TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 17: Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche skates with the puck past a checking Matt Frattin #39 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game on October 17, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Avalanche defeated the Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Will Denver ever love the Avs again?

13 Comments

A quick visit to the Denver Post’s website and it’s clear what the Colorado Avalanche is up against. There, above a huge picture of a football player that’s done nothing in the NFL, sits the headline: “An insider’s take on Tim Tebow.”

Tucked underneath the giant image is the story about the Avalanche’s 3-2 OT win over the Maple Leafs last night in Toronto. The win was Colorado’s fifth straight road victory. The Avs (5-1-0) are the only team in the NHL with 10 points. First place in the league. Prior to the start of the season, many had them pegged for last. Pretty remarkable, even if it’s still early.

To be fair, Tebow is big news across the country, not just in Denver. The former Heisman winner will start at quarterback for the Broncos on Sunday in Miami. Suffice to say Tebow will be the only reason to watch that game. Well, that and gambling. The point is, the Broncos are terrible. (Thus, the Tebow start.)

It’s a tough time to be a sports fan in Denver. It’s not just the Broncos. The Rockies were bad. The University of Colorado football team stinks. The Nuggets were decent, but now they’re locked out.

So, is now the time for the Avs to get back into the city’s spotlight?

It’s been a while since the NHL got much attention in Denver. Remember the Avs’ famous sellout streak (487 games) that began in the first year of their existence after the franchise moved from Quebec City in 1995? Yeah, that streak ended five years ago. Colorado finished 24th in league attendance in 2010-11, drawing just 14,820 per game in the 18,007-seat Pepsi Center.

If you’d like to watch the Avs host the Oilers next Friday, you can get four tickets, four family meals and four Pepsis, all for $99.

Yep, Colorado is one of those markets now.

It’s not like the Avs are the Blue Jackets or the Panthers either. Columbus has made the playoffs once in franchise history. Florida hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2000. You’d excuse those markets for their apathy. But Colorado? The Avs have won two Stanley Cups since 1996 and missed the playoffs just three times. Only twice have they finished the regular season with a losing record.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s exactly why the fans have stayed away in recent years. They got spoiled. Joe Sakic. Peter Forsberg. Patrick Roy. Rob Blake. Ray Bourque. Claude Lemieux. All played and won Cups in Colorado. All are Hall of Famers. Those are some tough shoes to fill.

The 2011-12 Avs will eventually come back down to earth. (Just ask Halford.) They might make the playoffs like they managed two years ago, but they’re still a long ways from contending for the Cup again.

Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see if Denver sports fans take notice of the young, exciting hockey team that’s playing for cheap at the Pepsi Center. Because once Tebow proves once and for all he’s not an NFL quarterback, that hockey team will be all they’ve got.

Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.

Report: Blues will bring back Hitchcock with one-year deal

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.

Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:

When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.

Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.

That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.

While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.

If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.

Crosby, Rust and Sheary lead Penguins’ early charge

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Evgeni Malkin #71 after scoring a first period goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Getty
6 Comments

Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.

It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.

Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.

Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.

First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.

There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

Leave a comment

Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.