The third period of Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks was a microcosm of the Avs season. They started out well, got a lead but faded toward the end and couldn't hold on. We saw that scenario play out over and over again this season. And there was no more important example than Joe Pavelski's goal. Not in Game 6 to take the lead for good, but to tie Game 2 with 30 seconds to go. Most certainly, that was the turning point in the series. Pavelski, who was by far the best player for the Sharks in the series and probably only rivaled by Craig Anderson overall, showed the clutch that many of the young Avs are going to have to display if their future is going to be as bright as everyone thinks it will be.
They are a young team that has vastly exceeded expectations but still have to learn that killer instinct. Even the season as a whole followed that path when they nearly faded out of a playoff spot when they could very well have won their division. They managed to step up and get into the post-season, but you could tell in this series that they had used everything they had to do it.
And now, we have the mixed bag of recognizing the amazing young talent and awesome potential of this team (166 points by rookies) but also the idea that there maybe could have been more hockey this year if not for the usual what ifs. Officiating. Injuries. Bounces. A pylon named Joe Thornton and his two sidekicks Marleau and Heatley. The Sharks were ripe for the taking and may have fallen if not for their so-called second line led by Pavelski. (By the way, if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup this year, remind me to wear my big pants so the monkeys can fly out of my ass!) But it wasn't to be and all the potential in the world doesn't make it sting.
This playoff appearance separates them from the Kings and Coyotes, who had endless potential for years but only now have realized it. It certainly separates them from the Panthers and Maple Leafs. Now, they have to separate themselves from the Blues, Blue Jackets and Thrashers as teams who made the playoffs with young potential only to falter the next season.
Ultimately, though, that sting can be a good thing because that bitter taste can drive them even harder next year. But for now, it just plain sucks.
In a few days, we'll decompress and realize what an unbelievable season it was for the Avs. We'll turn our eyes to a future so bright, we've got to wear shades. Myself, I plan to write an evaluation of each player and look at the future as well, if for no other reason than to get it out of my head. But for now, it's time to shave my playoff beard.