A Superlative weekend in the Denver sports scene transitioned into a parade for the ages in the Mile High City this afternoon. An estimated one-million Denverites flocked downtown in orange, to get a glimpse of their recently crowned Super Bowl champion, Broncos.
For the fraction of that pie also invested in the city's ice-hockey club, tonight was a stark reminder that the Colorado Avalanche's playoff chase will likely involve doses of frustration, head scratching, and racking-of-the-nerves.
Hockey fans are witnessing a wet-noodle fight of epic proportions, as the Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, and Nashville Predators trip over their own feet while trying to hold the playoff door open for their peers.
Francois Beauchemin put the Avalanche on the board first this evening, wristing his 7th goal of the season glove-high on Jacob Markstrom early in the 2nd period after a nifty dish from Jarome Iginla. Alex Tanguay also got in on the action, giving the goal over 110 combined years of Earth-experience on the scoresheet. Old man jokes.
The tally softened the sting of not one, but two, missed 5-on-3 opportunities for the Avalanche momentarily. In the end, an 0-for-4 night on the power play would haunt the Avs.
The Canucks slowly took over the game during the middle frame, and got goals from Matt Bartowski and Sven Baertschi to carry a 2-1 lead into the third-period.
The Baertschi goal stood up to yet another failed challenge from Avalanche head-coach, Patrick Roy, who seemed to have a moderate case for goaltender interference, as Tyson Barrie got shoved into Semyon Varlamov -- a critical factor in the goal. Off the top of my head, I don't recall the Avalanche winning a challenge this season. If they have, someone will need to refresh my memory.
The Canucks got an insurance marker early in the third from Bo Harvat, his 10th of the year, and held off a feeble Avalanche rally down the stretch to earn the 3-1 victory.
The loss wraps up a miserable 0-3-1 homestand for the Avalanche, whose offense has been held to two or fewer goals in nine of their past 13 games.
Fortunately, the Minnesota Wild lost their sixth straight game tonight, and the Nashville Predators also fell short, and have just one win in their past four games.
A little marinara and Parmesan would do just fine with those wet noodles. Suddenly, the Pacific Division looks a whole lot bigger in the rear-view mirrors of the Central Division wild-card contenders.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Beauchemin opened the scoring, with a crafty decision to sneak up into a scoring area, after the Canucks started scrambling in their own zone. A nice finish from the veteran defenseman.
The go-ahead goal for the Canucks, provided by Sven Baertchi, really seemed to take the air out of the sails for the Avalanche. Tyson Barrie was lightly pushed by a Canuck attacker, and crashed into Varlamov, a metaphor for the funk the Avs are currently in. Any slight shove of adversity, and this team seems to lose confidence to play quality hockey.
It would also be easy to point to a pair of failed early 5-on-3 advantages as key missed opportunities tonight. The wise words of Coach Q remind us, when you don't score on your 5-on-3 power plays -- you don't win the game. Well, the Avs are 0-for-10 with the two-man advantage this season.
BY THE NUMBERS
Miraculously, the Avalanche still find themselves positioned in a wild-card slot out west, although the teams they are in the pool with all have games-in-hand. Those extra contests could ultimately be the water-wings which allow the competition to float while the Avs sink in the standings, if the Avalanche don't start playing some more inspired hockey.
Also, hey, at least Colorado got to enjoy a Super Bowl victory this weekend, and a defensive performance by the Orange Rush that will go down in history.
WHAT'S ON TAP?
The Avalanche take this show on the road for a three-game swing out east. Up first, a stop in Canada's capital to take on Dion Phaneuf and the Ottawa Senators. Yes, Ottawa is the capital of Canada, not Toronto. And yes, as of today, Dion Phaneuf plays for Ottawa, not Toronto. The more you know.
They cap off the trip with a morning date with Ryan O'Reilly and the Sabres on Valentine's day. Love is sure to be in the air.
Mark your calendar: Avalanche @ Senators, Thursday Feb. 9 at 5:30 MST pm, televised locally on Altitude