Will Denver ever love the Avs again?

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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.

Brace yourselves, Senators – Penguins Game 7 goes to overtime

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It’s dangerous to assume much of anything in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators seem like they’re taking turns flipping the script.

After the Senators received the only two power-play opportunities through the first two periods, Phil Kessel drew a call on Dion Phaneuf. Justin Schultz almost immediately reminded us of part of the reason why his presence had been so sorely missed, scoring an authoritative 2-1 tally.

Here’s that goal:

There seemed to be a possibility that officiating would be a huge sticking point, as some didn’t like that call and Guy Boucher was incensed when a whistle was blown when Phil Kessel was hit in the ear with a puck. Penguins haters probably felt especially irritated since the Penguins scored while Zack Werenski was down (and bloodied) during a somewhat similar exchange earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Some will bring that up, especially once we find out how this one will end, but Ryan Dzingel shifted the focus to how the Senators just won’t quit as he scored soon after that 2-1 goal to tie it 2-2, the second time Ottawa’s fought back (quickly) from a seemingly huge Penguins goal.

Watch that goal above, then hold your breath as this game goes to overtime.

You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.

Video: Marc Methot’s impressive hip check on Evgeni Malkin

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So far, the Ottawa Senators are getting their way in Game 7, as their 1-1 contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins has been a grinding, sometimes stifling affair.

This sets the stage for a dramatic finish, as the two teams are locked up by that 1-1 score heading into the third period.

With a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, everyone’s pushing hard, and sometimes that means delivering hard hits.

All things considered, you’d be hard-pressed to top Marc Methot‘s hip check on Evgeni Malkin from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint.

Hip checks are already endangered species in the NHL because it’s just so difficult to lineup in this speedier, more skillful game. But to do it in a tied Game 7, against a driven Malkin, in your own zone? That’s borderline audacious. Then again, Methot’s fighting through that gruesome finger injury (along with … maybe other things given playoff secrecy), so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

Check it out in GIF form, too:

Some Penguins fans are grumbling about that not being a penalty, and that’s a debate for the comments. Most of us can agree that it was an impressive feat either way.

You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.

Calm, then storm: Penguins, Senators trade Game 7’s goals in 20 seconds

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Here’s hoping that you didn’t take a poorly-timed break in the second period.

For much of Game 7, the Ottawa Senators have been able to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, resulting in a contest that went scoreless for what sometimes felt like ages.

Chris Kunitz changed that, long after missing on a golden opportunity shortly after Mike Sullivan decided to put him on Sidney Crosby‘s line. Kunitz finished a nice rush play to make it 1-0 9:55 into the second. Check out that goal below.

Guy Boucher didn’t have to deploy “attack mode” very long, as Mark Stone stunningly tied it up 1-1 just 20 seconds later. That surprising tally can be seen in the clip above this post’s headline.

Who’s playing for Penguins, Senators in Game 7

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We finally know the lineups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Pittsburgh’s tweaks are most interesting, which isn’t a huge surprise considering the consistent inconsistency bred by their injury issues.

The Penguins will get Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz back in the mix. Despite showing a lot of energy warming up, Patric Hornqvist isn’t good to go. Here are the full Penguins personnel notes; also realize that this is Matt Murray‘s birthday.

Ottawa places Chris Kelly back in, getting the nod over Tommy Wingels and Colin White. Kelly’s had some experience in these scenarios.

You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.