Playoff Threeview: Colorado & Minnesota

by J.R.

CIII1. Avalanche 52-22-8 (112 points, 1st in Conference III) vs. WC1. Wild (43-27-12, 98 points, 4th in Conference III)

Season Series— Avalanche 4-0-1

LeadersAvalanche: Matt Duchene (23G, 47A, 70 Points, 6 GWG), Ryan O’Reilly (28G, 9 PPG), Paul Stastny (54.1 FO%); Wild: Jason Pominville (30G, 30A, 60 Points), Mikko Koivu (43A), Ryan Suter (2399 minutes)

Probable Goalies: Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov (41-14-8, .927, 2.41); Wild: Ilya Bryzgalof (12-9-8, .909, 2.68)

Words & Music

“Nothing to say about (it). I play not against the Varlamov. I play against the Colorado Avalanche, whole team.” – Bryzgalof to the Denver Post.

For some reason, I think Motley Crue’s “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” fits:

Locks & Keys

Back when I constructed the Heat Index, I described the Avs-Wild rivalry thus:

[T]he Avs and Wild getting a Top 3 spot is best explained through the politics of freshman year of high school.

First, there’s the kids who went to the big middle school. They all know each other, everything’s been figured out — the rivalries, the intrigues, the love affairs. That’s Chicago, St. Louis and Nashville.

Dallas is the kid who went to the fancy private school for middle school, but everybody knows them; they were around on the weekends and stuff, they just went to the expensive school Monday through Friday. Their immediate history is a little different because of circumstances outside their control, but they still fit in.

Winnipeg is the kid whose parents moved around so much they eventually decided to home school them. They are weird and nobody knows what to do with them.

Then there’s Colorado and Minnesota — they went to The Other Middle School (every town has one of these and you are thinking about what your town’s is right now). Kids from The Other Middle School always, always hate all the other kids from The Other Middle School.

The Freaks & Geeks series came in with that heat and more was added. Minnesota — with the additions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and later with Jason Pominville and, to a degree, Matt Moulson — felt like the ascendency was theirs by birthright. If anybody was going to challenge Chicago and St. Louis, it would be them, but Colorado had other plans.

Those plans are built around what is possibly the best quartet of young forwards in the NHL — Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene (who’ll miss the first round), Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly. Having a solid group of youngsters up front, compeimented by Paul Stastny, is a good formula for success. Getting outshot and riding the PDO train, however, is not (ironically, Minnesota, of all teams, probably knows this best, even if they didn’t quite get it for awhile). Stastny is the only regular forward with a Corsi-for north of 49 percent.

On the other side, Minnesota’s additions at forwards allowed Mike Yeo to expand his coaching strategy beyond “Play the six good players I have 45 minutes a night.” He does still throw Ryan Suter out an awful lot, which is fine because Suter is great and Suter can take it. It might start to make a difference if No. 20 plays 35 minutes a night and the Wild have to play three playoff rounds, but they’ll deal with that problem when they have to. In goal, Yeo is going to go with Bryzgalof who went 7-0-3 for Minnesota after the trade from Edmonton (I think it was Edmonton?), though that record does not include his last performance, a no-decision in a laugher against the offensive juggernaut that is the Nashville Predators.

Call & Response

As I predicted Tuesday, I like the Avs in seven, because I think they surf the PDO wave for a series.  ESPN’s Scott Burnside likes the Wild in the maximum.