Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Avs Get Dominated in Game 2, Forsberg DNP, Theodore Pulled, McLeod Throws Octopus, Hannan Out, Wolski Done


When Johan Franzen scores a hat trick and Ian Laperriere scores your only goal, you know you had an off-night. Sadly, this wasn't the time to do it.
The Avs were completely dominated, dropping Game 2 by a score of 5-1.
Endless trips to the penalty box (six straight minors in the second period) lead to two Detroit power play goals. Theodore was pulled for the second game in a row after the fourth goal in the second period and the Wings outshot the Avs 40-20 (including 22-6 in the second).
Key Fact: In relief, Peter Budaj faced twenty shots. That's the same number Chris Osgood faced in the entire game.
Injury Notes
Peter Forsberg did not play for the second game in a row. He is probable for Game 3.
Wojtek Wolski is out for the series with an upper-body injury.
Scott Hannan did not play and is questionable for Game 3.
Cody McCormick, Jaroslav Hlinka, and Jeff Finger all made their playoff debuts in Game 2.
Three Stars of the Game
1. Jeff Finger (The only defenseman to be a +1, logged 19 minutes)
2. Ian Laperriere (He hustled all game and didn't take a penalty)
3. N/A
Next Up
The Avs play a must-win Game 3 TONIGHT in Denver. Game time is 10:00 PM EST.
Around The Playoffs
(2) San Jose vs (5) Dallas
Last Game: 5-2 Stars (4/27)
Next Game: Tonight, 7:30 PM EST
Dallas Leads Series 2-0
(1) Montreal vs (6) Philadelphia
Last Game: 3-2 Flyers (4/28)
Next Game: 4/30, 7 PM EST, VERSUS
Philadelphia Leads Series 2-1
(2) Pittsburgh vs (5) New York
Last Game: 2-0 Penguins (4/27)
Next Game: Tonight, 7 PM EST, VERSUS
Pittsburgh Leads Series 2-0
Try To Watch
The Sharks need to win tonight in order to avoid a 3-0 deficit in their series. Dallas has look unbeatable this postseason and the Sharks will be giving them their best this evening.
Video Fix
Cody McLeod has established himself as a pest. Here he is throwing the Detroit octopus back into the stands during the National Anthem.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Game 1: Avs Comeback Fails; Theodore, Hannan, Wolski Hurt


It was like two seperate games were being played. One minute into the second period, the Red Wings were already up 4-1, Jose Theodore was pulled, and the Avs looked destined to be crushed.

Not completely true.

After the goaltending change, the Avs came back and actually made it a close game (4-3). John-Michael Liles had a golden chance at the end when he was all alone against Osgood but the shot went right into the pads.

Overall, it was a game of both positives and negatives. Sure, the Avs came back hard and refused to give up, but as we found out in Game 2, that may be because Detroit decided to take the foot off the gas.

Goals were scored by Stastny, McLeod, and Liles.

Quick Note

According to coaches, Jose Theodore was sent to the team hotel after he was pulled. Theodore missed the morning skate and apparently has the flu.

Peter Budaj stopped all twenty shots he faced in relief.

Three Stars of the Game

1. John-Michael Liles (Played a terrific game both offensively and defensively)
2. Ryan Smyth (Two points, probably the best skater in the game)
3. Paul Stastny (Goal and an assists for the sophomore phenom)

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Conference Semi-Finals Predictions

In the West...

(1) Detroit vs (6) Colorado

In one of the only matchups I had right, I'll stick with my original pick and say that the Avs will be able to pull the upset. The Wings have yet to see a healthy Avs team featuring Sakic, Foote, Forsberg, Smyth, and Stastny. Jose Theodore has been incredible and if he keeps playing well, the Avs should be able to win a hard-fought series.

Colorado in 6

(2) San Jose vs (5) Dallas

My Stanley Cup, the San Jose Sharks, had a tough time in the first round. The Stars, on the other hand, played extremely well, eliminating the Anaheim Ducks. I hate to do this, but I'm going to back off my Stanley Cup pick. If the series comes down to goaltending, Turco has looked much better than Nabokov so far.

Dallas in 6

In the East...

(1) Montreal vs (6) Philadelphia

The Canadiens had a tough time in their first round series against the Bruins, but on your way to the Stanley Cup, ever team has to be tested. The Habs survived and take their 4-0 record against the Flyers this season back to Montreal.

The Flyers were impressive at time in their series against Washington, but this team has been too streaky all year.

Montreal in 5

(2) Pittsburgh vs (5) New York

The only chance the Rangers have is for Sean Avery to get in the heads of Crosby and Malkin and then hope guys like Roberts, Hossa, and Malone don't explode for the Penguins. Marc Andre-Fleury should be able to play well enough for the Pens to win the series.

Pittsburgh in 6

Conference Finals

(5) Dallas vs (6) Colorado
(1) Montreal vs (2) Pittsburgh

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Five Things The Avs Must Do vs Detroit, Koharski/Devorski Rant [Minor]

Thanks to a Game 7 win by the San Jose Sharks over the Calgary Flames, the Colorado Avalanche will meet the Detroit Red Wings for the sixth time ever in the playoffs. The Avs hold the historic series, 3-2.

There are some familiar names on both sides including Osgood, Draper, Maltby, McCarty, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, Foote, Forsberg, Sakic, and Hejduk, but don't expect any brawls.

Here are five things the Avs must do to win this series:

1. Limit Puck Possession

The Wings are all about holding onto the puck. The Avs need to force them to play dump and chase by stepping up at the blue line and by forechecking strong the entire game.

2. Stay Disciplined

The Wings had a dangerous power play in the regular season and the Avs penalty kill hasn't exactly been solid all season long. Playing 5-on-5 hockey will be important for Colorado.

3. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

Detroit is one of the best teams in the NHL at limiting shots. In Game 6 against Nashville, Chris Osgood had to handle just 20 shots for the shutout. Remember, Colorado failed to score in three of the four games against the Wings this season.

4. Attack

Forget sitting back on defense. They have to go all out every shift and force the play into the Detroit zone. That's why the line of Guite-Laperriere-McLeod is so valuable. They provide energy and generally do a good job at forcing the play into the opposition's end.

5. The Gaborik Strategy

Taking out Marian Gaborik was a key in beating Minnesota. In Detroit, taking out Datsyuk and Zetteberg will be just as important.

Game 1: TONIGHT, 7:30 PM EST, VERSUS
__________

Koharski/Devorski Rant

For all you who watched Game 7 of the Flyers-Caps series, I hope you are as outraged as I am about the second goal scored by the Flyers.



Fast foward to 2:31 and you'll clearly see Patrick Thoresen check a Caps defender into Huet, taking the Caps' goalie out of the play. A goal ensues.

Why should this have been waved off?

1. It's illegal to check a player if he hasn't checked the puck. If you watch the video, you'll see the puck isn't even close to where the check takes place.

