Does playoff hockey come with a warning label for those with heart conditions? After a Game Three overtime loss (the Minnesota Wild’s Mikael Granlund slipped one past the Avs’ goalie), we’re wondering if fans should consult their doctor to see if they’re healthy enough for a Stanley Cup run.
The first two playoff games were full of highs (Paul Stastny’s game-tying goal and overtime winner and point-hoarder Nathan MacKinnon’s play), but Monday’s game had plenty of lows, including the knee-to-knee hit that sidelined defenseman Tyson Barrie at the hands of now suspended Wild agitator Matt Cooke. The Avalanche were lost in the offensive end and didn’t challenge young Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who was starting his first game of the series. The drama was enough to give me—and the crowd watching the game on the Pepsi Center’s massive screen—fits of panic.
The next morning, I decided to take a deep breath and do a little research on how much—or little—I should be freaking out.
There’s good news: Historically, when a team captures the first two game of a series, like the Avs have done, they win the series 87 percent of the time. Whew.
The Avs now hold a 2-1 lead, but need to regroup tonight, especially after the loss of Barrie. Head coach Patrick Roy has shown the ability to adjust throughout the season in order to improve his team’s chances by changing their defensive schemes and mixing up the lines. Plus, the loss was the first road playoff game for over half of the team’s roster. With a game under their belt, 18-year-old Mackinnon and 21-year-old Gabe Landeskog now know what to expect from a hostile playoff crowd.
Even if Minnesota evens the series with a win in Game 4 tonight, the Avalanche still have two of the final three games at home. The Avalanche’s biggest concern is the lack of production from key players (a notable exception is the Stastny-MacKinnon-Landeskog line). With Matt Duchene still out with a knee injury, the Avs have only one other playmaking forward, Ryan O’Reilly. The defense, which was key to the Avalanche’s regular season success, has not yet scored a goal in the series and is now playing without the offensive-minded Barrie. The Avalanche have also managed just one power play goal, and that came when the Minnesota Wild pulled their goaltender.
Before I start panicking again, there is this to consider: The Wild have plenty of concerns, too. Rookie Kuemper has yet to prove himself in net. The Wild clawed their way back into the series by playing a physical game, but lost their most physical player, Matt Cooke, to suspension. They also went five periods without getting a puck past the Avalanche’s goaltender.
With Roy’s guidance, the Avs are not likely to panic. The team is fully committed to their motto, Why Not Us? That attitude can propel them to Round 2. Stay tuned; I know I will.
—Photo Courtesy of Emily Applebee