No Duchene. No MacKinnon. Avalanche entered a pivotal division match-up vs the Minnesota Wild Saturday afternoon almost having one hand tied behind their back without their two star centers. Avs had eight games remaining and trailed the Wild by three points in the Wild Card Standings. Unfortunately for Colorado, this was one of the biggest games of the season they decided not to show up for.
Expectations of a physical, playoff hockey game ripped through the crowd as puck drop came shortly after 1pm. The Avs clearly wanted to make a statement with their physicality early in the game, out-hitting the Wild 20-6 in the first period. Avalanche were more aggressive than the visiting Wild and out shooting them as well 11-8. The best opportunity came on a 2-on-1 where John Mitchell had a clear shot at the net but goalie Devan Dubnyk gloved it out of mid-air for the save. After one period of hockey, the score remained 0-0.
The second period saw the first scores of the game when a bad pass at the Avalanche blue line gave way to a easy goal for Zach Parise at 11:27 followed by a Jordan Schroeder redirect in front of Varlawmov to give the Wild a 2-0 lead after two periods. Avalanche lost all of their momentum and mojo from the first period where they skated to send a message. The second period might have literally been the polar opposite for the Avs. “After they scored that first goal, we just didn’t play as well,” said Coach Roy following the game. “We weren’t as focused or sharp. We had something good going on and when they scored that one our game went a different direction.”
The Wild out-hit, out-shot and out-scored the Avalanche and with their season on the line, Colorado seemed to turtle in front of their home crowd.
The 3rd period got underway with power play opportunities for both teams. The difference? The Wild capitalized on their chances and the Avalanche looked mostly lost during theirs. Zach Parise rifled a shot by Varlawmov with 14:51 remaining to give the Wild a 3-0 lead. The Wild added an empty-net goal at 7:32 from Granlund to make it 4-0. At that point, it was a gamble by Roy to see if the Avs could get some kind of momentum with a 6-on-4 power play. It didn’t pan out with a turnover in the neutral zone and Granlund was able to put the final nail in the Avalanche coffin for this game and possibly for the season.
Overall, it was a very poor performance from a team that desperately needed this game. The Avalanche still have a game in hand on the Wild but trail them by five points for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Following the game, Coach Roy wasn’t about to “raise the white flag” on this season. “When you think about where we were in November we never quit, why should be we quit today? We have a game in hand, let’s just play our games.”
Avalanche have dug themselves a deep hole as they embark on a two game road trip starting on Monday vs the Predators. With seven games remaining on the season, hopefully a more desperate team shows up on the ice at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Monday Night.
TOP PHOTO CREDIT: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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