Welcome to the playoffs Mile High Hockey!
The HP Pavilion was REALLY rocking to get the game started. The biggest questions coming into tonight for were, how is Craig Anderson going to handle the pressure of his first playoff game? How are the Young Guns going to be once the games REALLY start to matter? Is this team's lack of experience going to hurt this team?
The San Jose Sharks got off to an absolutely ridiculous start. They drew an early penalty on Chris Stewart. How early? How about 28 seconds into the game. Craig Anderson was absolutely GINORMUS on the penalty kill as he made 6 saves on the power play. He wasted no time getting himself back into early season form.
Just as the penalty expired, the Avs wasted little time in getting the puck deep in the offensive and getting a couple quality chances on Evgeni Nabokov. The pressure was somewhat short lived though. Unfortunately the early power play seemed to really jump start the Sharks. As the period went on however, the play seemed to even out a little bit.
The first two halves of the first period was almost a night and day difference for the Colorado Avalanche. Partly due to the early power play, the Sharks out shot the Avs 6-0. The Avs then turned up the pressure and quickly evened up the shot total, outshooting the Sharks over the last half of the period 11-4, with a first period shot total of 11-12 in favor of the Sharks.
With about 2 minutes to go in the period, the injury bug may have struck again. T.J. Galiardi was caught right in the mouth by an errant stick. He was down on the ice for several seconds. At the next stoppage in play he headed to the locker room holding a towel to his mouth. Clearly a tough call missed by the refs. As the second period got underway though, he was back out on the ice.
The first part of the second period was played extremely carefully. So carefully in fact that the first shot of the period wasn't taken until almost 5 minutes in.
I'm not sure how, but somehow Brandon Yip was called for interference while being absolutely mugged. And by mugged I mean he was clothes lined by Patrick Marleau, he was whistled for holding on the play. 2 minutes of 4 on 4 hockey ensued with a couple close calls. The Sharks tipped a puck off the crossbar and Johnny Hot Pocket sent puck through Evgeni Nabokov's legs and through the crease.
After some careful play for most of the second period, the Avs were cycling the puck in the Sharks zone. As play was heading behind the net, the "gentleman" Rob Blake, was whistled for hooking Paul Stastny. It was the Avs first crack on the power play of the game. Then, John-Michael Liles happened. He walked into a slap shot from just outside the right wing faceoff circle and put a shot over Nabokov's shoulder and under the bar. 1-0 good guys!
At this point of the game everything seemed to be going the Avs way. Then the refs decided to step up and not call ANOTHER high stick to the face of an Avs player. This time though, it was Matt Duchene who was victimized. It came as Evgeni Nabokov played the puck to the corner. Thankfully he was able to get up and skate to the bench seemingly no worse for wear.
The Avs did draw another power play as the second period was coming to a close, but didn't get too much going on it. Heading into the second intermission, the Avs were playing exactly the game they needed to to this point. They Avs out shot the Sharks 12-3 in the second period. Further proof that the Avs were playing their game, as the Sharks headed to the locker room, a few "Boo Birds" came out and let the team know how they felt about their team's effort to this point.
As the third period was getting underway, I was thinking that there was going to be no way that the Sharks were going to play the third the way they laid down in the second. I was right. They came out of the gate taking the play to the Avs from the drop of the puck. It almost seemed like the accelerated play caught the Avs off guard.
On a pretty weak call, T.J. Galiardi was whistled for holding in the offensive zone. I watched the replay and I have to say, I didn't see much of a hold as Gali and Dan Boyle went into the end boards. Thankfully, the Avs were able to kill off the penalty and gain the some momentum.
On a spin-o-rama shot from the corner, Ryane Clowe had his shot tipped past Craig Anderson by Joel Pavelski. It was a case of some weak defense in front of the net by Ryan Wilson. Not sure what kind of message the coaches need to send to the defensemen, but this team is not playing very strong when players are camped in front of Craig Anderson. Keep an eye on this for the rest of the series.
Following the goal, the Sharks were absolutely dominating the play. Part of the reason they were dominating, at least in this humble writer's opinion, is because the amount of missed calls by the officiating crew of Tim Peel and Dan O'Rourke. These two refs should not be allowed to ref another game in these playoffs. I am normally not one to complain about the officiating because it will eventually even out, but they were TERRIBLE!
Just when I was settle in for a potentially long overtime period, Chris Stewart made the play of the game. He fired a hard shot that was deflected into the Shark's net by none other than Rob Blake. Talk about your ultimate dose of karma. How big is Chris Stewart going to be in this series? How about the game winning goal in his first playoff game.
Game 2 is scheduled for Friday night in San Jose.
Derek's Three Stars of the Game:
3rd Star: Craig Anderson (25 saves)
2nd Star: Paul Stastny (2A)
1st Star: Chris Stewart (GWG)
DDC's Two Cents: Let’s see…Craig Anderson the better goalie? Check. Stay out of the box? Check. Chris Stewart a factor? Check. Limit secondary scoring? Check. Control the neutral zone? Check. The Avalanche did everything they needed to do and Rob Blake contributed on both Avalanche goals. Karma is a bitch and this win is oh, so sweet.
Dustin's Two Cents: My two cents: A lot of people thought Anderson was gonna have to stand on his head for the Avs to win any games in this series. I only thought he had to be solid. The Avs skaters outplayed San Jose and they have the ability to do it this whole series. This was a fantastically fun game to watch. I could just kiss JM Liles. He is getting a rep for clutch play. And Rob Blake: that's karma, bitch.
Mike's Two Cents: It's about one cent really. I saw some of the first period and that's it. Went to bed tired and pissed off. Long story. I did see the atrocious missed called on the stick Gali took to the face. Sounds like I would have gotten to see it about 10 more times if I'd watched the whole tilt. Also, SoS is OBVIOUSLY the SUXXORZ and shouldn't be paid to play hockey.
Paul's Dollar fifty: I thought Rob Blake played an absolute great game for the Avs tonight. First, he took a nice penalty on SoS, sending the Avs on the power play, which led to the first Avalanche goal. THEN he redirected a Chris Stewart pass past Nabokov for the game winner with less than a minute to play. -- Or maybe, we should just credit all the Rob Blake 'bad' plays that go the Avs' way to Ferris. Either way, fantastic freakin' game!