crime James make the burgundy and blue world go 'round, but you already knew that.

Potential Hero: Semyon Varlamov. Or haven't you been paying attention?

Potential Goat: Jeff Shantz, for old time's sake. Seriously, f Jeff Shantz.

Final Thought: Win tonight and Calgary can take a long hike off a short bridge. Lose tonight, and I may do the same.

Flames 3, Avs 2

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Buffalo Sabres, 3/14/12

The Good Guys: Provided the most thrilling single moment of the season thus far (at least for me) on Monday night, as Gabriel Landeskog shook off a case of the flu and played a gutsy, hard game leading up to his dramatic overtime goal. That goal gave the Avalanche a supremely important second point, and keeps the team in the four-dog race for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, as well as (ssssh, don't tell anyone!) one single solitary point out of the 7th spot.

Bunch Of Dicks: The Sabres shook off a dreadful first half of the season, and have rallied themselves to within 4 points of eighth place Washington in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres have been led by star goalie Ryan Miller, who has found stopping pucks much easier since he learned to balance the other 18 Sabres on his back every game. Buffalo is led by head coach Lindy Ruff, which is the easiest name in hockey for a dog to pronounce.

We Like: What's not to like about Gabriel Landeskog's performance on Monday night? Critical game against a competitive Anaheim team, national television, battling the flu, and questionable to even participate in the game right up until warmup, Landeskog went out and played his usual hardnosed style, even though it was apparent that he was fighting it a little bit. When his team needed him the most, he came through, and it's the first truly memorable "Landeskog Game" in a career that promises to be full of them.

We Don't Like: There is absolutely nothing on this planet I like doing less than being forced to hope for a Detroit Red Wings win. These are desperate times, however, and last night, I wanted to see them beat Los Angeles to keep the Kings off the pace in the playoff race. Naturally, the Red Wings went out and got pummeled. Thanks guys!

Randomly: Longtime Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret is awesome.

Potential Hero: When you play the Buffalo Sabres, you're not going to score many goals. It's extremely important your goalie is sharp and focused, and lately, Semyon Varlamov has been up to the task.

Potential Goat: If at least one member of the Avs coaching staff doesnt instruct their players to whisper the words "Milan Lucic" into the ears of every Sabre player at every chance they get, they're not doing their job. Seriously, they all just stood there and let Milan Lucic truck their goalie, their best player. That's about 1500 flavors of gutless.

Final Thought: Two points tonight and a Phoenix loss (rooting for Vancouver, stomach turning) and Colorado is in 7th place in the Western Conference.

Sabres 2, Avs 1

Monday, March 12, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Anaheim Ducks, 3/12/12

The Good Guys: It may not have been the prettiest game, but the Avs got the job done against Edmonton on Saturday with a 3-2 shootout win. A lackluster first period and a tentative third period sandwiched a strong second period that gave Colorado what it needed to push the game to overtime. The overtime period was like watching two 8 year olds playing NHL12 for the first time, as it was a comedy of mistakes and dumb play. Both teams gave up chances, but the Avalanche got the 'Duk (see what just happened there?) in the shootout.

Bunch Of Ducks Dicks: Anaheim made a gallant run toward a playoff spot after a wretched start to the season, but they seem to have run out of gas and are languishing at the edge of extinction. This makes the Ducks a dangerous opponent tonight, one with very little to lose.

We Like: Haven't heard all that much about Colorado having overpaid for Semyon Varlamov lately, have we?

We Don't Like: Tonight is quite possibly the final time Avs fans will get to see Teemu Selanne play in Denver. His one-year stint with the Avalanche didn't go like we had hoped it would, but it shouldn't take away from what the classy Selanne has achieved in his career. Here's hoping he gets a nice ovation at some point tonight.

Randomly: Just so we have this straight, the Ducks were "Mighty" when they wore teal and eggplant, but not with their current rugged palette of black, gold, and orange? Whoa, Bob Ross moment.

Potential Hero: Call it a hunch, but I think Milan Hejduk is overdue for a multi-goal game. Hejduk always plays well against the Ducks.