2. It's illegal to push a player into his goal and not allow the goalie to gain position to stop the puck.

3. It's illegal to slowly get up making it tougher for the goalie to get into the play.

Now, Koharski and Devorski are two of the most respected refs in the game but they really messed this one up. For the refs to affect a game like that - it's a disgrace.

Another black mark on the NHL.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Avs to Play Wings, Koharski a Moron

Avs-Wings tomorrow at 7:30 PM.

Koharski and Devorski may be the worst refs in the NHL.

More to come on both tomorrow.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

AVS CLINCH SERIES! Stars or Wings in 2nd Round

In 2003, the Minnesota Wild battled back from a 3-1 series deficit and ended both Colorado's season and Patrick Roy's career when none other than Andrew Brunette scored Game 7's last goal in OT.

In 2008, the Avalanche had a 3-2 series lead and this time, they didn't let it slip away.

Starting quickly, Joe Sakic made a nice defensive play shorthanded and dished it to Ben Guite who had a breakaway. Guite simply flicked the puck between the glove of Backstrom and the Avs were up 1-0.

The Wild managed to tie the game in the second period with a goal from Aaron Voros, but Ryan Smyth managed to respond for the Avs.

With a 2-1 lead, the spotlight was firmly on Jose Theodore and the defense and both of them delivered. Adam Foote did a terrific job on Marian Gaborik, who ended up with a mere one point (an assist in Game 6) in the series while Ruslan Salei and Scott Hannan did great jobs containing the other Wild Stars - notably Demitra and Rolston.

Theodore turned in another brilliant performance, making 34 saves on 35 shots.

The Avs are the only team in the first round to have every player average over 10 minutes of ice time a game. It was a real team effort for Colorado. In the playoffs, you need secondary scoring and in this game, the third and fourth lines really stepped up.

As the final seconds ticked down, Sakic made defensive play after defensive play and it is no surprise the veteran presence on the Avalanche played flawlessly in the dying moments.



Three Stars of the Game

1. Ryan Smyth (GWG, really came to play and showed why the Avs signed him)
2. Adam Foote (No one else to thank for giving Gaborik nightmares)
3. Jose Theodore (MVP of the series, saved 199 of 211 shots)

Next Up

TBA

So, Who Will The Avalanche Play?

That question will be answered on Tuesday when Calgary and San Jose play Game 7 of their respective series. If Calgary wins, the Avalanche will play the Dallas Stars. If San Jose wins, the Avalanche will face the Detroit Red Wings.

Both teams seemed to have had our numbers this year, but at this point, I'd much rather play the Stars and Marty Turco, rather than the Red Wings who have Hasek and Osgood as a tandem.

Last Night...In The Playoffs

(1) Detroit defeated (8) Nashville
3-0 (Detroit Wins Series 4-2)

(7) Calgary defeated (2) San Jose
2-0 (Series Tied 3-3)

(5) Dallas defeated (4) Anaheim)
4-1 (Dallas Wins Series 4-2)

Note: If you want any proof about how hard it is to repeat as a Stanley Cup champ: this marks the third straight year the defending champion will lose in the first round.

Tonight...In The Playoffs

(1) Montreal vs (8) Boston
Game 7 - 7:00 PM EST

(3) Washington vs (6) Philadelphia
Game 6 - 7:00 PM EST - VERSUS

Try To Watch

There's nothing more exciting than a Game 7 in the NHL Playoffs. Boston has won two straight over the heavily favored Canadiens and they're trying to prove all of the critics wrong. Most said that this would be the most lopsided matchup in the first round but the Bruins have proved otherwise.

Elimination Report

The following teams have been eliminated:

(3) Minnesota
(4) New Jersey
(4) Anaheim
(7) Ottawa
(8) Nashville

Shaking Hands

After Sean Avery's antics of turning his back to the play and waving his hands in front of Martin Brodeur in an attempt to screen him, both players chose not to shake hands after the Rangers eliminated the Devils.

Video Fix

Here's a look at what Sean Avery did to get on the bad side of Martin Brodeur. The NHL has now clarified that it will be considered a penalty.



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Friday, April 18, 2008

Avs Win Pivotal Game 5, Take 3-2 Series Lead



What does the face of a player look like after he just scored his first career NHL playoff goal, which goes on to be the game-winner?
Here's your answer:



Paul Stastny's goal in the third period was just the third and final shot the Avs would take in the third period but it would turn out to be all they needed. Along with goals from Andrew Brunette and Wojtek Wolski (both of which were on the power play), the Avalanche won the game 3-2.

The real story, however, was the play of Jose Theodore, who stopped 38/40 shots including 17 in the first period. The Avs were outshot 40-17 in the game, but Theodore's 10 saves on 11 shots during Wild power plays helped keep Colorado in it. Highlights including stoning Gaborik several times, keeping Minnesota's super star pointless in the series.

The Avs really came out with a fire in the third period, taking it to the Wild's offensive zone immediately. Although they only fired three shots in the period, they buckled down on defense very well - Minnesota registered just eight shots, as opposed to the fifteen and seventeen they put up in prior periods.

Quenville mix-and-matched lines a bit during the final period, but expect Forsberg-Stastny-Hejduk and Wolski-Sakic-Brunette to stay together for the next game.

On defense, much praise goes out to Adam Foote who was Colorado's minute muncher (25:25) and Ruslan Salei - both of whom have been shutting down Gaborik all series long.

It's also worthy to note that not one Avalanche defenseman took a penalty in this game.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Jose Theodore (Score could have easily have been 5-0 after the first)
2. Paul Stastny (First goal, couldn't have picked a better time)
3. Peter Forsberg (Two assists, skating/checking well)

Next Up

The Avs will try to end the series on SATURDAY at 10:00 PM EST. The game will be played in Colorado, making this a golden chance for the Avs to send the Wild home.

Last Night...In The Playoffs

(2) San Jose defeated (7) Calgary
4-3 (San Jose Leads Series 3-2)

(5) Dallas defeated (4) Anaheim
3-1 (Dallas Leads Series 3-1)

(8) Boston defeated (1) Montreal
5-1 (Montreal Leads Series 3-2)

(6) Philadelphia defeated (3) Washington
4-3 (2OT) (Philadelphia Leads Series 3-1)

Tonight...In The Playoffs

(1) Detroit vs (8) Nashville
Game 5 - 7:30 PM EST - VERSUS
Series Tied 2-2

(4) Anaheim vs (5) Dallas
Game 5 - 10:30 PM EST - VERSUS
Dallas Leads Series 3-1

(4) New Jersey vs (5) New York
Game 5 - 7:30 PM EST
New York Leads Series 3-1

Try To Watch

Both games on Versus tonight are worth watching.

