Last night in Denver the Atlanta Thrashers came into town for what looked like a confidence builder for the Avalanche. Ryan Smyth and Milan Hejduk had been carrying the team all winter but Paul Stastny is healthy and had six games under his belt since returning from injury. The Avalanche had won just one game in their last five but all four losses came on the road.
Enter the Atlanta Thrashers. Outside of Ilya Kovalchuk, the average hockey fan can’t name another player on this roster. Through 66 games, Atlanta had been victorious just 25 times. Their fifth leading scorer is a defenseman, Ron Hainsey, who has just 5 goals on the year. A home game in early March against this team was what the Avs needed to find their groove.
This is why they play the games. The Avalanche came out flat and uninspired. The home crowd was loud and encouraging but this team played with no passion. They escaped the 1st period without surrendering a goal thanks to a few nice saves by Peter Budaj. The 2nd period was scoreless through nearly 18 minutes until Zach Bagosian scored with 3:28 to play in the 2nd stanza. It looked like Colorado would be able to enter the 2nd intermission down by just a goal but with 65 seconds to play, Darcy Tucker decided to run the Thrashers netminder. Giving up a goal in the final minute of a period is any head coach’s nightmare. Tony Granato saw Todd White score at 19:59 of the second period.
The 3rd period was as painful as the 2nd. Though the Avs gave up just one goal, an empty netter, they looked awful. Colorado has trouble with hockey basics. Their breakout is miserable. It seems like the puck is always in their end and their forwards have no desire to get it out. Colorado’s power play rarely sets up in the offensive end and never creates solid scoring chances when they do get positioned. Their neutral zone game needs improvement too. The Avs made the Atlanta Thrashers looke like a playoff team when in reality there are currently just 2 teams with a worse record in 08-09. Serious changes are needed in Denver.