Avalanche Take Game 1 in Wild OT Thriller - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Avalanche Take Game 1 in Wild OT Thriller

(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
Wow. If that's how the entire series is going to be, I don't think I can watch any more games. That was Intense. It was hard-hitting, fast-paced and had about 100 times as much emotion as their last game against each other.

In other words, this was playoff hockey!

The game started off with both teams hitting anything that moved. And that mindset never let up for the full 71:11 tonight.

The Avalanche got on the board first on a Kurt Sauer marker. No, that's not a typo. Kurt Sauer scored his second playoff goal - his previous was in Minnesota as well - off of a beauty Joe Sakic setup early in the 2nd.

Ryan Smyth followed that one up with a powerplay goal late in the second. Yes, the Avalanche were 100% on the PP tonight. It must be a full moon tonight or something.

The Wild never shut down though and they came out hard in the third. They were rewarded early as Mikko Koivu got a puck past the previously impenetrable Jose Theodore. He got that puck past Theodore thanks to an unfortunate redirection off of Jeff Finger's skate. But we still love Finger.

Then just 3 minutes later the Wild tied it up on a powerplay of their own as Todd Fedoruk found himself all alone in front of the net and got it past Theodore. Who was supposed to be covering Fedoruk? And why didn't Foote get that puck out of the zone?

So it was off to OT while I tried to calm my beating heart.

You know who was already calm? Joe Sakic. You know who decided the game had gone on too long? Joe Sakic. Elevent minutes in, he gobbled up a rebound off a Ruslan Salei point shot and slid it underneath a sprawling Backstrom. And you know what? The usually reserved Mr. Sakic was caught on camera giving a giant "Whooo!" after he scored. I love it!

OT Superhero
We can talk all we want about Chris "Clutch" Drury but let's never forget what Joe Sakic has done for this team when it matters most. This was Joe's 8th career OT playoff goal and he is magic when the game is on the line.

His composure in these situations keeps the entire team relaxed and focused so they can do their jobs. Heck, tonight Joe was even laying the body out a bit to help lead by example.

That's one other thing to not forget. Joe is a strong, tough player. He comes from "the Dub" and that league is not for the faint of heart. If you survive in that league, you're going to come out the other side with a rough-and-tumble exterior.

Wow. Kudos to both goaltenders for putting on a show. Nik Backstrom didn't need to get going until about midway through the game as the Avalanche didn't put much rubber on him but once they did, he was up to the task. He made at least 3 snazzy glove saves and looked cool as a cucumber in net.

At the other end, Jose Theodore looked sensational. If it wasn't for Theodore, the Avalanche would be hanging their heads after a 5-1 defeat.

Early on the Wild were pressing hard but Theodore stood tall - and quick - in the net and kept his team in the game. When the Wild finally got their first goal, the shots were 22-9 in favor of the Wild. Enough said.

Ok, look back through pretty much every post I've ever made and you'll notice one thing; I don't bitch about refs.

Tonight was different. There was a stretch in the second period where the refs looked to actively have their heads shoved somewhere they shouldn't be. There were quite a few interference calls that were missed including the blatantly obvious one by Rolston on Hannan. In that same shift, the Wild got their first goal. So yes, the refs directly led to the Avalanche first goal.

And then, they had the audacity to try to "make up for it" by not calling the most obvious trip in the game. Milan Hejduk was all but in the penalty box after he tripped a Wild forward but both refs inexplicably held their arms down. Oh wait, it wasn't inexplicable. It was a gesture of incompetence to try and appease the Colorado bench.

Terrible effort by the refs.

Smyth, Wolski and the Forse
Ryan Smyth had a tremendous game. This was the Ryan Smyth I was stoked about last summer. He played an in-your-face style, charged the net hard, kept his feet moving and was an overall menace. If only he'd been able to convert on his penalty shot opportunity! But hey, he did managed to score the Avs second goal so we'll forgive him.

Wojtek Wolski also had a whale of a game. He had 2 assists on the night including setting up the game winning goal with some nice, composed moves up high. He was forechecking, backchecking and hitting and that's what I want to see out of Wolski. If he does those 3 things each game, the points will come just like they did tonight.

And Peter Forsberg. What can be said about this guy. I'll have to echo Pierre McGuire's comment - albeit less enthusiastically and high-pitched - and say "This guy is spectacular!"

I don't know Forsberg keeps the puck on his stick the way he does but it's magical. And the respect he garners opens up so much ice for his teammates that it's unreal. Please, please, please stay healthy, Foppa.

Props all around
I singled out Ryan Smyth, Wojtek Wolski and Peter Forsberg but really, the whole lineup deserves kudos tonight. The checking line of Guite, Laperriere and McLeod worked hard, the defense played a solid game and there really was no scapegoat tonight.

Of course winning helps deter the need for a scapegoat. But I'm still looking at you, Arnason.

The "Boogeyman"
This dude scares the crap out of me. However he appears to do no such thing to the members of the Avalanche. He absolutely flattened Ben Guite and David Jones at different points in the game and they both got right back up and kept on ticking.

There were a couple times that Guite directly went after Boogard even after Boogard had flattened him. He also whiffed on an open cage during a powerplay opportunity when something with hands - not fists - would likely have buried it.

And it certainly didn't stop the Avs from knocking Marian Gaborik down multiple times.

So much for the "Boogeyman" effect.

Next game
The next game is at 9:00 EDT on Friday which should leave the West coast fans plenty of time to hit the bars to celebrate a 2-0 series lead. Or did I just jinx it?

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
Sakic's OT Goal Wilts Wild
TSN Recap


Selanne said...

Actually, we were 100% on the powerplay, as the first penalty minny took was actually a matching minor. Those aren't factored into computing PP percentage.

Shane Giroux said...

Thanks, Selanne. I remembered two actual powerplay chances but it must have been wishful thinking ;)

Jibblescribbits said...

Maybe one was the 4 vs 4 you were thinking of?

And thanks for calling out the refs, it was a terrible effort on their end tonight. I hate being the guy who bitches about officiating, but they were simply awful last night.

geoff said...

that game was not good for the old ticker. nearly 4 hours of it pounding in my chest... i love the playoffs! and joe sakic!

Shane Giroux said...

I hear ya, geoff! I don't think I've ever been more nervous about a game. If the Avalanche gave up a 2-goal lead and lost that would been very demoralizing. But fighting it off and getting the win, that builds character.

Shane Giroux said...

Could be jib. I was still wired up while writing that. I actually read through it 3 times before posting to make sure I didn't say anything stupid. Mission uncomplished!