Two games, two goals allowed (total), and two wins.
The Avs must be thrilled with these two wins. Budaj stepped up and played very well and the defense has looked much improved. Guys are starting to understand their roles on D, and have kept things simple. The team should not be concerned at all that the scoring dropped a bit in these wins. It's just not possible to score 4 goals every night which is why it was so important for the goaltending and defense to step up. Thankfully the Avs offense is strong enough to give the other aspects of the team time to right themselves. 0-3 is not a big deal, 0-6 would have been a disaster. As it stands, the Avs have notched 10 points out of a possible 16 - acceptable by any measure.
5 game winning streaks are not a common occurrence in today's NHL and deserve praise. Those who were ready to leave the Avs for dead after 3 games deserved ridicule and the flip side is that 5 wins does not a cup contender make. Budaj still needs to prove his consistency - 2 games does not meet the definition. The PP has looked a bit more hectic in the last two games as well. It's pretty obvious that the Avs struggle against PK units that force them to dump the puck in on the rush and then pressures them in the corners. If the Avs can burn PK units by winning the battle for the puck (often when there's 2 PKers there) and then moving the puck quickly to the weak side to work a set 3 on 2 play, then these PK units will have no choice but to back off which, it seems to me, is exactly what the Avs prefer. They like to take their time, measure the passing lanes, and create some space in the high slot for Hejduk/Svatos/Sakic to get a good shot off.
One thing I did like was seeing Leopold get some PP time. This guy has a great shot and, more importantly, an ability to get the puck through traffic and on net. Anyone who is a fan of NCAA hockey should remember Leopold's anchoring of an extremely potent Gophers power play unit. And hey, he's gone 8 whole games without getting hurt. That's gotta be some kind of record. Yes, I realize I just ensured he will break his foot getting out of a cab or something now.
Without Scott Parker in the lineup, I wondered how the Avs would deal with teams that have a legitimate heavy weight enforcer in their lineup. We got a taste with Andrew Peters of the Sabres. The Avs have plenty of guys that will scrap - Lappy, the Cody Macs, Tucker - but all are in the feather to middle weight divisions. I was happy to see that even after Peters tried to chase down a Cody that the Avs did not lay off the forecheck and the physical play, especially from the 4th line. Unfortunately for Lappy, the job probably falls to him to take a few punches to allow the younger, faster guys to continue making life miserable for the other team. At least his face can't get messed up any worse than it already is. It would be nice to have Parker around just for these games - as he can handle the Peters and Ivanans of the world. Too bad he can't skate.
As The PK Turns - The Avs finally caved and put Sakic back on the PK. That's fine for a temporary solution, but I agree with their original thinking that it would be ideal to reserve Sakic for PP and even strength situations. It seems hard to believe that 4th line players, professional hockey players all, can't be taught to kill penalties. It's pretty much all upstairs on the PK. Yeah you gotta be quick to the puck, but its more about positioning - filling passing and shooting lanes, and forcing the PP in to uncomfortable spots (no, not talking about the back of a Volkswagon). I still think Guite is someone who is ideal for this, and Jones could be also. Figure it out guys and give Joe a break.
That's it for now. I'll be out of commission for the next week, but I'm looking forward to getting back to a Tivo full of Avs games. More after I get through with that.