Two road games against two mediocre (or worse) teams and the Avs only come up with one measly point. Not good enough for a club that is finding points very hard to come by. It is only early December, but it already feels like time is beginning to run out for this team. If the Avs continue to tread water at .500 (or worse) for much longer, they won't make the playoffs. Because of the 3 point games that become increasingly frequent as play tightens up towards the end of the season, it becomes extremely difficult to make up ground in February and March (as the Avs found out in spring of 2007). They have to play well against the lower echelon teams in the West or else they'll be watching come April.
All 5 goals in the Nashville game came in a strange 1st period that saw the Avs in the penalty box 4 times. I understand what Laperriere was trying to do - he thought his teammate had taken a hit from behind. Usually Lappy is very good at taking care of business without hurting his team, but in this case he took a double minor. Which is more annoying, those stupid "Tootoo" whistles fans blow in Smashville, or the fact that Tootoo wouldn't drop the gloves with Laperriere? In any case, the Preds converted on the first of those PPs to go up 2-1.
Earlier in the period the Avs converted a 5 on 3 to tie the game at 1. I only mention it because the Avs have had some trouble with these situations in the past. Long 5 on 3 opportunities must be converted, and the Avs did that. Unfortunately, they didn't generate much with the remaining PP time and it seemed like they lost some momentum because of it.
Speaking of momentum, I thought Wolski's shortie on a great feed from McCormick would be the difference in the game at the time. Short handed goals are killers in close games. The only thing worse than giving up a shortie is giving up a goal with no time left in the period, and the Avs did just that. It proved to be the game winner.
After the 1st period, the Avs seemed to go back in to their passive shell that I hate so much. Not much of a forecheck, no urgency. Looking to generate offense on the rush, but if not, oh well, change lines and get back in the one man forecheck. They also failed to get much going on either PP chance. Again, they stepped up the pressure late in the third, but it was too little too late.
The Stars game was similar to the last two periods of the Predators game. If not for Svatos, I would say the entire team would rather have been somewhere else. I could pick on plenty of guys, but I'm going to single out Smyth. With Sakic and Foote out, Smyth should be picking up the slack in the veteran leadership department. But instead he just skates his shifts and sits back down. Would it really kill him to hit a d-man while forechecking? Or to actually stop and dig for a puck in the corner? He just flies by and if he happens to get the puck, great. If not, he just keeps cruising in hopes someone else will get him the puck. For a guy that used to be called "Captain Canada", he's not showing a whole lot of heart lately. Maybe Avs fans are spoiled after watching Sakic bust his ass every shift, night in and night out for so many years, but it's hard to believe that Smyth can't be working harder. At his salary, he should be.
Again the Avs decide to play with some urgency and pressure the puck in the offensive zone because, you know, there was only a couple minutes left and it seemed like a good idea. Voila, they score to tie it up. Unfortunately they weren't able to pull this one out in the shootout, but they should feel fortunate to have gained a point with that effort (not that the Stars were much better).
Tonight against Vancouver I would like to see this Avs team play three hard periods of hockey. When they do that, they win more often than not. When they don't, not only are they not a very good hockey team, but they're not very fun to watch either. Some of the blame must fall on Granato, but it should also fall on these highly paid professional hockey players. They shouldn't need someone to motivate them to play hard.
Some lineup notes - Chris Stewart made his NHL debut against the Stars in place of Brian Willsie. I'm not sure what the deal is with Willsie - he only had 1 minute of ice time against Nashville. Stewart looked small, fast and nervous in his 7:29 of ice time. But no major mistakes, and I'm all for getting these guys NHL minutes if the veterans don't feel like working.
The lines are still kind of a jumbled mess with some recurring themes. Now that it's known that Sakic will be out 6 weeks or so, Granato should find something and stick with it for a bit to try and build some chemistry. Just make sure that Svatos is playing with someone who can get him the puck, he looked great against Dallas.
Is Budaj just going to play every single game, or will we ever see Raycroft again?
Another big NW division game tonight. Avs should be desperate for two points. Let's hope they play with some desperation.