The old saying from the storied Michigan-Ohio State college football rivalry goes, "We can go 1-10, but as long as the one win was against (the other guys), the season was OK."
It took the Colorado Avalanche until Game No. 68 to get victory No. 20 on the dismal 2016-17 season. The season has been a tire fire, full stop. But the Avs beat the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday night. For one night anyway, it was all good again for beleaguered Avs fans.
Judging by the honest-to-goodness, real noise in the Pepsi Center, this season is now officially not a total loss to the fans anyway. Of course, a lot of teams have beat the Detroit Red Wings this season, so this win should be taken into context. The Red Wings, for the first time since the Clinton Administration, will not be going to the playoffs this spring. Now, they are 0-1 against the worst team in hockey, too.
At this time of year in the old days, these two franchises were just starting to tune up for the real season, the postseason. Still, any victory over the other was a heavily cherished thing. Bragging rights actually meant something to those teams, even if for just one night.
The Avs really earned this victory too, and how often have we been able to say that this season? After falling behind in their customary manner, and with their side of the scoreboard still showing zero entering single minutes of the second period, Matt Duchene - yes, Matt Duchene - brought everybody wearing burgundy and blue back to life with his first goal and point in 12 games.
The third period was just like the way things used to be done around here. The Avs were the hungrier looking team and made all the big plays. Former Michigan star J.T. Compher got the game-winner, too, beating Jimmy Howard with some top-shelf magic to break the 1-1 tie. It was his first career point, and it seems clear now, after seeing him play for a couple weeks now, it won't be his last. Carl Soderberg - yes, Carl Soderberg - looked like Joe Sakic in beating Howard with a lefty wrister just moments later for the unnecessary insurance marker.
The Avs outshot the visitors 12-8 in the third and outscored them 2-0. The only deflating moment for the partisans on hand came when Gabe Landeskog was stopped on a penalty shot.
For a few moments toward the end, there was even a rousing "Red Wings (rhymes with 'puck')" chant. If you closed your eyes and didn't know any better, you'd have sworn it was 1996 all over again.
The Avs can make it a season sweep over the Red Wings Saturday in their final appearance ever at Joe Louis Arena. If that happens, the season will still be a failure in the end.