Avalanche Knock Out Wild in Game Six - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Avalanche Knock Out Wild in Game Six

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The 6th-seeded Colorado Avalanche took down the 3rd-seeded Minnesota Wild with a 2-1 win tonight at a lively Pepsi Center to advance to the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

In a game that often had me standing in anticipation, Jose Theodore was excellent, the Colorado defense was solid and the game plan was well executed.

After scoring the first goal - again - the Avalanche continued to pressure the Wild in a furious back-and-forth battle. The Wild tied it just 34 seconds into the second period but that did nothing to deflate the team.

The Avalanche kept pushing - and being pushed - and were rewarded at the 12:20 mark as David Jones drew two defensemen to him behind the net. He then fed a wide open Ryan Smyth - the backup MVP of this series - who made no mistake potting it up high on Backstrom.

The Avalanche didn't sit back on the lead until the final 5 minutes. They kept playing their game and awaited the inevitable final onslaught from the Wild.

With about 6 minutes left to play, the Wild started turning up the juice. The only problem is that they didn't have any left.

At one point the cameras caught Kim Johnsson behind the net waving a player towards him as he gasped for breath with his mouth dangling open and shoulders slumped.

They also turned over the puck more in the final minutes than they did the entire series. Cross-ice passes were being broken up, Avalanche pressure led to weak chip-ins and the entire squad looked absolutely spent.

Backstrom was pulled with about a minute left but the Wild still couldn't manage a whole lot of dangerous chances.

Joe Sakic made some key plays including a huge defensive zone faceoff win with 30 seconds to go as well as blocking a pass from behind that net that could have been dangerous. And he did it all with a sense of eerie calmness on his face. Maybe he's done this before.

When the final buzzer sounded Jose Theodore jumped for joy, Ryan Smyth pumped his fist and somewhere far away, an angel got their wings.

Jose Theodore stands tall
Once again, Jose Theodore was the star of the game. It wasn't a game stealing performance like game 5 but 1 goal on 35 shots equates to a rock solid performance no matter the outcome.

The pucks were sticking to him like glue and he also had lady luck on his side. There were two noticeable instances where he didn't even see the puck until it hit him - once on the glove, once into the pads - but you've got to be good to be lucky and man was he good.

I think the Avalanche players are actually getting tired of being asked about Theodore's performance. Ryan Smyth and Peter Forsberg were interviewed after the game and both got the "How well is Jose Theodore playing right now?" question. If I had got that question, I would have simply answered "Well, did you watch the game?"

As it was Smyth and Forsberg pulled out the typical hockey answer and went on their way, rolling their eyes as soon as their backs were turned I'm sure.

Schultz returns
Nick Schultz made his return to the lineup tonight and Jacques Lemaire was more than happy to scratch Sean Hill. The Wild defense desperately needed help with 3 of their players spending five or more minutes per game out on the ice while Hill had been playing under 10 minutes per game.

Unfortunately when you return from an appendectomy after missing 2 weeks of action, you're not going to be terribly effective.

Gaborik sneaks one through
Marian Gaborik finally managed to get on the scoreboard with an assist on the Wild goal.

Unfortunately for Marian, Adam Foote then doubled the pressure he put on the Wild star and he was not a threat for the rest of the game.

Guite grinds one out
Ben Guite has been a cult hero in the Avalanche blogger circle for some time now and he showed why tonight. During the Wilds first - and only - penalty kill, Joe Sakic took advantage of a Wild turnover and sprung Guite on a breakaway.

Guite flew in, head up, stick aimed for the top corner and then...he fanned on the shot. Fortunately it still had enough juice to squeeze past a surprised Nik Backstrom. That was Guite's first playoff point.

In a travesty of stats keeping, Ben Guite was not credited with only one hit but he was finishing checks and causing turnovers with his physical play.

This was especially true in the final minutes when Guite set the tone by plastering a Wild player along the boards to wrest the puck away from him and chip it out of the zone.

David Jones achieves cult status
Ladies and gentleman, meet our new cult hero: David Jones. Guite can no longer count as many mainstream announcers such as Kelly Hrudey and Pierre McGuire have expounded on Guite's abilities. So Jones it is.

