What a night that was. I could only watch transiently until the start of the 3rd, but that was still plenty of time to run the gamut of emotions from cautious optimism to mounting dread to the best fucking feeling in the world.
Yeah, there was a missed offsides call. Avalanche fans have noted the vague wording on the rule, which seems to imply that contact is unnecessary if a skate is behind the line, but I don’t think it’s quite so cut-and-dry. Kerry Fraser, whose job it is to interpret calls with full access to hindsight and the rulebook, considers Paul Stastny offside on that play. I’m guessing that 99% of linesmen believe skate contact is necessary, making it a missed call by consensus. It’s sort of like the rule on high-sticking; a double minor is assessed in the event of injury, but everybody thinks it’s for drawing blood, so that’s how it gets called and nobody argues it.
As a result, the internet is now awash in an ocean of tears from Wild fans. A split-second non-call from a linesman who was off balance and had his vision obstructed has become either an unconscionable act of incompetence or evidence of a fix. Between bawling over how mean Gabriel Landeskog was and wailing that Andre Benoit found a way to hold Charlie Coyle without removing his hands from his stick, they’ve been embarrassing themselves ever since.
Mike Yeo thinks the Wild are “due for some stuff to go [their] way”, but after his squad got away with their hack and slash Game 3, I’d say Stastny’s missed offsides is a better example of the calls evening out. Tonight the universe owed P-A Parenteau a goal after robbing him in Game 2 on a botched offside call, and it sure delivered. In the end, both teams have benefited from poor refereeing, and Minnesota’s collapse on Saturday came because they didn’t play well enough to stop it. As for those Wild fans grasping for anything else to blame, there’s really only one way to deal with them.
The Avalanche’s weak points didn’t change, but they were good enough when it mattered. Cody McLeod forced a turnover and converted a shorthanded goal – the first point from his line all series. And I was wrong about Ryan Wilson – the 7th defenseman rebounded with a strong game and played very well in spurts, with a few key defensive stops and an overtime assist. If anything, Jan Hejda was the goat of Game 5, outpossessed despite favourable zonestarts and looking uncharacteristically ineffective in his own end.
The 4th line was quietly effective, not giving up a single shot attempt and producing several of their own. They were very sheltered minutes, but they were good minutes that neutralized Minnesota’s third line. The power play didn’t get results, but it looked improved and outdueled the Wild’s special teams. And at long last, Parenteau came alive on offense to produce 6 shots on goal, among them that all-important game-tying goal. His line took a tough matchup against the Mikko Koivu unit and came out even (better, you could argue, as they took the defensive zone assignments to boot).
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses; Cody McLeod, Marc-Andre Cliche, and Maxime Talbot remain fifty shades of awful at 5-on-5 and were run over by the Koivu unit all night. Roy doesn’t seem to trust them with defensive starts anymore, which seems odd to me as all three are penalty-killing specialists and much better at zone defense than possession hockey. As poorly as they’ve been playing, I don’t think their deployment makes a difference anymore, so Roy may as well feed them the tough draws in order to better activate his best forwards. Still, after Games 3 and 4, I’m pretty chipper about the state of things today.
You can bet plenty more coaches will try the early goalie pull now that Patrick Roy has found so much success with it. Even yesterday, Bruce Boudreau’s Ducks achieved victory from a two-goal deficit with the tactic and was quick to credit Roy despite the whole partition incident. I love that Roy is willing to break from tradition and rethink the game when there’s basis (hockey analytics, bitches!), and I dearly hope that he continues coaching ahead of the game.
Moving onto today’s game, Matt Duchene is probable to make his long-awaited return, jettisoning either Joey Hishon or Brad Malone from the lineup. I expect it to be the former, but would prefer Malone to sit – I think he’s shown as much as he ever will in an Avalanche uniform. This goes double if Duchene starts on the 4th line as anticipated; creating offense would be pretty hard with Malone and Patrick Bordeleau flanking him, especially as the latter is probably playing with a broken hand.
Should the Avalanche advance, Chicago looms in the distance, cleaning up the Blues in a four-game wave of what for me was pure schadenfreude. Nathan MacKinnon leads playoff scoring and David Backes has been crumpled up and tossed aside, which sounds about right. Hopefully the Avalanche can take out the trash tonight so that the Wild can return to their proper obscurity and their awful fans might finally stop moaning.