25 April 2008
All credit belongs to the Red Wings for the win. They came out prepared. They attacked the Avs from the start and hounded the Avs. The Avs were unprepared for the difference in styles between the Wild and Wings and it cost them this first game. The Wilds defense sits back, lets the attack come to them and foils it that way. The Red Wings attacked the Avs defense from behind the Avs net all the way down the ice. they made the Avs defenders work for every clear, every pass, and every rush.
The Avs were unprepared for this kind of pressure and made the first period a comedy of errors. Have you ever seen a team flat out whiff on more clearing attempts and breakout passes in a single period before? I don't mean make a bad pass, I mean completely miss the puck altogether. They probably gave the Red Wings 5-6 extra scoring chances just from not clearing the zone. The first period and change the Avs were awful, especially handling the puck on the blueline. Give Detroit credit for pressuring the Avs into making those mistakes, but I wouldn't expect the Avs to continue to whiff on pucks all series.
The good news is that the Avs adjusted to this pressure. After the adjustment the Avs looked like the better team (even with Forsberg and Wolski out). They still had some flubs, but the Avs realized in order to break Detroit they will have to alleviate that pressure. They did that last night. They had a forward come back and help the defender preparing the rush out. They turned their more offensive defenders (JM Liles and Jordan Leopold) loose to come on the rush. They also devised ways to get their better puckhandling forwards, Stastny and, strangely enough, Ryan Smyth leading the rush. The thing is that if Detroit insists on putting that much pressure on the Avs defenders guys like Sakic, Smytty, Hejduk, Stastny, and even Tyler Arnason are going to have opportunities to get an attack off the rush, which is one of Colorado's strengths.
And that's why I am so optimistic today. The Avs could have rolled over and died yesterday, but they didn't. They found a way to come out and play Detroit hard. Detroit was a miracle Osgood save away from going into OT, despite the first period being just about the worst period of hockey the Avs have ever played. I mean ever. I have never seen them so bad in their 12 years here. They nearly won that game though.
Theo should receive some criticism for being sick and choosing to play anyways, but I can't blame him too much for that one. If he's sick he can't sit on the bench and play a backup role after getting pulled he never should have been allowed to suit up, at all, in the first place. This isn't Theo's fault though. To paraphrase some prose from the great philosopher John Madden (the video game guy not Devil) : Players want to play. More importantly players are competitive, and they fool themselves into thinking they are better than they are, and that they are healthy enough to help their team win. That's why teams hire trainers. It's their job to evaluate the players and sit them on the bench when they are hurt, or sick. If he's so sick he has to leave the arena then there's no reason, none, that he should have been there in the first place. We've all gone to work sick, but my job is not one based on reflexes, reaction, and physical ability (other than hitting ALT-TAB when my boss is near). The Avs training staff screwed the pooch last night.
The entire Avs defense was awful, especially in the first period+, except JM Liles. He was fantastic last night. It's nice to see him doing so well since the Avs decided to hold onto him. Let's hope they make a nice offer to him to keep him around this offseason.
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