Wednesday night's meeting between the Blackhawks and the Avalance will be the final regular season encounter, and I couldn't be more relieved.
The Avs are full of fast, skilled, small, pains-where-the-sun-don't-shine, and quite honestly I'm sick of them. Please go away now.
They come in stumbling a bit, having lost seven of their last 10, but they did win last out at home against Detroit, 5-4. That makes it sound closer than it was, as the Avs held leads of 4-1 and 5-2 and were all over the Wings for the first 35 minutes or so.
The game against Detroit exhibited exactly what the Avs do so well. For four of the Avs goals, the Wings were either caught turning over the puck or out of position trying to make a hit. The Avs siimply stormed into the open ice like the Greeks into Troy, and the Wings couldn't catch them.
You simply cannot be out of your lanes and position against this team, they're too fast to make it up.
Second year center Matt Duchene has been front and center for most of what the Avalanche have accomplished this year. He's got 16 goals and 43 points this season, close to what he did his rookie season. He's really beefed up his defensive play as well this year, with a +7 so far. He's lightning quick and if given a chance he will finish, so don't give him one.
On the backend, John-Michael Liles has eschewed choosing a first name and finally blossomed into the defenseman Avs fans have hoped. Think Duncan Keith of last year: a quick skater who can get himself out of trouble with this feet and then gun it up the ice to start the play. He used to look a lot like Duncan Keith of this year, with hurried turnovers and ridiculous decisions with passes and shots that turn into turnovers, matched with an aversion to getting physical in front of his net. Maybe we can get them to trade brains?
The Avs' main problem this year, at least lately, has been goaltending. While Craig Anderson pulled them out of all sorts of fires last year (Colorado averaged getting outshot by five last campaign), he hasn't this year. He's been hurt, looks tentative and unfocused at times. In fact, his backup Peter Budaj (oh lord, stuck in Budaj again) will get his second straight start Wednesday after beating Detroit. Budaj hasn't been Patrick Roy incarnate either, but it tells you what they think of Anderson's recent play.
Always entertaining if nothing else, it'll be a track meet. If the Hawks are disciplined in every area, they should be able to eke out a close one.