Good evening from Denver, where I am AGAIN!
I’m going to go out on a limb and call Wednesday’s playoff game a must-win.
Do or die. Win or go home. And any other sports cliché you can think of.
Game 7, oh the drama. This has been a sensational series between the Wild and Colorado Avalanche and finally, one more victory for either team, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks await in the second round.
I’m hearing the series could start Friday night followed by a Sunday afternoon game, so expect a quick turnaround if the Wild is victorious.
Today, down at the Pepsi Center, the Wild had an optional practice. About 15 or 16 guys got on the ice and the rest worked out off of it.
The Avs and the Wild are making their first Game 7 appearances since the Wild beat the Avs in the 2003 first round on Andrew Brunette’s OT winner. That was the 13th and final Game 7 (and game) of Patrick Roy’s goaltending career. Roy’s 13 Game 7s as a player is tied with Scott Stevens for the most ever.
Wednesday night, Roy and Mike Yeo will make their Game 7 debuts. Yeo has coached three Game 7s as a Pittsburgh Penguins assistant (2-1). In the 2009 second round, the Penguins beat Semyon Varlamov, then of the Washington Capitals. In the Stanley Cup Finals against Detroit, Max Talbot, also now with Colorado, scored two goals and the winner in Game 7 for the Cup champion Penguins.
Yeo was also 2-0 as the Houston Aeros’ coach in Game 7s. He also won a Turner Cup in a Game 7 playing in the now-defunct International Hockey League.
“The first thing is just making sure you really embrace the situation,” Yeo said. “What I want is similar to what I feel is going on in Minnesota right now. There’s a lot of excitement building. You could feel it in the rink, you could see it with our fans, you could hear it in the building, just around the city. It’s a good feeling and we want to keep this going. But we also recognize that there’s a tough challenge ahead. You can’t get caught looking ahead, you can’t get caught thinking about what happens if you win this game because we know for us there’s a way we have to go about it. We have to make sure we’re prepared and ready for that.”
Not a lot of Wild players have played in Game 7s. Zach Parise has played in two and Jason Pominville, Dany Heatley and Cody McCormick one each (I’m not including the scratched players; Matt Cooke and Mike Rupp have combined for 13). In fact, only Parise, Pominville, Heatley and Ryan Suter have played past the first round. But as Parise said last night, Parise and Suter didn’t sign in Minnesota to play first-round games.
“You have to experience it, and that’s good,” Yeo said. “We’ve got a lot of young players, we’ve got a lot of guys who we’re trying to develop and grow. We want to have years of success, not a year of success. So get that experience, to go through these things is an important time for our organization. We faced a Game 7 last game, too. That’s one thing for our players to draw upon. You could see there were parts of our game where it was affecting us and you could see there were other parts of the game where our players really rose to the challenge. That third period in particular for me was pretty impressive from our group the way things had gone in the game to come out and dictate and to come out and really play that third period with authority. We would like to see the same thing tomorrow.”
The Avs have been a one-trick pony at home. The top line has killed Minnesota, especially Nathan MacKinnon, who is tied with Parise for tops in the NHL scoring race with 10 points. All 10 points have come in three home games. The third and fourth lines for Colorado don’t have a single point at even-strength.
But Matt Duchene returned in Monday’s 6 loss and will play on the second line Wednesday.
“We have to look at a couple things there for sure,” Yeo said of what Duchene does to the Avs’ power play. “I think that they did a good job spreading us out a little bit, I think that they did a good job creating a little more zone time. Certainly this is a very skilled player and every time he gets the puck in a situation like that, we’re going to be up for a challenge. It’s going to be a good test. And no question that in a Game 7 in a situation like tomorrow, if we can play a very disciplined game, the fewer penalties you can take in a situation like that, obviously you’re giving yourself a much better chance.”
The Wild got some great efforts Monday besides the obvious – Parise. For instance, Nino Niederreiter played his best game in a long time and he said today that it was important for all players to give a little more and be at their best in such a must-win. He says the same thing goes for Wednesday.
