This game started badly.
I was going to do some kind of lead in, talking about the Pred's slimming chances at the playoffs, and must wins, and the possibility of Tyson Barrie playing at wing on the second line. But I'm not. I'm going to talk about how awful the Avalanche were in the first period. Because they were pretty damn awful.
As a note to everyone, I should tell you all that I only had coffee for breakfast and a couple of delicious tacos for lunch (Tacos y Salas on Colfax, if you want deliciousness. Barbacoa was lacking, but Carnitas were staggering). So when I had four whiskeys for "dinner", you might see a bit more about my mindset in this review. ;)\
Um, what? Game? Oh yeah!
This game started badly.
Really, the entire first period reminded me of the Avs from like three years ago. I have many stories about the bad-old-days, holding my head in my hands and breathing deeply. I had terrible flashbacks about that tonight. The Avalanche came out as flat as I've seen them all season. Sure, the STL game where we lost 7-3 was pretty bad, the 7-2 loss to Chicago was upsetting, but the Edmonton loss 8-2 was heartbreaking. Those were about the worst performances of the season. And the first period of tonight was almost worse to me. It was worse because I knew that they were far, far better than they showed themselves to be, but couldn't do jack shit.
The Avs went down early when Nick Holden missed a pass sent toward him along the boards and gave away the puck. After the turn over, the puck rattled around the boards and into a bunch of guys on the far end. It ended up on Roman Josi's stick, and he eventually scored off of a slapshot that bounced about 12 feet in front of Semyon Varlamov and wafted up over his shoulder. Could he have stopped it? Maybe. But a bounce off the ice is almost as bad as a tip when it comes to trying to save it. I would have loved to see it saved, but, whatever.
The Avs' offensive instincts were awful the entire period; the first shot on goal was 9 minutes and 30 seconds into the period. Good job, boys! Semyon Varlamov did pretty well during this time, fending off the Preds and fighting to give us a chance.
Josi scored again with a shot from the point. It was really a good play from the Preds player tied up with Barrie right in front of the goal screening Varly. It was terrible.
We looked bad after that. I won't break it all down, but we didn't look good for the entire period. I saw a ton of give aways, mishandled pucks, and bad plays. I was about five kinds of upset.
With one minute left in the period, the Avs seemed to wake up. The Paul Stastny line had a phenomenal shift, resulting in a goal. Stats, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon all played tic-tac-toe with the Nashville defense, and won a great goal off of Landy's stick. MacKinnon with the great drive, Stastny with the great pass, and Landeksog with the great shot. That's the team that we, the Avs Fans, are used to seeing.
After the first period, the stats sheets revealed the Av's shortcomings: Shots were 3-13 Predators. Scoring Chances were 2-8 Predators. It did not look good on the score sheet. But the Avs did score a goal on one of their three shots for the period.
The second didn't start off well. Momentum from the first did not carry on to the second. Nashville was spending a ton of time in our zone, and making me grumpy.
Early on, Jan Hejda took a dumb penalty. He was called for interference, and it was the right call. Its been a long time since Clutch and Grab was an accepted part of the game. Luckily, the Avs killed the penalty off with aplomb, allowing only one shot on goal, and the Preds had little time in the Av's zone.
Soon after, Landy scored again!! It was another great goal from the Stastny line, except that Nathan MacKinnon had been shifted to the the "first" line with Duchene, dropping Jamie McGinn back to the "second" line. All the guys worked together well, and won the small battles to score after a great pass from Stats set up an open Landy in front of the net. Excellent job, boys!
After the goal, the Avs started to step it up. They played much more tenaciously, attacking the neutral zone and being aggressive. The 4th line was especially effective, eating up minutes and matching very well against the NSH 4th.
After I was starting to feel good about the situation for today's youth, when Nashville scored. There was a terrible miscommunication on D, when the Predators were driving down into the Avs zone. Johnson and Hejda had some kind of mix-up, and no one really covered Matt Cullen as he skated right in undeterred and chipped a goal in over Varly's shoulder. It was icky. I got upset.
During the 2nd, the Avs didn't really do that well. They did fine, I guess, but they didn't come out with any of the jump that I would have expected after that uber-crappy first. The Nashville super-duo of Shea Weber and Roman Josi were generally matched up against the Duchene line, but without doing a whole lot more in-depth man-to-man analysis, I can't tell for sure. But they did a good job shutting down our 1st line, letting our 2nd score points, and our 3rd and 4th eat up minutes.
