Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend.
I spent mine with family in Arizona, and took the opportunity to attend the Avs/Coyotes game on Friday afternoon.
It was my first time at Jobing.com arena. Nice enough place I guess, but clearly a step below places like the Pepsi Center and the X. It is very strange, however, to attend an NHL game where the arena is less than half full. I missed the announced attendance, but there couldn't have been more than 8,000 actual butts in seats at any one time. The upper bowl looked 3/4 full, but the lower bowl was virtually empty. And it was dead quiet in there. It reminded me of attending a youth game. Maybe it was just the weird game time - a Friday matinee - but it was pretty sad in there.
Sad could also describe the Avs play in the first two periods. I suppose the lackluster play could be blamed on Sakic's discouraging departure, but that feels like a lame excuse. I saw in the paper an Av being quoted as saying that they felt like they outplayed and outchanced the Coyotes all game, but that's not how it looked from 10 rows up at center ice. The Avs looked completely passionless through the first two periods. Both teams, actually, looked like they'd rather be somewhere else in the first period. Even the refs weren't into it - there wasn't a single penalty called in the first period. The first Coyotes goal was not a good one - wrister from an angle 45 feet away over Budaj's shoulder. I guess he didn't see it.
Second period was a bit more interesting, but only due to some special teams play. The refs remembered they were getting paid and made a few calls to spice it up, and the Avs actually looked somewhat interested in scoring while they were on the PP. They generated a few good chances but couldn't quite put one away. But at even strength they seemed content to play in the neutral zone.
Finally in the third period, they Avs showed a sense of urgency. Tellqvist played well all game for the Dogs, and really kept them in after Smyth's goal. The Avs couldn't get it done on the PP they received shortly after their goal. However, they showed a nice forecheck and pressured the Coyotes all over the ice in the third period. There was a ray of hope with Mueller's penalty 17:29, but Svatos took another ill-timed penalty (double minor actually) which basically ended the Avs hopes for a tying goal.
The bottom line: if the Avs had played the first two periods the way they played the third, they would have won this game. Granato has to find a way to get this team to play with the same urgency at 0-0 in the first period as they play with when they are down by a goal or two in the third. Pretty disappointing.
Cumiskey looked fast and dangerous to both the Coyotes and the Avs, as usual. He needs to take better care of the puck on his rushes, but his partner needs to know to get back and cover. If/when he gets pokechecked, he's 10 feet by the puck before he can do anything about it. But he is fun to watch.
Good for the Avs beating the Blues last Wednesday and the Lightning on Saturday. I haven't had a chance to hit the Tivo yet to check those games out but I'm looking forward to it. I won't comment on them until I do.
In the meantime, I will be attending tonight's tilt between the Avs and Wild at the X. At this point I'm just hoping the Avs can keep up with the Wild. The injuries continue to mount. It's up to Smyth and Hejduk to lead this team through this right now, and the young guys need to step up. Tonight will be a great test.
Back tomorrow with a recap. Enjoy the game!