Patrick Roy called it the play of the game. It wasn’t a big save, a key defensive play, or even the game winning goal, but he was right to do so. It was a knee-on-knee hit delivered by notorious cheap-shot artist Matt Cooke, on Colorado’s leading scoring defenseman Tyson Barrie. The hit knocked Barrie out for 4-6 weeks with an MCL sprain. Cooke was out for 2 minutes. Granted, Cooke will be suspended for the hit, but the damage has been done for Colorado.

The Avs still lead the best of 7, first round matchup two games to one, but the momentum took a big swing towards Minnesota on Monday night, in large part due to Cooke’s blatant attempt to injure Barrie. I’m all for second chances, heck even a third or fourth chance…but this will be Cooke’s SIXTH suspension, not counting this hit that ended Marc Savard’s career.

People who don’t follow the Avalanche don’t realize how big of an impact Barrie’s injury will have. Barrie is a winner. He scored 15 goals this season, 6 of them game winners. He quarterbacks the powerplay, on a team with a top 5 powerplay in the league. He’s one of the best passers on the team and can break out of the defensive zone as well as anyone on the team. It’s a huge loss.

And so in steps Ryan Wilson. The second-round draft pick was once considered a high-end prospect, but has really struggled this year. He has big skates to fill now.

At some point in time, the Avs have to stop trying to “out talent” Minnesota, and start to straight up out work them. It won’t be easy. Since replacing Ilya Bryzgalov halfway through the second period of game two, Darcy Kuemper hasn’t given up a goal. That’s almost 5 periods of scoreless hockey from the Avs, and now they have to find a way to score without Barrie in the lineup.

Historically the Avs have struggled against bigger goalies, and Kuemper certainly fits that bill at 6’5’’. Yes, the Avs still have the series lead, and home ice advantage, but they don’t have much else. The Wild have been the better team for 7 of the 11 periods played in the series.

Somehow Colorado still leads the series. As a pessimistic Avs fan, I’m not hitting the panic button yet, but my hand will be hovering right over it until game four comes on Thursday.

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