This was an important game that the Avs got on their knees and blew. I don't know how to describe it any worse. In what turned into, by far, their most important game of the season the Avs, for a while, looked like a team that was finally breaking out of their worse than mediocre style of play to start being where many Avs followers expected them to be. Then they got a 3-2 lead and decided to blow it.
The worst part about this game was the scrutiny that comes along with it. The Avs were playing against an Original 6 team with two of the brightest young stars in the game. They were also playing against their former coach, one who many on the East Coast (i.e those media people who don't actually watch Western Conference games that don't involve a team that rhymes with the giving "Head Things")
about 1/2 way through the game I was thinking I could write a post saying how this could be the game that propels the Avs on a tear. The Avs have really had trouble winning games in which their top line (Stastny-Hejduk-Smyth) wasn't their best line and the Avs looked like they were going to pull one out tonight in which that was the case, but they couldn't capitalize and that glaring weakness is still looking like the Avs Achilles heal.
Two guys who were downright awful tonight: Peter Budaj and Brett Clark.
We all know I'm a huge Budaj fan, and I still think he's a decent #1, but goalies have bad games, and Budaj had his worst game of the season. It's extremely unfortunate that this happened in what turned out to be the Avs most important game of the season so far (well until the next game. The loss in this tough game made winning the next game a near-necessity). There's no way to hide it, Budaj was awful tonight and probably was most responsible for costing the Avs at least a point. I can find something wrong on almost every goal he gave up tonight. The worst part about it is that since the game was important the negative howls about his ability, which he has done a magnificent job quieting recently, have every reason to start howling again. He's going to need another strong stretch to silence the critics because his performance tonight, coupled with the very dichotomous game against Nashville last week, will be enough for critics to point at. Frankly I think critics should be looking for a back-up that can give Buds an actual rest, but he wasn't good tonight, and people have every right to criticize him. He wasn't the only miserable Avs tonight.
Brett Clark is looking like he doesn't want to be traded from Colorado, so he's playing so bad that no one would be even close to wanting to take his $3.5M salary. Where the hell was he on the first goal when he left Hannan all alone to try and pick up 2-3 people in front of the net? And his misplay on letting Bfygdajflkblin just blow by him on a killer goal was just unexcusable. At least Budaj's had some decent performances lately. If the Avs weren't trying to trade Clark I think Tjarmin Ultra (and that's a great nickname from JonHaven of the Mile High Hockey Boards) would have been playing in his spot. I've never been a huge Clark fan, but the last few games he's been god-awful, and tonight was no exception.
It wasn't all bad. I thought the Avs had some really good players whose efforts were underminded by the poor play of others.
*JM-Liles was the best player on the ice for both sides tonight. His set-up of Lappy's goal was nothing short of a brilliant rush. After a game or two of poor play Liles looked like a stud tonight.
* Scott Hannan was pretty good tonight. I wasn't impressed on the first goal against, but After watching replays I think that was him being hung out to dry by Clark. When Hannan has a good game he is very quiet since his strengths aren't flashy, and he frankly had a great game tonight, in my opinion.
* Wolski continues to excel of late, and it's nice to see him start a hot streak.
*Lappy has been superb lately and is easily the de-facto captain of this team.
The next game the Avs play will now be their most important and it's only against their former arch-rival that has absolutely owned them recently. Oh and it starts a 4-game road trip where the Avs have not been very good this season.
Frankly the Avs need a win against Detroit on Monday. It's the first true must-win of the season, and it couldn't come against a tougher opponent. Budaj looks tired (this is where signing, say Johan Holmqvist, Stephan Valiquette, or even Jocelyn Thibault may have helped by giving Budaj some breaks, like someone suggested. Thibault is still an UFA and could probably step into the backup job right away. ) and the Avs desperatley need to put together 60 solid minutes against a good club at all spots (Offense, Defense and Goalie). I fear if they lose it will be devastating enough for the Avs to be sellers and start to give up on the playoffs.
* The good news is I get to go see a great hockey team Saturday night as I got free tickets to Sharks-Blues through work. It should be a good time And hopoefully I'll have a fun report about the other Stastny.