On Sunday and Wednesday nights the hockey playing guys in my area get together and we play some hockey. Men's league is a blast, and I thoroughly enjoy it. We should have a pretty good team this year, and those of you who play know that Mens tournaments really don't begin in earnest until February. If you don't play, I encourage you to lace em up, get out there, its a blast.
As most of you probably know, Altitude shows the games twice, and I caught the second showing. That said I was a little sleepy watching it, so this might not be as astute as some of my other blogs.
First and foremost, David Jones! In the last five games, he has three goals. Last nights goal was unassisted. It may have been a fluky bounce, but something to not about Jones is his ability to drive to the net. He has the uncanny ability to get a half step on a defenceman. This is not an easy thing to do, especially from outside the face off dots. He also drew a penalty, and still managed to get a shot off after he had been tripped. Just plain hard work from a guy who is doing his best to stay with the big club. 3 goals in 5 five games from an average of 11:44 in ice time is a big deal.
Chris Stewart showed why he was called up this year. He is big and very fast. I am going to make a prediction that he will become an NHL regular, and I hope the Avs keep him around. He will create space with his size and speed. He is now a -2, but predict that number will get better with experience. He may not be an offensive juggernaut, but he is showing the potential to be a very solid player. He is capable of being a third line shut down player for sure, maybe a top six, if he works hard. He showed he is not afraid to crash the net last night as well.
Paul Stastny had three assists last night. Granato needs to keep Hejduk and Smyth with him as well. When the three are together they are a force. I know it is tough to play your three strongest offensive players together on one line, but they have the ability to be clutch, plain and simple. Keep them together, it keeps Stastny's numbers up to what they should be. He should be a point per game, and times he averages a point and a half. Lets keep him up there.
Smyth's one time shot looked great. For those of you who have problems with his efforts please remember that he is being bounced around on lines like crazy. The whole team has for the last while. Smyth is also a player who is designed for the front of the net, the team hasn't been playing that way the past few games.
Wolski again looked sick on the shoot out. Svatos did his thing as well, watch his right skate, whenever he is about to shoot, he goes back to his heel, very hard for a goalie to manage that shot. Hejduk made Schneider look bad as well, tough loss for the Canucks goalie.
There was a renewed commitment last night to crashing the front of the net. If you go through all 4 of the Avs goals, they were all about crashing the net, or getting traffic in front of the net. Even on the Smyth goal, Schneider didn't get a clean look at it. Tjarnquist goal had traffic as well, Avs players moving in front of the net.
The one downside to playing deep in the offensive zone, and not leaving a forward in the high slot to help with the backchecking is that it tends to leave the defensemen out to dry. We had forwards that worked hard to get back, but playing North/South hockey all night long is tough. Especially when th D-Men have been activated and told to play a feet feet closer to get shots on net. All that said, there will be more goals against when there is a commitment to crashing/creating traffic in front of th net.
John Michael Liles needs to be commended. He has matured, and his defensive play has vastly improved over the last few seasons. His hip check last night I dare say kept the Avs in the game.
The special teams need help, plain and simple. Quit taking penalties please! There needs to be an overhaul on the special teams play. I don't care what it takes, but the Power Play needs some serious help. It needs to turn into a shooting gallery rather than a misses passing gallery in the neutral zone.
A much needed two points, too bad they gave one to the Canucks by bringing it to OT.
Supposedly the Avs are in the Jay Bo sweepstakes? Only if he signs long term.