Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Minnesota vs. Colorado: What We Should Expect

Minnesota and Colorado have been division rivals since Minnesota has come into the league in 2000, so I guess you could say that these two teams are familiar with each other.

Up until the last couple of seasons, Minnesota has never really had any superstars on their roster, unlike the usual star studded Avalanche of the late 90's and early 2000's. However, the Avalanche recently have been struggling to find success and even had finished 29th in the league out of 30 teams last season.

This year looked as if it was going to be a rebuilding season for Colorado after the firing of head coach Joe Sacco. Before the draft last year, the Avalanche would announce that Patrick Roy would be named their head coach, leaving many scratching their heads wondering how the Avs would fare in this situation. Lets just say a worst to first turn around leaves Roy as a front runner for this year's Jack Adams trophy.

As for the Minnesota Wild, Mike Yeo has this team in a position for a possible playoff run. The main question mark will be in goal. Can Ilya Bryzgalov play like the goalie of 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks? Or will the Bryz, who struggled in the playoffs with the Flyers, show up. If the ladder of the two is to happen, Minnesota's playoff life will be ending earlier then the fans, and the team would like.

Colorado would go 4-0-1 against Minnesota this season, and shocked the league on their extreme turn around with the big youth movement in Colorado. However, a big part of this would be the outstanding play of goalie Semyon Varlamov, who would break Patrick Roy's franchise wins record with 41 wins this season. Also another big weapon for the Avs, besides Duchene, Landeskog, and Stastny, you have to watch out for likely Calder winner Nathan MacKinnon. With his speed, he likes to lead the rush to the outside and also has a very potent snap shot, much like UND fans saw in Danny Kristo's four years at UND. Colorado has three solid lines of scoring who can burn you at anytime you make a mistake. It is no fluke that this team won the Central Division.

Looking back at the two teams head to head playoff history, the teams have met twice in the playoffs. the first time was in the 2002-2003 season, also happens to be the last time that Colorado won their division and Minnesota winning a playoff series, and the second was in the 2007-2008 season when Minnesota would win their first and only division crown.

The most recent series in 2007-2008, the two teams would battle hard in a very tough six game series where Colorado would come out on top, but later lose out of the playoffs. This would be the first season that Minnesota would reach the playoffs in consecutive years, having reached the previous season, but losing to the eventual cup champion Anaheim Ducks in five games.

Now the most memorable series in 2003. Minnesota, just in their third season in franchise history, would make their first ever playoffs, and would be slated a huge underdog against the star studded Avalanche lead by the likes of Sakic, Forsberg, and Roy. Minnesota came out in game one on a mission, making a statement by winning game one. The Avs would have none of it and would rattle off three straight wins to put the Wild on the verge of elimination. Going into game five, nobody counted the Wild as a threat to Colorado anymore and was already preparing for the Avs to move on to round number two. However, Minnesota would be victorious in game five and have one more chance at home to keep their playoff series alive.

The next two games will probably be the most historic games in Minnesota Wild history. On the verge of elimination, the two teams would experience overtime in game six. The Xcel Energy Center was loud, and the fans were on the edge of their seats wondering who was going to play hero. Richard Park would gain the puck at the offensive blue line skate up the right wing and fire, what looked to be a harmless snap shot, at Roy and would beat him to send the Wild back to Colorado for game seven. This would be the first home NHL playoff win in Minnesota since the North Stars did in the early 90's.

Now on to game seven. Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy was virtually unbeatable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when it came to game sevens, and was unbeaten when it game to game sevens that went into overtime. This game would again end up in overtime, making everyone think that this game was in the bag for Colorado because of Roy in net. This, however, was not the case. Andrew Brunette would get a pass from a teammate, take the puck into the offensive zone, have the presence of mind to go to his backhand and bury the puck in the back of the net, ending the career of Patrick Roy, in his first ever game seven overtime loss.

As for this series, will we see a series like this, or will we see one like in 2008? Honestly I think it will be a high flying series where if the games become more about offense, Minnesota has no chance to advance to the second round. However, if we have one goal, low scoring contests, this could very well go seven games.

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