Things will be hot at the Pepsi Center for the Colorado Avalanche as they have clinched a spot in the first round of the NHL hockey season, while the Denver Nuggets are currently holding a playoff spot and, without any hiccups, have a great shot at making it into the postseason as well.
On Tuesday evening, Peter Forsberg, who had recently re-established his dominance in the NHL by joining the Avs lineup, got his first goal that was part of a rally to give Colorado a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The victory clinched a playoff berth after a one-season absence in the postseason last year.
What is also encouraging, besides clinching a playoff spot, is that the Avs will likely not have to play the top-seeded and dreaded Redwings from Detroit, who have been playing lights-out all season. (Detroit on Thursday sits at 52 wins and 21 losses with 111 points.)
Colorado has one regular season game left, which is at home against Minnesota on Sunday. As anybody knows, the road to the Stanley Cup is a long tough ordeal, especially in the playoffs. For fans who love the sport, playoff hockey is second to none. For the Avs, as they prepare for the postseason, is it ever so nice to have Sakic, Forsberg and Foote back on the ice?
In early February the chances of the Avalanche making the playoffs seemed a bit out of whack. Sakic missed 38 games because of a hernia and their power play was one of the worst in the league. But things have changed since Sakic returned to the lineup along with defenseman Adam Foote. Thank goodness Peter the Great couldn’t sit on his couch in Sweden any longer and gave into his hunger for more playoff hockey.
Even though Forsberg’s first goal since returning to the Avs in February came on Tuesday, it is clear that he has changed his line’s dynamic on the ice. He has always been the most aggressive and intense player on the ice at any given time (probably reason for his injury filled career) and continues to do that today. He is a magnet for defensive players – drawing up to three defenders as he handles the puck in the offensive zone and subsequently freeing up other Avs across the ice. He may not be scoring all the goals lately, but he is allowing others to and that’s all that matters.
And they are going to need all they can get out of Forsberg and Sakic because the road to the Stanley Cup will more than likely go through Detroit. The Avs in the regular season have been unable to beat the Redwings in four matchups. I don’t see any surprise team taking Detroit out early in the playoffs, so I guess that surprise team will just have to be Colorado in one of the leagues greatest rivalries. I look forward to that series if the Avs can hold on and make it into later rounds.
Switching to the court, the Nuggets have improved their chances of making the playoffs after they won five out of six games to end the month of March. Then on Tuesday they beat the Suns 126-120 – putting the Nuggets in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Denver, with seven games left in the regular season, sits one game ahead of Golden State for that final playoff spot, but are also just one game behind Dallas for the seventh place spot. Denver will be meeting Golden State next Thursday in a must win. Actually, everything from here on out is a must win for Denver to definitely make the playoffs.
And as I have said before, when looking at the Nugget lineup, there is no reason why they can’t at least make it to the first round of the postseason, and they have in the past. The problem for Denver is making it into later rounds of the postseason – harder yet, the NBA Finals.
For those who aren’t climbing in Moab or beaching it in Baja, fret not, the off season should be filled with great Colorado postseason action.