DENVER - APRIL 24: Goalie Craig Anderson #41 of the Colorado Avalanche peers out from inside the goal during a break in the action against the San Jose Sharks during Game Six of the Western Conference Quaterfinals of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 24, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Avalanche almost pulled out win to force Game 7. Craig Anderson's herculean effort in the series was almost enough to carry his team to the next round. And the Colorado Avalanche are almost ready to be a force to be reckoned with in the league. Almost...but not quite.
As nail-biting as this series has been, you'd think that tonight's potentially deciding game would be exciting from the start. Instead, the first half of the game seemed devoid of that magical playoff intensity. For the most part, the first 30 minutes of the game were rather pedestrian, with little intensity and shoddy execution.
Granted, I can't speak for the first 8 minutes, because the ginormous dildoheads that run Versus, DirecTV and the NHL once again gave the middle finger to the fans who pay their salaries. I have to say, it's a totally awesome feeling to pay 160 bucks for a Center Ice package that shows me every regular season but blacks out a playoff hockey game. Although local affiliates carried tonight's game, only the Versus feed was available to Center Ice customers...and that feed was busy showing a Senators / Penguins game that went to OT (it also wasted a good 10 minutes extra interviewing Penguins player after the game). I don't which of the three moronic entities are responsible for this marketing nightmare, but I, for one, would love to see Rob Blake give them a gentlemanly shove headfirst into the boards.
But, I digress. As I was saying, the first half of tonight's game wasn't much of a game. The Sharks Joe Pavelski scored 47 seconds in (I'd tell you about it but...well...see the above paragraph). For the next period and a half, both teams just sort of floated around a bit, neither showing a great deal of urgency. And then Marek Svatos happened. Six years and 10 days after scoring his first NHL playoff goal against the Dallas Stars in overtime, Svatos raced in down the left wing boards, cut hard to the net and beat Evgeni Nabokov to give him two playoff goals to go with his 96 regular season goals. It was a terrific goal. It's also probably the last one we'll see in an Avalanche unipron.
Svatos' goal seemed to fire up the Avs and their play picked up considerably from there. Just over 10 minutes later, at the 4:51 mark in the 3rd, the Avalanche took the lead when Paul Stastny found Brandon Yip breaking hard to the net. I have no idea why the Avs waited 5 1/2 games to start doing that, but the end result was that the Avs had a 3rd period lead for the 3rd time in the series. And, as had been the case with the previous 2 3rd period leads, the Avalanche couldn't hold it.
If Svatos' goal woke up the Avs, Yip's goal seemed to wake up the Sharks. Dan Boyle rifled a slapper past Craig Anderson just a couple minutes later to tie the game again and then Pavelski beat Anderson on a 2-on-1 just 90 seconds after that to put the Sharks on top to stay. The Avalanche had some pressure, but managed to get just three shots on net in the 3rd - Yips goal, a shot by Galiardi and a slapshot by Brett Clark after Devin Setoguchi and Doug Murray iced the game with empty netters. Tonight's 3rd frame was the 6th period out of 18 regulation periods that the Avs managed 4 or less shots on net. When your offense essentially takes a 3rd of the series off, you are going to have trouble against any team...and these Sharks are not just any team.
The Avalanche made a great show of it, taking a very good Sharks team (I can say that now, right?) to 6 games. It wasn't all luck and it wasn't all Craig Anderson - this team showed everyone that they are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the very near future. This is a very young team, and the experience of this postseason will only help these guys the next time around. That could very well be next year, as this team is almost ready to contend for the next level.