Cleat Geeks

Duelly Noted: Are the Blues Ready for 2018?

The St. Louis Blues are a team that has something to prove after narrowly missing the playoffs in the 2017-2018 season. After such a dismal outcome, Blues fans were pining for a big change of some kind but fan expectations for that change were low. This off-season, Blues GM Doug Armstrong has pulled off some huge moves that can make the Blues dangerous going into the 2018-19 run.

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It all started with some moves that made it seem like the Blues were content with what they had but wanted to fill some holes. The Blues wanted a center and they found one in Tyler Bozak. He now has a deal with the Blues for 3 years at $1.5 million He got 11 goals with 32 assists in 2017 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After a draft that did not lead to much big news for the Blues this signing garnered something of a mixed reaction from fans as Bozak was not the big signing or trade they hoped for. They assumed the Blues would be done after signing Bozak and the small move of re-acquiring David Perron following his run as a Stanley Cup Finalist for the Vegas Image result for Ryan O' Reilly bluesGolden Knights but the best was yet to come.

The Blues most shocking move this off-season was trading for Ryan O’ Reilly in exchange for Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson and a first round draft pick. Ryan O’ Reilly had a great year with the Sabres last season with 24 goals and 37 assists. O’ Reilly coming to the Blues made the hockey world sit up and take notice because nobody saw it coming. If Ryan O’ Reilly can manage to put up similar or better numbers this season, he can help make the Blues a really tough team to beat.

The last big move the Blues have made is acquiring left winger Pat Maroon. Maroon has a $1.75 million dollar contract for one year. The Pat Maroon signing is an extra special one for the Blues because Maroon is originally from St. Louis and he gets to play close to his family. In the 2017-2018 season, he had 17 goals and 26 assists with the Edmonton Oilers.

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After years of either missing the playoffs outright or making early exits, Doug Armstrong took  what appeared to be a dull off-season at first into a fun and interesting one for the Blues and their fans. It does come with the price of Carter Hutton leaving the Blues for the Sabres but on paper, the positives outweigh the negatives. All the Blues have to do is be ready to execute come October.

Winged Wheel Watch: NHL draft round-up

As their rebuild continues, the Detroit Red Wings are hot off of ten selections in the 2018 NHL entry draft. And, by all accounts, general manager Ken Holland and company made the most of them, putting together a very solid draft.

Here’s what you need to know about the selections made by the Red Wings.

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Photo by; Freep.com

Filip Zadina, RW/LW (round 1, 6th overall)

Age: 18

Height/weight: 6’0″/196 lbs

Shoots: Left

Amid heavy speculation that they’d select a defenseman, the Red Wings were presented an unexpected opportunity as Czech winger Filip Zadina, a projected top three pick, fell squarely into their laps.

Widely considered one of the best offensive prospects available in this year’s draft, Zadina impressed in the QMJHL last season with the Halifax Mooseheads, scoring 82 points (44 goals, 38 assists) and recording a +23 +/- rating in 57 games. Zadina’s accurate release on his shot, per EliteProspects.com’s Curtis Joe, is a defining aspect of his offensive game. Joe also notes that, in addition to his scoring and playmaking abilities, Zadina is a strong two-way player, arguably the strongest in the draft, who’s adept at breaking up the passing lanes and creating issues in the defensive zone.

The Red Wings have long needed an elite offensive player, and Filip Zadina fits the bill.

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Photo by; MIHockey

Joseph Veleno, C (round 1, 30th overall)

Age: 18

Height/weight: 6’1″/192 lbs

Shoots: Left

Another pick that fell squarely into their laps, Veleno was projected as a mid-first round pick by most outlets. But there he was for the taking at 30th overall.

Once considered a generational talent, Veleno became the fifth player in the history of the Canadian hockey system to be granted exceptional player status. Though he hasn’t lived up to that label, there is still a lot to like. Across 64 games with Saint Johns and Drummondville of the QMJHL, Veleno recorded 79 points (22 goals, 57 assists). EliteProspects notes Veleno’s speed and his ability to make plays while going at top capacity are among his most desirable assets. They also note his vision of the ice, as well as a refined defensive game that makes him a viable two-way threat.

He’s not as exciting as Zadina, but Veleno holds the potential to slot in well with a future generation of Red Wings centers led by Dylan Larkin and last year’s ninth overall pick Michael Rasmussen.

