photo courtesy of Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press
Follow the formula: the Avs give up cheap goals to the Canucks to start the game, and start the second period with a scoring deficit. Then Jose Theodore goes into Pimp Cane mode and the Avs come alive. They then score several unanswered goals and win the game. The Avs followed this formula on March 26th and they followed it again last night.
The result? THE PLAYOFFS!
Honestly, it would have seemed unthinkable five or six years ago for an Avalanche blog to make a big deal out of making the playoffs. But with last season's disappointment and this season's ridiculousness (goalie carousels, injuries, bad coaching), it's a wonder the Avs didn't finish last place in the West.
But they didn't. Last night the Avs clinched a playoff spot by beating the Canucks 4-2, a win that included an awesome breakaway goal by Peter Forsberg, his first since returning to the NHL at the beginning of March.
The goal was Foppa's 249th of his career, but you'd think it was his first ever. And Joe Sakic didn't let a great opportunity go to waste:
"Joe asked me if I wanted the puck," Forsberg said with a smile in the noisy Avalanche dressing room. "At first I had to think about it, but it's OK. I don't think I should keep that one. But it was definitely great to get a goal."
Despite giving up a goal in the first period and then another early in the second, and generally playing like they were still taking their pre-game naps, the Avalanche came alive near the half-way mark when they went on the power play after Sami Salo got caught holding Forsberg. The result was a kitten with a second chance to live. John-Michael Liles, whose runway-ready groin was apparently not that injured after all, scored with help from Sakic and Milan Hejduk. The Duke wasn't done, though, because he scored a goal of his own off a sweet dish from Forsberg to tie the game at the 13:57 mark.
The game-winner came off the stick of Wojtek "Bench Me Again, Bastard" Wolski just 30 seconds later, and the Canucks were done. They played generally lazy hockey the rest of the game, and for a team supposedly fighting for their post-season lives, managed a mediocre ten shots in the third period, all easily stopped by the Pimp Cane.
Foppa's goal at the 4:53 mark of the final frame cemented the victory.
Now the Avs fly back home to Denver and sit around for a few days. Their final game of the year isn't until Sunday against the Wild, who still have to play the Flames on Thursday. If the Flames win that game and the Avs beat Minnesota on Sunday, another division championship banner gets hung at The Can. As of right now, though, Calgary or Minnesota could still win the Northwest, so it's hardly over.
But the Avs are in the playoffs, and they won't have to play Detroit in the first round. Colorado could end up the third, fifth, sixth or seventh seed, but not eighth, so it will be at least the second round before they would have to face their former rivals. Remember, the Wings dominated their series against the Avs this year, and will no doubt revel in giving them another beat-down in the post-season. Let's hope for the best.
Now, final thought. I thought maybe I would feel a little friendlier toward Coach Quenneville after the Avs finally clinched a playoff spot, but then I read this quote that appeared in Terry Frei's game recap linked above:
"This is what we play for, this is our motivation from the outset, getting in a playoff spot," said Colorado coach Joel Quenneville. "Three years in a row, it comes down to game 81, and we had no assurances, no guarantees, so it's rewarding right now."
Game 81, three years in a row, and one of those years saw the Avs go home early without a playoff spot. That's not something to be proud of. That's pitiful. The Avalanche shouldn't be scrapping for a low post-season seed in the second-to-last game of the season each and every year. That's sad, not something to celebrate.
Unfortunately, I'd almost guarantee that we see a continuation of the Coach Q era in Denver after this season is finally over. If they win the Cup, I guess we could get over it, but anything less won't do.
Stars of the Game:
- Joe Sakic (0g, 2a)
- Ryan Kesler (1g, 0a)
- Peter Forsberg (1g, 1a)