For about 18 minutes, it seemed like the seriously depleted Avalanche were going to be able to hang with the Red Wings. And then, right on schedule, the wheels came off the bus. A turnover with Hannan pinching led to a Holmstrom goal on a 2 on 1 and then less than a minute later another turnover led to another 2 on 1 and another goal (this time from 2008 Conn Smythe winner Johan Franzen). 40 seconds after that the Avs were opening the 2nd period with Kurt Sauer in the box and Peter Budaj in net and weren't far away from going down 4-1. Everything after that - the ridiculous no-look Zetterberg goal and Franzen's 2nd hat trick of the series - was completely superfluous.
Like the 7-0 meltdown against the Wings in game 7 of 2002, this one has been difficult. It's one thing to see your team lose the deciding game. Let's face it, we all knew this would happen. It's another thing entirely to have to sit through 40 minutes knowing that it's over.
Obviously, I'm extremely impressed with the Detroit team and the organization - I'm still in awe with the way they remained competitive while transitioning into the salary cap era, especially when compared to the stumbles the Avs made. And seeing guys like Datsyuk (6th round) and Zetterberg (7th round) excel makes the rest of the NHL GMs look like a bunch of Mike Milburys. I'm not sure any of this lessens the sting of losing, though.
Against the Wild, the Avalanche really looked like a team poised to make a deep run. They had all the pieces - goaltending, defense, scoring depth and discipline. They've exhibited NONE of those qualities against the Wings. Injuries, of course, were an enormous factor. Would the series have been different if the Avalanche had been healthy? Absolutely. But even the healthy players - guys like Foote, Hejduk, Sauer, Salei and, yes, Sakic - didn't play very well in the series. In the end, it just wasn't meant to be.