Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ducks 4, Avalanche 3 (OT)
Anaheim leads series 3-0

"To do it in the playoffs is awesome. I’ll remember this as long as I live."
— Sophomore Ducks winger Joffrey Lupul

I heard it a few times tonight, and I guarantee you'll hear it again tomorrow: "Jeffrey who?"

Four-goal games might not be the norm in the NHL for Joffrey Lupul, but back in his days with the Medicine Hat Tigers, he had more than a few. From 2000-2003, the Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, native tore up the WHL with 126 goals in 191 games — including his final campaign of 41 goals in 50 games.

At the time, I saw 60+ junior hockey games in person a year, and whenever the — at the time — always awful Tigers came through the B.C. Interior, Lupul was almost the only player to watch. (Only four of his junior teammates from three seasons found regular action in the NHL this season: Jay Bouwmeester, Vernon Fiddler, Ryan Hollweg and Derek Boogaard.)

Lupul finished with 106 points in his draft year (2002), and the Ducks (wisely) snapped him up at No. 7. The only player with better NHL goal totals from that draft class is Columbus' Rick Nash, who went first overall.

Lupul had 28 goals this year, a big jump from 13 in his rookie season, and I don't doubt that 45 is out of the question for next year. All that from a kid who wasn't even picked in the bantam draft.

Like many players who don't win praises early on, Lupul's not the greatest skater in the world, but what he does have — a Brett-Hull-like shot and silky smooth hands — quickly won his critics over.

But enough about Lupul.

This was the Avalanche's best game of the series, but, then again, that's like saying Patrice Brisebois's brutal giveaway in overtime was his best of the playoffs so far. (What was interesting about that play was that it was Brisebois, a former Montreal Canadiens goat, who coughed up the puck and Jose Theodore, another former Canadiens goat, who allowed a knuckle-puck squeak through his five hole. Theodore has actually been living at Brisebois's home since he was dealt to Denver, which should make for some awkward postgame conversations at the Brisebois household.)

Still, it's hard to blame last night's result on Theodore, who had until that point stopped 35 of 38 shots thrown his way by the uber impressive Ducks.

This series is showcasing what I thought the Avalanche would look like against the Dallas Stars: bewildered in the face of a team with a well-organized defensive scheme. Avs coach Joel Quenneville is a good coach, but his teams always seem to struggle matching up against a tooth-and-nail club like Anaheim.

I talked a little about San Jose's Steve Bernier last night, but how about Dustin Penner for the Ducks? He's huge (6 foot 4, 240 pounds) and assisted on three of Lupul's goals last night even though he played less than 14 minutes. He also had five shots on goal, second on the team to only Lupul (6).

As for the real reason the Ducks have been so effective in this series? He's right here.

When Joe Sakic has just one assist in the first three games of a series, there's a good chance Colorado's been on the losing end of most of the games.

Here? This series is over, and we're that much closer to a Battle of California (blog creation pending) in the Western Conference finals.



At 1:59 a.m., May 10, 2006, Anonymous Earl Sleek said...

Sammy Pahlsson deserves his own shutout column.

Great going, Loops!


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