The Colorado Avalanche, if (and, if we’re being honest, likely when) they lose their first-round series to the Nashville Predators, will be able to take some solace in how their year played out.
The playoffs, in and of themselves, were already a huge step forward. The Avalanche managed to snag the final playoff spot over the St. Louis Blues to boot, and they did it all despite dealing with both regular season injuries and the trade of a top offensive player early on in the year.
Beyond that, though, they’ve managed to earn a win so far, which is more than two teams can say already; with sweeps of both the southern California teams, the Avalanche will at the very least have their resurgent Game 3 victory to look back upon when they head into their offseason.
Now, they may very well be out in the next game.
They got some somewhat good news when it was announced that Ryan Hartman will miss one game for an illegal check to the head of Carl Soderberg, taking out a piece they added at the deadline in hopes of bolstering their depth. [NHL Player Safety]
They’re still without Samuel Girard, Erik Johnson, and Semyon Varlamov, though, and now Jonathan Bernier is out as well - leaving none other than Andrew Hammond to take the reins for Game 5 on the road at Bridgestone Arena. [Mile High Hockey]
When he’s able to establish a rhythm to his game, Hammond can steal some points. Hoping he takes home Game 5 in Nashville is a long shot at best, though, so realistically, it’s time to consider how we’ll feel if he falls short.
It will be disappointing, sure. It should be. No matter how much people talk about strategic draft positions and patience, nothing is more fun than playoff hockey; when it’s over, fans have every right to be bummed.
Looking back at how far they’ve come, though - including their comeback third period in Game 4, which pulled them within a goal of tying up the game - it’s nothing short of a miracle given their injury situation. And as young as they are, it’s worth remembering; we can be disappointed when it’s over, but the experience the young players will have gained is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face until the next game rolls along. [MHH]
Speaking of experience... some players think they’ve had the wisdom all along:
Patrik Laine gets asked if he feels any wiser now that he’s 20.— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) April 19, 2018
“No. I’ve always been wise.” #jets
Remember the Alex Ovechkin rennaissance, when people finally realized that he was kind of fun and a very, very good person?
Hopefully, people catch on with Laine sooner than they did with Number 8.
(Side note: with his 101st playoff game on Thursday night, Alex Ovechkin now leads the Washington Capitals in postseason appearances all-time. Which is both awesome for him and horrifying for the Capitals, since he’s a generational talent and has 27 fewer postseason games played than the three-years-younger than him Jonathan Toews. #Woof.)
Now, before we get to some NHL playoff news, here’s a very cool little fun fact about the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, who are about as good as the Coyotes were bad the first half of this year:
Two years ago today the Coyotes announced their intentions to bring their top minor league affiliate to Tucson.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) April 19, 2018
Tonight, the Roadrunners play their first-ever playoff game. https://t.co/txBm7qbadh
If you want to learn more about how they’ve changed their systems and coaching styles to help develop a surprisingly hated conference rival, here’s 2,400 words. [InGoal Magazine]
Now, for the NHL!
In the theme of hated rivals, here’s the human interest piece I’ve promised you all I’ll include as often as possible. Brad Marchand talks about his life growing up ahead of the NHL, and it... explains a lot about Brad Marchand IN the NHL, frankly. [The Player’s Tribune]
On a sad note, the Columbus Blue Jackets dropped both of their home games with a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, meaning that the series is now tied at two wins apiece and neither team has managed to do anything with their home ice advantage (yes, really).
Here are five thoughts from their loss, which was the worst outcome so far in the series for either team. [1st Ohio Battery]
In some good news, though, this is excellent to see for Columbus, who are proving that yet another ‘nontraditional’ hockey market can thrive when they win:
The Blue Jackets have just announced tonight's attendance as 19,337, which is the largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game at Nationwide Arena. pic.twitter.com/vFxO0J2gst— Lori Schmidt (@LoriSchmidt) April 18, 2018
It was a light night for games, so there was only one other matchup - which saw Brad Marchand score his second of the series and David Pastrnak pick up his seventh (!!) assist despite Patrice Bergeron sitting out with injury:
Pastrnak’s no-look feed sets up Marchand for the 2-1 lead pic.twitter.com/Wz7E8mhddE— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 20, 2018
Finally, here is your hard but important read of the month.
Katie Strang of The Athletic was the writer who covered the Larry Nassar trials earlier this year, and she did a phenomenal job with it (as she does with everything, but still needs to be said).
Now, she’s brought another sexual assault case in sports to light with the heartbreaking story of former NHLer and beloved ECHL coach David Gove. When he came forward to accuse his former coach Bob Richardson of sexually assaulting him repeatedly as a child and young teen, the pressure and heartache from the case led to serious substance abuse issues and an eventual untimely death last year.
His case had to be dropped, as he was the primary evidence for the prosecution to use in court. Katie’s phenomenal reporting on those who hope to help others if they need to come forward with similar stories, though, will hopefully lead to an eventual conviction for the former USA Hockey and BU instructor, who no longer seems to coach but still lives among the general public with no repercussions.
It’s an important story, if a hard one to read, so be your own judge of whether or not you can make it through. But even if you don’t subscribe to The Athletic, know that it’s available for you to read, as are all of Strang’s sexual assault stories. It’s devastating that there are enough that she can create a precedent with her management of their publication, but the site’s decision to keep all stories of this nature in front of a paywall - gaining no financial reward from sharing the information as it needs to be shared - is a huge decision when it comes to the ethical precedent of internet journalism. [The Athletic]