This one is hard to swallow. A season for the ages was cut tragically short last night as the Colorado Avalanche fell to the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in overtime in Game 7. A round one exit is a bitterly anticlimactic way for what was a spectacular season to end. Going out like this simply doesn't do justice to how far the team came and how much they proved to be capable of this year. It just goes to show how everything from the regular season really does go out the window come playoff time.
When the game began, the Avalanche got off to their best start of the series, aggressively pushing the pace and creating chances in the offensive zone. Less than three minutes in, they opened up the scoring on an ugly looking goal from Nick Holden as the team battled hard in front of the net. From that point on, the game swung back and forth ferociously as the teams traded goals and scoring chances. Every time Colorado got a one goal lead, Minnesota answered. By the time the horn sounded at the end of the third period, the game was tied at four goals each. Even though the Avalanche went ahead 4-3 with 8:44 to go, they couldn't hang on and seal the deal. They appeared to not be quite sure how to handle the situation leading by a goal late in a game where both teams were facing elimination. So to overtime they went.
The Avalanche started the overtime period by laying it all on the line, skating as fast as they could and taking risks, presumably under the assumption that their best chance would be to try to pounce on the Wild and put them on their heels. Colorado's strategy seemed to be to go all in, with the entire season riding on the next goal. Unfortunately, it didn't work. The Avalanche had a couple of good chances, but they couldn't put it away, and they didn't have the numbers back defensively to stop the series winning goal five minutes into overtime. Given that the Avalanche are at their best when the pace of the game is fast, it's easy to see why they would go into overtime in turbo mode, but this time, in that moment, a victorious result was not to be.
And so this incredible journey ends for the 2013-2014 Colorado Avalanche. During the regular season, the Avalanche amassed 112 points and won the Central Division, just one year removed from being the second worst team overall. Going from 29th to 3rd in the standings, the team enjoyed the biggest single season turnaround in the history of the National Hockey League. As the season moved along, the aspirations for the team grew, both for them and for the fans. Back in October, even the most optimistic fans were just hoping the team could somehow grab a playoff berth. Most people didn't even think that much would happen. Six months later, Colorado finished the regular season with the third best record in the entire NHL.
In the end, the Stanley Cup Playoffs proved to be a challenge the team was just barely not quite ready to meet. For most of the players on the team, it was their first playoff experience. And the team will be better for having had that experience. The crucible of the playoffs will ultimately make the team stronger. Now they have tasted the bitterness that only coming so close and falling short in the playoffs can create. Never again will they allow another team to want to win more desperately than they do. This team WILL get their first playoff series win as a group. Just not this year.Central Division, Colorado, Colorado Avalanche, Game 7, Hockey, NHL, Stanley Cup Playoffs