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January 17, 2019
First Round Recap: Colorado vs Minnesota
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Colorado Avalanche (6) vs Minnesota Wild (3): Colorado won series, 4-2.
The tide turned in Game Four. After the Avs stole home ice with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game One, the Wild rebounded to take the next two by identical 3-2 overtime scores.
But Game Four was played the very next night, and the Wild clearly weren't ready to go back-to-back. Colorado rolled to an easy 5-1 win to even the series. The Avs carried the momentum back to Minnesota, taking what was essentially a 3-1 decision before wrapping things up at home 2-1 in Game Six.
The back-to-back games, particularly in the thin air of Denver, gassed the Wild. Already without Kurtis Foster, they lost Nick Schultz to an appendectomy before the series even started. Schultz returned for Game Six, but his absence was glaring throughout the first five. It meant Brent Burns, Kim Johnsson, and Martin Skoula all had to log extended minutes, and the opening three games going to overtime certainly didn't help matters, either.
Burns, Johnsson, and Skoula combined for 244:16 in ice time over those first three contests, averaging out to more than 27 minutes per man each game. They were simply worn down by the end of the series. Jacques Lemaire's reluctance to spread the minutes to Sean Hill, Keith Carney, and Petteri Nummelin, especially during Games Two and Three, came back to haunt him.
For the Avs, it was just like the good old days, with Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Adam Foote coming through like champs. Sakic was his usual stellar self, leading the Avs in scoring with two goals and six points. But his finest moment came at the end of Game Six. With his team trying to protect a 2-1 lead with only 22 seconds left in regulation, Sakic beat Koivu on a faceoff in the left circle of the defensive zone, allowing Foote to clear. And when the Wild tried to re-enter, Sakic hustled to block a shot and disrupt Minnesota's last desperate attempt at tying the game. He's got the C on his sweater for a reason.
Surprisingly, the back-to-back games didn't seem to bother Forsberg. He got stronger as the series went along. He was positively dominant at times in Game Six, nearly scoring on a pair of ridiculous individual efforts. He was toying with Wild defenders. It was vintage Foppa.
Colorado GM Francois Giguere also deserves a medal of honor. His club wasn't even in the top eight when he pulled the trigger to bring in Forsberg and Foote, not to mention Ruslan Salei. Colorado doesn't make the playoffs without Giguere's fine work. A lot of people scoffed at bringing back Forsberg and Foote, but, well, those people are idiots.
Finally, let's not forget about Jose Theodore. He was spectacular in posting a .940 save percentage. I'd respect it more if it wasn't a contract year. This summer will tell a lot about Theodore. He's stolen a whole heap of loot from the Avs. He owes them a playoff run and a healthy hometown discount. Why do I get the feeling he'll cash in this summer and then go back to sucking next season? But doesn't his hair look nice?
Gaborik had chances. But that's not enough. If he wants to be considered an elite player in the NHL, he has to bury those chances. Legends are made in the postseason. That's why Joe Sakic is Joe Sakic, and Joe Thornton is Joe Thornton. C'mon, Gabby, don't be a Thornton. Be a Sakic. That's what the cool kids do.
Wait a second. Thornton just scored a goal in a Game Seven. What the (sunshine)?!? How'd that happen?
Okay, well, don't be a Jeremy Roenick. I'm sorry, Roenick did what? Egad, man! What is happening to me? All my favorite whipping boys are becoming playoff heroes! This is certainly a revolting development.
C'mon, Gaborik! Don't be a Gaborik!