Well Avs fans, did you get your playoff jitters out? Because I sure did. There's nothing in the world quite like the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Avalanche gave us an unforgettable show in what was, for many of these players, a Stanley Cup Playoffs debut. The Avalanche's comeback victory was impressive, featuring an incredible sprinting empty net save from Erik Johnson, a beautiful deke by Tyson Barrie, a patient, mature beyond his years setup from Nathan MacKinnon, and most importantly, a pair of goals from Paul Stastny. When Paul Stastny's game winner made its way past Ilya Bryzgalov in overtime late Thursday night, the Pepsi Center was the loudest it has been in years and likely the loudest it has been in many of these players' young careers. The team celebrated on the ice, piling up along the boards every bit as energized and joyous as the sold-out crowd and that's when something remarkable happened: these young players put that all away and got back to work. It would be very easy to get too high after an emotional win like Game 1, but to a man each Avalanche player used their post-game interviews to tell the fans that tonight wasn't good enough, that they made too many mistakes, and that they have to be better in Game 2.
They talked the talk. Now it's time to walk the walk.
Whether it was nerves, the long break, or just an off night, the Avalanche struggled to click offensively for significant stretches of the game. That inconsistency combined with a number of bad turnovers from the Avalanche's top defensive pairing, some uncharacteristically bad line changes, and an average night from Semyon Varlamov added up to a disastrous second period and a 4-2 deficit. Despite it all, this team believed in itself and pulled off a miraculous victory on the backs of some outstanding individual efforts. Now its time to shake off the nerves and get back to playing "our game." Force their forwards to the outside, let Varly see the puck, and then it's just a matter of speed, speed, speed.
The Avalanche already played Game 1, but tonight they'll decide what Game 1 meant. Is it the miraculous win that ignites a Minnesota Wild comeback? Is it the first close battle in a long, hard fought series? Or is it a heart breaker that deflates the Wild and sends the Avalanche quickly into the second round. All that depends on how the Avalanche handle the opposition tonight. There's no lineup changes for either team, so tonight is all about execution.
Let's Go Avs.