Congratulations, Colorado Avalanche, on a stunning 2013-14 season!!!
Tonight's game didn't mean anything to the ultimate standings (even tho it was nice to get an extra point to draw ahead of the St. Louis Blues). For Anaheim, this was the Finnish Flash's final regular-season game in a storied career. For the Colorado Avalanche, this was the final regular-season game for equally illustrious Jean-Sebastien Giguere. It was time to say farewell to two legends, mentally prepare for the playoffs, and pray that no one gets hurt.
I was busy all day, so when I sat down just before game time it was a surprise to me to see that neither John Mitchell nor Tyson Barrie was playing. I didn't even know that Stefan Elliott was up until I saw him on the ice. Also, I was hopeful that Cody McLeod could come back, but obviously not. On the opposite side, neither douchenozzle Corey Perry nor Ryan Getzlaf played, so I guess that kinda evens out with missing Matt Duchene. A little. The Ducks also started baby-faced goaltender John Gibson.
With lineups like that, and the game not meaning much, the 1st started out like paint drying. Both teams were playing very respectfully (to steal the perfect word from one of the Altidudes). Its like they were going through the motions. I honestly started to glaze over for the first 10 minutes as everyone skated very "respectfully". Both teams looked like beleaguered guys playing a meaningless game at the end of the season. I honestly wasn't even mad. Its been a long season.
One really cool thing was the way that the Anaheim crowd cheered for Teemu Selanne. It was really nice to see. They cheered every time he took the ice, the way we would have if we knew it was going to be Joe Sakic's final shift. It was a wonderful thing to see, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
As the period went on, the Avs started to play just a bit stronger, and started off the scoring. The fourth line was out, and a sharp-angled shot from Nick Holden bounced around in the crease a little bit. Brad Malone pounced on it, and swatted away hoping to knock it in. It slipped under Gibson's pad and across the line, but it was waived off immediately. Apparently the Ref thought that Malone had pushed Gibby's leg into the net, but Toronto overturned it quickly and the Avs went onto the board.
Soon after that, both teams started to wake up a bit. The skates started sliding faster, and Jiggy had to be sharp a few times. However, the Avs made it to the first intermission with the lead.
The second started out just where the 1st left off. It was faster than the first, but there weren't a lot of chances going either way. Both teams just went a little carefully, and clogged up the neutral zone. The status quo got shaken up when Andrew Cogliano took a roughing penalty, and the Avs hit the power play. It ended up not going anywhere, but we had a couple shots and didn't look too bad.
After that, the Avs started to get a little sloppy as the Ducks picked up their game. Well, Nate Guenin got a little sloppy trying to contain the Ducks. He took two penalties in 4 minutes. That was fun. The Avs played the PKs fairly well, but the Ducks did have a couple great chances. Also, Giguere was looking awesome, top form, and fended off all 15 shots he faced in the second period. It was a very good performance.
With 2 minutes left in the period, the Maxime Talbot sent an innocuous looking shot toward the goal, which never even made it to Gibson. It dropped down into the middle of the ice, and the Ducks players in front of the net had a chance to clear it up, but they were just a little slow. In his first game back, Stefan Elliott snuck in completely undetected and craftily slapped the puck toward the net before anyone else touched it. It went straight in, and the Avs took a 2-0 lead.
The third period was a different story all together. The Avs came out and played like they had the whole game. They didn't look overly concerned. Bad move. Because the Ducks came out looking great, almost as if someone had given them a locker room speech about playing hard for Selanne. Also, the crowd had conspired over social media that they were going to give the Flash a standing ovation any time he was on the ice, and it had a great effect on the Ducks. They flew when they hit the ice, and we looked very confused. They scored twice in the first five minutes, on shots that weren't Jiggy's fault in the slightest, but on defensive breakdowns as we desperately tried to adjust to the new pace of the game.
By the time we got everything together and settled in to play, we were all tied up, and everyone had forgotten about "taking things easy". Also, at the end of the second, Jan Hejda was injured (perhaps when a blocked shot went off his hand, or clipped his face, The Altidudes didn't know, and I haven't heard one way or another). He did not return for the 3rd, so that might have had something to do with us being out of sorts. Both teams actually started hitting each other a bit, and we traded scoring chances for the entire rest of the game. It started getting really good about the 10 minute mark, and the Refs swallowed their whistles and let the boys play. Despite great chances for both teams, the Avs and Ducks made it to the end of regulation tied.
The Overtime period started out all Ducks, and they finished it fairly quickly too. Just 90 seconds into the final frame another defensive breakdown led to Nick Bonino shooting as Jiggy dove across and Holden slid down trying to block the shot. The Ducks won, but the Avs played well enough to get an extra point to finish the season with 112 Points.
- Despite getting a goal, Stefan Elliott looked a little lost out there. To be expected with his first game with the big club.
- The Gabriel Landeskog / Paul Stastny / Nathan MacKinnon line continues to look good. They gave the Ducks fits, and accounted for 11 of the 31 shots on goal. However, they were on the ice for all three of the Ducks' goals, so I guess they didn't look perfect.
- Giguere finished his final regular season game saving 33 of 36 for a .917 save percentage. I thought he did very well. There was an incredible moment at the end of the game, when Selanne was taking his farewell lap around the ice. He went over and grabbed Giguere's hand, and they skated together. It was very moving.
- McLeod and Barrie should be back for the start of the playoffs, but Mitchell will be out for a while. No word as of yet on Hejda. Duchene probably won't be back until the end of the series, but I guess we'll have to see what happens. After tonight, I think we might see some creative lines, looking for the right combinations.
- The Avs face the Minnesota Wild for the first game of the series at Pepsi Center on Thursday. Everyone be ready.
GO AVS GO!!!