After Nine Straight Games, Colorado Needs a Change
Flashback to April 19, 2014. The Colorado Avalanche just had a dominating 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Gabriel Landeskog scored two goals in the game, Nathan MacKinnon had a highlight reel goal with three assists and it looked like the Avs were untouchable.
Fast-forward to October 11, 2014. After losing four out of last five games of that playoff series to be sent home packing, the Avs now opened up its 2014-2015 campaign with two straight shut-out losses against the same opponent, the Wild.
Not including the preseason, Colorado has now taken on the Minnesota Wild nine games in a row when adding on last season’s playoff series. What started off so well for the Avs slowly slipped into waves of heartbreaking overtime goals and frustrating defeats.
From Nino Niederreiter’s game seven, series-clinching overtime goal to exploding for four goals in the second period of opening night this year, the Wild ultimately got the better of the Avalanche.
So after nine straight games, it’s time for the Avs to say good-bye to the Wild but not before looking back on what turned into a long stretch of games for Colorado.
MacKinnon Sensational In First Playoff Series
It didn’t seem like there was much more Avalanche forward Nathan Mackinnon could do after his sensational rookie regular season. But boy, did he perform against the Wild in the playoffs. Mackinnon finished the seven-game series against the Wild with two goals scored and eight assists. One of his goals came in overtime of Game 5 to give the Avs a 3-2 series lead over the Wild and the other came during Game 2 where MacKinnon flew up the ice, sent Wild defenseman Jarod Spurgeon to his knees and fired the puck into the net.
Even after the Avs ultimately lost the series to the Wild, the Avalanche still had the bright side of the MacKinnon having a stellar first playoff performance as an 18-year-old. Looking towards the future, the Avs will be looking for more highlight reel goals like he had last April.
Matt Cooke Becomes Matt Cooke Again
He said he had changed his game but during Game 3 of the Quarterfinals, Wild forward Matt Cooke once again crossed the line. With Avs defenseman Tyson Barrie passing the puck up the ice, Matt Cooke had a choice as he skated towards Barrie. Instead of drifting away from Barrie and avoiding contact, Cooke skated towards him. As Barrie tried to avoid the collision, Cooke stuck his knee out and ended Barrie’s season.
Even though the hit resulted in a seven game suspension for Cooke, it can be seen as the turning point the lifted the Wild in the series. After the hit, the Avs were without one of their top defenseman for the remainder of the series and lost four out of the next five games against the Wild. Colorado got sent home packing and had to watch Cooke suit up for the Wild against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Semifinal round.
Wild Continually Fight Back, Win Game 7
The most devastating blow to the Avs during their nine straight games against the Wild came during Game 7 of the Quarterfinal round. The Avalanche had four leads during the game, including a 4-3 lead with three minutes remaining in regulation.
The Wild fought back with a Jared Spurgeon goal late in regulation to tie the game and then in overtime, Nino Niederreiter fired a puck top shelf on Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov to win the series.
The dream season that saw the Avs go from 29th in the league the previous year to Central Division champs the next year was suddenly over at the hands of the Wild.
New Season With The Same Results
The Avalanche and Wild opened up the 2014-2015 season with a home and home against each other. With the long playoff series between the two in the past, both teams looked to start the new season off on a good foot. The Wild succeeded, the Avalanche did not.
The Wild won their home opener over the Avs on Thursday night with a 5-0 blow out victory. Vezina Trophy finalist Semyon Varlamov was booted out of the net after 40-minutes and Zach Parise finished the game with a goal and two assists.
Then on Saturday night, the Avs were shut out again losing to the Wild 3-0. Colorado was a better team during their second game of the season but Minnesota capitalized on scoring chances while the Avs did not. Although it is only two games into the season, it brings to question if the Avalanche offense is failing to click without Paul Stastny, their longtime center who they lost to the St. Louis Blues this offseason.
Want To Get Away?
Luckily for the Avalanche, they are done with the Wild for a few months and now travel for a four-game east coast trip. Colorado impressively went 21-9-2 against the Eastern Conference last season and this year, the Avs are hoping for the same success.
But for now, the Avs say so long to Minnesota. The nine game stretch was definitely not as fun as Colorado would have liked but now it’s over. So with out any disappointment, good bye Minnesota, see you in February.