The Colorado Avalanche hoped to make it to their first Western Conference finals since 2002 when they took on the San Jose Sharks in game seven in San Jose. And while they put up a good fight, the Avs would fall short in the game, losing 3-2. The Sharks will now move on and play the St. Louis Blues for the Western Conference title.
It felt like the Avalanche were on their heels for most of the game, as the Sharks were relentless on the forecheck and unwilling to give Colorado any space in the neutral zone. However, the Avalanche never gave up. They were able to take over in the third and make it close, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t enough in the end.
Oh, and the blown offside call. Feel free to talk about that in the comments, as long as it’s civil.
Right out of the gate, MacKinnon was sent to the locker room with what appeared to be an upper-body injury when he tripped and slammed into the boards by accident. At that point, less than two minutes in the first, the Avalanche had to reassess everything in front of them and figure out a way to adapt without their best player. It was a full-on recipe for disaster, and while the team did try their best, the disaster still came.
Joe Pavelski was missing for the entire series up until this point, not because he was playing poorly, but because he was injured. In his return to the lineup, Pavelski made his presence felt immediately, as he redirected a Brent Burns shot from just inside the blue line, giving the Sharks took a 1-0 lead. Typical. Just typical.
The Sharks could sense the blood in the water, and decided to not let up, asserting themselves as a dominant force with another goal 12 minutes into the game. From behind the net, Pavelski found a wide-open Tomas Hertl in the slot, who scored his ninth goal of the postseason.
Things were starting to get out of hand, but luckily, MacKinnon returned to the bench after 14 minutes in the dressing room, and immediately provided an impact.
The Avs have life! With MacKinnon back on the ice with his trusted wingers, you could sense the sigh of relief from the Colorado bench. Now, they could finally get back to work undoing the damage. Suddenly, Colorado found themselves with their best scoring chances of the period in the dying minutes. Mikko Rantanen deflected a shot from the point in with 6.8 seconds left on the clock. That late goal was vital, as it stopped the bleeding and got the Avs back in the game.
And that’s when it happened, the primary takeaway from this game. Colorado appeared to score the game-tying goal when MacKinnon found Colin Wilson for a shot that beat Martin Jones top shelf. San Jose challenged the call, claiming Gabriel Landeskog was offside. Granted, Colorado was a bit sloppy on the line change, but it did appear the skate of the captain was on the line as he came off the ice. Unfortunately, Toronto saw it differently, and the goal was called back. [Editor’s Note: Oh, sure, blame Toronto - Hardev]
Here’s the NHL rule that nullified COL goal due to offside. Landeskog either had to tag up and clear the offensive zone before any teammates re-entered on the delay or he had to get both feet off the ice on to bench. One on bench and one on ice sealed disallowed goal fate. https://t.co/rFtWBcgpU7— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) May 9, 2019
The Avalanche were given a chance to get their lost goal back on the power play, but not only did the Sharks kill it off, Joonas Donskoi came back the other way and, like a dagger to the heart, beat Grubauer for the Sharks’ third goal of the game.
Unfortunately, officiating continued to get in the way as the period went on. There was a point when MacKinnon had a step on Erik Karlsson on a breakaway, but despite being tripped up by the Swede, there was no call. The breaks were clearly going the way of the home team, and while veteran teams would usually brush that part of the game off, Colorado let the calls negatively affect their play.
Colorado struggled to get any sort of flow for the majority of the period. Grubauer was the only reason the Avs were still in the game after two periods. The Avs netminder might have already given up three goals, but the saves he had made to this point were keeping Colorado alive.
Colorado ‘jost’ [Editor’s Note: I had to - Hardev] needed one goal to bring them back into the hockey game. Tyson Jost netted his third goal in as many games when he came flying in to collect the rebound from a Colin Wilson shot, sneaking the puck past Jones.
Following their worst and most frustrating period in the playoffs, Colorado shook off the second and played one of their best periods in the third. They kept the pressure on, and got within inches of tying the game minutes after the Jost goal, but Carl Soderberg’s backhand beat Jones five-hole, slid through the crease, and just wide of the net. That was followed up by a power play when Logan Couture was called for tripping. The Avs’ power play had been bad all series (2-for-24 in seven games), and unfortunately, this game was no different.
Still, the Avs played like a team with their season on the line because, well, it was. San Jose seemed underprepared for the relentless push the Avs came out with, but eventually, the Sharks got back to doing what they did all series; making the neutral zone an unsafe place to play the puck and not letting the Avalanche hold the puck very long in the offensive zone.
It all came down to the final minutes. With Grubauer pulled and six skaters on the ice for Colorado, the final minute and a bit was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking playoff hockey. Chance after chance for Colorado was met by save after save by Jones, and Colorado was unable to get the equalizing goal. Alexander Kerfoot had the best chance of all, but Jones’ right pad got there just in time. And just like that, the season was done.
- In any game seven you hate to have questions, but from a Colorado standpoint that’s what they will have going into the off season as they look back on this game with San Jose. You hate to bring officiating into play in games of this magnitude, but the offsides call and the non-call on the MacKinnon breakaway unfortunately did not go Colorado’s way, and opportunities they might have had were gone. Removing the game-tying goal due to the questionable offsides, followed shortly by the Sharks extending their lead completely changed the dynamic of the game.
- MacKinnon going down early, spending most of the first period in the locker room, and leaving a team on the ice to wonder if he would come back at all was another turning point. Not only did the team not know the severity of his injury in the short-term, but losing MacKinnon for about 14 minutes of game time begged the question of ‘what if’ had he been there as his healthy self.
- Nonetheless, the Avalanche gave the Sharks all they could handle. Even without Pavelski, San Jose was clearly the more dominant team in this series. The fact that the Avalanche were able to go seven games against that group is not something to be ashamed of.
- Last year Colorado was happy just to have made the playoffs. This year, they wanted to make some waves in the postseason. I think they succeeded. Next year, the team and fans will legitimately be thinking of a Stanley Cup for the first time in a long time.
- There really is always next year. The future looks blindingly bright for Colorado. While getting bounced in this fashion definitely stings, the Avs should go into an off-season with their heads held high and the confidence that they’re already looking like a team to beat come October.