The story of the 2007-2008 Colorado Avalanche is one of trials, tribulations and, ultimately, hard-won success. Injuries are one plot line, but just as intriguing is how this team went from a finesse team with one enforcer (Scott Parker) and a single mucker (Ian Laperreire) to a physical team that can play down low and cycle the puck against almost any defense in the league. Chalk that miraculous transformation up to the additions of farm call-ups like Jeff Finger, David Jones and Cody McCloud and trade deadline acquisitions like Ruslan Salei and Adam Foote. Even Peter Forseberg is playing the kind of tough, physical hockey (full of sneaky pokes, prods and slashes) that aggravates opponents and gets them to commit 111 minutes worth of penalties on 26 infractions in a single blow-out game.
And it is that added physical dimension that has these Avalanche looking so good against a team that won the division and the regular season series. I cannot recall how I envisioned this series working out before it started, but with four games in the books the Avs do not look like they will lose another one. Games Two and Three were lost predominantly by virtue of tired play on the part of Colorado’s top lines come the third period and overtime. I assure you that Joel Quenneville will not let that happen again, as he rotated the bottom two lines in as often as the top two even before last night’s game was out of reach. Those third and fourth lines match up better defensively against the Wild anyway, and have had more than their share of scoring chances and goals in this series. The Colorado Avalanche are playing inspired, team hockey from the top of the roster to the bottom, and Jose Theodore has been quick, confident, and consistent in goal. The Marathon continues…
4/17 @ Minnesota Wild
Oh my, how the Wild are going to come at us in the first period of this game. Like rabid, rampaging wolverines they will be. Look for the Avs to start out with solid defense and work towards transition play and breakaways. Minnesota is an emotional team, and they could very well give up some big-time early scoring chances via over-pursuit and aggressive checking. The Avalanche must take advantage of the opportunities they can get in this game. So far the goalies have been (mostly) spectacular, so I am leaning towards a low-scoring game. But the floodgates could open at any time for either team… oh screw it, let’s call it a 3-2 Avs win.
4/19 vs. Minnesota Wild
The Quest returns to Denver for Game Six, and the Avalanche suddenly look like a team that could beat anybody. Echoes of the 1996 Cup Playoffs hang in the air, and the Detroit Red Wings are reminded of a six games series taken by the upstart Colorado Avalanche in that year’s Western Conference Finals. Nicklas Lindstrom can be seen nervously pacing empty hallways and mumbling, “Avalanche in six… Avalanche in six…” And so too will this series between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild end in six games with a 5-3 Avalanche victory.