Get Out of Denver, Baby, Go, Go
Some Thursday thoughts a day after a big Washington win in Denver:
First off, Alex Ovechkin is fine. He took a Shaone Morrisonn shot off his right leg in the waning seconds of Wednesday night’s game, but was walking without a limp last night and practiced here in Vancouver today.
Second, how about Olie Kolzig’s performance last night? The Avalanche fired a total of 78 shots in his direction, 48 of which went on goal and 45 of which he stopped. A few of us were talking on the bus last night, and we decided that if you make more than 40 saves and your team wins, you should be the game’s No. 1 star.
As a goaltender, sometimes you can face 45 shots and it feels like 30, and on other nights you might face 25 that feel like 35. I remarked to Olie last night that the 48 he saw against the Avs looked every bit like 48 from upstairs.
“Yeah, the first and the third period for sure,” he said. “The second period was pretty good; we stayed out of the penalty box and I think that was the difference between the first and the second period. The third period, I’m sure they got a little bit of a tongue-lashing in between periods and they came out with a lot of energy and threw everything at us.
“I wish I would have had [Joe] Sakic’s goal, but it was a pretty hard shot. I just couldn’t squeeze it hard enough and it just ended up trickling in. Zubie made a great play on the fourth goal and obviously that was the difference in the game.”
Sakic reached a significant milestone in last night’s game, becoming just the 11th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500-point barrier. Kolzig was gracious in his postgame recognition of Sakic’s achievement.
“The old guy can still shoot it,” said Kolzig. “Congratulations to him. I didn’t want to be part of the history books; I’ve already been part of it with Brendan Shanahan this year and now with Joe, but he’s a terrific hockey player and a terrific person. It’s a great accomplishment, and he can still play the game.”
Kolzig surrendered Shanahan’s 600th NHL goal on opening night against the Rangers in New York.
Back to three stars debate for a minute. While many rightfully contend that Kolzig should have been adorned with first star honors, the simple truth is that Ovechkin continues to dazzle many who are seeing him live for the first time. Since the local media picks the three stars, that likely accounts for Ovechkin’s selection as the game’s first star.
I can tell you this. A Colorado writer who has seen virtually all of the team’s games since the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver more than a decade ago asked me this question after the first period:
“Is he always that fast?”
When I replied in the affirmative, this gentleman responded that until last night, he had no idea of how fast and elusive Ovechkin actually is. And remember, this was before he scored a goal in the second period or put Karlis Skrastins through the glass in the third.
It’s funny how those who have watched him regularly this season and last have occasionally wondered out loud, “What’s wrong with Ovechkin?” I have continually responded “nothing” to those queries, so it’s nice to have a similar perspective from a fresh set of eyes.
But maybe there is something wrong with him. As of this morning, he is on a pace to score 51 goals this season. He had 52 as a rookie in 2005-06. The league is definitely catching up to him.
I asked Glen Hanlon how the team goes about preparing for teams like Colorado, teams it hasn’t seen since 2003-04 and will only see once this season. Do they rely on video, pro scouting, both?
“We make some phone calls, but we also show video,” he said. “With a team like Colorado, we’ll show more film and go a few games back, but with the Western teams we’ll make some phone calls and talk to some people who see them a little bit more, too.”
Finally, a few observations after enduring last night’s game experience at Pepsi Center.
It was great to see and talk to Steve Konowalchuk again. He looks great and has an amazingly upbeat attitude. I talked with him for a few minutes and will have more on that conversation soon.
I’m not sure if this is the Pepsi Center norm or whether I happened to be in attendance on an “off” night, but I could barely stand the assault of Bad Eighties Music (a redundant term, some would say) that was launched over the public address system prior to pregame warm-ups. It’s 2006, not Two-Thousand Fixx. I have a low tolerance for “bad” music, and I wanted desperately to Make It Stop.
I always thought the Dallas public address announcer was an aural dead-ringer for The Simpsons’ Principal Skinner. But the Colorado guy is even more eerily Skinner-esque.
We beat the blizzard outta Denver and there is nothing like a plane ride after a win. Even the turbulence and the hard rain are acceptable.