In Detroit, Chris Osgood has been named the starter for Game 5 after two mediocre efforts from Dominick Hasek. This is Osgood's first game in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, he was #1 in GAA this season in the NHL while winning 29 games for the Wings. Nashville has won the last two games in the series.

In Anaheim, the defending champs will try to avoid elimination by holding off the Dallas Stars tonight. For Avalanche fans, I think the majority would much rather see Dallas stay in the playoffs than the Ducks. I'll be rooting for the Stars in that one.

Elimination Report

The following teams are one game away from elimination:

(3) Minnesota
(4) Anaheim
(4) New Jersey
(6) Washington
(7) Calgary
(8) Boston

First Team Eliminated

The Pittsburgh Penguins capped off a sweep of the Ottawa Senators, ending a nightmare second half of the season for the Sens. Reports today state that Ray Emery will not return to the team next year.

Video Fix

Here's is Paul Stastny's beautiful 180 move near the crease.

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Quick Game 4 Recap, Then Game 5

I was unable to get a blog in for Game 4. However, there was not much to analyze.

All you need to know is:

-Avalanche win 5-1

-Goals scored by Brunette, Wolski, Arnason, Salei and Hejduk

-Jordan Leopold makes debut, registers two assists

-Jeff Finger scratched

-Avs 2/11 on the PP

-Avs outshot Minny 40-25

-144 penalty minutes, 102 of which came in the third. Misconducts were handed out to McLeod, Laperriere, Belanger, Boogard, Fedoruk, Veilleux, and Johnsson.

Three Stars of the Game
1. Ruslan Salei (Two points, led defensemen in ice time)
2. Jordan Leopold (Very solid, two points, stayed healthy)
3. Tyler Arnason (Two points, had a nice spark the whole game)

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Avs Get Lazy, Lose in OT, Wild Lead 2-1


Here's a fact for you to chew on:

This series marks the 4th time in NHL history that the first three games have all gone to OT. To go even further, it's the 2nd time they all ended in the same score.

Exciting hockey, right? Not for an Avs fan.

All we've seen is shutouts in the first two periods, a third period lead, and then we watch as the Wild force us to tie it or force us to try and win in OT. When you have a third period lead in playoffs, you must hold it.

But while some people (ESPN) will have you believe this game was lost in the overtime period when Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored on a play that could have/should have been icing, those same people will be wrong.

The Avs really lost this game in the second period when the Avs went 0-4 on the power play, including 10 seconds of a 5-on-3. While the power play did generate chances, it didn't put the puck in the net and failed to put the Wild away in a series that has been hard pressed to find goals before the third period.

The Avs threw 46 shots at Niklas Backstrom but just two got past him. That's either a testament to Backstrom, who has played very well, or a stat that shows our skill players not being able to finished.

Paul Stastny is having a brutal series. While superstar Marian Gaborik has been held to no points through three games, the same can be said for Stastny. He threw a lazy pass back to the blueline on a third period power play which lead to a 2-on-1 which lead to a Wild shorthanded goal. He's young, but he should know that every play needs to be strong in the playoffs.

Avalanche goals were scored by Andrew Brunette (Sakic, Wolski assists) and Joe Sakic (Forsberg, Brunette assists). It's good that the top two lines are stepping up, but what about Tyler Arnason? He's been held off the score sheet and hasn't generated anything on a line featuring Ryan Smyth and David Jones.

Jose Theodore turned in another strong performance, making 36 saves including 11/12 in OT.

Avs Need to Take Adavange TONIGHT

These two teams go back at it tonight and the Avs must take advantage. Burns, Johnsson, and Skoula all played 30+ minutes last night for Minnesota while Gaborik and Rolston both logged 25+. Adam Foote was the high man for the Avs, logging just 27 minutes.

Keys To Tonight

-Keep shutting down Gaborik

-Contain Koivu: Mikko Koivu has been the Wild's best player in this series. He has already scored two goals in this series and has made an impact on every shift.

-Tighten Up Game With Lead: The Wild have succeeded in opening up the game when they have been trying to come back and the Avs need to make sure they don't sustain any pressure in the defensive zone.

-Special Teams: Special teams can win/lose games and if the Avs have four power plays in a period, they better convert on one or two of them.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Jose Theodore (Gave the Avs a chance to win and deserves to be up 3-0 right now)
2. Joe Sakic (Two more points for Super Joe, needs to show leadership in critical Game 4)
3. Andrew Brunette (Two points, having impact in front of the net)

Next Up

As previously mentioned, game four is tonight at 10 PM EST on Versus. Wild lead the series 2-1.

Last Night...In The Playoffs

(8) Nashville defeated (1) Detroit
5-3 (Detroit Leads Series 2-1)

(2) Pittsburgh defeated (7) Ottawa
4-1 (Pittsburgh Leads Series 3-0)

Tonight...In The Playoffs

(2) San Jose vs (7) Calgary
Game 4 - 10 PM EST
Calgary Leads Series 2-1

(4) Anaheim vs (5) Dallas
Game 3 - 8:30 EST
Dallas Leads Series 2-0

(1) Montreal vs (8) Boston
Game 4 - 7 PM EST
Montreal Leads Series 2-1

(3) Washington vs (6) Philadelphia
Game 3 - 7 PM EST - VERSUS
Series Tied 1-1

Try To Watch

See if you can catch the Montreal-Boston game tonight. After the thrilling OT victory in Boston, the Bruins will try to use their momentum to even the series at two games apiece.

Video Fix

This is an unbelievable play in a college skills shootout. Think he got some style points?

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ovechkin Goes National Today [How Many Will Watch]

At 2 PM EST today, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will play the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference series. There may be no player in the NHL more exciting than Ovechkin right now and being that this game is nationally televised on NBC, it seems like the perfect chance for the NHL to receive some notice.

But how many people will tune in?

The final round of The Masters starts at 2:30 on the equally national CBS while ABC is showing basketball (Toronto vs Detroit and San Antonio vs Los Angeles) from 1:00 to 6:00.

There are baseball games taking place in no fewer than 26 markets during the time that the hockey game will be on, and A&E is showing The Godfather for the millionith time (this week).

To hockey fans, the choice between hockey and a golf tournament, a basketball game, an April baseball game, and an overplayed movie seems like an easy and obvious choice. But the truth is, it's very likely that the Philadelphia-Washington game on NBC will do worse in the ratings than The Masters or Los Angeles-San Antonio, or even a few of the meaningless baseball games.

And what's ESPN showing instead of hockey?

Golf and bowling.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Avs Lose in OT, Series Tied 1-1


When Mikko Koivu scored with just over two minutes to go, my heart dropped. The Avs were so close to getting it into another OT and now they were going to lose like this.

But after a Wild penalty and an extra attacker, Quenville told his players be strong on the walls. After the faceoff, Joe Sakic did just that, keeping the play alive as the power play got set up. With less than one minute remaining, John-Michael Liles, who returned to the game after almost getting killed by Boogard, took a shot from the point which Milan Hejduk deflected into the goal.

