Meet the new Colorado Avalanche



Avalanche Week 20 Preview: Wed vs Thrashers, Fri vs Coyotes, Sat @ Kings

Colorado Avalanche Pregame

The new Colorado Avalanche are making a run in the West (Photos by David Barud)

With less than a week left before the Olympic Break, I’m shifting my Avalanche coverage to individual player profiles.  Even in Denver, many of these Avalanche players are unknown for two main reasons.  First, Colorado sucked their way to worst in the West last season.  Second, more than 50% of the current roster consists of call-ups, rookies & offseason acquisitions.  Below you’ll find write-ups on the five players that made the difference in last night’s 5-2 win over the Saint Louis Blues.

(To see a summary of the last week’s action, just check out my Week 19 preview.  Colorado went 3-1 over that stretch and, as I predicted they would, lost in Nashville to the dangerous Predators.  The Avalanche are right back in the thick of the playoff field now, and are tied for points with Vancouver.  The Canucks will catch up in games played tonight at Tampa Bay.  So start pulling for the Lightning now.  Ready… set… go!)

Chris Stewart logged a Gordie Howe Hat Trick (a goal, an assist & a fight) 4:11 into the first period Monday night versus the Blues.  My spiritual adviser & practicing Snake Handler, Dan Olson, believes that it may be the fastest Gordie Howe Hat Trick (or GHHT) in the history of the modern NHL.  I believe him, if only because Stewie deserves recognition for the workmanlike way he plays the game.

Brandon Yip logged two goals in his first three shots in this game; a bit of retribution for Mr. Yip who missed most of the first half of the season after injuring his finger in a pre-season game against these same Blues.  I love that Yip only shoots when he’s reasonably certain it will be a goal.  The rest of the time he’s looking pass.  Just another character guy fueling these upstart Avalanche.

David Koci broke his hand on DJ King’s face during a first period fight.  It looked like he might have caught some of the top of King’s helmet mid-throttle.  The fight was most definitely won by David, and was an early turning point for the Avalanche.  You cannot overstate the importance of winning a big fight early against a physical team like Saint Louis.  Koci is an enforcer in every sense of the term, and he will be missed.  He just goes out and plays great defense from the forward position and hurts people.  This is an underestimated skill set, and David is among the best.  Luckily, he has the Olympic Break to heal up… or learn how to punch left-handed.

Scott Hannan spends every TV timeout patrolling the ice between the Avs’ bench and the logo at center ice.  Even if he’s not due out for the next shift he skates in circles, back and forth, side to side.  Hannan’s not a huge guy, but the image has to be a bit unsettling for opposing players.  The man is simply so high-strung during games that he will take any opportunity to skate around looking menacing.  I bet Scott was the kid in pee-wee league hockey that skipped intermission orange slices to practice slap-shots on the opposition’s net.  He’s got so many intangibles that benefit this young team, and he leads by example.

Craig Anderson took a stinger to the neck on a puck shot ridiculously high from a Blues player just left of the slot.  He went down for about a minute, shook it off, and pitched a shutout the rest of the way.  Anderson was playing in his 13th straight game with capable backup Peter Budaj ready to take the ice… and Colorado had a comfortable lead… but he shook off the shot and just kept playing.  He is such a dedicated competitor.  I wish I could sit David Aebischer & Jose Theodore in front of game-tape of Anderson during a tight divisional contest.  “Do you see?  Look at his eyes.  Watch him throw his body across the crease.  Do you see?”

I get the feeling that it is more a Craig Anderson decision than a Joe Sacco decision when it comes to the goaltending “rotation” for the Avalanche.  Budaj only plays when Anderson is hurt.  It may be that Craig has never been an NHL starter before and he’s just relishing the opportunity.  (He played 1 in 4 games or less most of his career.)  Personally, I think he wants to get himself ready for the NHL’s Second Season.  To be sure, the NHL playoffs are like a long-distance sprint, and Craig Anderson intends to be in Cup-run shape come April.

The Avalanche have a pretty rough schedule to close out the pre-Olympics portion of the ’09-’10 season.  I like getting Atlanta fresh off the Kovalchuck trade.  The Thrashers’ D is awful and Ilya was the only thing keeping the team competitive.  After Atlanta it gets dicey, though, as the surprisingly powerful Phoenix Coyotes come to town, and then the Avalanche fly to LA for a next-night game against the mostly unbeatable Kings.  (LA lost last night after recording a 9-game win streak.)

The stretch-run starts early for the Avalanche, as they will combat two of their primary opponents for playoff position just before the break.

Wed, Feb 10th vs Atlanta Thrashers (7:00 MST)

PREDICTION:  AVALANCHE 4, THRASHERS 1

Fri, Feb 12th vs Phoenix Coyotes (7:00 MST)

PREDICTION:  AVALANCHE 3, COYOTES 2 (OT)

Sat, Feb 13th @ Los Angeles Kings (8:30 MST)

PREDICTION:  AVALANCHE 3, KINGS 4

WEEK 20 PREDICTION:  2-1

**Bonus Coverage**

Big Baby Blues

Two more Avalanche players took high slappers in the ten minutes of game time that followed the Craig Anderson stinger on Monday night… and each one looked intentional from my seat.  No deflections, just high slappers.  Either the Blues are a really bad team (a very real possibility) or really bad sports.

If the Blues have given up on their season to the point that they waste offensive opportunities to put high slap-shots on opposing players, maybe they should just stay home for the rest of the year.  No need to travel outside of beautiful ::chortle:: Saint Louis if you’re more interested in throwing frozen rubber at folks’ heads than winning hockey games.  I know it’s a rough ‘n tumble sport, but aiming for injury is just pathetic.

If St Louis does decide to make the trip to Colorado March 6th for the first of two remaining matchups between these teams, it is my sincere hope that David Koci’s right hand is sufficiently healed to put some more hurt on the Big Baby Blues.

Colordo's David Koci Fights St Louis' DJ King

David Koci (28) is so awesome that he can break his hand and still win a fight

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