The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild put forth a spectacular show tonight. In a game that featured big controversies, shows of perseverance, major injuries, and stunning clutch goals, the Wild managed to eliminate the Avalanche with a 5-4 victory in overtime.
There were so many players worthy of mention in this game, but there’s no question that 21-year-old Wild forward Nino Niederreiter was the hero tonight. He had two goals and an assist, including the game-winning goal in overtime. That’s quite an accomplishment for a player that wasn’t able to establish himself with the team that originally drafted him, the New York Islanders, and was given a chance at a fresh start this season with Minnesota.
Speaking of redemption, 33-year-old forward Dany Heatley has seen his production steeply decline in recent years, to the point where he started this series in the press box. He came up big tonight with a goal and two assists.
Mikko Koivu also found the back of the net for the first time in this series while Charlie Coyle inspired the Wild by returning to the game after being struck in the face by the puck.
The news wasn’t all good for Minnesota though. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has previously dealt with concussion problems, was hit in the head midway through the third period and left the contest. Ilya Bryzgalov replaced him and, after losing the first two games of this series, was credited as the Game 7 winner.
This has to be a bittersweet end for the Avalanche. There’s no question that they wanted to do better, especially after coming so close to winning the series, but they also exceeded most people’s preseason expectations for them. Rookie Nathan MacKinnon stepped up in the playoffs to get Avalanche fans excited about their future, even if he finished Game 7 with no points and a minus-three rating.
For the Wild, it will only get harder from here as their next opponent is the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.
While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.
It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.
One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.
Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.
Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.
Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?
Considering all of the controversy surrounding the 41-game suspension for Raffi Torres, some might have lost track of the guy who received that hit: Jakob Silfverberg.
The good news is that, at the moment, it seems like he’s OK.
The Anaheim Ducks announced that he skated on his own and will be involved in the team’s next practice:
That falls in line with some of the fall-out from the hit, as head coach Bruce Boudreau let out a relieved “thank goodness” at the young forward seemingly dodging a bullet.
Here’s video of the hit and the suspension decision:
Silfverberg, 24, enjoyed a nice breakout in 2014-15, especially during the playoffs.
Keep in mind that injuries can sometimes crop up later than expected, especially potential head injuries/concussions. Still, it seems like the initial reaction is that the damage was minimal.