But lightning would not strike twice. Knowing they had to end this game quickly, Keith Carney scored in overtime to tie the series at 1.

However, this game revealed many things.

Notes

The Wild defensive pairs are completely beaten up. They were getting very winded down the stretch and with all of their injuries, it's going to be tough to play in a long series. They were turning the puck over almost every shift but the Avs just couldn't capitalize.

The Avs have 5,280 reasons to sweep at home on Monday and Tuesday. Playing in back-to-back games, the depleted defense of the Wild is going to have a tough time adjusting to the Mile High air. Add in the fact that the Wild were much worse on the road than they were at home and things actually look pretty good for the Avalanche.

Jeff Finger did another outstanding job on Marian Gaborik. In fact, all of the defensemen did. Gabby was left off the score sheet again.

Peter Forsberg was a monster last night, scoring the first goal of the game on a nice poke check by Jeff Finger. If Forsberg can get hot, then the Avs will be in every game.

Among the other advantages at home, the Avalanche will be able to make the last line change prior to faceoffs. This will allow Quenville to put the Forsberg-Stastny-Hejduk line against whomever he chooses.

Speaking of Joel Quenville, another fine coaching job last night. The play at the end happened because the players executed what he drew up.

Jose Theodore has proved he'll be consistent. He probably should have had Koivu's goal, but Theodore still played extremely well. He was matched by Nilas Backstrom the whole way.

Possible injury for the Avs is David Jones. No word on how he's doing.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Peter Forsberg (A goal, an assist, creating chances everywhere, playing physical)
2. Adam Foote (Valuable minutes, relatively good job on the defensive end)
3. Jose Theodore (Stopped 14/16 in third period, kept them in through the second)

Next Up

Game three of the series will be played in Colorado, on Monday at 10 PM EST.

Last Night...In The Playoffs

(2) Pittsburgh defeated (7) Ottawa
5-3 (Pittsburgh leads series 2-0)

(3) Washington defeated (6) Philadelphia
5-4 (Washinton leads series 2-0)

(5) New York defeated (4) New Jersey
2-1 (New York leads series 2-0)

Tonight...In The Playoffs

(1) Detroit vs (8) Nashville
Game 2 - 2 PM EST - NBC
Detroit leads series 1-0

(1) Montreal vs (8) Boston
Game 2 - 7 PM EST - Versus
Montreal leads series 1-0

(4) Anaheim vs (5) Dallas
Game 2 - 10 PM EST - Versus
Dallas leads series 1-0

Try To Watch

All of the games are on national TV, but if you had to pick one, it would be Anaheim-Dallas. The Ducks are down 1-0 and should come out hitting hard. It's bound to be a close one.

Video Fix

Watch Alex Ovechkin score his first ever playoff goal - a game winner.


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

SUPER JOE the Hero, Avs Win Thriller in OT

Announcer Mike Haynes has always maintained that Joe Sakic is the best clutch player to ever play the game. Super Joe entered Minnesota the all time leader in playoff OT goals with seven. He left with eight.

Haynes, who is missing the playoffs in order to undergo major surgery on a basilar artery aneurysm, would have been very pleased with how his team performed last night.

It's the kind of game that makes you understand why players will play through broken arms, groin tears, and any other kind of injury you can think of. It's the playoffs.

Replacing Mike Haynes was former Colorado announcer John Kelly, the current announcer for the St. Louis Blues. He's most famous for his Thank You, Thank You, Thank You chant after a huge goal. Thankfully, he got a chance to use it.

Both teams came out hitting, a trend that continued for the rest of the game. The Wild dominated the first ten minutes of play, not letting the Avs get a sniff of the offensive zone. They outshot the Avs 11-2 in the first but were 0/2 on the power play. Jose Theodore came up huge, including a few big saves when the Wild had the man advantage.

The second period was a bit closer in when it comes to the shot total, but the only think that counts is the scoreboard. Kurt Sauer put the Avs ahead on a beautiful chip shot over Backstrom's glove. Sakic and Wolski picked up the assists. Later, Ryan Smyth took advantage of the only Avalanche power play, scoring on a tip-in from Finger and Brunette.

Smyth is a key player for the Avalanche. If he gets rolling, that adds an extra dimension to Colorado's offensive game.

Into the third, it was clear what the Wild planned to do. Down 2-0, they were going to dump the puck in, and start knocking the snot out of the Avalanche. The strategy worked. In a three minute span, they scored two goals, including one on the power play, and the game was tied with just over 13 minutes to go.

Turning Point (Sort Of)

At this point, Joel Quenville used his timeout to try and calm things down. But he didn't even talk to the players. He let the energy die down and this proved to be a smart move.

The Avs finally started exerting their offensive game on Minnesota and had several golden chances.

David Jones had a goal called off when replays showed he kicked the puck in. Initially, it looked as if Ryan Smyth might have gotten a stick on it, but the referees made the right call.

Milan Hejduk hit the crossbar and the goal post on two consecutive shots.

Ryan Smyth's tip was reviewed. A Wild player covered the puck with his glove in the crease and it appeared as if the player might have moved his hand across the line. The refs waved the goal off but did award Smyth a penalty shot.

On the penalty shot, Smyth was stopped by Backstrom with a little over 2 minutes remaining.

Overtime

Playoff overtime is one of the most dramatic moments in all of sports. Any one shot can end it. Tyler Arnason had a glorious chance, putting a puck just over the empty net.

Jose Theodore came up huge, stopping a Brent Burns shot on a 2-on-1 break.

Then, eleven minutes into the OT, Ruslan Salei put the puck on net which Sakic managed to get a stick on and put over Niklas Backstrom for the game-winning goal. The goal was hit eight playoff OT winner, extending his record over Maurice Richard. And as John Kelly put it, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

It was an amazing game, an amazing win, and the Avs lead the series 1-0.

Notes

Jose Theodore was absolutely phenomenal. Making 28 saves on 30 shots, Theodore was the biggest reason (besides possibly Sakic's goal) that the Avs won this game. He has so much confidence right now and is giving the Avs a great chance to win every game. When the puck is on its way to the net, Avalanche fans no longer worry about a strange bounce or a bad goal. This is the best Jose has played since his Hart Trophy.

The refs weren't what you would call favorable to the Avalanche. Six penalties were called on the Avs while just two were called on the Wild. Hannan took the bulk of the minutes, racking up four for the game. But there were some plays that the Wild should have been called on. Burns slashing Forsberg's ankle, a cross-check on Jones, a bad hit on Laperriere. But no calls were made. One of the referees included Don VanMassenhoven, one of the best in the NHL, and since I'm not an expert, I won't speculate as to why the calls were not made.

Mark Parrish was injured in the first period. He did not return.

