SAN JOSE, Calif. – That rink below is where it all happens tomorrow night, the Avalanche and Sharks getting it on for a Game 7. I just happened to be up in the press box this morning, retrieving a laptop power cord I somehow left there (gettin’ old, folks) and snapped that picture of the dark SAP Center.
This will be the 11th Game 7 the Avs have played since moving to Denver in 1995. I’ve been in the building for all of them. Let’s take a look back at the first 10:
May 4, 1998, McNichols Sports Arena. Edmonton Oilers 4, Avalanche 0
This was a pretty crazy first-round series between the Avs and Oilers. Just two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup, the Avs met the Oilers in the first round and had to play Game 1 without captain Joe Sakic because of his serving a ridiculous one-game suspension for “kneeing” Detroit’s Kris Draper in the final game of the regular season. Sakic was trying to GET OUT OF THE WAY of Draper when the two collided, yet somehow Sakic – many time-all star, gracious captain of the Avs, credit to the sport – gets suspended for a playoff game. It shouldn’t have even been a penalty, much less a suspension. That was courtesy of NHL discipline Czar Brian Burke, whose modus operandi seemed to be: “If you’re a team I like, you get a pass. If you’re a team I don’t like, you get screwed.” The Avs weren’t a team he liked.
The Avs lost that Game 1, won the next three, but Edmonton won the next two, forcing the Game 7 in Denver. The Avs were awful in this one. The only time they really came come close to scoring on Oilers goalie Curtis Joseph was when Uwe Krupp’s point shot on the power play ricocheted off both posts and out.
June 4, 1999, Western Conference finals. Dallas Stars 4, Avalanche 1
This was the awful game in which Mike Keane scored not one, but two goals against his former longtime teammate with Montreal and Colorado, Patrick Roy, at Reunion Arena. The Avs blew a 3-2 lead in the series, losing Game 6 at home despite about four open-net looks in the first period.
Letting Keane go as an unrestricted free agent was a serious mistake by Avs management at the time.
May 27, 2000, Western Conference finals. Dallas 3, Avalanche 2
Another heartbreaker at Reunion Arena. The Avs were the better team of the two in this series, but they just couldn’t solve Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour. The Stars got three fluky goals on Patrick Roy, while the Avs’ ultimate moment of frustration came in the dying seconds of regulation, when Adam Deadmarsh’s tip of a Ray Bourque shot hit the post and squirmed away.
May 9, 2001, Western Conference semifinals. Avalanche 5, LA Kings 1
The Kings had battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to force this game at the Pepsi Center. Despite a 57-win season and a virtual all-star roster, the Avs had all they could handle from the Kings. It was 1-1 going to the third before the Avs finally broke through. Chris Drury and Ville Nieminen scored big goals to make this an easy one by the final horn. This Avs team went on to win the Stanley Cup, as you’ll soon see.
June 9, 2001, Stanley Cup Finals. Avalanche 3, N.J. Devils 1
It remains probably the most glorious night in Avalanche history. In his final game of his illustrious 22-year career, Ray Bourque goes out a champion. Who can forget captain Joe Sakic handing him the Cup to raise first?
The night outside the Pepsi Center was hot, and I remember sweating in my sportcoat and shirt all night. The Avs won the damn thing on two goals by Alex Tanguay and one by Joe Sakic. Those last 10 minutes, if you go back and look at the tape, seemed to take about 25 hours. In the end, the wait was well worth it.
April 29, 2002, Western quarterfinals. Avalanche 4, L.A. Kings 0
This was the first of three Game 7s in the playoffs for a defending Cup championship team. This one, against L.A., proved no problem. The Kings had a great first line with Adam Deadmarsh, Zigmund Palffy and Jason Allison. But Allison was too banged up to be an effective player in this one and the Avs and Patrick Roy won pretty easily.
May 15, 2002, Western semifinals. Avalanche 1, San Jose 0
Two memorable things from this otherwise boring game: Teemu Selanne missed a wide-open net on a wraparound for the Sharks in the first period. His skate his a rut, but it was still quite a feat to miss the net on his chance. The other: Peter Forsberg practically willing a puck over the goal line for the only score of the game. Patrick Roy had his second straight Game 7 shutout.
May 31, 2002, Western finals. Detroit 7, Avalanche 0
I remember this one of the first nights of the “Joint Operating Agreement” between the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, so we at The Post didn’t have a print edition the next day – a Saturday. So, I wasn’t really expected to write too much except a cursory blurb online. So, mostly I walked the concourse at Joe Louis Arena, watching the game in bits and pieces. By the end of the first period, there wasn’t much to watch anymore. It was 4-0. The Avs suffered their worst playoff loss to that point, and the great Avs-Red Wings rivalry was essentially over by then.
April 22, 2003, Western quarterfinals. Minnesota 3, Avalanche 2
Patrick Roy’s final game. It didn’t end the way he wanted.
The Avs had a one-goal lead late in the third, but Rob Blake was called for roughing and the Wild’s Marian Gaborik tied it up to send it to overtime. In the OT, Andrew Brunette beat Roy on a breakaway to put a shocking end to the series. Colorado blew a 3-1 lead in the series.
April 30, 2014, Western quarterfinals. Minnesota 5, Avalanche 4
Probably one of the most frustrating losses in Avalanche history. They had leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3, yet lost them all. Jared Spurgeon’s tying goal in the game’s final two minutes of regulation was the real killer, but Nin0 Niederreiter ended it in OT against an Avs team that seemed too shell-shocked by then to win.