Other PicksImage result for jonatan berggren

The Red Wings continued with an offensive trend with their first selection of the second round, using their #33 pick on 17-year-old Swedish winger Jonatan Berggren, a player described by Draft Europe as agile, able to control the puck well, and make Image result for jared mcisaacthreading passes.

The Red Wings took their first defenseman in the second round, as they selected Jared McIsaac three picks later at #36. A teammate of Zadina’s in Halifax, McIsaac is a good skater that is primarily an offensive blue liner with a left-handed shot, more than worthy of his position in the draft.

The Red Wings further shored up their blue line as they snagged Alec Regula, a big (6’4″, 205 lbs), 17-year-old, right-handed shooting defenseman, as a sleeper pick at #67. A local product from West Bloomfield, Michigan, Regula is described by Future Considerations as being mobile for his size, with a penchant for making safe decisions in his handling of the puck. He, along with McIsaac, bolsters a crop of young blue liners waiting for their chance at the NHL level.

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The Red Wings further added depth at defense by taking right-handed blue liner Seth Barton (#81), as well as goaltending depth with Swedish prospects Jesper Eliasson (#84) and Victor Brattstrom (#160). They also added a power forward in Ryan O’Reilly (#98).

Overall

It’s hard not to like what Holland and company did with this draft, particularly their first couple of rounds. With some potentially elite offensive talent, as well as appealing defensive pickups, his next chapter is off to about as strong of a start as one could hope for.

However, the task becomes more daunting as free agency looms on the horizon, with key restricted free agents such as Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi, headlining the list.

What did you think of the Red Wings’ draft this year? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Cancer Survivor, NHL Referee, & Now PGA Golfer

From the rink to the links, Garrett Rank is trading his skates for golf spikes next weekend.
Rank, a survivor of testicular cancer and full-time NHL referee who officiated three postseason and 73 regular-season games this year, qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock after tying for first at a regional qualifying tournament.

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Photo by; Sports Illustrated

“I’m just really proud of all the hard work and the dedication and time you put into the game. There will be a lot of really proud people back in Elmira (Canada),” said Rank, 30, who was the runner-up in the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “I just can’t thank people at home enough. My dad passed away a few years ago, and he’d be really jazzed to be there.”

With fellow NHL referee Daniel O’Rourke on the bag, Rank shot back-to-back 71s, finishing at two-under par at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course. Rank’s card featured two eagles in his first eight holes, guiding him to share medalist honors with Michael Hebert.

“We liked how he carried himself as a referee,” NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom told Bob McKenzie of TSN in 2015, as Rank prepared to make the jump to hockey’s top league. “Some guys are naturally inclined to be refs and Garrett seems to have that quality. You can see he’s accustomed to pressure, how he’s handled it as a golfer. I don’t think missing a hooking call in a hockey game can be as difficult as coming back from missing a three-foot putt in golf for a championship. There’s a real laid-back confidence to Garrett.”

Like many Canadian kids, Rank grew up playing hockey, reaching the Junior B level. Encouraged by his referee father Rich, he received his certification as an official as a teenager in order to earn spending money while he pursued his twin passions — hockey and golf.

Garrett’s talent on the links became apparent early enough to earn him a scholarship to the University of Waterloo. He won back-to-back Ontario University Athletics individual golf titles in 2010 and 2011 and was named Waterloo’s athlete of the year in 2012.

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While he was at university, he continued refereeing. He also joined the varsity hockey team as a walk-on but stopped playing after spending several months recovering from testicular cancer in 2011.

“I thought I had the world in my hands,” he said in 2012. “I was doing well academically and athletically.”

Doctors caught the tumor early and were able to remove it surgically. “I didn’t have to have too many treatments,” Rank added. “I was dead on my back for six to eight weeks.”

Within a few months, he was back to playing golf.

In 2012, he made Golf Canada’s national team and was runner-up at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship — as well as refereeing 50 major junior games in the Ontario Hockey League and a handful of additional lower-level junior games.

After three seasons as an OHL official, Rank was hired into the NHL’s minor league program. He worked his first NHL game at age 27 on January 15, 2015, and finished with three NHL assignments in the 2014-15 season. That grew to 31 games in 2015-16 before he was promoted to full-time status during the summer of 2016.

