|COL||1||0:17|| ||4||5||9||16||31||40||18||26||43||44||50|| ||5v4|
|COL||1||0:12|| ||4||23||25||26||27||31||10||42||43||46||50|| ||5v4|
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The Avalanche were again outchanced in this one despite the 4-0 victory. Peter Budaj played very well to earn the shut-out in his third consecutive start since the injury to Craig Anderson. Budaj didn't have a strong season last year, got H1N1 this season and didn't start a game this season until November 4th. At some point you start to wonder if a guy's career is in doubt and with Budaj coming up for unrestricted free agency this summer his little run of strong play could not have come at a better time. When Anderson gets back it's likely that Budaj won't get many starts so it's pretty important he puts up good numbers when he gets the chance.
The game itself was really exciting, especially in the first period. The game was played largely at 5-on-5 and both teams were skating hard and creating chances - a fun game to watch. The Avalanche generally had control of the play when the Wolski-Stastny-Stewart combination was on the ice and the Blues generally had control the rest of the game. The Galiardi-Duchene-Hejduk line was really struggling to create offence. I've just expected Hejduk to turn things around this whole time but it doesn't look like it's happening. The guy still has fantastic hands (he was the team's leading goal-scorer coming into this game despite missing several) but the rest of his game seems to be falling behind.
Ryan Wilson delivered two absolutely huge hits, one in the first on Roman Polak and one in the second on T.J. Oshie. Both of the hits came at the defensive zone blueline, which is a spot that he's delivered big hits in the past. If I was an opposing coach, I'd make sure that my players knew that Wilson has a tendency to step up at the blueline, both so that my players don't get hammered, but also to potentially take advantage of an ill-advised pinch. If the player in question manages to get around Wilson in that situation he'll have a very good scoring opportunity. In terms of scoring chances, Wilson has been quite good for most of the year but has really struggled in the last three games being outchanced 20-6 in that span. I guess it's to be expected that young players will have times that they struggle but Colorado is now relying on Wilson (with Adam Foote) in a second pairing role and will need him to turn things back around.
Finally, I thought I should make some comment on the play of Chris Stewart. He made an absolutely fantastic play in this one against Barrett Jackman. He used one arm to protect the puck, controlled the puck with the other hand on his stick while doing a spin-move to make a play on the St. Louis net. Wow! He also has 13 points over his last 9 games with 9 coming at even strength and a +/- rating of +4. Yet over that same period he's been outchanced at EV 50-44 and his best AHL season does not suggest he'll be an impressive scorer in the NHL: 25-19-44 in 77 GP with a -24 (the team was -69) as a 20-year-old. Stewart is also a very big player who plays physically, consistently jumps in to defend teammates and he's a good fighter. He's also a restricted free agent at the end of this year and could be demanding some pretty big coin if he's able to roll along at his current pace. If the underlying numbers don't improve I would certainly be prepared to let another team's GM come to me with an offer. Depending on what the rest of his season looks like, there's a pretty good chance Stewart will get Lucic-esque overpay this summer and it might instead be wise to cash in the asset if you can get something really good in return.