Let's get this going early, shall we? The game tonight doesn't start until 7:00 PM Mountain time, but the anticipation, anxiousness, and sheer joy of the postseason started a week ago, at least for me. It's time to get crazy.
Anything less than the Stanley Cup is a failure.
First of all, let me get this out of the way. The Wild are a boring team. They play a boring system of defense-first trapping. Sure, you could argue that the Avs play a similar style and scored a similar number of goals as the Wild this season, but I don't care. That doesn't make the Wild exciting. It makes the Avs boring, too.
I stand by what I wrote in my cameo appearance on The Pensblog yesterday:
Watching the Minnesota Wild play hockey is like watching the New Jersey Devils play hockey. Sleep-inducing. At least the Devils have some great history and three spots on the side of the Stanley Cup. The Wild, not so much. The Avalanche have history, too, but they had to dig it out of the graveyard just to make the playoffs. But even in zombie form, Peter Forsberg is still a better hockey player than Marian Gaborik. 14 points in 9 games, all played on a weak groin and a bionic ankle. Add to the mix Foppa's hall-mates at the nursing home, Adam Foote and Joe Sakic, and we're talking about a killer lineup---for 2001. If the granddads can keep their bodies in one piece, Paul Stastny survives the pressure of his first playoff series, and Jose Theodore's Pimp Cane remains strong, the Avs should beat the Wild in six games. From there it's anyone's guess.
If the Avs are going to win this series, they have to overcome the knee jerk tendency to sit back in their own zone and run out the clock. Coach Quenneville loves that crap but the players have to ignore him and play their fast, crash-the-net style of offense they know they're good at. As for things they're not good at, the power play needs to come alive like right now.
And Peter Forsberg needs to strap a couple more layers of duct tape around his foot and ankle. If the Avs are up 3 games to none on Tuesday, April 15th, only then can he take a game off. If the series is even somewhat close going into that game, he better be on the ice or in the hospital.
Sure, some people are predicting the Wild in six, but we all know better. We know the Wild are vulnerable, and weaker on defense with the loss of both Nick Schultz and Kurtis Foster. And we know they're mentally vulnerable, because Ian Laperriere made Marian Gaborik go freaking ballistic and the Minnesota media wet themselves. The Wild are fragile and self-conscious, and probably stupid enough to waste a lineup spot on Derek Boogaard. The Avs need to exploit that.
The Avs are stronger on defense than they've been most of the season. Everybody except Brett Clark is healthy, and Clark isn't being missed all that much. Jose Theodore's fighting for his very career in net, and he's been money for half the season, so I doubt we'll have to worry about him. Even if he falters, the Avs still have Peter Budaj, and he's no Curtis Sanford.
Up front, the offense has been firing pretty well, with Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and Forsberg all playing really well together. Wojtek Wolski's going to have to play like he's never played before, and both Tyler Arnason and Ryan Smyth are going to have to come out of hibernation. David Jones just needs to be happy he's still on the team. Ben Guite and Lappy need to be in full shut-down mode all series long---but seeing baby Gaborik freak out like he did the other night, that obviously won't be a problem.
Coach Q needs to turn over all coaching duties to Adam Foote and Super Joe immediately.
And Terry Frei needs to shut up and pick a better time to bring up this kind of crap. Seriously, that couldn't wait until after the playoffs? Terry, I dig most of your stuff, but right now you're being a jackass. As for Woody Paige, is he still in the fifth grade? Does he let his kids write his columns now? Go back to that Around The Horn sketch comedy show on ESPN and use those cheesy one liners on somebody who cares.
This is playoff time. No gimmicks, no cheese, no bullshit.
This guy is ready for the playoffs. He was born ready. Were you?
The game starts at 7:00 PM Mountain time, 9:00 PM Eastern. I want to see everyone and their mother participating in this game thread. Let's do this.