With the success that Craig Anderson has had between the pipes for the
Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10, it is very easy to forget back-up Peter Budaj.
The last start Budaj had was January 8 against
the Carolina Hurricanes, where he ended up with the loss in a 2-1 game. Since
then, Anderson has had 23 consecutive starts, which included the two week long
Olympic break. This is a lot of hockey, and a lot of sitting on the bench and
just watching the game (Budaj represented Team Slovakia in the Olympics, but
never made an appearance).
All of that changed last night, when Coach Joe Sacco gave
Anderson a much deserved rest, and gave Budaj the starting nod for the game
against the St. Louis Blues.
With so much time between games, there were many questions
as to how Budaj would do with all that time sitting on the bench observing
games. Will he be able to handle a game? Will he let in soft goal? Has he
practiced hard enough to still be in shape to play a game? All of these questions were answered last night in Budaj’s
win against the Blues.
One would assume that the answer would be he would let in a
soft goal, since Budaj gave up the first goal of the game at eight seconds in,
which was also the first shot of the game. The goal was reviewed, and took
about three to four minutes to decide that it was a good goal. With the time
between goal and review, Budaj had plenty of down-time to regain his focus.
By the end of the first, Budaj stopped the remaining eight
shots sent his way, and seemed to be getting his confidence back. In addition,
the Avs had taken the lead on a power-play and even strength goals, giving them
the 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The second period was a different story, which saw a back
and forth type game, with many shots coming towards Budaj. Although Budaj did
let in two goals, he also stopped 14 of 16 shots faced. As the game continued, it was apparent that Budaj was
becoming more comfortable in net, and was making strong saves.
Again, the Avs went into the second intermission with a 4-3, and
was giving Budaj even more confidence to finish the game strong.
The third period was Budaj’s time to shine, as the Blues came
out with excellent pressure and put shot after shot on net. Budaj was tested
during this period, but remained strong and stayed square to the puck to ensure
each save. The Blues spent a good amount of time in the Avs zone, fighting and
pushing to get the game-tying goal.
Just when it seemed as if the Blues were going to get that
game-tying goal, the Avs got an odd-man rush up the ice and made the Blues pay
for it. This turned the game into a two-goal game (5-3), and really put the
pressure on the Blues.
Once more, Budaj kept his cool and stopped everything that was
coming at him. With his help, the Avs got the victory and a crucial two points,
in the very tight Western Conference.
“I felt pretty good,”
said Budaj. “Even though they scored eight seconds into the game, kind of a
tough bounce. Wasn’t the start me and the team are looking for, but we worked
hard and we got the w.
“When you haven’t played in a long time, just try to get the
feel of a few pucks, and hopefully you get the rhythm. Obviously practice and
the game are much different as you know. Just try to stay focused in practices.”
No one knows when Sacco will put Budaj back in with only 13
games remaining in the season, and with all of them having playoff
implications. One thing is for sure, if Budaj is called upon, Sacco will have a
lot of confidence in him to get a win.