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As he climbed the officiating ranks, Rank also continued to impress with his golf game. He won the Canadian Mid-Amateur championship twice, represented Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games and played three RBC Canadian Opens. In 2016, he holed an eagle putt on 18 to open with a first-round 69, went on to make the cut and finished in a tie for 77th place.

Golf and hockey have long gone hand in hand. Superstars like Mario Lemieux are known for their prowess on the links and former players Dan Quinn and Grant Fuhr both have profile pages on the PGA website. These days, Wayne Gretzky watches and advises his daughter’s partner and the father of her two children, Dustin Johnson.

As well as possessing the physiological traits that make hockey players good golfers, Rank’s approach to officiating may also help him process high-stress moments on the links. We will soon find out as the 108th U.S. Open takes place from June 14-17 at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Shinnecock Hills, New York as he will be in the field. He has truly gone from the Rink to the Links and beat cancer in the process.

The Burgundy Breakdown (Central Semifinals Game 6)

Welcome to the latest Stanley Cup Playoff edition of The Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps Game 6 of the Colorado Avalanche’s series against the Nashville Predators.

The Avs stayed alive thanks to Andrew Hammond’s stellar goaltending and late goals by Gabriel Landeskog and Sven Andrighetto in Game 5. They were looking to continue the momentum at home in Game 6, but the Avs got off on the wrong foot in the first period. In the first frame, Mattias Ekholm and Austin Watson both scored for the Preds, giving them a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. It became 3-0 when Filip Forsberg scored yet another unassisted goal within the first minute of the second period. Later on, Nick Bonino, who scored the Preds’ controversial lone goal in Game 5 and assisted on the first period goals, netted one in the second, making it 4-0 and giving Bonino a three-point game. 4-0 was the lead after 40, and Viktor Arvidsson’s goal in the third made it 5-0, which stood as the final score.

So with that loss, the Avalanche were eliminated, and Nashville advanced to the Central Division Final against the Winnipeg Jets. For the Avs, though, this was a spectacular turnaround for the team. Going from 48 points last season to 95 and a playoff spot this season has to be one of the biggest turnarounds in NHL history. It drew comparisons to MLB’s Minnesota Twins, who lost 100 games in 2016 and reached the postseason in 2017. Even in a series loss, the Avalanche defied odds, as many had them being swept by the defending Western Conference Champions and the current holders of the Presidents’ Trophy. However, the Avalanche didn’t make things easy for Nashville. They scored 15 goals in the six games played. They scored first in three of the six games played. They won Game 5 after being behind in the final five minutes of regulation; the first time any team won a playoff game in such a situation since the Chicago Blackhawks did so in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2013.

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Photo by; Sports Beast

Regarding personal stats, Nathan MacKinnon’s six points (3 G & 3 A) in the series gives him 16 career playoff points (5 G & 11 A). Gabriel Landeskog scored four of the team’s 15 goals in the series, including two on the power play, and Mikko Rantanen had four helpers, but no goals as of yet. This writer believes that Rantanen will have plenty of chances to score his first career playoff goal, as the Avalanche could become a perennial playoff team once again.

And that is the Burgundy Breakdown! It was a fun and terrific season; here’s to 2018-19!

The Burgundy Breakdown (Central Semifinals Game 5)

Welcome to the latest Stanley Cup Playoff edition of The Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps Game 5 of the Colorado Avalanche’s series against the Nashville Predators.

The Avalanche looked to even their Central Division Semifinal series at home, but despite a third period comeback, the Avs came up short in Game 4 and only picked up a split, leaving the team facing elimination on the road. Colorado looked to Andrew Hammond to keep the team alive, and he was spectacular in the first period of Game 5 in Nashville. Nineteen shots were recorded, with 11 of them belonging to the Preds, but Hammond shut the door and the first 20 minutes ended scoreless. The second period saw more chances from both teams and close calls from end to end. Hammond continued to stay strong in the face of pressure, including a golden chance by defenseman Roman Josi, but even after 40 minutes, it was still scoreless. The entire series had at least one goal in the previous 12 periods; the first two of Game 5 were the first to not have any goals.

