Joe Pavelski Forced His Way Back Into the Lineup for Game 7, And Immediately Enforced His Will in Leading the Sharks to the Conference Finals
While success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is often predicated on which teams get healthy at the right time, what happened to the Avalanche last night seems unfair. To split six tightly contested games against one lineup and then have the seventh and deciding game impacted by one of the most subtle secret weapons in the entire NHL? How do you not feel for a team that had enough to worry about in entering a raucous environment for a do-or-die game without having to prepare themselves for their opponent's emotionally uplifting insertion of a savvy veteran whose net front presence is, aside from Connor McDavid, the closest thing that the NHL has to a cheat code.
I mean, deep down was there really any doubt that Joe Pavelski, in returning from the unsightly injury that galvanized his team to put together one of the most mystifying comebacks in postseason history last series, was going to all-too-casually deflect at least one entirely unstoppable puck home during his debut in this series?
I guess it's easy to say in retrospect, but if I were coaching Colorado I might've agreed to start the game down 1-0 so long as San Jose agreed to continue sitting someone who leads by example in playing a brand of hockey that's built to win in the margins. Those margins don't get any more microscopic than they do in Game 7, so coming back from down a goal in a must-win playoff game is an endeavor that is merely equal to preparing for the presence of a well-rested player whose perpetually prepared for anything. Joe Pavelski wasted no time in proving he's not only that but also an inspirational entity, and the talented team he captains is now a much more menacing out because of it.