Game 1: Colorado vs. Minnesota
Barely a year ago, we all sat watching the TV, as many teams did this week, to see where the lottery would fall for the Avs at the upcoming draft. We rejoiced when Pracey had the grin after leapfrogging Florida. We then began the two month odyssey of watching other teams in the playoffs cheering, half heartedly for some teams, but simply enjoying the sport. As the playoffs ended and Chicago raised the cup, a new era was in its nascent stage. Sakic, Roy, MacKinnon, a great start, Varlamov, etc. and boom Division Champions. A new era was beginning but the new era started tonight.
I think it’s only fitting that I am a recap rookie this year, much like MacKinnon!!!! We are so connected, like ohmygodzsoulmatesteenageronMountainDewandohmygodiamsonervous. And this is my first playoff recap. Let’s see if I can maintain myself under pressure. So far so good…I AM SO FUCKING EXCITED!
Anyway, let’s do this shit.
Drinking Update: Scotch. Lots of it. Okay, it’s Arbeg’s Ardbog if you must know.
Drinking Update 2: The game starts in 30 minutes and I am more or less drunk already.
Avs lost the first faceoff. O’Reilly had a steal behind the Wild’s net 1 minute in, but the Avs couldn’t get a shot. The Wild took a nice run at Barrie and they showed their hand a bit there. Landeskog had a great forecheck and steal but McGinn’s shot just went wide. Following a tough save for Varly, Barrie skated the puck through the zone, into the Wild’s zone and created a great scoring chance. The dude looks un-phased by everything.
The Avs 4th line just dominated the Wild and Carey and Bugsy looked great. And after a nice pinch by Guenin and a shot by Landy, the Wild took a 4 minute penalty for high sticking. Huge opportunity for the Avs.
The Avs had some good pressure but the Avs took a high stick from MacKinnon to negate part of the Power Play. So 4 on 4 for two minutes ensued. The Avs got a little pinned but the 4 on 4 ended and the Avs were back for a Power Play for just over a minute.
The Avs weren’t able to generate much and the PP was over. The Wild followed that with a great shift and smothered the Avs in their zone for a good minute.
Under 8 minutes left in the first, the Stastny line came out after a great MacKinnon shift that finally opened up the neutral zone. Landeskog dumped the puck in order to beat the Wild blue line wall and JUST. ABSOULTELY. OBLITERATED. Brodin. That caused a massive turnover. The puck came around to the point and after another good pinch at the blue line, Stastny found the puck behind the net, held off the Wild defenseman, and fed Landeksog in front for an beautiful goal. 1-0 Avs.
TANGENT 1: These announcers really like the Avs. So weird to hear.
The Wild responded a minute and a half later. They created a turnover in the Avs zone and the Wild got a shot off and Varly gave up a big rebound/Parise might have pass-tipped it. The puck came out right to Coyle who was able to corral the puck and put it by Varly. 1-1.
TANGENT 2: I might need to invest in Coors light. If it is getting so hard to find that they need to carve it out of mountains and use body gliders to deliver it, it must be super rare.
With a minute left, Guenin dumped the puck from the red line and the bouncing puck tricked Bryzgalov but sadly though it bounced through his pads, somehow, the puck bounced wide. Period over.
Systems Update: The game started off slow, but the Avs started rolling their 4 lines and created some space. The Wild were trying to slow down the neutral zone and but for a 4 minute penalty on the Wild, half of which was negated, there wasn’t much movement at first. Then MacKinnon’s line started getting their play and opened things up and the Avs scored. The Wild found their low pressure game later in the period and not only yielded a goal, but a few other chances. The Avs’s transition system showed signs of working at first but Yeo and the Wild responded well.
Avs lost the faceoff AGAIN! GRRRRR. Also, Stastny’s line had a great start and set the pace. The game slowed down a bit but about 5 minutes in MacKinnon went crazy and skated it up the zone and PA ha da great chance. However, still no goals.
The Wild seemed to be responding pretty well to the speed game, color my impressed with this. They still collapse defensively but it looks like they accepted they can’t completely slow down the neutral zone.
The Avs started to run around their zone a bit and a bad turnover by Johnson led to a scary tip shot that went high over Varly. Then the puck hit off a linesman and the bounce led to a great Pomminville chance but Varly was there to stop it and the rebound. Varly came up huge.
The Landeskog line came out again and Stastny almost stuffed it in. But the result however was Suter knocking the net off the pegs and was called for delay of game. Obvious call.
Avs Power Play will have to deal with a very aggressive Wild PK. The Avs PP looks terrifying. They had fantastic movement up and down, left and right and Landy found himself in front but just lost his balance. Oh well. No goal.
And then Hejda gets called for a penalty that makes no sense. It was clearly a penalty in the regular season but they had a lot worse go. Again, oh well and now the Avs PK needed to step up.
Well that fucking sucked. The Wild had great movement and eventually the puck came to the point and Charlie Coyle had a great tip (that or it hit something else) past Varly. 2-1 Wild.
Then things got rough. Parise ran Varly, Johnson went to town on Parise’s head. Matching penalties for those two. Four on four for two minutes.
The four on four was fairly calm until Landeksog charged through the Wild’s neutral zone and opened up the speed. The next line came out and Tyson Barrie found the puck behind the net (mind you, after two amazing defensive plays) and skated it up with speed. He found MacKinnon who skated into the zone and stopped, Barrie went to the net but O’Reilly trailed behind and MacKinnon found him at the high hashmarks. O’Reilly took the pass, waited, and ripped a semi-slap shot right past Bryzgalov’s blocker. Beautiful. 2-2.