Potential Goat: Who or whatever is responsible for Gabriel Landeskog's mystery illness, which may keep him out of the lineup tonight.

Final Thought: Who says the Avalanche aren't going to play any playoff games this season? Every game down the stretch is a playoff game. Enjoy it, Avs fans.

Ducks 2, Avs 1

Saturday, March 10, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Edmonton Oilers, 3/10/12

The Good Guys: Let two valuable points slip away into the Nashville night on Thursday, losing to a good Predators team 4-2. The Avalanche had stretches of play where they controlled the puck against the Preds and never seemed overwhelmed by the superior team, which is encouraging; the loss of two points was not encouraging.

Bunch Of Dicks: Edmonton is hurtling toward a third straight lottery pick, at which time they'll undoubtedly take the most talented forward available. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini is currently constructing a roster that would absolutely dominate Nintendo Ice Hockey. There are a few fast skinny guys (Ryan Hyphen, Linus Omark, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson-Stockholm-Borkborkbork), medium-sized guys that really don't do anything particularly well (Ryan Jones, Shawn Horcoff), fat guys that suck (Andy Sutton), and one of the unlockable NES Ice Hockey characters: tall guy trying to skate on one leg that can barely move and is also a turnover machine (Ryan Whitney).

We Like: Saturday Afternoon Games. Seriously, get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, run a few errands, grab some grub, and come home and watch the game. Game's over by dinnertime, and you have all night to do whatever: watch some other games, have a few drinks, go play pickup, chase potential sexual partners, whatever floats your boat.

We Don't Like: Saturday Afternoon Games. If the team loses, Saturday night is ruined, and no number of Will Ferrell movies on TBS will change that.

Randomly: Stefan Elliott hasn't played badly, but he hasn't exactly stood out recently either. Does Tyson Barrie get another look soon? If not, why not?

Potential Hero: Against a team like the Oilers, if you can exploit their weakness (defense, derp) you can rumble them. Look for the "ORLANDO" Line to possess the puck and pick apart the Cam Barkers of the world.

Potential Goat: Conversely, if the game turns into a run-and-gun affair with the teams exchanging chances, Semyon Varlamov is going to be expected to make big saves without much help from his sketchy defense. Not that he hasn't demonstrated (especially lately) that he can do that, but if Varlamov has an off game, we could be looking at 7-6.

Final Thought: Must win. Must win. MUST WIN. MUST WIN. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Oilers 7, Avs 6

Thursday, March 8, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Nashville Predators, 3/8/12

The Good Guys: Needed four points from Manbearpig, and took four points from Manbearpig in emphatic fashion. A 2-0 shutout at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday was followed up by a 7-1 deconstruction in Denver on Tuesday night. The only bad news was Matt Duchene's ankle injury, which will keep the kid out of the lineup for 3-4 weeks, Duchene's second extensive stint on the IR this season. The Avs are now tied with Los Angeles and San Jose for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, although the Kings have two games in hand on Colorado while San Jose has three.

Bunch of Dicks: Every time I watch Nashville play, I get an overwhelming urge for lemon meringue pie. Easter Island native Barry Trotz has the Preds sitting comfortably in the fifth playoff position out west, and his team sent the rest of the NHL a message at the trade deadline with their acquisitions of Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Paul Gaustad. That message: "We're going to ruin market value for average checking line centers and give up a first round pick for Paul Gaustad."

We Like: After getting slapped around like a peewee level team on Saturday against Pittsburgh, the Avalanche came out smoking against Minnesuckwad on Sunday night. Last year, the Avs allowed losses to beat them more than once, often carrying a previous bad game into the following game and creating losing streaks. This is a mentally tougher team, and much of it comes from knowing they have two goalies in Semyon Varlamov and JS Giguere who can steal a game if necessary. Varlamov in particular has come through for the Avs lately, and his performance against the Wild on Sunday night was one of his three best of the season.

We Don't Like: Oh, right, the game tonight is in Nashville. This means every time the Predators send designated idiot Jordin Tootoo on the ice, you'll hear train whistles from the enthusiastic Nashville crowd. Well, it's either train whistles, or the sound of emphysema rustling through mouths with less than eight teeth in them, I haven't really confirmed that one way or the other. Either way, it's annoying.

