Creating an Avalanche
Friends of The Hockey Guys, the Chicks Who Give a Puck’s Courtney Beckham gives her game three recap and outlook on game four which goes tonight for the Colorado Avalanche.
by Courtney Beckham, ChicksWhoGiveAPuck
Denver, Colorado, USA — Fifty-one seconds into overtime, Ryan O’Reilly came away with the game winning goal when he deflected Dan Boyle’s attempt to clear into the Sharks’ net past a stunned Evgeni Nabokov. The crowd sat silenced and stunned; had they just witnessed a fluke goal to end the third game of the series?
The ending is considered anti-climatic for most as the Avalanche were outshot 51 to 17 in 60 minutes and 51 seconds of play yet still skated away with the win and lead in the series 2-1. Moments later the home crowd could be heard chanting “An-dy, An-dy, An-dy.” Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson gave an NHL playoff record breaking performance with 50 saves in regulation without allowing a single goal. Is this the same Anderson that was bounced around from club to club less than four years ago?
Craig Anderson was drafted in the summer of 1999 by the Calgary Flames in the third round. The Flames never agreed to a contract and he continued to play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Guelph Storm.
The summer of 2001 saw the Chicago Blackhawks draft Anderson and send him to their American Hockey League affiliate the Norfolk Admirals. Anderson would bounce back and forth between the Admirals and the Blackhawks.
In 2006, the Blackhawks traded Anderson to the Florida Panthers after he played two seasons as their back up goaltender. Anderson played five games with the Panthers his first year with the team. The next year he set an NHL record for most saves in a regular season shutout with 53. He had back to back shut outs, stopping a total of 93 shots, 53 in the first game and 40 in the second game.
During the the 2008-2009 season, Anderson and Tomas Vokoun were a large part of the reason Florida had a shot for a playoff birth. It would have been their first since 2000. Unfortunately, the Panthers could not finish out the season with enough points to make the playoffs.
Anderson’s contract ended with the Panthers in 2009 and the organization decided not to re-sign him making him an unrestricted free agent.
Hundreds of miles away, the Colorado Avalanche had their worst season since relocating from Quebec. As a result of the horrible finish the entire coaching staff and the general manager were relieved of their duties.
As a result, rookie coach Joe Sacco was paired with rookie general manager Greg Sherman. One of the first calls Sherman made on his first day of the free agency period was to Craig Anderson. Anderson spoke with Sherman and knew then he wanted to be a part of the organization. Then, during training camp, Anderson beat out Peter Budaj for the starting goaltender position. Anderson would go on to set franchise records for games played (71), games started (71), minutes played (4,235), shots faced (2,233), and saves (2,047). He also lead the league in shots faced and shots saved.
At the end of the regular season. Anderson tallied up 38 wins, second in franchise history only to hall of famer Patrick Roy who had 40 wins in one season.
The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the 2009-10 season saw few experts give the Avalanche a chance. The eighth seeded Avalanche had been pitted against the first seeded Sharks with ESPN experts claiming that San Jose would finish off the young squad in five games.
Wednesday night the Colorado Avalanche came out with a victory when Chris Stewart scored with less than one minute left in regulation lifting the Avalanche past the Sharks in a 2-1 victory.
On Friday night both teams came out shooting; Anderson faced 52 shots stopping 46 though the Sharks would win in overtime 6-5. The series was split 1-1 heading back to Colorado for a late night game on Sunday.
The wild shootout that occurred Friday night in San Jose was gone and replaced with the more defensive tone of Wednesday night’s game.
The Avalanche started off on the right skate, out-shooting the Sharks in the first period until veteran forward Milan Hejduk collided with teammate Paul Stastny and left with an upper body injury. The teams’ confidence in offensive play dwindled immediately.
With the offense shaky, Anderson stepped up and gave a performance that would allow his teammates the time to put the puck to the Sharks net. The Sharks spent the majority of the game in the offensive zone, yet they were surprisingly ineffective. Every shot they took, Anderson had a view of or one of his teammates would throw their body in front of to block.
Regulation play ended with Anderson stopping 50 shots and Nabokov stopping 16.
When overtime started the Sharks went on the offense again, taking another shot at Anderson which he blocked easily. The puck went into the Sharks’ zone and rookie O’Reilly was pressuring Sharks’ defenseman Dan Boyle. Boyle went to clear the puck around the boards, but O’Reilly got his stick in there and then play stopped. Nabokov looked shocked, Boyle just stared, and the entire front two rows of fans behind the goal started jumping up and down. The Avalanche took the lead in the series 2-1 despite getting out-shot, out-hustled, and out-played in game three.
Game four is tonight at the Pepsi Center in Denver and both teams are expected to bring a new level of play. The Sharks will need to find a way to screen Anderson and get him rattled. Look for them to get more physical in their play to try and draw penalties.
With sniper Dany Heatley being listed as day to day there is the chance that the forward will be back on the power line.
The Avalanche have listed Ryan Stoa, Kevin Porter and Hejduk as day to day, with the possibility of any one of them potentially playing. Not to take any chances, the team recalled defenseman Brian Fahey and forward Wes Montgomery from the Lake Eerie Monsters.
The Avalanche will have to find a way to produce offensive opportunities with or without Stoa, Porter and Hejduk. Look for Stastny and Peter Mueller to step up for the Avalanche as well as O’Reilly and fellow rookie T. J. Galiardi.