photos courtesy of Karl Gehring/Denver Post
The Minnesota Wild were no match for the power of the Pimp Cane. Despite putting 35 shots on goal in a desperate attempt to beat Jose Theodore, the Wild lost 2-1 to the Colorado Avalanche and have now been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There's no way I could possibly write a summary of Theodore's performance in the first round that would do him justice. He was simply phenomenal. Six games, four wins, a 1.88 goals against average and a save percentage of .940. Successful playoff teams rely on their goalies to carry them, and Jose Theodore has certainly carried the Avalanche. The Wild didn't stand a chance.
Now, since the Avalanche will advance to the second round, it's a little premature to start crowning any individual players on the team, but Theodore's turnaround has been unbelievable. The fact that I'm now slobbering all over my keyboard thinking about him would have been inconceivable back in October. Most Avalanche fans were mad (me included) that the team didn't buy out his contract and send him on his way during the offseason. There was no way any of us could have predicted his resurgence, but I for one am glad to have been proven wrong. He's been stellar, and his confidence must be rock-solid now. Let's hope it carries over into the next round.
As for game 6, the Avs scored first for the sixth consecutive time, but it wasn't Andrew Brunette who put one home. Joe Sakic stole the puck during a Wild power play in the first period, fed it to Ben Guite---who was absolutely flying at a speed I've never seen him skate---and Guite faked out Nick Backstrom for a superb shorthanded goal. The Can went crazy.
Unfortunately, the Avs weren't able to completely shut out Marian Gaborik. He assisted on Aaron Voros' goal early in the second period to tie the game. But the Avs answered back twelve minutes later when Tyler Arnason passed to David Jones, who fed Ryan Smyth for a killer shot from the left slot. The goal would stand as the game-winner and the rest is history.
The Avalanche defense was pretty amazing most of the night, with the puck cleared so many times the Wild wore themselves out chasing it down. Outlet passes were spot-on, too, and the Avs got some really great rushes and scoring chances. Adam Foote had Gaborik's number all series and the rest of his merry blueliners were killer overall. I wish that Jeff Finger had played better and was still in the lineup, but Leoprone has come in and done a fine job as his replacement. Overall, a great series for the D.
I don't want to gloat (yes I do), but for those of us who predicted the Avalanche would win in six games (most of us), we have to pat ourselves on the back. We're geniuses, that's all there is to it. For those who predicted a Wild win, keep betting against the Avs---don't change a thing!
Now, changing the subject a bit, what about Coach Joel Quenneville? How did he do in the first round? Well, for the most part, very well. His line changes were generally well-timed, his combinations were appropriate, his timeouts were timely and the power play improved. Does this change my mind about him? Not a bit. But there's no doubt in my mind that he has just bought himself a new contract, and the Coach Q era in Colorado isn't over yet. He'll be back next season. Yay. But as long as the Avs keep winning in the playoffs, I'm more than willing to forget my hard feelings and enjoy the ride.
Speaking of rides, it's time to take one. Though they cleaned up their acts in the final two games of the series, the Minnesota Wild played pretty shameful hockey for the most part. Their goons got too much ice time, their star forward got shut down, and their goalie showed vulnerability. Their loss in six games proved that a team can't be successful with dirty play, a sub-par trap and little scoring talent. Enjoy the golf course, losers. And to all the Minnesota fans, stay classy.
The next opponent for the Avalanche has yet to be determined. Every Western Conference series will require at least six games, and only the Avs have advanced so far. Let's hope it's somebody easy to beat, like Calgary.
How great would a four-game drubbing of the Flame-Outs feel? I'll try not to get ahead of myself, but I'm slobbering all over my keyboard again.
Stars of the Game:
- Jose Pimp Cane Theodore (34sv, .971)
- Ryan Smyth (1g, 0a)
- Adam Foote (0g, 0a)