Ugh. Minnesota then came right back and Haula walked around the Avs defense after a bad line change. Varly tried the poke check, but Haula was able to sneak it through the five-hole. 3-2 Wild.
And then it got worse. Minnesota had a great forecheck on Hejda who coughed up the puck and the Avs defense broke down. Brodziak found himself out in front all alone and beat Varly. 4-2 Wild.
Then the Avs got called for another penalty. Game saving kill coming up. Period over but the Wild will have some time left.
Systems Update: Not good for the Avs. The Wild had their way with the Avs’ defense and the Avs system didn’t adjust at all. I expect some changes from Roy and this is something we have seen before. The Wild took advantage of a few miscues and really had a great period themselves. The Avs ran around and looked totally lost.
Avs had to kill off another 20 second or so and Coyle managed to find more space and Varly had to come up huge, but the Avs were able to kill it.
Roy put MacKinnon back with Stastny and Landeskog to start the 3rd. Not surprising. And that line almost managed to stuff one in, but Bryzgalov was able to grab Stastny’s stuff attempt.
O’Reilly’s line came out and PA was able to feed McGinn but Bryzgalov stopped it. Then Minnesota jumped right on a turnover and Varly had to come up huge again.
Then Stastny’s line came out with a great chance and even though there was no goalses, there was a penalty call. Huge, gigantic PP for the Avs coming up.
The Avs’ first unit had great chances but Minnesota survived and in fact didn’t give up a shot; even though the Avs had two gorgeous opportunities and Minnesota got a little lucky on the bounces. However, right after the penalty expired, O’Reilly had a great steal from Brodziak and put a backhand on net. Bryzalgaov gave up a rebound and McGinn was able to stuff the rebound home. 4-3 Wild.
12 minutes left and the Avs had life again but still needed another goal. Matt Cooke then drew matching minors with Holden, not the best trade off, so we are back to four on four.
Johnson was able to find a flying MacKinnon who almost skated himself into a different time zone and he pulled up and found O’Reilly who lasered a shot from the hashmarks, but Bryz was able to get there just in time. Great opportunity but sadly Radar couldn’t beat Bryz.
8 minutes left and the Avs almost got screwed by a wacky bounced but Cliché made a possibly game saving play to stop the cross crease pass. The puck bounced around a bit but Varly was able to smother it.
5 minutes left. Crunch time began. The Avs had two great back-to-back shifts with good pressure but could only generate one good shot from Landy who had a screen but the puck went high.
2:43 left and Varly is on the bench. Roy is doing what he does. Take chances. Here is how it played out:
Under 2 minutes left and Minnesota iced it. Then Huala dumped it and it was headed into the net but EJ skated his ass off to keep it out. Amazing play. GIF worthy if possible.
1:32 left and Varly has to go back out. After an off sides the puck is in the neutral zone. Roy keeps Varly out. The Avs get the puck in and get pressure. There were some risky passes and some great plays by both Johnson and Barrie to keep the puck in. Bryz was able to make two stops. Another faceoff for Stastny. The Avs eventually get possession. The puck goes behind the net to MacKinnon but the clock was ticking down with under 30 second left. Eventually MacKinnon finds Johnson coming down the near side slot who has his shot tipped but it goes right to Stastny at the far side low circle and he OH MY FUCKING GODDDDDDDDDS. It’s in. I thought he missed it. But he buried it. Amazing. Just amazing with 13.4 second left. 4-4. The Period ends and we are on to OT. My heart. My poor, poor heart. And liver. All my organs.
Systems Update: The Avs played a much better period. It really looked like the Avs were dead in the water after the second. They were getting pressure for sure but nothing seemed to be working enough. However, even with an unsuccessful power play (something to work on) the Avs got one back. Then the Avs kept pressuring and eventually they got a bounce to go their way and managed to tie it. The Avs believed in and kept going with their system and it worked. Holy fuck I am shaking.
Overtime started fast and fierce. Pomminville ripped a shot off the post and almost ended it early. The Wild had their cycle going and had two early shifts that absolutely terrified me. The Avs need to work on that.
Then the 3rd line came out with Talbot and McLeod. They, finally, were able to establish pressure in the Wild zone and had the Wild running around. The Avs were able to switch out mid shift and eventually Stastny’s line came out in full. Landeskog moved the puck to the point to Johnson who passed to the far side to Barrie. Barrie had to use all his skill to keep it in, then he stick handled around Pomminville, and headed to the net. He went to shoot but it deflected to MacKinnon below the goal line. Nathan spun on the defender and went to the back of the net and as soon as he got there he passed underneath the Minnesota defender’s stick to Stastny who finished it. He finished the shot. He finished the goal. He finished the fucking game. Game fucking over. 5-4 Avs. GO FUCKING HOME WILD. Well, not home per se, but go back to the hotel room because you just lost. But still. Go home.
Systems Update: Avs are amazing.
Three Whores: (holy fuck this was hard in this game)
Third Whore: O’Reilly. He played great and really kept his line effective when Roy stacked Stasnty’s line.
Second Whore: Stastny. His two goals were amazing, just amazing. Clutch as all hell.
First Whore: MacKinnon. He was an absolute force and he took control of the offense which was needed when Varly was a tiny bit off and the defense was jittery to say the least. Of note, this was his first ever playoff game. Kid is made of something different.
Honorable mention: Barrie and Landeksog.
I am still shaking after this. Just holy hell. This team is great. Not the best game, in any way. No one can argue that but they managed to grind this out. A game they should have lost based on their system breaking down a bit too much. Roy will fix the holes. This team has something. I believe.
Game 2 Saturday.