Say this about Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy; if this is his first time coaching in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it certainly doesn’t show.
Down 4-2 coming into the third period of Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild, the Avalanche were able to cut the lead to one goal with less than 15 minutes left in regulation. With a 4-3 score and three minutes to go, Roy made a dicey move. He pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov, giving the Avs an extra attacker, but leaving the team’s net empty for well beyond the typical amount of time seen in one-goal situations. For the majority of the final minutes, Roy kept the same group of players on the ice. It was a situation that could’ve backfired early, with Minnesota earning a crucial victory on Colorado ice.
This, however, was not the case. Instead, Paul Stastny scored the tying goal with 13.4 seconds remaining. Then, he scored the game-winner seven minutes into overtime. Roy went all-in during his very first NHL playoff game behind the bench, and he came out on top.
Spectators needed only to witness this series of events to see the kind of impact Roy is having with this young Avalanche team. Gone is the ho-hum, mistake prone club from a season ago. The best goalie in franchise history has made Colorado a team to be reckoned with by taking big risks and showing faith in his players.
Imagine how this would’ve gone if the Wild potted an empty net goal seconds after Varlamov went to the bench. Roy’s judgment would’ve been questioned all night, with the possibility of his team losing some belief in their coach.
Instead, his players responded to an incredibly bold call by stealing Game 1 away from a Minnesota team getting ready to celebrate a victory. Moves like this are why Colorado became one of the league’s best comeback stories this year. Why the team is playing with a fire that was nowhere to be found last season. And why Roy’s players have been asking all season, “Why not us?”
The Avalanche can only celebrate for a day, as Game 2 of what’ll undoubtedly be a tough series is on deck Saturday. That said, if you believe in playoff momentum, Colorado has a lot in their corner coming into this weekend. For that, they can thank Roy, who continues to show the league why he believes in his team enough to play high-risk hockey.