Monthly Archives: November 2010

Praise the Porter and other Avalanche tales

Broadway bullets weren’t enough to stop Kevin Porter, who has five goals on the year. This is great. As a Michigan Wolverine fan, Michigan hockey fandom is awesome. It’s the same love of the game at DU Pioneer games without the rebellion. Michigan has claimed more NCAA hockey titles, 9, than any other team. Denver sits right behind Michigan with 7 titles. There’s nothing to do in the winter but partake in Palin winter sports. That’s why the pairing of former Michigan captain and Hobey Baker winner, Kevin Porter, makes a great addition to the young Avalanche corral. Porter has experience in the minors, not only with the Avalanche, but also with the Phoenix Coyotes. Porter has five game winning goals in seven games.

Matt Duchene has become as solid as a Crosby-esque mirage. No one is sure if he’s for real, but then the scoring says it all. Matt carried a goal and two assists when the New York Rangers graced the Pepsi Center. In other young gun news, Kevin Shattenkirk, former captain of Boston U has 5 points in 9 games. He sported two assists in Dallas. Though he looked shaky in training camp, the defenseman has taken his place in the NHL.

And then there’s David Jones, who has had great expectations met this season hitting all the fantasy columnists recommendations. Five points in the last four games suggests a talent unleashing. Last year’s frustrations reap this year’s rewards- “grab now or regret later,” the pundits preach.

Peter Budaj

Budaj fills in for Anderson

Craig Anderson is back, but Peter Budaj is staying close. The story of the back-up stint had a happy ending, with Budaj carrying a load all the way to the bank with an 8-3-1 record. Budaj stood ground in Dallas netting up a win. Best-case scenario is that the Avalanche have cemented a goaltender duo for a winning season. If you look at the standings, this week the Avs sit in the third seat in the Western Conference.

Best of Both Worlds

It’s absolutely frigid in the Rocky Mountains on a day of hockey feuding. Bound for Joe Louis Arena, the Colorado Avalanche are flying to Hockeytown.  The Detroit Red Wings sit as state heroes this year and every year before that. Diana Ross and the Supremes blast from the speakers in the aged arena, and every Detroit band has their moment when the puck stops at the Joe. Even if “we” lose, Wings fans never die. Yes, we. But the best of both worlds is writing about two hockey teams that have been influential for many years. Detroit is a historical legend, the Avs manifest destiny.

Newly anointed Avs  LIffiton, Van Der Gulik,  Dupuis and Mauldin have all scored their first NHL goal as an Avalanche player. Signs of growth and curiosity in a young team without pretense came to play the Red Wings on home ice. Wings fans span the US, so it’s no surprise to see a sea of red in Denver.  A power-play goal by Todd Bertuzzi got the game rolling. Todd would have been served a round of boos at the Pepsi Center for his crippling hit on, then avalanche center, Steve Moore.  Back from the KHL, Jiri Hudler scored his first goal back as a Wing. Despite the Avs looking dazed, they were able to score on a 5 on 3 power- play with J-M Liles scoring on the advantage. The Colorado Avalanche rank number one on the road in the West for points scored.

The series sits even. The Avs beat Wings in OT on October 12 in Detroit. 5-4. Detroit, winner of game 2, 3-1, ties it up for the next game after Xmas. The Avalanche hustled, but they were also puffing as Detroit was sprinting down the ice. The geezers were leading the chase. Here’s a blast from the past:

The Red Wings are hot right now, and in Denver the tone is that this game was a test to see how good the Avs really are. What they really are choking down is that the Wings are rocking the ice and humbled in the rivalry for now. Not saying the Avs aren’t doing well, but the Colorado boys are humbled by their youth and growth spurts. The youngest team in the NHL certainly is not the dumbest team in the NHL. What the Avs have are realistic expectations, but a positive cohesion.

Nudges and Nets

Vancouver’s Raffi Torres scored a hat-trick against the Oilers, and defenseman Kevin Bieksa made a dent in the stats with three assists. The Canucks have come out of their fog rising in the standings and taking control in the Northwest.

