What a night for the Avalanche. On the other end of the spectrum, what a night for Roberto Loungo and the Vancouver Canucks.
Peter Forsberg, Paul Stastny, and Milan Hejduk combined for a total of nine points, three apeice, to lead the way for the Colorado Avalanche over the Canucks.
In a game that saw the Canucks blow a second 2-1 lead, the Avs (again), had a tremendous second period, as usual, and chased an (of late) inconsistent Luongo from the cage.
Although the Canucks went up 2-1 at the end of the first period, the game was never really in their control. Colorado started with an extra jump to their game, capitalized on the power-play (again), and just exploded in the second frame. The Avalanche have now scored powerplay goals in 7 of their last 8 games, and it is looking like their once dormant man-advantage could be coming to life, and it could not come at a better time.
While Hejduk, Forsberg, and Stastny got the first, second, and third stars, respectively, other Avalanche players had huge games that no doubt contributed to the win. John-Michael Liles on a resurgence of late, made a perfect outlet pass in the second period on Cody McCleod's fourth goal of the season, finishing the game a plus-3.
Another Avalanche standout tonight was Wojtek Wolski. Finishing the game with one assist and a plus-1, his skating seemed to be at another level than it has been for quite awhile. If that stays consistent, look for a dangerous 1-2 punch in Colorado's top two lines.
But the story of the night was (again), the new top line of Stastny, Foppa, and Hejduk. "The Duke" is used to playing with Forsberg. He is used to unexpected passes and impossible plays. (Not to mention, he has scored four goals and six points [4-2-6] in the last three games.) But this is Stastny's first experience with #21. If this line really is as good as they let on to be tonight, we are in for some exciting hockey in the next few weeks. Pray that coach Quenneville can recognize something special and keep them together.
Solid performance by Theodore in net again, including a couple point blank stops and a breakaway save that set the tone; a tone that Luongo couldn't sing to tonight.
Regarding the playoff picture, things continue to get interesting. The Avalanche are now just one point behind the Dallas Stars, who were oh-so-close to catching the Detroit Red Wings a couple of weeks ago. Since then, they have stayed right where they are, watching as teams pass them in the standings. The Brad Richards factor seems to have been "factored out" the last couple weeks, much to the dismay of Brett Hull and Stars fans. (As well as the Stars' owner's pocketbooks).
The Avalanche are also only three points back of the Minnesota Wild, who won tonight against the Edmonton Oilers to put a huge damper on their playoff hopes. With two games left against the Wild, it is completely possible that they win both games, vault into first in the division, and with a little help from the Oilers, Canucks, and Wild, secure the third spot in the conference. For now, the Avs are happy to just be further up the mix and not have Edmonton and Nashville breathing down their necks anymore. San Jose is still the team to avoid if possible in the first round, but a playoff appearance would breath new life into this Avalanche Organization.
Fearless prediction: the Vancouver Canucks will not make the playoffs. I know, I'm eating my words from the article I posted yesterday, and that's something I'll have to work on in future articles regarding not making statements I'll have to rescind, But based on their play the last two nights, I don't think they'll make it. The Flames, Wild, Avs, and Oilers are hungrier than they are, plain and simple. They don't have the confidence they need to finish the season strong.
This is precisely what happened to the Avalanche in their four-game losing streak preceding these two most recent wins, but Colorado was able to regroup in time to make that final push. For Vancouver, the clock is about to strike midnight, and they better not be sleeping when it does, or they will be on the outside looking in and wondering what happened.
Of course, everything can change in one night. You just have to get used to it. That's how we play out here in the Wild, Wild West.