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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.
Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”
The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.
Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.
It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.
Could there be more?
There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.
Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.
He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).
Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.
As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.
Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.
Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.
The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.
It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).
But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.
Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:
Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.
Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.
The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.
Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.
There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.
Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.