Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are about to witness the greatest happening in sports. In some circles, this game 7 will be a far, far better thing than the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, and the Lower Oakland Roller Derby all rolled into one. (yes yes, I know that was a mixed quote). Game 7s are amazing, and there are 3 of them tonight. But we will focus on only ours, and our destiny.
So, as I'm getting ready, I'm working with several traditions and superstitions, both mine, and ones that I've adopted. I'm wearing my Sakic dark blue Nords (perfect record) over my Avs hoodie (winning record), a Duchene draft year hat, with an Avs apron on, just in case. I bought Breckenridge Brewery's Avalanche Ale, have three kinds of whiskey (and whisky) set out in case I need to switch things up. I bought Arbys, but I'll have to reheat it a bit to be sure that its good to go right before the game. I couldn't remember which sauce to get, so I got them all, including honey mustard. I even put on my Broncos shoes (which are untainted by that epic unpleasentness to end the year), in case they add some kind of home town bump. I'm ready.
I'm ready to watch this game, guys. I am pumped. Everyone scream along with me in your respective homes, and lets send our collective energy to our team. This is your time to shine, boys. Go, Avs, Go! Lets kick this pig!!
The game started out with a bang, as Nino Niederreiter took a hooking call against Erik Johnson less than two minutes into the game, which resulted in some awesome puck movement on our PP. We were driving hard, and Nick Holden got a goal after a scrum in the crease!! But.. wait... they have to overturn this. Why wouldn't they? Whatever, we got the goal! [Note: Rycroft agrees with me about it being interference, but he thinks that because Jonas Brodin knocked it into the goal himself. I dunno, whatevs, goal is a goal!!]
The Can sounds especially loud tonight; I'm glad the fans have shown up to support the team in their time of need! The Avs were called for a penalty four minutes into the game, with some confusion as to exactly what happened, but Ryan Wilson was called for a phantom call and it was served by Jamie McGinn after Wilson went to the locker room. I never figured out what happened there, but whatever.
The Avalanche had a good PK, not allowing a SOG for Minny. Colorado looked really good after the PK, but Mikko Koivu scored from a far-side shot after some good Minnesota puck movement. A nice goal, to be sure, but evening up the scoresheet.
Note: I first noticed it in this first period, but the Refs let a lot of things go this game. They let the teams play, and glossed over some holding/interference/tripping calls for the game. Very little that wasn't blatant was called.
Varly was really good for a lot of this period. He had one save that he made on a less-than-stellar shot after Nate Guenin knocked him down. He needed to be good, because Minny came on strong, including a couple of crossbar hit.
After that, the Game 7 style started to hit home. Its like the intensity got turned up a notch, and they all started playing at a higher level, clogging up the neutral zone, forechecking, dogged play, and great saves. Varly was one of them, he played well.
At the end of the period, both teams played really well. Good D, and good O, on both sides. It was just a joy to watch.
Early in the period, the Avs had a great chance, but Matt Duchene ran into Kuemper, who fell to the ice, and a whistle was blown, stopping the play before the Avs could have a chance at a less-than-protected net. I'm still not sure why that was called, but I guess the officials were worried that Darcy might be hurt. He looked ok, but was slow to get up.
Right after that, Hishon was called for a minor high stick, and the Wild was much more insistent on this PP. The Avs PK wasn't great, and they spent a lot of time in their own zone defending, and it came back to bite them right as the PK eneded. Dany Heatley scored two seconds after the PK ended, and they tied things up.
A moment after that, Koivu got called for a penalty, and the Avs got a PP. However, we couldn't get control of the play. It was hard to get into the zone, and we stood on the outside looking in. After this PP Minny led in shots 10 -17. Also, Minny snowed Varly with no call. Gotta admit that I hate the snowing penalty (like Gabriel Landeskog took earlier in the season) on principle, but I was kinda hoping they would call the game the same way. I guess they didn't.
Minnesota took another Penalty after Stastny's line had a stellar shift. Stats, Landy, and Nathan MacKinnon had an amazing set with a little help from Ryan Wilson. Stephane Veilleux made a trip to the box, which seemed like a gold opportunity to me. It took a moment to get going, but the Avs had a great chance from the Duchene line. Also during that shift there was a missed tripping call against MacKinnon, which could have been the difference in the game [Rycroft mentioned that if the Refs didn't call that, they shouldn't call anything else all game, and they didn't. Free hockey].
Like during the first, the game suddenly became more intense, and the play shifted back and forth, with chances on each end. Great play for the remainder of the second.
Avs with good pressure early. It didn't last, as Varly had to stand up and stopped a pair of odd man rushes against, doing well. Just after those saves, in a fast reversal, a nice play with a great centering pass by P.A. Parenteau ended in a Paul Stastny goal.
Right after, Neiderreiter scored on a really great shot from 40 feet out that just beat everyone. Punk. He tied it up at 3-3. After that, there was a lot of hard play, back and forth play, but without a lot of chances. But it culminated by a goal from Erik Johnson after a hard, driving play by P.A. Parenteau. PA drove the play, and it was great to see him get some of his confidence back. Matt Duchene had the second apple on the play.
Darcy Kuemper went off for an injury. What was that about? I guess it was a result from Duchene incidentally hitting him behind the net, but I don't know. Ilya Bryzgalov came in, a fresh goaltender, late in the game. Will we be able to light him up like a Christmas tree?
After the change, it was a hard game, but few good chances. I think the Avs only tested the fresh goaltender once in the 3rd. The Avs fought off little hard play, too, for most of the period. That changed with 2:27 left in the period, when a nice set of plays by the Wild resulted in a score. Nathan MacKinnon got a little over-excited and slid through a shooting lane instead of driving the man shooting. I guess its an understandable play. But still. Fuck. Tied with not much time left in the period. Regulation ended that way.
Well, here it is, boys. What a game its' been. An evenly matched game. The Wild had an answer for everything that the Avs threw at them, so Colorado had to find some new tricks to get the win. Very fun.
An incredibly stressful OT started with a fair chance as MacK drove into their zone, and Maxime Talbot tried to sell a face hit (which was not at all a penalty).
Five minutes into the period, the Wild scored.
End of the game.
End of the season.
- What a great year from our Avalanche. The team went from the first overall pick in the draft to a hard-fought first round exit from the playoffs. An amazing year, everyone, and don't forget that. We have a lot to be proud of, and a lot of great years ahead of us.
- Fuck, we lost. Oh well. Lets hope that our team takes this away as the greatest playoff learning experience that they could possibly have.
- Speaking of which, did anyone watch the post-game and see the Ryan O'Reilly interview? What an amazingly heartfelt and honest interview. Please, hockey gods, sign him forever.
- The Wild played a hell of a series. I had them dismissed in my mind (not a mistake I am likely to repeat), but I have to give those assholes credit. Well done, Minnesota. Now go lose to Chicago in a heartbreaking loss that buries you in the dirt.
- Well, gang, lets really try to look forward to next year. This is the first of many great years to come. This... this is day one. In ten years, we will look back on the interim with fondness, knowing that our team has been a contender every year. We have a thousand good things going for us, and an ownership circle that will give us the tools we need to get better.
- I love you all. Thank you for sharing this season with me.