All of the action happened in the second half of the third period, beginning with a highly controversial goal scored by Nick Bonino. Despite the video replay showing a clear distinct kicking motion, the officials reversed their original “no goal” call and awarded the goal to Bonino, putting the Avalanche down 1-0. The pressure was now clearly on the Avs, as that goal further put them on the brink of elimination. However, the Avalanche would take over the final five minutes of regulation, beginning with captain Gabriel Landeskog tying the game after a clever move by Nathan MacKinnon to fake out Pekka Rinne. With time winding down, it looked like overtime was on the horizon, but a two-on-one breakaway resulted in JT Compher’s shot being stopped, but Sven Andrighetto got the puck and put it past Rinne, giving the Avalanche a 2-1 lead with 88 seconds left. The Predators pulled Rinne on the face-off, but their attempts to tie the game late were all stopped by Hammond, resulting in the Avalanche holding on and winning 2-1.

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Photo by; SportSpyder

Regarding the past four games, I have had an answer regarding what went right or wrong for the Avalanche, but as for Game 5, I honestly have to say that it was just one of those games. No goals in the first two periods, followed by Nashville scoring a controversial goal, and with time winding down on the Avalanche’s season, Colorado came back with two quick goals. I can say this, though: Andrew Hammond saved the Avalanche in Game 5, racking up 44 saves in Colorado’s victory. Landeskog’s goal was his fourth of the playoffs, while MacKinnon recorded his 16th career playoff point with the assist. Andrighetto’s goal was his first career playoff goal, and his first career playoff GWG. Now the Avalanche have earned a trip back to Denver, and an opportunity to put the Predators’ backs to the proverbial wall.

Game 6 is Sunday night in Denver.

The Burgundy Breakdown; Central Semifinals Game 4

Welcome to the latest Stanley Cup Playoff edition of The Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps Game 4 of the Colorado Avalanche’s series against the Nashville Predators.

The Avs were looking to even things up in the Central Division Semifinals, but they are off to a bad start early. The team committed back-to-back penalties within the first two minutes, giving Nashville a lengthy two man advantage, but the Avalanche managed to kill the penalty. However, the Preds did manage to score first for the first time in the series, as Filip Forsberg made another one of his signature moves to put one past Jonathan Bernier, and that was how the first period ended, with the Avalanche down 1-0. It got worse for the Avs in the 2nd, as Colton Sissons made it 2-0, and not only did a Colorado power play fall flat, but Craig Smith left the penalty box and shot one past Bernier, making it 3-0.

3-0 was the score after two, and the Avs began the third shorthanded. The penalty was killed, and back-to-back Nashville penalties actually gave Colorado a 2-minute 5-on-3, which they capitalized on when Gabriel Landeskog ended Pekka Rinne’s shutout bid. Less than six minutes later, Alexander Kerfoot made it 3-2, leaving Colorado with plenty of time to tie it up and force OT. However, even with the extra attacker, the Avs couldn’t get that game tying goal, and when the horn sounded, the 3-2 score held up in Nashville’s favor.

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Photo by; The Denver Post

An additional note, the third period started with Andrew Hammond in net for Bernier, who left the game due to an injury, and it was announced that Hammond will start in net for Colorado in Game 5. This, for the most part, was not a well played game for the Avalanche. An argument could be made that PK Subban got away with interference on the play that preceded Forsberg’s goal, but even with that, Colorado’s play paled in comparison to the first three games. The power play has been an Achilles’ heel for the Avs in this series, as their only two goals were scored by Landeskog, and both of them came via the two-man advantage. Nathan MacKinnon was shut out completely for the first time in this series, with his only good chance hitting the crossbar in the second period.

Game 5 takes place Friday in Nashville.

The Burgundy Breakdown (Central Semifinals Game 3)

Welcome to the latest Stanley Cup Playoff edition of The Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps Game 3 of the Colorado Avalanche’s series against the Nashville Predators.

Down 2-0 in the Central Division Semifinals, the Avalanche were looking to get back on track on home ice, where they won 28 of their 43 games this season. The Avs got off to a quick start, with Blake Comeau scoring his second goal of the playoffs within the first two minutes of the game. Later on, Gabriel Bourque deflected Patrik Nemeth’s shot, sending it past Pekka Rinne and giving the Avalanche a 2-0 lead; their first two goal lead of the series. After a power play ended with no results, the lead became 3-0, when Nathan MacKinnon broke away after receiving Gabriel Landeskog’s pass, scoring past Rinne in the final minutes of the period. The Avalanche ended the first 20 minutes shorthanded, but they maintained a 3-0 lead.Image result for nathan mackinnon 2018