As the 3rd began, the feeling was much more balanced. We were playing better,and Nashville was sitting back on the lead a little. Andre Benoit accidentally killed Matt Cullen on a collision in the Nashville zone with a shoulder-to-head hit, and he went straight to the locker room, but luckily (?) was able to come back later in the game. I noticed several times when the Avs managed to score good faceoff wins again the excellent Predators, and some of them came early in the 3rd.
I got the feeling that Nashville was leaning on Pekke Rinne more than it had to in the early 3rd. It reminded me of how the Avs will lead on Varly's superb goaltending when the lead, and I was curious to see how it would work out for Nashville.
It didn't work out too well for them, because Cody McLeod scored just a couple minutes after I started wondering about Rinne and the lead. I hadn't been paying as much attention as I should have been to the lines, but Matt Duchene was out with McLeod and Maxime Talbot on some kind of double-shfit (maybe an awesome opportunity to catch the Nashville lines unawares?). Together they had a really hard working shift, and it culminated with a Cody Mac backhander after a great puck corral right in front of the paint. Very good work by all involved. There was a possibility that the play was offsides just before the goal. I honestly thought that the puck came out of the zone before it was passed behind the net for the goal, but after watching the replay like five times, I think that he call was correct. It was awful close, tho.
Just a couple minutes later, things took a turn for the downside as Johnson-Hejda turned the puck over at mid ice and it was scored after a little chip pass across the crease. Varly couldn't get back in time, and the Preds took the lead. It was all because of the turn over, and I think that Johnson apologized to Hejda for it. There certainly looked like remorse happening on the ice. The end result was that the Predators took the lead, 4-3. Cullen made the goal, so I guess he recovered enough to play.
Honestly, despondency was setting in (because I'm hella moody tonight), when Nick Holden scored! I was blown away! A great play and shot led to the goal! Holden caught a pass at mid-ice, and skated around the Nashville D, skated right in, and potted the goal like any "normal" forward! It was glorious! The Avs tied it up with 4 minutes remaining in the period.
After a hard-fought last couple minutes, Holden high-stuck Patric Hornquist, resulting in a PK for the last 2:11 of the game. I was on edge to say the least. However, the Avs killed off the PP with great gusto, making a proud man, and escaped regulation at a tie!
OT was very entertaining, lots of back-and-forth plays. I had my heart in my mouth for a couple of them, but I'm trying to keep this short, so I won't go into details. But the main gist is that we did well, and they did well, and both goalies did even better. Shots were pretty even, so its not like one team was very much better than the other. Just hard working hockey. No one scored, so it went on to the shootout.
Varlamov saved two goals agains Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, but let in one goal by apparent super-rookie Calle Jarkrok. However, Pekke Rinne saved only the shot by Matt Duchene, and let in goals by Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog, and the Avs won in OT!
3 Avs Stars:
1st: Gabe Landeskog and Semyon Varlamov: I won't choose between the two. I refuse. Landy had 2 goals and an assist, not to mention 7 SOGs. He as the reason the Avs won. But then again, Varly continually kept the Avs in the game through two abysmal periods. Landy would never have had a chance is Varlamov hadn't been on his top game.
2nd: Paul Stastny. 2 assists. Great play tonight.
3rd: no one. Holden could take it, but he played really poorly in the first period. Like really terribly. Or perhaps Cody McLeod, with his second goal in as many games, and crazy energy. Or it could go to Marc-Andre Cliche, for his 7 of 10 faceoffs and being a pest all night. But honestly, I am pissed enough about the first couple periods of play that I won't award it to anyone. Its a terrible state to be in, but I'm like Mr. Grumpy Gills.
- The first couple period by the Avs were crap. Seriously. They were horrid. But they found a way to pull it together and make the win. I was near despondency for most of the game. Jumping to terrible, unwarranted conclusions. But I was proved wrong. Gloriously wrong.
- Weber and Josi are seriously good. I wish we had anything approaching them. I guess that Johnson-Hejda are "approaching" them. But I'd make that trade any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
- If the Predators ever get some legit offense, they can be scary. I tend to think of them like how I used to think of the Oilers. "They're going to be good in a couple years once it all comes together!" Etc. Except that I think that Nashville can actually make it.
- The Avs actually won the faceoff race! Mike Fisher won a ton of them, but Paul Stastny was up to the task.. kinda. I mean, he lost a lot of the faceoffs, but he took most of the brunt of all of the losses, and everyone else was able to come out of top. Does that make any sense at all? I dunno, I'm kinda drunk.
The Avs take on the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, March 27. The game is at 7pm Mountain time. Are we on Daylight time yet? Anyway, Vancouver is at the edge of a playoff spot looking in, and the team is a bit of a mess at the moment. We will have to see what happens. Go Avs!!