Tyson Barrie, Semyon Varlamov

Avs clinch first playoff berth since 2010 by beating Sharks


The Colorado Avalanche clinched their first playoff berth since 2010 on Saturday, and did so by winning in a way that seems very familiar: by riding Semyon Varlamov’s great goaltending.

In the process, they delighted many fans while also emboldening critics who believe that they’re running off of luck. Varlamov stopped 47 out of 49 shots as Colorado squeezed by the San Jose Sharks by a score of 3-2 today.

Varlamov’s counterpart Alex Stalock only faced 22 shots, but allowed those three goals.

The Avalanche are already talking about ticket sales and are rolling out a “Why Not Us?” campaign:

With this loss, the Sharks have now dropped four of their last five games, making it seem that much more likely that they’ll finish second in the Pacific Division this season. As of this writing, they have one more point than Anaheim (103 to 102), yet the Ducks have three games in hand and tiebreaker advantages.

In other words, the Avalanche seem primed for a first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks (with home-ice advantage still on the line) while the Sharks are likely to be the second-ranked Pacific team against a robust third-ranked squad in the Los Angeles Kings.

(Again, note the word “likely” as strange things can certainly happen in sports.)

Colorado currently has a one-point lead over Chicago and hold a game in hand. It should be interesting to watch, but the Avalanche know they’ll make their second playoff run in six seasons after today’s win.

Now they just need to hope that Matt Duchene’s issue isn’t major.

Tough start: Lehner knocked out of Sabres debut, won’t return

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner
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Chances are Robin Lehner won’t look back fondly on his first game as a Sabre.

Midway through Buffalo’s season-opener against Ottawa, Lehner — facing his old team for the first time since getting traded this summer — suffered a lower-body injury, and was forced from the contest.

During the second intermission, the Sabres ruled out Lehner for the night.

It was a difficult turn of events for 24-year-old, who admitted he was keen to go up against the Sens. He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his time in the Canadian capital; Lehner felt he never got a full opportunity to run with the No. 1 gig, and probably wasn’t thrilled GM Bryan Murray opted to keep Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond instead of him.

As for tonight’s injury, details are scarce. All that’s known is the ailment was serious enough for Lehner to leave and not return, forcing backup Chad Johnson into duty.

Prior to getting hurt, Lehner had stopped 11 of 12 shots faced.


‘Canes lose Wisniewski (lower body) 47 seconds into debut

Phil Kessel, James Wisniewski
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James Wisniewski‘s time as a Carolina Hurricane is off to a troubling start.

Wisniewski, acquired by the ‘Canes at this year’s draft, exited Thursday’s season-opener against Nashville early in the first period with a lower-body injury.

Shortly thereafter, the team ruled out his return.

Wisniewski, 31, was expected to play a fairly significant role on Carolina’s defense this year.

It’s unclear what the injury is or how severe it might be, but initial reports don’t sound good; Wisniewski appeared to be in significant pain and had to be helped off the ice.