The Avs killed the rest of the penalty to kick off the second period, and it was in the period that MacKinnon netted his second goal of the game and his fifth career playoff goal to make it 4-0, as well as send Pekka Rinne to the bench. Bernier’s shutout bid ended with Ryan Johansen’s power play goal in the middle of the second frame, but the Avs led 4-1 after two. Colton Sissions made it a two goal game in the third, but Gabriel Landeskog’s awarded goal in the final minutes iced things for Colorado. Landeskog’s unselfish attempt to pass the puck to MacKinnon to get him the hat trick in the empty net led to him being tripped, and by rule, a penalty during a breakaway to the open net results in an awarded goal. Austin Watson scored very late in the third, but Nashville could do no more, and in the end, the Avalanche took Game 3 by a score of 5-3.

The Avalanche played with the same intensity that they had in the first two games, but the one difference was their lack of mental mistakes. The mental mistakes were made by Nashville in Game 3, and that led to Colorado’s golden opportunities. Nathan MacKinnon has three goals in three games this postseason; he had two in the entire seven-game series against the Wild in 2014. For the Avs, this victory ended a 12-game losing streak against the Nashville Predators; their last victory came on March 28, 2016 in Nashville. More importantly, it brought the Avalanche back in the series, and they have a golden chance to even things up and earn at least one more home game.

Game Four takes place Wednesday in Denver.

The Burgundy Breakdown (Central Semifinals Game 2)

Welcome to the latest Stanley Cup Playoff edition of The Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps Game Two of the Colorado Avalanche’s series against the Nashville Predators.

The Avs were looking to rebound after their 5-2 loss in Game One on Thursday. Saturday’s game was one of two early games that took place, and like Game One, the Avalanche scored on their first shot. This time, it was Gabriel Bourque, a former Predator, who shot and scored past Rinne, with the assists coming from JT Compher and Colin Wilson. Nashville ended the first period on the power play, but the first 20 minutes also ended with the Avalanche up 1-0. However, Kevin Fiala scored just 61 seconds into the second period, and with three seconds left on Nashville’s power play, tying the score. Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen followed with breakaway goals later in the period, but Nathan MacKinnon’s third career playoff goal cut Colorado’s deficit in half.

In a chaotic third period, Austin Watson scored while the Avs were avoiding being caught with too many men, giving Nashville their two goal lead back. Back-to-back Predator penalties gave the Avalanche a two man advantage, and on the 5-on-3, MacKinnon’s shot bounced off captain Gabriel Landeskog and went past Rinne, making it 4-3. The remainder of the power play time was killed off, and the Avalanche later pulled Jonathan Bernier for the extra attacker. Nashville’s clearing attempt saw the puck bounce off the wall and in front of the net, and it was Ryan Hartman who beat the Avalanche to the punch and put it in the empty net. Alexander Kerfoot kept things alive for Colorado with his first career playoff goal with 35.8 seconds left, but the Avs’ inability to get the puck out of their own zone sealed the team’s fate, handing them a 5-4 loss.

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Photo by; NHL.com

In all, the Avalanche played better in Game Two than they did in Game One, including a strong third period. In two games, the Avs have scored six goals on Pekka Rinne, but their 2-0 hole is mainly due to mental mistakes, mainly giving up breakaways and committing too many penalties. The team’s depth is showing, as it’s not just the main players providing offense. Nathan MacKinnon has three points already, while Nikita Zadorov, Gabriel Landeskog, and Tyson Barrie have two points each. If the Avalanche continue this offense onslaught on home ice, where they’ve won 28 games, and keep the mental mistakes to a minimum, this could be a real series.

Game Three takes place Monday evening in Denver.

The Burgundy Breakdown (Central Semifinals Game 1)

Welcome to the first Stanley Cup Playoff edition of The Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps Game One of the Colorado Avalanche’s series against the Nashville Predators.

It was on Saturday that the Colorado Avalanche locked in the last remaining spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it would put them in a match-up against the defending Western Conference Champions, the Nashville Predators. Thursday’s Game One of the Central Division Semifinals marked the Avalanche’s first playoff game since April 30, 2014, and it started slow for the Avs at first, but it was late in the first half of the period that Nikita Zadorov opened the scoring with a shot past Pekka Rinne. The Avs drew back-to-back penalties on Nashville, leading to a brief 5-on-3 opportunity for Colorado. Though the power plays were unsuccessful, the Avalanche ended the first 20 minutes with a 1-0 lead.