The Avalanche defensemen need to be praised. All of them did a superb job shutting down Gaborik, Rolston, and Demetra. Adam Foote and Jeff Finger were especially good. All of them played mistake free hockey and made smart plays in the offensive zone.

The power play continues to excel. The Avs went 1/1 on their only chance.

Joel Quenville did well with balancing minutes. Cody McLeod played the fewest at 10:47 while Paul Stastny lead the Avs with just over 26 total minutes. This is much better than the Wild, who had two defensmen playing 30+ minutes. It's a long series and conditioning is critical.

Three Stars of the Game

In the next post, the regular season champion will finally be announced. We will have both a playoff champ and then a "total season champ." That will factor in the playoff points with the regular season points.

1. Jose Theodore (28 saves, including robbery in the OT and power plays)
2. Ryan Smyth (Sparked the Avs all night long, got going with a big goal)
3. Adam Foote (Did a great job stopping Gaborik from doing anything in this one)

Next Up

Game 2 of this series will be played on Friday at 9 PM EST. The game will be shown on Versus.

Last Night...In The Playoffs

(7) Calgary defeated (2) San Jose
3-2 (Calgary leads series 1-0)

(2) Pittsburgh defeated (7) Ottawa
4-0 (Pittsburgh leads series 1-0)

(5) New York defeated (4) New Jersey
4-1 (New York leads series 1-0)

Tonight...In The Playoffs

(1) Detroit vs (8) Nashville
Game 1 - 7 PM EST - Versus

(2) San Jose vs (7) Calgary
Game 2 - 10 PM EST
Calgary Leads Series 1-0

(4) Anaheim vs (5) Dallas
Game 1 - 10 PM EST - Versus

(1) Montreal vs (8) Boston
Game 1- 7 PM EST

Try To Watch

Calgary and San Jose will be the first teams to play their second game. The Sharks need to win in order to avoid the 2-0 hole heading back to Calgary.

Video Fix

Make sure you watch these highlights!



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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Western Conference Playoff Predictions [Includes Cup]

When the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated, the best goalie in the conference, Roberto Luongo, was elimnated as well. One thing that the West has that the East doesn't is experienced, spectacular goaltender. Whether it be Chris Osgood, Dominick Hasek, Evgeni Nabokov, Jose Theodore, Miikka Kipprusoff, JS Giguere, or Marty Turco, each and every series will be a tough one.

My Predictions (Picks in BOLD)

(1) Detroit Red Wings
vs
(8) Nashville Predators
6 Games

It's shocking how many peopel are picking the Preds to beat the Wings. Detroit is a team who won the President's Trophy, scored the most goals for in the league, and won the William Jennings. Sure, they have injury problems, but most teams do. No doubt, the Preds will prove to be a challenge, but Detroit should be able to shirk them off.

(2) San Jose Sharks
vs
(7) Calgary Flames
5 Games

The Sharks, a very popular Stanley Cup pick, were the hottest team down the stretch this season. This team is especially impressive on the road, where they put together two seperate nine-game winning streaks this season. Evgeni Nabokov has shown no signs of fatigue and the deadline deal to acquire Brian Campbell has paid off brilliantly. The Flames will try to rough them up, but they don't stand much of a chance.


(3) Minnesota Wild
vs
(6) Colorado Avalanche
6 Games

You can say my vision is blurred, but I see the Avalanche as a potential sleeper in the playoffs this year. Jose Theodore has been playing as well as any goalie in the league since January and the offense has been on fire with Peter Forsberg back in the lineup. Adam Foote gives the team a shutdown defender. Foote will be responsible with shutting down Marian Gaborik, a key to the series for the Wild.

(4) Anaheim Ducks
vs
(5) Dallas Stars
7 Games

In the most intriguing matchup of the first round, the goaltenders (Marty Turco and JS Giguere) are all set to shine. Turco still has not won a playoff series but he was spectacular against the Canucks last season. The Ducks are the defending champs and will bring their usual physical game right at Dallas. While the Stars may not take that sitting down, they'll probably end up on the golf course before the first round is through. However, due to how equal these teams are and how skilled on defense they are, we could be seeing a long series.
_____________________

Same drill as the East:

(1) Detroit
vs
(6) Colorado
6 Games

Ok, maybe I'm going a little far with the Avs, but think about it. Detroit is really injured right now. Holmstrom has a sports hernia (but he is playing) and vets Maltby and Draper are both trying to get healthy right now. The Avs, despite losing the season series 0-4, look like a completely different team after those losses. Also, it's another perfect series for the NHL. Crosby-Ovechkin followed by Detroit-Colorado. Perfect.

(2) San Jose
vs
(4) Anaheim Ducks

7 Games

The defending champs won't go down without a fight, but they will go down. The Sharks are too hot right now and with Anaheim potentially coming off a tough series with Dallas, I like the Sharks to take it.
_______________

(2) San Jose
vs
(6) Colorado
5 Games

Alright, I stopped. The Avs may make the Stanley Cup, but the odds say San Jose.

Western Conference Champion:

San Jose Sharks
__________________________________________

STANLEY CUP FINALS

Pittsburgh Penguins vs San Jose Sharks

I feel really bad. This is the same final that TSN predicted last night but I promise, I really wasn't influenced.

When you look at the conferences, the West has two likely candidates to make it this far, the Ducks and the Sharks. But considering the odds of repeating as champion are so low, you have to pick the Sharks. In the East, it's wide open but one has to believe that the most talented team should have the best shot.

Champion:

San Jose Sharks in 6 Games

Of course, we're still rooting for the Avs!

Next Up: Avalanche Game 1 Preview!

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Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

(The East was full of surprises this year, none bigger than the Capitals miracle run, the Canadiens rise to success, the Flyers rebound year, or the emergence of Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins.

My Predictions (Picks in BOLD)

(1)Montreal Canadiens
vs
(8)Boston Bruins
5 Games

Sweeping the season series 8-0, the Habs were virtually unstoppable when they played the Bruins. Led by rookie Carey Price, the Habs will be playing without leader Saku Koivu. However, a surprisingly good season by Alexei Kovalev eases the minds of Montreal fans.

(2)Pittsburgh Penguins
vs
Ottawa Senators
(7)5 Games

I don't like calling sweeps but if there was a series that was most likely to have one, it would be this one. The Senators, the fastest team in NHL history to 26 points have been dreadful since January 1st. In fact, since that time, they have the fourth worst record in the league. Without captain Daniel Alfredsson or second line center Mike Fisher, this series is going to be too much for the mediocre Senators. Expect Malkin and Crosby to have huge games.

