Only the Wild.
Only the Wild can out-shoot, out-muscle, out-hit, out-skate and out everything an opponent, and still need an Alamo-stand (death free) at the end of the game to hold on to a narrow win.
Admit it, you thought that this would be easy after the first five minutes, when the Wild peppered Semyon Varlamov while the Avalanche skated around like a mite team, prompting an emergency team pep talk on the Colorado bench from Patrick Roy during a TV timeout. My guess is that it was something about picking up their effort, because Adam Foote and Shjon Podein would never put up with this kind of shit.
The Avalanche never really did pick it up. Between the whistles they looked a step slow, disorganized, and a little bit frustrated. After the whistles, aside from a needless crosscheck on Mikael Granlund’s back in the second period, the Avs looked disinterested. 12 shots is telling, but their lack of heart for the fight was even more so.
Still, they had Varlamov, who was at his spectacular best once again, and when Darcy Kuemper let in a terribly soft goal just moments after Charlie Coyle’s carom (I’m convinced that he was distracted by this terrible song. Seriously, this thing is so bad I can’t link it enough), the night remained too close for comfort. For the second straight game, Wild fans had to live with the fear that despite bossing the game, their team could lose everything and be forced to the bring of elimination in one bad moment.
And of course at the end of it all, there was the torture of the Roy-strategy. Pulling his goalie with 2:45 left, and then the added bonus of Jonas Brodin’s hooking penalty. Mikael Granlund decided to cement his playoff legend, augmenting his overtime winner in game 3 with an excellent display of goaltending to end game four, once without a stick.
So we have a series, and while Wild fans are riding high after two classic victories at home, I’m here to caution against getting cocky too quickly.
Debbie Downer point #1: The Avalanche couldn’t play much worse. Don’t think for a second that this Avalanche team will be as flat as they were in game four (Varlamov excluded).
Debbie Downer point #2: The Wild still need to win on the road. So far, only the San Jose Sharks have been able to do that in the Western Conference, and while the Wild are riding high, they haven’t accomplished anything (and obviously won’t) until they can find a way to win in Colorado. A loss in this series, and the narrative will return to Minnesota’s needless capitulation in game one. The Wild will have to deal with Colorado’s own boisterous fans, the altitude, and no longer having the advantage to matchup against Nathan MacKinnon the way they did in St. Paul. Keep a close eye on the first period of game 5. It will be telling.
Debbie Downer point #3: The Matt Duchene factor. Duchene is practicing again, and though we’ve been told he won’t return in this series, you should all know by now that any information you get about injuries in the playoffs comes with a whole salt lick. Don’t you think that if the Avalanche were up against it, Patrick Roy wouldn’t run Duchene out there, if only for a morale boost? I believe that Roy would play the entire third period without a goalie if he thought it would work (he probably does).
Debbie Downer point #4: Semyon Varlamov. This man has the Wild squeezing their sticks when they are leading. What’s going to happen if the Avalanche can find a way to play from in front in the next few games?
Debbie Downer point#5: The Mayans are against us. Seriously, guys. This thing is over. As everyone (especially John Cusack) knows, everything the Mayans said comes true, and modern people do not misinterpret their traditions in any way.