Quick Hits: Game One vs. Minnesota Wild (Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round)


Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Final Score: Colorado Avalanche – 5 Minnesota Wild – 4 (OT) (Avalanche Lead Series 1-0)

*Things started so well.

*Gabriel Landeskog got the Avalanche on the board first, capping off a perfect shift. He made a hit behind the net to free up the puck, worked his way to the front, got open, and finished a perfect pass by Paul Stastny to send the crowd into a frenzy.

*Charlie Coyle got the Minnesota Wild right back into things though after a nice pass by Zach Parise on a bouncing puck. It looked like Semyon Varlamov had time to get over and make the save, but he had a hard time tracking the puck and was late pushing off.

*The Wild and Avs traded goals after that. Minnesota scored on the power play after the Avs failed to capitalize on a power of their own. Ryan Suter took a shot from the point that hit off of Nate Guenin, changed directions on Varlamov, and went into the net.

*Ryan O’Reilly tied things up short after though with a laser from the slot after a nice pass by Nathan MacKinnon.

*Then the Wild took over.

*Erik Haula broke in from the wing after a nice pass by Jonas Brodin, catching the Avs in a line change. Brad Malone played “ole” defense, Haula went to the backhand, eluded the poke check from Varlamov, and slid the puck between the legs of Varly and into the net.

*Kyle Brodziak scored two minutes later as three Avalanche players were watching the puck in the corner, leaving Brodziak all alone in the slot for the goal.

*It’s tough to blame Varlamov for all four goals, but it was obvious early that he wasn’t the guy we’ve seen all season. He gave up some bad rebounds and just looked shakey. I can’t blame it on playoff nerves because he has playoff experience with the Washington Capitals. I think a lot had to do with this being his first game in a week. Varly is a guy who thrives on work and not play a game in seven days did him no favors.

*The Avs went into the third period down two. This team has made a habit of coming back all season, but the playoffs are a different story. So we’ve been told.

*The Avs had an early power play in the third, but failed to score. It looked like that might’ve been the end of things, but Ryan O’Reilly stole the puck on a bad clearing attempt and feather a backhand towards the net where Jamie McGinn picked up the loose puck and put it behind Ilya Bryzgalov.

*Minnesota had a chance to go back up two on a broken play, but Marc Andre Cliche slid across the crease to block a pass and Varly melted the loose puck in the blue paint. The Avs dodged a huge bullet there that most likely would’ve ended the game.

*Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov with three minutes remaining, leading to the longest Avalanche shift in history.

*For those three minutes, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Paul Stastny, Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon never left the ice. There where whistles in those three minutes, but they never took an official shift off.

*The Wild almost ended things with Varlamov pulled. A Wild player lift the puck out of the zone and it fluttered towards the empty net, but Johnson raced back to sweep the puck out of the crease before it could cross the line.

*Varlamov was good in the 3rd period, but the two biggest saves of the period were made by Cliche and Johnson.

*With 13 seconds left, Paul Stastny tied the game. The Avs kept the pressure up in the offensive zone, MacKinnon patiently waited behind the net and found Johnson in the circles. Johnson fired a shot to the far post, Bryzgalov kicked it away, but right to the waiting stick of Stastny, who put it over Bryzgalov and into the net.

*It’s the loudest the Pepsi Center had been all season and with good reason.

*Overtime in hockey is a beautiful thing. Unless your team is playing. While the Avalanche game was going on, the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues were playing in a triple overtime game. It was great to watch, because I didn’t care to win. When the Avs overtime was about to start, I was a nervous wreck. It’s something that can’t really be explained unless you’re a fan of a certain team and they’re about to take the ice for overtime.

*Not a lot happened for most of overtime. Neither team really got a good chance and the puck was bouncing all over the place.

*The third line got things start. Cody McLeod, Marc Andre Cliche, and Max Talbot kept the puck in the offensive zone and cycled things down low. During the shift, they were able to get an on the fly change, getting the first line on the ice.

*Tyson Barrie made a great play at the blueline to shake a defender. Avs fans were probably yelling at the TV for Barrie, “Mr. Clutch” all season, to shoot, but he lost the puck. Luckily, MacKinnon picked it up, skated behind the net, and found Stastny right below the circles.

*Stastny put the puck on net and it went through Bryz and into the net.

*The Pepsi Center got louder.

*This was an absolute emotional rollercoaster. The place was rocking early with the way the Avs came out and the Landeskog goal. Then things got silent when the Wild went up 4-2. Then the Avs tied it late to send it to OT. You never know what can happen in OT, but luckily the Avs pulled it off.

*As mentioned, Varlamov wasn’t good early, but afer the fourth goal and settled down and didn’t allow another one. Again, I think the week off had a lot to do with his poor start. Luckily that won’t be an issue the rest of this series.

*The Avs penalty kill still needs to get better and the power play has to get one at some points, but luckily it didn’t quite hurt them in this game.

*Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie played in their first playoff game. Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie were the Avs second and third best player. MacKinnon finished with three asists and used his speed to give the Wild a lot of trouble. And Barrie looked extremely calm at both ends of the ice, especially offensively where he was, as usual, all over the place. He finished with two assists.

*Paul Stastny was the Avs best player. He scored the two big goals and set up Landeskog for the first goal. Stastny has been the subject to trade rumors for years now and has been the whipping boy for a lot of people due to his salary, but he’s played great hockey this year and was outstanding in this one.

*Ryan O’Reilly was very good as well. He had a goal and an assist. Plus he was hard on the puck as usual and won a couple of big faceoffs. He struggled a bit when Duchene first went down, but he’s rebounded nicely these past couple of games.

*Max Talbot didn’t end up on the scoresheet, but I really liked his game. He makes all the little plays that add up over the course of 60-minutes. Whether it’s getting the puck deep, chipping the puck past his man, or winning battles along the boards; you can see why the Avs went out and acquired Talbot this year.

*Patrick Roy proved in this game why he’s been a huge difference in the Avs turnaround. In previous years, the Avs sat back and played not to lose far too often. Roy plays to win at all times and never believes that the game is over until it’s over. He’ll gamble, but you can’t hit the jackpot if you don’t pull the lever.

*We’ll see how Minnesota responds after this one. Every team just wants to split on the road, and the Wild still have one more chance, but they had this one and let it slip away. A 4-2 lead with 20-minutes left, 3 minutes to shoot at an empty net, a young Avalanche team, and a shakey goalie. This win is going to do wonders to the Avs confidence and they can’t expect Varlamov to be that bad again.

*John Mitchell and Matt Duchene both missed this game. Duchene has already been ruled out for game two while Mitchell remains day-t0-day.

Next Game: Game 2 vs. Minnesota Wild on Saturday