Randomly: I won't pretend to know what Matt Duchene's offseason training consists of, all I can do is go by what I see him tweeting about during the offseason. Last summer, it seemed like it was alot of tweets about fishing. I wouldn't mind seeing him tweeting this summer about how Gary Roberts is kicking his ass, and his commitment to becoming a better all around player. This isn't criticism; Duchene is still a puppy, and different kids grow at a different pace. I want to see a tougher Matt Duchene next season.

Potential Hero: How could it be anybody other than Semyon Varlamov right now? I'll tell you how: games against Nashville always seem to devolve into tight checking affairs where the Preds try to physically dominate the Avs. It always seems like they succeed. Newcomers Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn have brought the Avs some of the snarl they were lacking. The Predators will provide a measuring stick for just how much a difference those two players have made for Colorado thus far.

Potential Goat: So help me god, if Brandon Yip scores a goal for Nashville tonight...

Final Thought: Another must-win. You already knew that.

Preds 3, Avs 2

Sunday, March 4, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Minnesota Wild, 3/4/12, 3/6/12

Here we are, kids. We've lost to Columbus and Pittsburgh in two of the worst performances of the season, back to back. The last time the Avs played that badly, against Winnipeg, they subsequently reeled off four straight wins. Now we have a home-and-home with Manbearpig, starting tonight. For the 2011-2012 Colorado Avalanche, this is do or die. Four points aren't an option. This is the Primer for both games. No more words need to be said. See you Thursday for Nashville.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Pittsburgh Penguins, 3/3/12

The Good Guys: Had a chance to join the big boys table on Thursday night with two points against Columbus, and proceeded to defecate all over themselves. There isn't one team in the NHL that's good enough to just show up and collect two points, and that goes double for a bubble playoff team with a salary cap floor payroll. If Colorado misses the playoffs by one or two points, this is going to be one of the games they look back on and grit their teeth.

Bunch Of Dicks: Pittsburgh strolls into Denver comfortably ensconced in a nice, velvety playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pens will be without Sidney Crosby, who continues to play dress-up in practice with his teammates, and perhaps their most important player, Kris Letang, also out with concussion-like symptoms. Not sure what "concussion-like" means. It's either A) a concussion, or B) not a concussion.

We Like: Four months later, and this is still the sexiest goal of the season.

We Don't Like: Not that the Avs typically get more than one or two power play opportunities per game anyway (which is another story entirely), but the fact that Joe Sacco continues to use his most handsy player, Matt Duchene, on the point rather than down low is just mind-boggling. I understand that Greg Sherman's nickel-and-dime roster doesn't have four true point men to man two power play units, but putting Duchene there is patching up a hole in the drywall with golden fleece. If Ryan Wilson or even Matt Hunwick has to play with Stefan Elliott on that point, then so be it. There's simply no reason not to have Duchene playing around the net.

Randomly: What are the chances that Steve Downie was prowling around the Penguins' team hotel today, looking to finish the job on Crosby?

Potential Hero: Since he came back from an early season groin injury in December, Erik Johnson has played like the defenseman he was expected to be since he was taken first overall by St. Louis in 2006. Johnson will likely be the difference between the Avs exiting tonight's game with zero points and one or two, as the American defenseman will be matched up head to head with Penguins cyborg Evgeni Malkin. Listen closely, and you can hear the Rocky IV theme playing softly in the background.

Potential Goat: By the same token, if Malkin is able to have his typical Gene Machine game, the onus will fall on the Avs scorers to keep pace. The top line of Duchene, Paul Stastny, and the slumping Milan Hejduk will need to support the Downie/O'Reilly/Landeskog unit that has carried the team for the past two weeks. Hejduk was replaced by Peter Mueller on that line during the discouraging loss to Columbus on Thursday, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that again tonight.

Final Thought: Dallas did their job last night, grinding out a 3-1 win over Edmonton. The Avs blew their chance to take two points from a weaker team, and now they have to beat a legitimate Stanley Cup contender to keep pace tonight.

Penguins 4, Avs 2