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The last ten seconds of Colorado’s second PP were killed in the beginning of the second period, and it was minutes later that Austin Watson tied things up for the Predators. Less than two minutes later, Blake Comeau tipped Carl Soderberg’s shot past Rinne to give the Avalanche their lead back, but it would be short lived, as Craig Smith tied it up just 10 seconds into their first power play opportunity, and that’s where it stood after 2 periods. The third period was all Predators, mainly Filip Forsberg, who gave Nashville the lead and then added a second goal after going from end to end. Colton Sissons scored an empty-netter in the final minute, and the game ended with the Avalanche losing Game One by a score of 5-2.

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Despite the three-goal loss, the Avalanche played well for the first two periods, but it was the most important one–the third–that was their downfall. For the Avs, they have now lost three straight playoff games dating back to Games Six and Seven against the Wild in 2014. Nathan MacKinnon picked up an assist on Zadorov’s goal, giving him his 11th career playoff point. Zadorov’s goal was his first career playoff goal, while Comeau’s tip in gave him his second playoff goal of his career.

Game Two takes place Saturday afternoon in Nashville.

The Burgundy Breakdown

Welcome to the Burgundy Breakdown, which recaps the latest week of action featuring the Colorado Avalanche!

The Avalanche ended the previous week with an OT loss in Anaheim, but the one point they picked up moved the team past the Blues in the playoff race. After a Blues regulation loss this past Monday at home against Washington, the Avs had a chance to move further ahead later that evening, but they fell to the Los Angeles Kings in regulation, 3-1. The Avs were off for two days, but the Blues were in action on Wednesday; facing the Blackhawks in St. Louis’ home finale. The Blues led 3-1 in that game, but the Blackhawks came back and tied it, and with 8.5 seconds left, Duncan Keith scored on the power play to hand the Blues a 4-3 loss that kept the Avalanche one point ahead.

Despite this, the Avs again failed to move further away from St. Louis, as Thursday’s game in San Jose saw the team fall to the Sharks by a score of 4-2. One of Colorado’s two goals was a power play goal from Mikko Rantanen, which is a small feather in the team’s cap, as San Jose has the top penalty kill in the league, but the loss not only left the Avs with just one point in the three game California road trip, it would mean that the team would have to beat St. Louis in order to clinch the remaining playoff spot in the Western Conference. St. Louis’ 4-1 win in Chicago on Friday meant that in order to get in, the Avalanche had to win in regulation.

The do-or-die head-to-head match-up took place on Saturday in Denver. The scenario was simple. Regulation win for Colorado puts them in, going to OT means elimination for the Avs. Samuel Girard kicked off the scoring for Colorado in the final minute of the opening period, and in the second, Barrie scored on the power play to make it 2-0. Jaden Schwartz picked up a power play goal of his own later in the period, but Nathan MacKinnon would score his 39th goal of the season to give the Avs their two-goal lead back. The third period saw back and forth action from both teams, with the Avalanche having odd man rushes on more than one occasion. With just over four minutes left in regulation, goaltender Jake Allen was pulled, but Jonathan Bernier continued to stop the Blues’ onslaught. Gabriel Landeskog finally took possession, and fired a shot all the way to the empty net, prompting a massive celebration as the playoffs were literally on the horizon.

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Photo by; NHL.com

The Avalanche went on to defeat the Blues, 5-2, to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the Avs, this was a huge turnaround; going from the worst record in the NHL last year, to the playoffs this year. The Avalanche improved by 47 points, nearly doubling their point total from last season (48 last year, 95 this year), and one of many factors behind the resurgence was Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon fell one goal short of 40 for the season, and nearly had a 100-point season, and his effort puts him in the conversation for the Hart Trophy. The only thing literally keeping Jared Bednar from getting the Adams Trophy this year is what Gerard Gallant has done with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. This is the Avalanche’s first playoff appearance since the 2013-14 season.

An amazing regular season is in the books for the Avalanche, and so is the last Burgundy Breakdown of the regular season. The Avalanche will face the Nashville Predators in the Central Division Semifinals, a team the Avs failed to defeat this season (0-3-1). Game One will take place Thursday in Nashville, and I will post single game recaps! Until then!

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