Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche - Game Seven

And then there were 9: Avs eliminated

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For more entries in this series, click here.

The Colorado Avalanche are likely suffering from a crushing feeling after dropping Game 7 to the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in overtime on Wednesday. Depending upon whom you ask, they might feel a lot like the Dallas Stars did when their season ended with a painful loss; blowing a lead in an elimination game hurts, yet many feel like the future is exceedingly bright for the Avalanche.

  • Change was in the air in a wide variety of ways for the Avalanche … and it seems like those changes came up in Colorado’s favor in just about every way.
  • Patrick Roy’s first season as an NHL head coach was a smash success. The Avs went from cellar dwellers to the second-best team in the West and won the brutal Central Division under his tutelage. There was rarely a dull moment, either, whether he was clashing with Bruce Boudreau or inspiring other head coaches (including Boudreau) to empty their nets early in desperate playoff situations. It’s no surprise to see that he’s in the running for the Jack Adams Award.
  • New executive Joe Sakic seemed to press all the right buttons. Hiring Roy was maybe more obvious, but he made the tough choice of drafting Nathan MacKinnon first overall over fantastic choices such as Seth Jones. The Nashville Predators defenseman looks promising, but MacKinnon looks primed to run away with the Calder Trophy and capped that fantastic regular season with playoff performances that left the likes of Jeremy Roenick highly impressed.
  • The future is bright beyond MacKinnon’s obvious presence: they have other budding stars under 23 including including Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly.
  • They do need to make decisions about re-signing the likes of O’Reilly and Paul Stastny, but Semyon Varlamov looks primed to be their franchise goalie after a turbulent season. Varlamov put together a Vezina-caliber campaign even as legal issues cropped up (and then charges were dropped).

Things won’t be easy for the Avalanche. Many believe that the team got a lot of lucky bounces and rode a goaltending run that Varlamov will struggle to match in 2014-15. Then again, if Sakic and Roy continue to push the right buttons while this team’s enviable group of young stars continues to improve, this could easily just be a tough learning experience for a future NHL power.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.