We just don’t know who we are going to play yet. I asked about a month ago, who’d you rather play in the postseason? Mostly, what I’ve seen from fans is, who they’d rather avoid playing. Most fans don’t want to play the Ducks in the first round. And many would rather face the Hawks than the Blue Jackets. Of course, most want the Division crown and home ice advantage in the first round.
Me, I don’t care. Just bring ‘em on. It is said that winning the Stanley cup is the most difficult trophy to obtain in all of sports. Pretty hard to dispute that. You need 16 wins through four rounds against the best teams in the league. The emotion will run high and the physical damage will be profound. It doesn’t matter who you draw, it will be a tough series.
We match up well against all three teams we will potentially face. We’ve had success against all three. And all those teams have undergone adversity at some point during the 82 game campaign. So have we. And each of us have weathered that adversity and have arguably come out stronger. Much stronger.
The Ducks are hot and beat us last game. We were hot and beat the Hawks last game. That’s the ebb and flow of the NHL regular season. But come playoff time all that gets thrown out the window. Fatigue won’t matter. Motivation won’t matter. Both teams in any given series will be running on pure adrenaline and testosterone.
Predictions for the first round? Well, I’ll say this again: the prediction game is for suckers. Don’t believe a thing folks. The only sure thing is that there will be upsets. There always is. And if there are no upsets…well, that would be the biggest upset of all.
But there is usually a dark horse or two that emerges. Based on an equal mixture of inspiration and hot goaltending, someone from the lower seed will kick the ass of a higher seed…right out of the tournament. That’s about the only thing I’m willing to forecast.
My last prediction was a couple of months ago when we pooped the crib in a two game road trip to southern Cal. I said at that time that our hope for a division crown died during that road trip. Shows you what I know. What I had said as well, however, was that Calgary had gone for pretty much two years without injuries to key players and that they really hadn’t undergone any real adversity. That’s particularly true for this season. The Flames just glided through until about a month ago.
Well, the Calgary injuries, coupled with their hot scoring suddenly drying up, came shortly after the trade deadline. What I wondered at the time was, how easy will it be to integrate those changes in a team that was the most successful in the Northwest division?
Well, we have our answer. Calgary is a shell of its former self and their own fans are predicting four and out in the first round. Our fans are the opposite. We see our guys playing well and we are collectively hoping for the Division crown and a deep playoff run.
But lets make no mistake: we have not won anything. We need to play our best and I mean our absolute best and then build off of each shift and each game. From there we’ll just have to see what happens.
I’d love to see a nine-nothing win today…but I’ll take anything that gets us a point. And in this final regular season game we come out at super sonic speed against the Avalanche. It’s like the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals. We outshoot them eight zip in the first couple of minutes. The danger here is that we don’t score. Keeping up this kind of pressure is not reasonable and the moment we start to slow it down is when Colorado can suddenly strike. And there are still some goal scorers on this team.
But the good news is that we are playing sound defensively as opposed to high risk hockey. You’ve all seen that too many times and we’ve all been burned too many times. The message needs to be, keep the foot on their neck and don’t panic.
And in the second period, there was no sign of panic. But one couldn’t say we kept our foot on their neck. The Avs started pressing back, although Luongo was not called on to make any acrobatic saves he just looked unbeatable. As a matter of fact, his biggest test came off the stick of Alex Edler. The Canucks started to run into their first penalty problems with five minutes left. We easily killed of the one to Matty Ohlund and even the Sundin penalty saw the Avs getting only two shots on net. But those penalties bracketed a brief full strength shift where Edler tried to clear the puck on his back hand and he fired it high-stickside on Lou. Fortunately, big Lou has the cat like response and we stay tied through two periods.
When we have a goose egg on the board going into the third, I often think, well if Lou stops them, we win. But this game is not that simple. First off, there’s two goose eggs (geese eggs???) and that produces a different gestalt. And given that the Conference title is on the line, the pressure starts to build as the game winds down. And pressure can cause mistakes.
But the boys are playing an intelligent road game today. Realizing that we are not going to have the nine-nothing blow out that we all hoped for, the boys have settled into a responsible, patient game.
The strategy seems perfect and pays off. The only minor blip occurs with less than two minutes to go when the Wellwood-Bernier- Raymond line gets caught deep and the Avs break out on a rare three on two. But the hockey gods are smiling today as Guites stick breaks…for no apparent reason! The shut out is in…and we are the Champions of the Northwest Division. And for those really paying attention…and to those fans thinking that we have had a mediocre team…that’s three conference championships in the last five years.
So the only thing to be decided upon is whether we get to the 100 point mark. And 40 seconds in, Henrik Sedin answers with another clutch goal. We win! It may not have been the most entertaining game, but it was a big DOUBLE U.
And like I said at the beginning. We are ready. Bring ‘em on.