And so it goes for Ed Jovanovski, a hat trick too. Despite the Coyotes successful season last year, there are some struggles in Phoenix with low attendance. Arguments range from the desert to lack of ownership. I’d say both. There are plenty of transplants in the Phoenix area that love their hockey, but they stand behind their original home teams if their new home team can’t win. Also, games are expensive and if the team is losing, then why spend so much? Really, if the NHL is a show, then the residents in Arizona would rather watch a sunset.

Joe Thornton had a misconduct call with the St. Louis Blues when he hit David Perron leaving the penalty box. Joe says it ain’t so, and claims it was not intentional, but the NHL is being overly cautious with these hits. Makes sense to encourage sportsmanship on the ice, but these are big guys who skate on ice at great speed bound to run into each other. Or maybe the players are frustrated and taking it out on everyone they can. It is a weird season. Notice how the Blues are steadily climbing up the ranks?

The Rangers are making headway edging Boston in the East. And Atlanta is cooking up some good players and some good hockey. They aren’t a joke anymore. Pittsburgh and Toronto are slipping. Buffalo has tanked with Ryan Miller out and now on IR and Tyler Myers suffering.

Colorado goaltender, Craig Anderson, is out leaving Peter Budaj to stop the pucks. Anderson should be back in a week, but until then the Avs are holding up under the pressure.

But saving the best for last, Detroit is back. Motown has been resurrected. Hockeytown prevails. It’s a tough division this year, so any week on top is a good week. Never mind one loss to Vancouver; it’s the long haul that counts.

Blood and Guts

Halloween treated the NHL fans to some classic matches, with plenty of blood and gutsy moves.

Fighting is still on deck in the NHL, with some misconduct calls this week including Scott Hartnell and Dustin Brown.  Calgary and Edmonton danced through 30 for fighting and a misconduct call for Colin Fraser.  The battle of PA came to town with brawls early on involving Matt Cooke and Mike Richards. That game followed through with 20 fighting PIMs in the first, then ceased. This week has ended with a 3-game suspension for Daniel Briere for a cross-check. Both Briere and Carcillo were served misconduct calls for Saturday’s game against the Islanders.

And so the standings jumble once again.  In the East, Tampa Bay tops the list, followed by Montreal and Philly. Tampa Bay and Washington remain close in their division, as well as Montreal and Boston, and Philly is fighting tight with Pittsburgh. Toronto has dropped their jumpstart to saunter mid-pack, while the Rangers continue to fight their way above and beyond the Islanders and Devils.

In the West, Chris Stewart and Joe Thornton had hat tricks. The Blues Jay McClement also topped three in a win over Atlanta.  Los Angeles is proving to be a force, taking control of their division. Chicago is hanging in, but St. Louis and Detroit are driving hard. So that leaves Colorado and Calgary chomping on the bit in the Northwest.  With Avs goaltender Anderson out, Peter Budaj is in. Budaj was the starter a few years ago, and did well. He’s taken the reigns and delivered as needed.  Apparently, Budaj donates half of his yearly salary to charity. More reason to back him in goal.

But many of these kudos to the players go unnoticed, whether it’s on their own accord or it’s not highlighted as well as it should be by  PR departments.  For example, the Avs organization supports Full Strength, a fundraising program for youth hockey teams.  The program allows a team or association to sell Avalanche Game Magazines at a home game in order to assist with the costs of a hockey season.  In the first two seasons of Full Strength the program has donated over $95,000 to youth hockey organizations.  The Avalanche website has numerous resources provided for parents, coaches and kids in hockey.

Like most teams in the NHL, the Avs participate with Hockey Fights Cancer. So then why does the Avs PR department allow the promotion of elitism in one of the smallest markets in the NHL?  Publicly in the Hockey News, it states that the Avs have the least paid players and one of the lowest attendance rates in the NHL.   In such a small market, the  management is laughing all the way to the bank with fan’s ticket money because they can afford a luxury penthouse suite at the Pepsi Center that very few have been privy to. The Avs haven’t slashed prices in ways other teams have and now it’s clear why.  And they haven’t paid players their just dues.  The luxury suite penthouse bragged about in the Hockey News is not hidden rather juxtaposed with tales of other NHL players donating time and money for charity causes.   Most fans know the drill and perhaps that’s why attendance is so low.

But all is not lost; T. J. Galiardi gave an Avalanche jersey signed by the entire team and tickets to a game, to his favorite server at the restaurant he lunches at before a game. That’s a good tip.