A new rivalry was born today. If the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues are to meet in the playoffs this year, there will most certainly be fireworks. David Backes is a name that will be added to the list of players that will not be welcomed nicely at the Pepsi Center, joining the likes of Todd Bertuzzi and even Rob Blake late in his career.
Backes did not take kindly to a hit laid on him by Nathan MacKinnon, and proceeded to follow and hound him into the corner. Backes and MacKinnon got tangled up in the corner, where Backes proceeded to drop his gloves and started throwing punches at the rookie, who has never been in a fight in his NHL career.
Colorado Avalanche faithful held their collective breath as MacKinnon got up from the beating and went straight to the dressing room. The Calder Trophy candidate appeared injured from this non-hockey play. He did return before the next puck dropped, and went to the penalty box to serve his two minute roughing penalty.
The fireworks began on a hit that was clean or dirty, depending on who is asked. Patrick Bordeleau lined up Kevin Shattenkirk for a big hit on the glass. Bordeleau, listed at 6-foot-6, finished his check on Shattenkirk, who’s 5-foot-11. On the hit, Shattenkirk’s stick got tangled up and ended up hitting him in the mouth, causing a good amount of bleeding. Avs fans will say the hit was clean, just a matter of Bordeleau being seven inches taller than Shattenkirk and bad stick placement. Blues fans will argue that Bordeleau went in with his elbows high, targeting Shattenkirk’s head.
Regardless of which position is taken, that hit is what spurred the anger that played out the remaining 10 minutes of the game.
Brandon Morrow went after Avalanche player John Mitchell after a play was over and cross-checked him in the face, earning him a game misconduct and giving the Avalanche a 5 minute power-play with about 9 minutes remaining in the game. After that mix-up came the Backes and MacKinnon drama. Still following that was a full line-brawl, involving many of the grinders on both squads, including Patrick Bordeleau from the Avalanche and Steve Ott from the Blues.
One thing that this Avalanche team has not had yet, until this point, was a true rival. Throughout the years, the one team that every Avs fan has a definitive negative view towards has been the Detroit Red Wings, stemming back to the days when Patrick Roy was between the pipes for Colorado. However, with Detroit moving to the Eastern Conference, it was time for the Avs to find a new team to consider its true rival. It also helps that they were placed into a new division this year, away from teams they had been with in the past like Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Now, the blood begins to boil every time a match-up with the Avs and Blues is on the horizon.
OTHER AVALANCHE FACTS AFTER THIS GAME TODAY:
- The Avalanche are now the only team in the NHL that can claim to have defeated every other team in the league this year at least once. St. Louis had previously been 3-0 against the Avs this season, and were the lone remaining team the Avs had not beaten.
- The Avs have now reached 50 wins this season, only the second time that this has occurred, with the last coming in the 2000-2001 season, where Patrick Roy helped lead his team to be Stanley Cup champions from his place between the pipes.
- Semyon Varlamov tied Patrick Roy’s franchise record for wins in a season, 40, with the win today. Roy had previously joked about maybe playing his backups more late in the season to preserve his record, but then conceded that records were made to be broken. Varlamov is scheduled to be in the net for the Avs game on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Colorado sits in 2nd place in the Central Division with a 3 point lead on the Chicago Blackhawks, and still have one more game remaining on the season than the Blackhawks do. Colorado is 5 points behind the Blues for the lead in the Central Division. All three teams are in action on Sunday, with the Avs playing the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Blues playing the Blackhawks. After those games have finished, the Central Division race may very well look much different.
- Nathan MacKinnon continues to impress in his rookie season. MacKinnon scored a goal and an assist in the game against the Blues, raising his season totals to 24 goals (3rd on the team, leading all rookies) and 36 assists (also 3rd on the team). He leads all rookies in points, goals, assists, power-play goals, and shots. He is tied for the lead in game-winning goals, and is third in plus/minus.