They worked all season for the advantage of having home ice for any potential Game 7′s, and they got what they wanted. Then, unlike how they did all season, the Colorado Avalanche failed to execute.
Colorado will bow out of the NHL playoffs this season prematurely, especially after they burst onto the scene in the first two games. Nathan MacKinnon lit the hockey world on fire in the first two games of the series, only to be shut down by Ryan Suter and company from Minnesota for most of the rest of the series. Paul Stastny ended the first round of the playoff s with the most goals of any player, 5, yet the Avalanche failed to move on to the second round of the playoffs.
At the end of the day, I have to congratulate the Minnesota Wild on their performance in this series. They definitely outperformed Colorado for most of this series. If I were to pick out a point of transition from where Colorado was in control of the series to where Minnesota took control, I would have to look into Game 3 and I know where I am pointing: Matt Cooke’s hit.
This hit didn’t change the series just for the basic reason that it took Tyson Barrie
out of the series, for it also took Matt Cooke out of the series, and he had played a very physical and aggressive first 3 games until that point which led to many Minnesota chances. However, from that point forward the Avalanche were unable to attain the amount of pressure that their offense thrives on from their defensive core.
In the regular season, Colorado’s defensemen scored 48 goals and accumulated 125 assists. Barrie alone was responsible for 13 of those goals, most among the defensemen, and 25 assists, 2nd most behind Eric Johnson. In this playoff series, Colorado’s defensemen were only able to muster 24 points total, 4 goals and 20 assists. And although only 2 of those assists belonged to Barrie, his absence was obvious on Colorado’s power play and in his ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone. Those tasks fell into the lap of Nick Holden, who did play well, scoring 3 goals and adding an assist as well to lead all Avs defensemen in the series, but he is no Tyson Barrie.
From that point on, Colorado’s defensemen were not as aggressive jumping up into the play. They tried more long, stretch passes through the final four games of the series, which led to them icing the puck a lot more which meant more and more in-zone face-offs against tired forward lines. Barrie became the Avs go-to guy for breakouts, and when he was gone, the Avs had a hard time getting out of their own zone with possession of the puck.
Plain and simple, this team failed to produce down the stretch. Part of that can be attributed to the Minnesota Wild having a solid game plan, which they did, as they adapted to the fast-paced Avs scoring line of Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog. After the first two games, Minnesota upped the physical play against this line specifically and, wouldn’t you know it, it knocked them off their game. However, when that happens, there are supposed to be other players on the team that step up to take the pressure off the top scorers. The Avs didn’t have that other line in this series. The 2nd line with Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn and PA Parenteau didn’t do much for the first 5 games of the series, and when Matt Duchene returned for Games 6 and 7, he did provide a little help, but not as much as was needed.
Hats off to Minnesota, though. They played a heck of a series and executed their game plans to perfection. They were also the only team in this series to be able to go on the road and win. And as Ryan O’Reilly pointed out in his post-game press conference after Game 7, that’s something that a team has to do in order to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.