Friday, April 23, 2010

Sweet, Sweet Sanity

Dear Coach Sacco,

After observing yesterday's bloodbath in San Jose I've decided to do what I can to help the Avalanche defeat the Sharks. No, I'm not offering up my services as a goaltender, the Avs are doing fine in that area. Besides, I would end up allowing 15 goals and would probably blow out my back and start swinging my stick at any Sharks player within ten feet of the parking lot.

Instead I've come up with a list of things that you can do to give the Avalanche the edge they need to defeat the #1 seed.

1. Use speed. No, I don't mean utilizing the speed of the Avalanche forwards. I mean literally give them speed. Trucker speed, and lots of it. They look tired. Some people may frown upon the use of illegal substances by NHL players, but if the report that recently came out in Sports Illustrated is true, the Capitals are full of something, and it isn't "spirit."

2. Use sugar. I know what you are thinking here, "if I give sugar to Duchene and O'Reilly they'll be bouncing off the walls like they're back in romper room." I don't mean using sugar like that. I think you should consider putting it in the gas tanks of every San Jose player so that they have trouble making it to the games. Your first target should be the Trans AM that I imagine Joe Pavelski owning. Don't worry about putting any in Joe Thornton's tank. He hasn't made it to any games yet.

3. Hire Bob Probert. I'm sure Bob isn't up to anything anyways, and he would be a nice counter to The Human Rectangle, Doug Murray. Just give him a cue ball in a sock, and let him roam free. He could also provide you with the "speed" I mentioned in suggestion #1. Wink-wink.

4. Fix the refs. This should be seriously considered. The Sharks have been given over twice as many power plays by the officials so far and it is obvious San Jose sent a little grease in their direction. Find out what they paid and outbid them. I'm sick of watching the Avalanche go on the penalty kill in the first minute of every game.

5. Summon the Dark Lord. I realize you are probably a God fearing man, but if Satan is anything like the axe wielding Satan in Guitar Hero then he at very least will rock out the locker room and provide some entertainment. The boys don't appear to be having any fun anymore. They have burned up all the "house money" they have been playing with, and kind of look like they want to go home. Even Craig Anderson is frustrated, and he's more easy going than a stoned Beach Boy.

6. Bikini girls.

7. Stop allowing San Jose to walk into your zone. Okay this is nuts. NUTS! But just listen for a minute. I'm not sure if you are trying to run the trap or not. After watching Craig Anderson get pelted this season I'm not sure if sure if you are running any sort of defensive system at all. But what I do know is that your team has nothing to lose, and it might behoove them to prevent San Jose from crossing the blue line untouched. I know. It's crazy, but give it a try. Also, tell the guys to shoot the puck at the net, and not at the corners, or the boards, or the glass, or the fans. In the last three days Dan Boyle has put more shots in on Evgeni Nabokov than the Avalanche have.

That's all I have for now. Please seriously consider my suggestions.

I swear I'm not crazy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Untouchables

Going into yesterday's game against San Jose I was apprehensive. The Avalanche had the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Sharks, but in the back of my mind I had my doubts.

San Jose had controlled the previous game only to lose on what amounted to a lucky tip by Ryan O'Reilly, while Craig Anderson was superhuman in stopping all 51 shots he faced. Being an Avalanche fan it was easy to get into the mindset that all the team had to do was squeak out another one at home and the rest of the series would be gravy. That Anderson would be there come hell or high water, and all the boys needed to do was get another couple of bounces.

Credit goes to San Jose for not folding after Dan Boyle's gaffe in game three. The Sharks could have wilted and gone home with the series in peril, perhaps accepting the excuse that destiny wasn't on their side. Yet like the seasoned professionals they are, San Jose came out stout and determined. When Boyle scored in the opening minutes to absolve himself of all fault in the previous game, it seemed as though the rout was on. But that is when something changed, or for that matter didn't change.

The Avalanche held the fort.

Throughout this season every media pundit from coast to coast kept predicting the Avalanche's demise. Every expert had them pegged at last or next to last in the Western Conference, and that analysis made sense. The Avalanche were rebuilding. It was going to take time to return to glory. At one point I actually became frustrated when the team failed to underperform. I wanted them to stink so that they could land another lottery pick. Taylor Hall would have looked great in an Avalanche uniform.

Maybe parity can be credited for this season's rise of the Avalanche. The salary cap has spread talent around the league and there are no real powerhouses any more. Washington is strong and deep, and Pittsburgh and the Blackhawks are right there with them. But after that there are a number of teams which can, on any given night, upset any other team if the effort is there. Parity may enable a team to rebuild and even rise to the level of contender more quickly, but for a team to truly excel its personnel must work hard. There is something pure in that notion.

San Jose is a team full of stars, and should win. Yet it is because of their hard work that the Avalanche are even in this series, much less have the ability to take and hold a lead, and potentially win. This team, come victory or defeat, has managed to impress and amaze entirely because of their work ethic.

After the Sharks victory, the series now shifts back to San Jose tied 2-2. In the glory days of the Avalanche this was cause for concern. These days it should be cause for celebration. The series is back to even and the Avalanche have shown that they will not be defeated easily, with the pressure still resting squarely on the shoulders of the Sharks.

Avalanche fans should keep in mind that this is a team which is still growing and developing, and anything that happens in these playoffs is going to be a positive experience. There will be many more years of success, and we should enjoy the ride while it lasts. Should they beat the Sharks then they will have earned it. If they should fall their efforts will not go unrecognized.

For a team with nothing to lose, the Avalanche can do nothing but win.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Goalie

I almost felt sorry for them.


They have been through so much over the years. So many times in the playoffs. So much defeat and humiliation, but none greater than this.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Not this year. This year was the year. The year that everyone had to take them seriously. The year the Sharks finally got their names on the Cup.

Then it happened.

The mistake.

They had peppered him, the goalie. Shooting from every angle again and again. His team was being overrun! His team of kids; of children!

It isn't their time yet. They know it. Everybody knows it!

51 shots on goal. Fifty-one! All but the last one coming in regulation.

Greater goalies have wilted under less pressure, but not he. Not on this day.

Today he is the greatest goalie on the planet. Today he is being mentioned with the best. With Roy. With Hasek. With Dreyden and Brodeur. With Sawchuk, and Plante, and Hall, and Tretiak.

This guy? This team? Now?!

Now nobody will take the Sharks seriously. Nobody will fear them. They are the team that not only lost to a group of inexperienced kids, but lost in the worst way possible.

An own goal. How terrible it must feel.

They will try to climb back. They will try to take control. They will hit, and grind, and shoot, but this one will gnaw at them. It will tear them apart from the inside. They ultimately lost not because of what they did to themselves.

They lost because of him.

The goalie.

Craig Anderson.