(3)Washington Capitals
vs
(6)Philadelphia Flyers
6 Games

The only team as hot as the San Jose Sharks in the last stretch of the season was the Washington Capitals. Led by phenom Alex Ovechkin, who scored an NHL record (for left wingers) 66 goals, the Capitals managed to win the Southeast Division. Trade deadline pickups of Sergei Federov and Matt Cooke have paid off very well. On the other side, the Flyers come in after shutting out the Devils and Penguins in two consecutive games. The Flyers have been very streaky this year and I expect that trend to continue.

(4)New Jersey Devils
vs
(5)New York Rangers
7 Games

The Rangers won the season series 7-0-1 but most of those games were close. When it comes to the playoffs, no active goalie is better than Martin Brodeur. Putting those factors together, I like the Devils to shut down the Rangers offensively and play their usual defensive game. It will be up to Patrick Elias to provide the goals.

__________________________________________

How about we go a little further down the road? Here are my predictions for the rest of the playoffs:

(1) Montreal Canadiens
vs
(4) New Jersey Devils
7 Games

The Habs are good, that's an absolute, but Carey Price is a rookie and contrary to popular belief, not every rookie goalie is going to pull a Patrick Roy or Cam Ward. The Devils usually get better as the playoffs go along and they should have enough man power to take Alexei Kovalev out of the game.

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins
vs
(3) Washington Capitals
5 Games

All good stories must eventually come to an end and sadly for the Capitals, it will come against the team that has their number - the Pittsburgh Penguins. Great news for the NHL, though. A Crosby-Ovechkin matchup is exactly what they need.

__________________________

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins
vs
(4) New Jersey Devils
6 Games

The Pens are a very popular pick and the fact that I have them playing two five-game series makes me confident that they'll be well-rested by the time they play New Jersey. If Marian Hossa finally figures out how to score in the playoffs, it will be tough for the Pens to be defeated.

Eastern Conference Champ:

Pittsburgh Penguins

Next Up: The West!

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Caps Make The Playoffs // Avs Face Minny Tomorrow

The game against the Panthers tonight was almost surreal. The Capitals, a team who spent much of the first part of the season in the cellar, a team who fired their coach mid-season, a team missing its captain the entire year, beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 to win the fourth division title in franchise history and have now made the playoffs for the first time in five years.

The celebration at the end of the game felt like they had just won the Stanley Cup. The teams mobbed deadline pickup Christobel Huet and Alexander Ovechkin raised his hands, telling the jam-packed arena to make some noise.

It was a magical season for Washington, who will see the Rocket Richard and Art Ross go to Ovechkin, and possibly the Pearson and Hart as well.

Bruce Bordeau, who took over as head coach back at the halfway mark has done a sensation job with this team. He will be considered for the Jack Adams.

George McPhee, the general manager, made excellent moves at the trade deadline, acquiring Matt Cooke, Huet, and Sergei Federov, who scored the game-winner tonight.

Congratulations to Washington and their fans. You deserved it.

Avalanche Alert

The Avs will play their 82nd game against newly crowned division champs Minnesota tomorrow at 3 PM EST.

If Calgary beats Vancouver tonight, the Avs must win in order to secure the sixth seed and a matchup against the Wild in the first round.

If Calgary loses to Vancouver in regulation, the Avalanche will play the Wild in the first round regardless of tomorrow's outcome.

If the two teams end up tied, Colorado will clinch the sixth seed by virtue of wins.

I'll be surprised if Forsberg plays in this game. A little rest might do some good.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Western Conference Picture Solidified, More Teams Clinch in East

The playoff picture has become much clearer thanks to the past two nights.

In the West...

Vancouver lost last night after watching the Predators win, so the Nucks are eliminated from playoff contention. I guess they just couldn't ride Luongo down the stretch. We can all thank Colorado for taking 6/8 this season.

That means the eight playoff teams are Detroit, San Jose, Minnesota, Anaheim, Dallas, Colorado, Calgary, and Nashville. The top three teams have already clinched their divisions and if Calgary wins on Saturday, the Avs must win on Sunday to clinch the sixth seed. If the Flames lose, Colorado will play Minnesota in the first round.

In the East

Updated Standings

1. Pittsburgh - 102 Points - 1 Game Remaining (Clinches 1st seed with Win or Habs Loss)
2. Montreal - 102 Points - 1 Game Remaining (Clinches 1st seed with Win/Penguins Loss)
3. Washington - 92 Points - 1 Game Remaining (Clinches Division with Win/OTL)
4. New Jersey - 97 Points - 1 Game Remaining (Clinches homes ice with Win/OTL)
5. New York - 96 Points - 1 Game Remaining (Clinches home ice with Regulation Win)
6. Ottawa - 94 Points - 0 Games Remaining (Clinches sixth seed with Bruins/Flyers Loss)
7. Boston - 94 Points - 1 Game Remaining (Clinches sixth seed with Win/OTL)
8. Philadelphia - 93 Points - 1 Game Remaining (Clinches sixth seed with Win/Boston Loss)
____________
9. Carolina - 92 Points - 0 Games Remaining (Clinches division with Washington Regulation Loss)


A lot can still happen but what you need to know is this:

Either Carolina or Washington will miss the playoffs. The other will be the third seed. If Washington can earn one point in their finale, they will be in and the Canes will be out. If the Capitals lose in regulation, the Hurricanes will be third seed.

Everyone else has clinched a spot and is now just playing for position.

Tomorrow's Key Games

The second-to-last day of the regular season is a huge one!

Boston vs Buffalo

If Boston can grab a point, they'll take the sixth seed from Ottawa and play either Carolina or Washington in the first round. (That's a big difference from Pittsburgh and Montreal)

Montreal vs Toronto

If the Habs lose in regulation, the Penguins clinch the conference title. Whatever the Canadiens do, the Penguins have to match in order to win the conference.

Washington vs Florida

In the biggest Capitals game since the 1998 Stanley Cup, all Washington needs is a point against the team that beat the Canes tonight. The game is in Washington and the crowd is going to be wild.

Calgary vs Vancouver

If the Flames lose, the Avs clinch the sixth seed in the conference. If they win, the Avs would have to get at least a point to clinch the sixth seed.

Two more days folks!

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Updates on Tonight's Games

Washington Beats Tampa Bay

A very solid game won by the Caps 4-1 behind Ovechkin's 64th and 65th goal of the season. He has set a new record for goals scored in a season by a left winger. The Caps now are 8th in the East with 92 points. This was a very physical game. The Lightning were really going for the win but expect a fine after they sent out Lessard to start a fight with 15 seconds to go. Not classy at all.

Rangers Clinch a Spot

The Rangers shut out the Islanders 3-0 to officially clinch a playoff spot. Jagr had two goals in this one as the Rangers now set their sites on the fourth seed.

Sabres Eliminated

Buffalo was never really in this one, losing to the Habs 3-1. This ends Buffalo's chances at making the playoffs. The question now becomes, who will they lose this offseason?

Senators Clinch a Spot

It's not official but they're up 8-2 with under six minutes to go against the Maple Leafs. Vermette has a hat trick and Spezza and Heatley both have two goals apiece.