Jones had only 10 minutes of icetime but managed to get a beauty assist on the winning goal and spent a lot of time rushing the net and making life difficult for the Wild defencemen and Nik Backstrom.

Jones appears to have no fear of charging down the wing and cutting hard to the net. You know you're lucky going to get dumped by an opposing defenseman when you do that but the payoffs can be great.

And in what works out as a nice hand off from Guite, the assist was Jones' first playoff point.

Sakic solid
Oh Joe Sakic, I love how you make me eat my words. The last couple game recaps, I mentioned that Joe was looking a step slow and wasn't a force like in previous years.

After setting up the first goal and netting his 100th playoff assist, he spent the rest of his 18 minutes making solid defensive plays, winning 62% of his draws and making crucial contributions in the defensive during the final 30 minutes.

Give me a bit of credit though. The CBC announcers - who actually watch hockey, not just call the games - mentioned that Joe isn't quite the Joe of old. But he appears to have a lot of juice left in the tank.

Still mancrushing on Salei
Ruslan Salei continues to be a genius pickup by Francois Giguere. Salei played on the powerplay and penalty kill, put in 20 solid minutes, was +1, fired off 3 shots, put up 4 hits and blocked 4 shots.

Those are some quality stats for a player who only cost the team Karlis Skrastins and a 3rd-rounder.

Game 6 chokers
I'm not going to call Dater crazy or a fool for thinking the series was heading back to Minnesota and that the Avalanche would eventually lose the series. He made his choice and stuck to his guns.

Who could have seen that Theodore was going to become a Conn Smythe candidate or that Foote would make Marian Gaborik a non-factor all series long?

However by focusing on the Avalanche's history of choking in game 6, he lost sight of the following stat which was in the Avalanche game recap:
The 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals marked the 13th time Colorado has held a 3-2 series lead after five games since moving to Denver. After tonight’s win, the Avs have now advanced in nine of those 13 series. Colorado’s appearance in the Western Conference Semifinals also marks the ninth time in 11 postseason trips since 1996 that the club has advanced beyond the first round.

But if the Wild had won - and they very well could have - we'd all be singing a different tune and Dater would look like a genius.

That's just the way it goes when you make bold predictions on sporting events.

Next up
The Avalanche are the first team to close out a series in the West so the playing landscape is still very much up in the air. They could face anyone from the #1 seeded Red Wings to the #7 seeded Flames.

I think the most likely outcome is a date against the Red Wings. Detroit should finish off the Predators, Dallas will take out Anaheim (who saw that coming?) and the Sharks should be able to finish off the Flames now that they've woken up.

If the Flames do come back and take down San Jose, they would then face the Wings and the Avalanche would face their old friend Marty Turco.

Related Links
NHL.com Event Summary
Colorado Avalanche.com Game Recap
Denver Post Game Recap
RMN Game Recap
Theodore thankful Avs, Hacket kept faith in him
Big name players come up big for the Avs
Forsberg proving to be a bargain
In the Cheap Seats Game Recap
Tapeleg reappers!
Dater eats some crow
Jibble's first round Avs awards
Mike Russo sounds off


Tapeleg said...



Shane Giroux said...

Glad to see you back, Tapeleg :)

Jed said...

That was one of the most electic, exciting, hands down awesome games that I have been to. I will be happy once my voice comes back though :)

Shane once I get the pictures I took up I will let you know via a link in a comment.

My only disappointment (more so my wifes) was that there was a fight. I can't say I blame the Avs for not taking the bait on more than one occasion. It is a lot easier to pick a fight when you know you are going golfing the next day. :)

Now lets go Flames!

Tapeleg said...

Sorry I've been under a rock. Now that ALL Avs playoff games SHOULD be broadcast on Versus, I can finally watch some good hockey.

Hockey in Atlanta-stan. Not working out so much.

Shane Giroux said...

jed, sounds good.

tape, I guess it's a good thing the NHL never put a team there, eh?

Wait a minute...

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