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01-07-2009, 12:51 AM
Seth Lake
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No matter what else you say tonight, you have to hand it to the guys for their start. Arnott really helped set the tone with his line on the first shift of the game, followed by Legwand's line, and then Peverley's line looked the best of all early. Bonk and Smithson come out with Belak, they kept rolling the lines and eventually you look up and see that the Preds have outshot the Avs 9-0 in the first 11 minutes of the game. The guys were playing simple hockey. They were playing a read and react, instinctual game. If the Avs defense stood up at the blueline, we chipped it behind them. If the D backed in, we entered the zone with speed, layered our attack, and created chances. We were involving the D in our attacks and working as a five-man unit attacking the Avs in all three zones. Heck, we even took a 1-0 lead when Jonesey simply buried his head and busted his butt to get to the front of the net to convert on Dumont's rebound. Things were beautiful.

Then the referees decided to actually make a was clear from the onset that this was a getaway day for the refs. They let things go all night long, rulebook and points of emphasis be damned - but that's another story in and of itself. McLeod grabs Tootoo wanting to fight to try to change the momentum, but Jordin declines, whistle blows and we got Power Play Predators! And that's when the wheels fell off the bus. We went from playing simple hockey, read and react hockey, to trying to run set plays with the man-advantage and what did that made the players start to think. Thinking slows things down at this level. If you are not playing instinctually at this level you are in trouble. So we start to try to force plays that aren't there, make poor decisions, turn the puck over, watch as we provide no support to the breakout/regroup, watch as the puck-carrier under pressure on the breakout/regroup makes a bad decision because his support guys are either standing still or stretching the play and have their backs turned to him, re-enter the zone, turn it over again immediately - again because people are standing still, try to regroup again, but are turned back, try to breakout, but are turned back, finally get the puck into the zone for one last attempt, and have a shot blocked.

At this point we just gave Colorado some momentum and what happens? Smyth up to Hejduk, Hejduk over to Wolski breaking to the net and we are tied at 1-1. Defensive coverage blown, forwards (Fiddler) fail to support the pinching defender (Weber) and we are started down the slippery slope. So, did McLeod do his job and change the momentum? No, but we certainly did it for him by not working with the same intensity we had been coming at them with to start the game.

Second goal was the same thing, Fiddler gets caught out of position on the backcheck and leaves Wolski enough room to bury a quick snap-shot behind Rinne from right in front. Can't fault Pekka on either goal tonight.

In an un-aired portion of Trotz's press conference (it was during the Jones interview), Barry calls out Fiddler as the man responsible for the two Avalanche goals. He didn't do it by name, but said it was the left wing's responsibilty on both plays. Now the question becomes, will he sit him? Pihlstrom has been playing like a man determined not to go back to Milwaukee, but is still not finishing. Peverley has been playing pretty well of late, but isn't getting results. Ward was finally sat out tonight, Smithson and Bonk are candidates too, but Fiddler was the person specifically called out. Again the question is, will he face any real consequence for his blunders tonight?

The moment that upset me most tonight without a doubt was when Tootoo of all people decides he's going to try to pull off a behind the back, no-look pass in the general vincinity of Pihlstrom on what essentially amounted to a 2 v 1 with a trailing defenseman. It was a carbon-copy of the Dumont to Jones connection for the first goal. Speed down the wing, shot from an angle, rebound opportunity kicks out to the front of the net, guy crashes the net to deposit the puck into an open net. Pihlstrom saw Tootoo get the partial breakaway, had kicked it into high-gear (otherwise known as full-sprint for the running man) and was busting it to the net front for the rebound attempt. Never in a million years did he or anyone else in the building expect Tootoo to pull off a boneheaded play like that and try to pass the puck. Why would he? Why would anyone? The puck MUST get to the net in that situation! On a night where we attempted 70 shots on goal, one can only question why we would literally pass up the simple, 100% guaranteed scoring opportunity to attempt a low-percentage pass from inside the hash-marks?

Good to see Jones get rewarded with a goal in his first game back for his accomplishments in Milwaukee. Still looked like he had some develop left to do (times where he was clearly thinking, not reading and reacting), but had made noticable improvement. In the second period in particular I noticed one play where he read the opposition breakout coming out of the zone, realized that he was in the best position to take the first forechecking role (usually the center) and jumped into the role and most importantly communicated with his teammates ("I got 1, I got 1" - refering to the F1 role in the system).

Hats off to the guys for attempting 70 shots on goal tonight, however when only 23 get through to the net...there is work left to be done. 23 attempts blocked, 24 attempts wide of the net. There are feet to be moved with and without the puck, there are battles to be won to get position in front of the net, there are quicker releases to be made on shots, etc. Give Colorado credit, they worked hard to clog up shooting lanes and get shot blocks - no question. However, we cannot look at that 70 attempts number (Colorado had 38 attempts) to justify that the end is near until we see results in the form of goals scored.

My last thought for the night is, if we got 70 shot attempts off tonight while demonstrating an inconsistent effort throughout the many attempts could we have had if we had worked the same way we started the game for a full 60 minutes???

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