Working to help Mile High Hockey this year has been a blast, and I’ve seen the strengths and surprises that the Avalanche have had to offer this year.
Even so, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were the series that saw a four-game sweep - which essentially means that, as a team guaranteed at least one win in their series no matter how the outcome ends up in the coming days, that the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks pulled off a pretty hilarious reverse-upset.
Credit to the Kings, who iced one of the league’s hottest goalies through the postseason only to run up against one of only two HOTTER goalies. Not many teams can allow just seven goals in four games (including a double-OT thriller) and still manage to lose the series, and that’s as much a criticism of the holy-hell-that-was-weak offensive push LA made as it is a compliment of Marc-Andre Fleury AND Jonathan Quick.
(If you have a subscription to the Athletic, you can read more on that here.)
No credit, though, to the Anaheim Ducks. Although they managed to run up against the other goaltender hotter than Jonathan Quick (Martin Jones allowed just one goal per game in San Jose’s four-game sweep of Anaheim), they also managed to completely fall apart in Game 3 and struggle to put up a consistent 60 minutes in net for nearly the entire series.
The only good thing to come out of the Ducks series, honestly, was the Sad Corey Perry faces™ and JT Brown’s daughter Lily:
Now, though, for the important team...
Although the Ducks and the Kings have already been eliminated #sweepsweep, the Avalanche came one step closer to their own new summer plans on Wednesday night when they dropped a tough 3-2 decision of their own to the Predators at home.
Three early goals by Nashville put the Avalanche at a disadvantage - and although they turned things on in the final 10 or so minutes of the game with two goals to narrow the margin of victory, they just weren’t able to tie it up and come close enough to steal a win.
Part of that, frankly, is their inexperience.
We saw Samuel Girard got mocked on social media for being ‘too soft’ to stop Filip Forsberg in Game 1, when the former Washington Capitals draft pick made the young defender look silly with this insanely good goal. [FTW USA Today]
While some thought the answer was maybe, somehow, Duncan Siemens and his ‘toughness’ instead of the soft old Samuel, though (disclaimer: I am not one of those), those critics were all but forced to eat their words in Game 4 when Forsberg did... well, kind of the same thing to Siemens, too:
You can’t teach size, but you CAN teach someone how to display freakish puck possession skills when dancing around blue liners.
Also, while it has nothing to do with the actual game, let’s all take a quick moment to laugh at Ryan Hartman melting down about what I can only assume was a blown call involving contact with his balls?
Anyways, part of the whole 3-2 final score that has to be factored in is that the Predators, while they lack a Hart-caliber forward like Nathan MacKinnon has been this year, have the overall stronger and more experienced playoff roster. Their goaltending is being headed by Vezina finalist Pekka Rinne, their blue line is disgustingly deep, and they still have a decent amount of scoring despite not having MacKinnon. [Mile High Hockey]
In some bad news, Jonathan Bernier left the game injured (they’re saying lower body) after the second period, getting replaced by Andrew Hammond. Given how little NHL experience Hammond has had in the last few years, seeing him jump in during a valuable home-ice game for Colorado is a little worrying in terms of Bernier’s health, and it doesn’t help that the only player on the team who seems to be injured more often than him is Semyon Varlamov. [MHH]
Looking around the league:
Predators fans may not be missing him too much (circling back to that insane blue line depth they still have), but Seth Jones is a bona fide top-pairing player in Columbus right now. This is the awesome story of the relationship between him and his dad, former NBA player and current coach Popeye Jones. [The Denver Post]
Let’s also check in on the goaltending situation in Philadelphia this postseason:
Flyers goaltending, baby. Feel the excitement pic.twitter.com/w0OCWJQERP— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 19, 2018
Brian Elliott has been (somewhat rightfully) getting roasted during the playoffs. But insanely, this wasn’t even him that let in the goal! That’s Michal Neuvirth, healthy once again and apparently back to getting terrorized by Sidney Crosby.
As their 5-0 shutout loss was described, here’s a recap in gifs of the ‘completely embarrassing’ mismatch. [Sons of Penn]
In the Tampa Bay-New Jersey series, here’s an incredible story for Athletic subscribers on how a group of Lightning fans have been paying tribute to the Humboldt Broncos during the playoffs so far. [The Athletic Tampa Bay]
Also, are we all ready for the first round two matchup?
The last time the Golden Knights faced the Sharks, William Karlsson did this. pic.twitter.com/0dDKUW25f4— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 19, 2018
Hold onto your butts, hockey fans.
Looking outside of the NHL, here’s a cool story on the Humboldt goalie mask designed to raise money for the team and their families. [InGoal Magazine]
I’m also going to be a little selfish and share a story that I published today with InGoal, because it deserves a little more exposure.
The UND women’s hockey program, as many know, was dissolved last year abruptly at the end of March. Players were given no warning, and the news was leaked to the public before the program had even been warned that they were no longer in operation; players saw tweets about the news while they were on the ice for practice, and one recruit even saw the news while she was on a tour of the athletic facilities on campus ahead of what she thought would be her rookie season the following year.
One player who seemed destined for a huge letdown by the news was hopeful starting goaltender Kristen Campbell, who had worked her way to the top of the depth chart leading into her redshirt sophomore season.
Using training she learned from the elder brother of Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, though, Campbell found her way to the University of Wisconsin - where she proceeded to earn a new starting gig and make history.
Here’s her story: