Saturday, April 7, 2012

AVS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Nashville Predators, 4/7/12

The Good Guys: Bowed out of the 2011-2012 playoff chase with a listless 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. I prefer to consider that the Avs simply ran out of gas, after a spirited late-season run saw them gain minimal ground on other teams who remained hot themselves down the stretch. The next game after tonight is in October.

Bunch Of Dicks: Tonight is also Nashville's final regular season game, although for the Predators, there are at least four more to be played. Of all the teams in the postseason tournament, I'd be the happiest for the Preds were they to win the Stanley Cup, because they're a team that (for the most part) does things the right way. David Poile and Barry Trotz have put together a very good organization, and I like the idea of seeing them be rewarded for it. Their first round series will be against Detroit... so yeah, go Preds.

We Like: There's so much to like about what we saw from the Avalanche this season. That's not to say it was without its frustrations and inconsistencies, but for the optimistic fan, there's alot to look forward to next season. Guys like Ryan O'Reilly, Semyon Varlamov, and Erik Johnson showed evidence that they are evolving to varying degrees of stardom, that they are becoming more consistent players, and that all the hype isn't unwarranted. Rookies Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie, and Brad Malone got their first taste of NHL action, and none of them looked out of place. Trade deadline acquisitions Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn provided much-needed sandpaper and scoring to the wings. Veteran JS Giguere provided leadership, and had a bit of a renaissance filling in for a struggling Varlamov during a stretch of midseason.

Oh yeah, and that Landeskog kid. He seems like a keeper.

We Don't Like: There are a few negatives, but I don't want to dwell on those tonight. Instead I want to spend a few words on Milan Hejduk, who may be playing his last game in an Avs uniform tonight, and very well may be playing his final NHL game altogether.

Hejduk came into the NHL in 1998-99, the same season as Chris Drury. Drury ended up winning the Calder Trophy that season, while Hejduk finished third. Hejduk had a solid rookie season, netting 14 goals (the last time, until this season, he failed to score at least 20 in a season) and became the first and only rookie in NHL history to score two overtime goals in the same playoff series (against the Sharks in the first round). Hejduk was fairly durable, silky smooth, and has a relatively startling goal celebration to his credit:

Hejduk also captured the Richard Trophy in 2002-03 as the league's top goal scorer, and evolved into a veteran leader for an increasingly youthful squad.

In the event that this is in fact Milan Hejduk's final game, take a second to enjoy watching him out there tonight. He's been a special player for the Avs for a long time, and I'm gonna miss watching 23 lurking around that net, just beyond the radar of defenders, ready to use those gifted hands to put another puck behind the goalkeeper. Thanks for everything, Hedgie.

Randomly: Yeah, alright, I have a little lump in my throat after writing that.

Potential Hero: Win or lose, if Hejduk can pot one more tonight in front of Avs fans, it'll make it a special night.

Potential Goat: If Joe Sacco spends this final game of the season trying to prove whatever stupid point he's been trying to prove by gluing Matt Duchene to the bench, so help me god, someone needs to strangle him with his tie.

Final Thought: I'm a mostly-happy camper with this season. It sucks not to make the playoffs, but hey, growing pains for the youngest team in the NHL, right? The next time I do a primer, I'd like to be talking about the O'Reillys, the Duchenes, the Landeskogs, the Johnsons, the Varlamovs...and how hard they worked over the summer... and what a great preseason they all had... and dreaming big about the season ahead... I hope. I hope.

Oh yeah, and we want Parise and Suter too.

Go Avs.

Avs 3, Predators 2

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