Mike Babcock believes that his team has a hard time putting together a full 60 minutes of hockey. Tonight that was evident when the Avs scored three power-play goals in the first period. The same could be said about the Avs performance in the second period. Two power-play goals against as well as a hard work, good passing, even strength goal.
This game started to get a little nasty, and the hitting started early. The rivalry between these two teams is starting to brew again. Last year I attended the Avs/Wings game where the Wings won 4-0. It was a tough game to watch, and it was not a fun game to sit through. That game included Lappy's hit on Lidstrom that saw him buckle to the ground as well as miss significant time. This is also the game that Zetterberg put his stick around McCleod's neck and pulled him away from the scrum. Tonight saw a significant increase in the physical play from both teams. Lapperriere of course led the way for the Avs, as well as McCleod filling his role to a T, and instigating and getting under the skin of many wings players. Not even remotely as volatile as it was during the Roy/Lemieux days, but becoming a healthy rivalry none the less.
The Avs weakness down the middle didn't appear to play huge role in tonight's game, but could easily be exploited in the future. The overall playmaking didn't seem to develop as well and Stastny was missed for his ability to slow down the game and make play.
The Avs defensive core made it a point to be heard during the power play. Liles goal was strictly from his ability to get the puck to the net. More of that is necessary from him to keep this team in playoff contention. Salei also got a power play goal, and again the point shot making it through is huge. The points were shooting with the mad advantage, and for once seemed to be making that a point. A sore spot on the Avs power play has been the defensemen have been as step behind, and in turn dropping it down to the corners or the hash marks where not much productive has happened. Tonight the D-Men stepped up their effort on the man advantage, got their timing down, and made it a point to keep their team in it.
Something of note in this game is the ice time leaders. One would expect that in a game like this, especially as it got close, the Avs would have Foote on the ice. Well he did take significant time, but also took two penalties. Clark had 29:46 in total ice time followed by Scott Hannan with over 24 minutes. Tonight the defensive play of Clark and Hannan helped the Avs stay in the game as they were outshot 44-32. Foote however set the tone early with some of his physical play and the rest of the D played physical as well.
The Avs came out flat in the second period, which in turn gave the Wings a chance to score three goals. It also gave them a good chance to use the man advantage. All of the penalties that Avalanche d-men took were lazy penalties. In the new NHL you have to make sure that you keep your stick on the ice, and don't raise it above your waist when fore checking. They got outworked in the second, and took lazy penalties.
I can't fault Salei for his "high sticking" penalty. Most of us on this board have played at one point or another, and one of the first plays they teach you to make defensively is the stick lift. Now the Red Wings player executed this maneuver perfectly, so perfectly in fact that he lifted Salei's stick square into his own chops. The referee then calls Salei for a penalty. I might have let this one slide if I were the official, but I am not.
Wolski is earning his money in the shoot out. He and Budaj won the game. Budaj stopped all three shots and walked away with a .930 save percentage for the night. Good work, and good effort overall. Next time lets hope they don't give away the second period.