Over the course of a season, every team wins a few that they shouldn't, and loses a few that they should win. The Avs have already had a few games that they "should" have won, so this 3-2 shootout win evens it out a bit. The shots were only 35 to 32 in favor of the Oilers, but they carried the play for the majority of the game. The Avs were able to generate some chances on their power play and a few by counter-attacking on transition, but there was not a whole lot of sustained offensive pressure. Only the Lappy-Tucker-McCormick line seemed interested in forechecking. The Jones-Arnason-McLeod line was pretty awful. I actually feel bad for Jones at this point. He only got 6:41 of ice time. He's not going to get better only getting on the ice for 6 and change each game. If he doesn't fit in to the plans right now, then send him to Cleveland where he can get some good minutes and continue to develop and bring Willsie up to be a role player.
The good news in this game again was the play of Budaj. He was again fantastic. The defense is steadily improving as well. The pairing of Hannan and Foote seems to have helped both players, and they are matched up against the other team's top line most often. The Clark/Liles combo is a good #2. Interesting that the Leopold/Salei pairing is getting short minutes in even situations but are getting alot of PP time. I'm fine with this as I still believe that Leopold is the best PP QB on this team, and Salei is sneaky good at getting pucks to the net.
I mentioned two of the lines, but the line combos seemed more in flux than any other game this season. Not sure if this was on purpose or if it was the result of special teams play. However, the RPM line was together again for most of the night. Smyth had one of his better games driving to the net, but the line as a whole has just not been very effective over the last few games. Not sure why - like I said, Smyth is playing well. Perhaps it's just one of those times during the season where the puck isn't bouncing their way. Maybe if a couple of those Smyth shots go in, there isn't any concern about this line. In any case, production is what counts and the Avs need some from these guys.
I again thought the Svatos-Hensick-Wolski line was fun to watch, although Svatos took another couple of bad penalties. They aren't even lazy penalties necessarily, just not very smart. He gets caught reaching. But then he also does things like dangle through two defenders and draw that penalty with 25 seconds left to give the Avs the rarely seen 6 on 3 PP. I'm pretty sure they don't practice this one a whole lot, but again, simplicity often works the best. For instance, get two guys to the front of the net, a guy on each side of the net for rebounds, and two guys up top to fire the puck and what do you know, the puck finds its way home.
At the outset of this NW swing, I said that a realistic goal would be to go 3-1 through the home game with the Flames. Well, the Avs are already 2-0 and back to .500 for the seson. Perhaps according to "Streak Theory" they are set up to take out Calgary in this home and home series. That would be a major boost for the Avs, but first thing's first - to get a win in Calgary Tuesday. Will it be a traditional high scoring affair, or a tight checking game like the last one? Because of Kipper's struggles, I'd go with the "over" on this game.
A quick word on the firing of Barry Melrose. I don't know the guy, his philosophies, his systems, or his work habits - but I'm not the owner or GM of the Lightning. I didn't hire him to manage the day-to-day operations of my multi-million dollare enterprise. The point is that if one does their due diligence, one does not develop philsophical differences with a high level employee 2 months in to a job. All of the "differences" being cited by the team are things the owner and GM should have known before hiring Melrose.
Jon Jordan quotes owner Oren Koules as explaining thusly: "We talked about it for a couple of weeks, but our team wasn't progressing, wasn't improving from the start of training camp through last Thursday's game and it was apparent that, under Barry, those things weren't going to happen."
Really? You've been talking about it for a couple of weeks? So, you started getting antsy after only, say, 10 games instead of 16?! Oh, much better Oren. Unbelievable. Regardless of what you think of Barry Melrose as a coach, this situation is completely insane on several levels. Not to mention how ridiculous it makes the NHL look. First the Savard thing after 5 games and now Melrose after 16. At least Savard had been the coach in previous seasons so there was at least some record to point to - even if it was totally asinine to not make the change over the summer. Now Melrose gets fired for, and again I quote Koules via Jordan: ". . . a very good hockey team that wasn't headed in the right direction and we didn't want to let a season get away from us. Improvement over the long term and cohesion are as important as wins and losses. We think Rick is the right man to lead us to those things."
Ha ha ha!!!! "Improvement over the long term"!!! How the hell would you know after two months? Must be REALLY important.
And how important is it that you just installed a guy that was out of the league for two years due to his connections to a busted gambling ring and organized crime?
Why do I care? I guess it's just because stuff like this makes the NHL seem small time. Maybe it is - and that's why it keeps happening.