© 2024 ALLCITY Network Inc.
All rights reserved.
One last hurrah. One final invasion from enemy fans. One more swan song on a season where the excuses piled up faster than the wins. As a sea of red washed over the Pepsi Center as the always-robust Blackhawks bandwagon invaded for the final time this season, the Colorado Avalanche cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war, racing out to a 1-0 lead and turning up the pressure as their 29th ranked power play waited until the season’s final day to show it could’ve given more as they toppled the playoff-bound Blackhawks, 3-2.
A late power play goal by Jarome Iginla, his 2nd of the game and 29th of the season, gave the Avs their final lead of the season and helped positively shut the door on an otherwise disappointing 2014-15 campaign as the team’s final record sits at 39-31-12, good for 90 points and making Colorado the best last place team by an incredible 19 points (Carolina finished with 71 points). While a 90-point season in recent years put a team squarely in the playoff hunt until the very end, the Avs were victim to the best division in hockey, which housed 4 100-point teams and the 99-point Winnipeg Jets, who finished with the West’s final playoff berth.
All of this leads to an incredibly hollow feeling heading into the off-season as the Avs can take plenty of pride in finishing with 90 points despite a terrible start to their season but also point to several areas where the team failed to give them the additional 5 wins necessary to make the postseason. The power play, in a distant second-to-last for much of the season, propped up only by the historically awful Buffalo Sabres and their mission to finish in last place, finally reared its head in this game as they scored on both of their opportunities with both goals going to last season’s primary off-season acquisition in Iginla.
The defense, much-maligned and thoroughly smoked this week in unlikely wins versus the Nashville Predators and aforementioned Jets stood strong and limited the Blackhawks to just 30 shots on goal as Chicago sat several of their better players in preparation for the playoffs. With possession closer to even than normal, the Avs offense was able to take advantage of some defensive breakdowns by the Blackhawks and finished with 24 shots of their own as well as a handful of high quality scoring chances.
Most notable of those Avs scoring chances was by forward Daniel Briere, playing what was likely the final game of his illustrious career, who smoked Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya early in the game and got goaltender Scott Darling to commit on a fake but he recovered and made a great glove save that prevented Briere from notching his 308th career goal. Briere, who was given the start by Head Coach Patrick Roy, was also awarded the game’s third star as a way of honoring the end of a great player’s career.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, rookie defenseman Duncan Siemens will remember this game for the rest of his life as he made his long-awaited NHL debut, playing 14 minutes and showing flashes of why he was drafted 11th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. Though he was beaten badly by Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad on Chicago’s second goal of the night, Siemens would continue earning more time as the game went on and Roy frequently paired him with stalwart Tyson Barrie, who played a team-high 23:16.
The mixed emotions throughout the building were palpable as the Avs game-winning goal nearly tore the roof off the Pepsi Center but that excitement quickly turned to sadness as 34 seconds later the season was over and the long goodbye that is the NHL off-season began. The Avs have many questions to answer and plenty of areas to improve but the majority of this roster will be the one iced on opening night in October, when the team debuts it’s shiny new 3-D on-ice projector. Until then, the painful learning process from this season leads to the one question that will haunt the Avalanche until opening night:
3 Stars of the Night:
- Jarome Iginla – 2 goals, 3 shots, 21:35 TOI
- Cody McLeod – 1 goal, 4 shots, 6 hits, 2 PIM, 12:22 TOI
- Daniel Briere – 2 shots, 8:44 TOI