Going into tonight’s playoff opener, one thought that has been constantly running though my mind is that to advance the Avalanche must steal at least one game at the Xcel Energy Center. I use the word “steal” because the Avs are in the undesirable position of having to break down not only the Wild and their flotilla of lead-footed brawlers, but an entire state of rabid and arrogant hockey fans.
This didn’t really dawn on me until yesterday when I was explaining to my Dad (who lives in Minnesota) how Ian Laperriere was already in their heads, and this will cause the Wild to overplay the Avalanche. Especially because they will want to please the home crowd.
His response went like this:
“Mmmhmm. Okay. Sure.”
Thanks Pop. This from a man who a month ago felt that Minnesota didn’t have the defense to even make the playoffs.
Do you see what happens when you let the Wild win the Division, Colorado?
The normally defeatist State of Hockey is foaming at the mouth!
All of a sudden I’m re-living 1998 all over again. You remember 1998, the year that the Vikings went undefeated and won the Superbowl…right up until they lost to Atlanta in the NFC Championship. That season every Minnesotan I know turned into “The Most Excruciating Sports Fan on the Planet”. Seriously, they were like the zombies in “I Am Legend” only sporting Moss and Culpepper jerseys, pockets full of pull-tabs and car trunks full of Leinenkugels.
This is what the Avalanche are facing, and why I have confidence the Avalanche will win the series. For some reason, whatever reason, outside of a couple of Twins World Series titles, Minnesotans just can’t catch a break sports-wise, and are constantly miserable. I think this is because they have a way of becoming wildly overconfident in their teams.
This season’s version of the Minnesota Wild is no exception.
In classic Karl Rovian media manipulating fashion, some of the buzz this week has actually involved a now “potent” Minnesota offense. The last time I checked three people on that team do almost all of the scoring: Marian Gaborik, Brian Rolston, and Mikko Koivu…with some assistance from Pavol Demitra, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
In other words, though spectacular for periods of time the Wild just don’t play offense. It is the Jacques Lemaire way. This is a team that once upon a time actually featured Richard Park as a scorer!
If I saw anything in the last game in St. Paul it was that the Wild are more than capable of shoring up the back end, but so are the Avs. The overriding factor in the Avalanche victory was that the Avalanche is deeper on offense, even if the win came in the shootout.
Once again, the Avalanche ride in to the big show with Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, perhaps for the final time. They have plenty of help in Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth, Wojtek Wolski, a resurgent Milan Hejduk, and a host of feisty checkers. When you throw in the additions of Ruslan Salei and Adam Foote I believe the Avalanche have a team that can outlast Minnesota’s trap, if only because Peter Forsberg is now healthy and hot, Ryan Smyth lives to sit on goalies, and Adam Foote is angry.
This will be a close series. It will be tight checking. There will be times when both goalies are tested by bad bounces. But once again, the Wild just won’t have the scoring to beat an Avalanche team that ices enough talent to go far into the playoffs.
Avs in 7
Oh look! The Twins are playing again! They win stuff. Sometimes.