This year, I have been to every kind of game.
November 19th, vs. the New York Rangers. Oh man, these were the days. Goals getting scored all over the place. Avs took this one 5-1. Duchene got crosschecked in the face, didn't get a call on it, and then got super pissed and went on a scoring rampage. In the end he had a goal and two assists. The Rangers switched out Henrik "Dark Horse in the Hunt for the Vezina Trophy According to NHL.com" Lundqvist, and then the Avs promptly scored on the backup guy. The little kid sitting behind me said, "they should get BOTH goalies out there!" and it was the most adorable thing to ever be adorable.
(Also in that game: Kevin Shattenkirk's second NHL goal. STILL MISSIN' HIM. Got his first goal as a Blue last night!)
December 17, vs. the Ottawa Senators. This was one of those back and forth games, trading goals all night. Ryan O'Reilly tied it up at the last minute, and then it was Dutchy and Flash who were the difference in OT. It's funny now, because we have since traded goalies. And it's funny that we beat Elliot in overtime, given how he's played the last couple games for us.
Favorite moment from this game: when Duchene scores on the 5 on 3, then points up to cue the goal horn.
February 5, vs. the Anaheim Ducks. Not a whole lot to say about this one. They got shut out, 3-0, and I discovered exactly how much I want to punch Corey Perry in the face. I had splurged and spent some real money for decent tickets to this game, and then it was depressing and nothing good happened.
Februray 14, vs. the Calgary Flames. Yeah, I went to this game. I've talked about it on here before. Valentine's Day is already depressing, but then Peter Forsberg retired, and then the Avs lost 9-1, their losing streak reached new and epic proportions with the most spectacular loss in Avalanche history, and to top it off, Duchene and Gaunce both got hurt (Gaunce was fine though, whereas Duchene ended up missing two games because of a hand injury). Gaunce was a trooper though - he took a puck to the leg and was clearly suffering, but he kept playing until the ref noticed and blew the whistle.
It pains me to post this video, but here it is anyway.
Februray 23, vs. the Edmonton Oilers. They'd just managed to beat the Blues in St. Louis - right after that trade, so it was definitely an emotionally charged game - and I was on a high, so I splurged and went to this game at the last second, expecting them to be able to carry the momentum through to this one. They didn't, in any way.
This is the game where O'Byrne took a Taylor Hall skate to the face. Scary. I was up at the top of the nosebleeds and at the other end of the ice and I could still tell something really bad had just happened to him.
March 22, vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. This game. THIS GAME. My throat is still raw from screaming so much, and that never happens to me. I've never screamed so much at a sporting event, not even in college. It was the best game I've ever gone to, bar none. It was sad because there were maybe, MAYBE 5,000 people there? They deserved a better crowd than that. But it was so loud by the end of the night that it felt full. When we were walking out, people were cheering and chanting like we'd just won a playoff round. And the light rail driver was honking a song at us when the train was pulling into the station. It was so perfect. If this is the last game I go to this year, I'll be okay with it.
It was Milan Hejduk's 900th game as an Av - the first guy to play all 900 of his career games in an Avalanche sweater. He got the gamewinner in the shootout. Duchene, again, took things into his own hands and scored two goals when we were down 3-1 to tie it, assists on both from little Mark Olver who is clearly still just thrilled to be here right now, who plays like he's six foot five instead of five foot ten, bless his little heart. Then Winnik, the other guy on the line with Duchene and Olver, scored the goal to tie it up again with three seconds left. I just... I can't even speak coherently about how much I loved this game, and how much I love this team.
My friend from Detroit, who naturally grew up as a Red Wings fan, came with me to this game, and even she was jumping around like crazy at the end.
But see, this is why you never give up on your team. They lose ten games in a row, then they win one, then they lose ten more, then they win another one, and then you take a chance and you show up expecting them to disappoint you and they go and pull something like this. Scoring to tie it up with three seconds left, then making impossible saves in overtime and winning in a shootout. This is the first time they've won at home in a long, long time, and this is the first time in a long time that they've given me something real to be proud of. Beating the Oilers? Nobody thinks that's cool. The Oilers (and the Sens! We're THIRD to last now!) are behind us in the standings. This game? This was a real one. And they came through. Not even Hunwick managed to screw it up (he even had two assists! Do you believe in miracles?!?!).
We're not making the playoffs, so this is about pride, now. They're playing for themselves, they're playing for us. They're playing because they want to prove to their fans that they aren't going to give up, so neither should we. That's what we're learning. That's what this is teaching all of us. There have been injuries, there have been trades, there have been unlucky bounces, there's been a lack of confidence, but these excuses only last for so long. Everybody knows that, including the guys. They've as much as come out and said that the fans deserve better (though I'd say that they probably deserve more loyal fans than they have).
I think what we're seeing right now - or at least, what we saw last night - is a team that is beyond tired of losing. I don't know what flipped the switch, but last night I saw a team that didn't quit, once. I saw a team that screwed up and then went out and fixed it. I saw a team that played with real heart, real passion that hasn't been there these past couple of months. I saw a team that is sick of being the butt of jokes, a team that wants to throw some wrenches in some playoff hopes, a team that will not go gentle into that good offseason. And that? Frankly, that warms my underdog-loving heart.
I'm not giving up on you, Avs. I believe in this team, and I'm looking forward to the future - the next ten games and beyond. It's gonna be quite a ride.