Yeo on Nino: “I saw him take his game to another level. It’s a guy like that that we need to play big and we need a guy like that to play big in tomorrow’s game. Kind of the way that they defend in situations and defend in defensive zone coverage, a guy like that, the way that he’s able to move, the way that he’s able to control the puck and tight turns and hang on to it gives us the chance to spend more time in the offensive zone and open up some guys. I thought I saw a lot more of that in his game. I thought I saw him play a physical game, too, just finishing checks and being hard on the forecheck. We’ll be looking for a lot of the same tomorrow.”
Last year, the Wild won a must-win game during Game 48 of the shortened season to face Chicago in the first round. Now, a must-win game in Game 89 to face Chicago in the second round.
“It’s the most meaningful games you’ll ever play,” goalie Darcy Kuemper said. “To be part of it is a lot of fun. You could feel the desperation and intensity on the ice [in Game 6].”
Talk to you after the morning skates, and I’ll be on KARE-11 at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.
Here’s a couple good lines today:
Parise on his 4-pt game: "It’s never about one person. We do it together and we have to do it again tomorrow night together." #mnwild— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) April 29, 2014
CAREER GAME 7 PLAYER, GOALTENDER AND COACHING STATISTICS
Colorado GP W-L G A Pts.
John Mitchell 2 2-0 0 0 0
Cory Sarich 3 2-1 0 0 0
Maxime Talbot 4 2-2 2 0 2
Alex Tanguay 8 4-4 3 4 7
GP Mins W-L GAA SO Sv%
S. Varlamov 3 140 1-2 2.99 0 .857
J.S. Giguere 1 60 0-1 3.00 0 .880
Date Score Dec. Shots
4/28/10 MTL 2 at WSH 1 Loss 16
5/13/09 PIT 6 at WSH 2 Loss 18
4/28/09 NYR 1 at WSH 2 Win 15
Date Score Dec. Shots
6/9/03 ANA 0 at N.J. 3 Loss 25
Colorado Head Coach
Patrick Roy (---)
Minnesota GP W-L G A Pts.
Keith Ballard 1 1-0 0 0 0
Matt Cooke 7 3-4 2 0 2
Dany Heatley 1 1-0 0 0 0
Cody McCormick 1 0-1 0 0 0
Zach Parise 2 1-1 0 1 1
Jason Pominville 1 0-1 0 0 0
Mike Rupp 6 3-3 1 2 3
GP Mins W-L GAA SO Sv%
Ilya Bryzgalov 2 120 1-1 3.01 1 .917
Date Score Dec. Shots
4/27/10 DET 6 at PHX 1 Loss 50
5/3/06 ANA 3 at CGY 0 Win 22
Minnesota Head Coach
Mike Yeo (---)
COLORADO, MINNESOTA RECORDS IN GAME 7
Colorado Avalanche* (6-6)
4/22/03, Western Conference QF vs. Minnesota (MIN 3 at COL 2, OT)
5/31/02, Western Conference Final vs. Detroit (COL 0 at DET 7)
5/15/02, Western Conference SF vs. San Jose (S.J. 0 at COL 1)
4/29/02, Western Conference QF vs. Los Angeles (L.A. 0 at COL 4)
6/9/01, Stanley Cup Final (N.J. 1 at COL 3)
5/9/01, Western Conference SF vs. Los Angeles (L.A. 1 at COL 5)
5/27/00, Western Conference Final vs. Dallas (COL 2 at DAL 3)
6/4/99, Western Conference Final vs. Dallas (COL 1 at DAL 4)
5/4/98, Western Conference QF vs. Edmonton (EDM 4 at COL 0)
5/2/87, Adams Division Final vs. Montreal (QUE 3 at MTL 5)
5/2/85, Adams Division Final vs. Montreal (QUE 3 at MTL 2, OT)
4/25/82, Adams Division Final vs. Boston (QUE 2 at BOS 1)
* franchise moved from Quebec to Colorado in 1995-96
Minnesota Wild (2-0)
5/8/03, Western Conference SF vs. Vancouver (MIN 4 at VAN 2)
4/22/03, Western Conference QF vs. Colorado (MIN 3 at COL 2, OT)