Red Wings Win Presidents Trophy

Trailing 2-1 against the Blue Jackets, the Red Wings caught a break when Columbus shot the puck over the glass from the defensive zone. The Wings scored on the power play to tie the game. Needing only a point, the Wings kept attacking and eventually scored to end it in regulation.

Nashville Tied With St. Louis

The Preds could lose control of their own destiny with a loss to the Blues tonight. It's been a hard fought game thus far. With just under 15 minutes to go, the Preds will want to at least come out with a point.

Minnesota Leads Calgary

2-1 Minnesota right now in the third period. If the Wild can trap themselves into OT, they'll clinch the division title. A Flames loss wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but it would make a Minnesota-Colorado first round matchup very likely.

Key Games Still To Come

Dallas vs Phoenix
Vancouver vs Nashville

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Eastern Conference Playoff Chase

With the Avs firmly in a playoff spot, it's time to look at the Eastern Conference race.

Current Standings

1. Pittsburgh - 102 Points (1 Game Remaining) - X
2. Montreal - 100 Points (2 Games Remaining) - X
3. Carolina - 92 Points (1 Game Remaining)
4. New Jersey - 97 Points (2 Games Remaining) - X
5. New York Rangers - 93 Points (3 Games Remaining)
6. Ottawa - 92 Points (2 Games Remaining)
7. Boston - 92 Points (2 Games Remaining)
8. Philadelphia - 91 Points (2 Games Remaining)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9. Washington - 90 Points (2 Games Remaining)
10. Buffalo - 88 Points (2 Games Remaining)
X = Clinched Playoff Spot

The big story in the East has really been the way Alex Ovechkin has put the Capitals on his back and carried them to within striking distance of a playoff spot. With a big win over Carolina, the Capitals are still in the division hunt. With a game tonight against Tampa Bay, it is very likely that the Caps will leap frog the Flyers for the eight spot and be in a tie for the 3rd spot with the Hurricanes.

The other team below that dotted line, the Sabres, are all but out of it. They'll need to win out to even have a chance to get in and then they need a lot of help. Considering their free agent losses and then the mid-season trade that sent Brian Campbell to San Jose, it's a miracle that they even got this far. Buffalo will probably be eliminated tonight against Montreal.

The Flyers, the team Washington and Buffalo are trying to catch, have been one of the streakiest teams all season. Losing as many games as ten in a row certainly didn't help a club who at one point was trying to challenge for first place in the conference. Philadelphia has two incredibly tough games to close out their season (New Jersey and Pittsburgh) and you have to figure they'll need at least three points out of those games.

The Bruins and Senators are as good as in. The Sens can clinch tonight with a win over Toronto while Boston is unlikely to be overtaken by the Flyers down the stretch.

There's an outside shot that the Rangers will overtake the Devils for fifth in the conference, but they would have to go 3-0 in their last three and hope New Jersey fails to capture 2/4 remaining points.

As I mentioned above, the Hurricanes are in grave danger of giving way to the Capitals in the Southeast Division. The Canes take on the Florida Panthers in their final game this season. The Panthers are 6-3-1 in their last 10, but the Hurricanes do have a 19-10-2 record against the Southeast Division.

The Canadiens and Penguins are in a race for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if the Habs win out, the Penguins would only need to pick up a point in their final game against the Flyers to clinch the top seed.

My Predictions

1. Pittsburgh (It's unlikely the Habs will win out and even if they do, Pittsburgh has a good chance to beat Philadelphia.)
2. Montreal (There's nobody to catch them in the Northeast Division.)
3. Carolina (The Canes can clinch with a win versus the Panthers or any Capitals regulation loss in the next two games.)
4. New Jersey (The only team that can catch them is New York and the Rangers aren't going undefeated. To be fair, the Devils won't go winless either.)
5. New York Rangers (With a game-in-hand and one more points than Ottawa, the Rangers should be able to take at least 2/4 from the Isles in a home-and-home series.)
6. Ottawa (They're going to beat Toronto which means Boston will have to take care of them in regulation on the 4th.)
7. Boston (If the Senators win tonight, Boston will have to beat them in regulation tomorrow and then beat Buffalo in the regular season finale. I can see them beating Buffalo, but not the Sens in regulation. Remember, Ottawa will just trap the whole game.)
8. Washington (They'll beat the Lightning tonight and then take care of the Panthers to end the season with 94 points and a playoff spot)
_______________________
9. Philadelphia (The inconsistency killed them and playing Martin Brodeur and Sidney Crosby is not a great way to finish a season.)
10. Buffalo (Will be elimnated tonight against Montreal.)

The 5-6-7 seeds could all change drastically. Ottawa plays Boston one more time this season while the Senators and Rangers are separated by just one point as of now. But that extra game will grealty benefit the Rangers.

If the Capitals get in, there's no doubt Alex Ovechkin is the MVP. There shouldn't be any doubt anyway, but that will clinch it.

Teams Who Can Clinch Tonight

*Pittsburgh will clinch the conference title with a Montreal Regulation Loss
*Carolina will clinch the division title with a Washington Regulation Loss
*New Jersey will clinch the 4th seed with a New York Rangers Loss
*New York Rangers will clinch a playoff spot with a Win or Washington Regulation Loss
*Ottawa will clinch a playoff spot with a Win or Washington Regulation Loss

Teams Who Can Be Elimnated Tonight

*Buffalo will be elimnated from contention with a Regulation Loss or Overtime Loss

Tonight's Key Games

New York Rangers vs New York Islanders

Rangers clinch with a win.

Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Capitals should take advantage of a weak opponent and win this game. Look for a goal and assists from AO.

Ottawa Senators vs Toronto Maple Leafs

The Senators can clinch a spot with a win.

Buffalo Sabres vs Montreal Canadiens

The Sabres are playing for their playoff lives while the Habs want that top seed.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, we'll go back to the Western Conference and take a look at where all the teams sit heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Key games tonight include Nashville-St. Louis, Calgary-Minnesota, Dallas-Phoenix, and Vancouver-Edmonton.

A big night for almost every team around the NHL! Should be a fun one.




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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Forsberg Scores, Avalanche Clinch

Capping off another (the sixth straight) victory against the Canucks was pretty "sweet", as the kids are saying these days, but clinching a playoff spot? It felt unbelievably good.

After going down 2-0 in the first, the Avs put together some of their now-famous second period magic by scoring three goals in under four minutes. Liles, Hejduk, and Wolski were the goal scorers and all did it spectacularly.

Liles goal came on the power play on assists from Hejduk and Sakic. The Avs had Luongo down on the ice and Liles put a perfect wrist shot above him.

Hejduk scored in a typical-Hejduk way, by flying into the zone, moving cross ice and firing a forehand behind the netminder.

