BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 14: Jamie McGinn #11 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates his goal with two seconds left in regulation to tie the Buffalo Sabres 4-4 at the First Niagara Center on March 14, 2012 in Buffalo, New York. The Avalanche defeated the Sabres 5-4 in the shootout. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A few weeks ago I took a look at 5 games the Avs let slip through their fingers. While it may be impossible to pinpoint individual games that make or break your regular season, they showed a few major flaws in our young Avalanche squad: 1) Giving up late goals, 2) going soft with two goal leads and 3) playing Calgary. That said, the league's youngest team showed outstanding potential this season and at times was absolutely dominant on the ice. So, while we mourn the end of our season, lets take a look back at 5 of the Av's best wins this year.
It took the Avs just 4 games this season to put up 7 goals in a game. Though it was early in the season, there were certainly concerns about the Avs offensive game as they headed into Ottawa. The Avs had scored just 3 goals in their first 3 games but managed a 2-1 record. In a game that had "trap" written all over it the Avs came out playing hard but gave up a goal in the first 5 minutes to Ottawa's Milan Michalek. In the middle of a lengthy road trip playing against a former Avalanche goaltender, the Avs looked all but doomed when the first puck went in.
Sacco and our Avs responded with 7, SEVEN, unanswered goals against Craig Anderson. Scoring the most Avalanche goals since December 13, 2010 against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Avs rout set the tone for the rest of their road trip and propelled the team to a perfect 5-0.
Fun Fact: Bob in Boulder's favorite Avalanche player Joakim Lindstrom scored 100% of his Avalanche goals that night. That fact is fun, right?
2. November 10, 2011 Colorado Avalanche at New York Islanders 4-3 (OT)
After 4 consecutive losses, Avalanche elder J.S. Giguere used Mile High Hockey's favorite term: "must win." While it's impossible to have a true "must win" game in November, the tone in the Avalanche locker room was clear, a 5 game losing streak was unacceptable. Midway through the 2nd period, the "Must Win Avs" were down 3-0 to the lowly Islanders. After the Islanders 3rd goal coach Sacco called a timeout, but he let the team's veterans do the talking. Shane O'Brien verbally abused his teammates and spurred a 3-goal rally over the next period and a half. After dominating the play in the third period and overtime, the Avs ended their losing streak with a goal by Kyle Quincey.
Fun Fact: Joakim Lindstrom and Milan Hejduk skated on the Avs top line, and we still won!
3. February 7, 2012 Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche 5-2
This game saw 2 teams riding absolutely devastating 5 game losing streaks as they entered the Pepsi Center. The big question heading into the game? Which team would turn around their poor play? Who wanted the win more? After a close first period, the Hawks struck first, burying a puck behind Giguere only 30 seconds into the second period. Where the 2010-2011 Avalanche may have kicked themselves and let this game slip away from them, the 2012 Avalanche responded. It only took the Avalanche 3 minutes to tie the game and another 35 seconds to take a 1 goal lead. Although Patrick Kane tied the game at two midway through the second period, the third frame was all Avs. Three unanswered goals propelled the Avalanche to a decisive 5-2 win over the Blackhawks. In 2010-2011 we watched the Avs let a 5 game streak like this turn into 8 or even 10 game winless streaks. In 2012, against an equally desperate team, the Avs were able to turn their play around and end a terrible losing streak before the February wheels fell off again.
Fun Fact: This game featured Tyson Barrie's NHL debut!
4. February 25, 2012 Colorado Avalanche at Detroit Red Wings 4-3
23 home wins in a row for the Detroit Red Wings ended by a shootout against the Vancouver Canucks a night earlier. 24 games without a regulation loss. The youngest team in the NHL, challenging the leagues most dominant home team over the course of 4 months... Needless to say, the Avs entered Joe Louis Arena like sheep in a lion's den. For two and a half periods though, our young Avalanche absolutely man-handled the Red Wings. Gabriel Landeskog scored the opening goal just 1:35 into the first period and a shorthanded David Jones made it 2-0 only 67 ticks later. Unfortunately, being from Detroit means the wings are used to these kinds of muggings, and knew how to respond. The Red Wings closed the gap to one with about 5 minutes to go and absolutely peppered the Avs with shots down the stretch. Veteran goalie J.S. Giguere covered for his scrambling defense and held on for the win in a very hostile building. Definitely not a 60 minute game, but a very impressive win considering the pressure placed on this young team.
Fun Fact: The game didn't really count because Pavel Datsyuk didn't play. Still, the Avs were the first team to escape Detroit with a ROW since November 3rd.
5. March 14, 2012 Colorado Avalanche at Buffalo Sabres 5-4 (SO)
This was certainly one of the most memorable games of the season. After scoring three goals on themselves, the Avalanche decided that putting pucks behind Ryan Miller might also be fun. The Avs were down three separate times in the game and fought back each time to tie the Sabres in a very loud Buffalo arena. With only a dozen seconds left on the clock and Varlamov standing on the bench, the Avalanche simply willed the puck down the ice into the net. Gabriel "Calder" Landeskog charged down the ice like a man on a mission and threw a good shot on net, in the ensuing chaos Jamie McGinn finally poked the rebound into the net with under 2 seconds on the clock. After a thrilling overtime, the Avs went on to win in the shootout. The win in Buffalo, however, was more than just the season's most exciting, it kept the Avalanche in the playoff hunt and set the tone for a critical 5 game road trip.
Fun Fact: The Landeskog-OReilly-Downie line had 15 shots on the night. 5 each.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Los Angeles Kings
The Avalanche swept a very good Kings team in the season series, giving LA only a single OT point on the season. The Kings are currently having a successful first round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, up 3-1 on the top seeded Vancouver Canucks.
Unfortunately the Avs couldn't win quite enough of these high pressure games to earn a playoff birth this season. Hopefully, with a little growing up and a lot of dollars spent the 2013 Avalanche will give us some April wins to write about.