Wolski's goal was scored when Joe Sakic shot the puck wide, and Wolski, diving to the ice, put it over Luongo's glove.

But the best part...

About five minutes into the third, Brunette fed Peter Forsberg, who moved in all alone on a breakaway and scored his first goal of the season. The goal capped off a 5-2 victory.

Forsberg played for 20 minutes and had two points. He now has 11 points in 8 games this season.

Theodore's Continued Solid Play

Theodore stopped 27 of Vancouver's 29 shots and played extremely well down the stretch, stopping a total of 22 shots in the final two periods. The Avs will not be worried about goaltending come playoff time. Look for a post this week detailing why Jose Theodore might deserve consideration for the Hart Trophy.

Foote Injured (Again)

Adam Foote can't seem to stay healthy for Colorado. He took a cut to the face in the third period and was bleeding on the ice. No word on his injury but it is very possible the Avs will save him for the playoffs.

Remember, the Avs

CLINCHED A PLAYOFF SPOT

Three Stars of the Game

1. Peter Forsberg (1 Goal, 1 Assists, a true game changer - see below)
2. Andrew Brunette (2 Assists, really playing well in offensive zone)
3. Jeff Finger (Playing well at both ends of the ice)

Next Up

The Avs play their final game of the season - Game 52 - against the Minnesota Wild. The game is on Sunday, 3 PM EST and it could be for the Northwest Division title.

On The Bubble

Since the Avs are no longer on the bubble...

Playoff Outlook

That's better. Lets take a look at the playoff outlook.

5. Dallas - 93 Points (3 Games Remaining) - X
6. COLORADO - 93 POINTS (1 Game Remaining) - X
7. Calgary - 92 Points (2 Games Remaining)
8. Nashville - 89 Points (2 Games Remaining)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9. Vancouver - 88 Points (2 Games Remaining)
Northwest Division Leader: Minnesota Wild - 95 Points (2 Games Remaining) - X
X = Clinched Playoff Berth

The Oilers were eliminated from playoff contention tonight and the Chicago Blackhawks are a Vancouver win or Nashville OT loss away from being elimnated, so it's going to come down to Nashville and Vancouver for that eight spot.

Looking at the division race, Calgary and Minnesota will play tomorrow. If Calgary wins the rest of their games (Minnesota must be in regulation), then they will win the division. If Minnesota beats Calgary, they will win the division. But if Calgary beats Minnesota and loses their last game, Colorado will have a chance to win the Northwest Division with a regulation win against the Wild on Sunday.

Complicated? Just a bit.

Tomorrow's Key Games

Not much brewing tonight. But tomorrow holds some important games in store.

Nashville vs St. Louis

The Predators came back from a 3-0 deficit to win in OT against the Blues on Tuesday and the Blues will be looking for revenge. The Preds know they hold their own destiny. Will they take advantage?

Dallas vs Phoenix

For the Avs to take the fifth seed, the Stars would have to go 0-2-1 and the Avs would have to win on Sunday, but hey, it's certainly possible.

Calgary vs Minnesota

The difference between the sixth seed (playing Minnesota/Calgary) and the seventh seed (playing San Jose) is actually pretty big so some people will say they want the Wild to win this game and keep the Flames in seventh.

Edmonton vs Vancouver

Edmonton's fantastic stretch run is over but they would love to play spoiler. A Canucks loss and Nashville OT loss would eliminate Vancouver from the playoffs.

In Tomorrow's Post

I'll look at the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Things are pretty hot out there, with several teams vying for a spot. Remember, not one matchup, in either conference, has been determined.

Video Fix

Enjoy watching the Avalanche clinch a playoff spot against the Canucks. Forsberg's goal is at the 2:50 mark.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Avs Gain Tough Point, Still In Division Hunt

In a game where the Wild could have knocked Colorado out of the Northwest Division race, the Avalanche responded to two early first period goals by getting a point in a losing effort in OT.

The Avs played a very undisciplined first period, racking up four straight penalties, including one on Joel Quenville for "abuse of referees." The Wild were able to cash in on one of these chances and took a 2-0 lead into the second.

The Avs managed to respond, first by a goal from Jeff Finger, assisted by Joe Sakic and Wojtek Wolski and then from Ruslan Salei, assisted by Finger and once again, Wolski. The Avs owned the rest of the period, outshooting the Wild 9-3.

After a scoreless third, both teams got a point in overtime before two Avalanche killers, Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik secured the extra point for the Wild.

The OT loss kept the Avs in the race and vaulted them ahead of Calgary for sixth in the conference.

Notes

Peter Forsberg was not in the lineup. After two straight three-assist games, Forsberg missed the entire overtime against Edmonton and as always, is considered "questionable" for tonight's critical game against Edmonton. Jaroslav Hlinka was dressed in his place.

Adam Foote was back in the lineup playing a team high 23 minutes. He had three shots and a -1 rating in his return.

The Avalanche can clinch a playoff spot with a win against the Canucks tonight.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Wojtek Wolski (Two assists, +2 rating, playing much better since his healthy scratches)
2. Jeff Finger (Two points, played well defensively)
3. N/A

Next Up

The Avs can clinch a playoff spot TONIGHT against the Vancouver Canucks. The game is set for 10 PM EST and will most likely be a rematch between Roberto Luongo and Jose Theodore. The Avs have beaten the Canucks five straight times in regular season action and 6-3 on March 26th.

On the Bubble

With just two games to go, this race is going to go down to the wire.

5. Dallas - 93 Points (3 Games Remaining)
6. COLORADO - 91 POINTS (2 Games Remaining)
7. Calgary - 90 Points (3 Games Remaining)
8. Vancouver - 88 Points (3 Games Remaining)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9. Nashville - 87 Points (3 Games Remaining)
10. Edmonton - 86 Points (2 Games Remaining)
11. Chicago - 84 Points (3 Games Remaining)
Northwest Division Leader: Minnesota Wild - 95 Points - 2 Games Remaining

Every team listed technically has a shot at making the playoffs. Chicago would need to win out and then hope Edmonton, Nashville, and Vancouver all suffer historical collapses. A lot may be decided tonight because of...

Tonight's Key Games

Nashville vs St. Louis

The Predators need to make sure they at least get a point in this game. If they can't get two, there is the possiblity that they would lose considerable ground due to a Vancouver win so that point will be incredibly important.

Calgary vs Edmonton

A loss virtually eliminates Edmonton from contention while Calgary risks falling three points behind Colorado with a loss.

My Predictions

Nashville vs St. Louis

The Predators have been struggling lately but they know that this is as close as you get to a must win game. Look for the Predators to take this one 5-2.

Calgary vs Edmonton

Edmonton is 6-3-1 in their last ten and they're virtually eliminated if they lose this game. I like the Oilers to win 4-3.

Video Fix


For all you Jose Theodore critics, at least he has never done this:

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