The term "must-win game" is one of the most overused cliches in sports. But for the Colorado Avalanche, Saturday night's game against the San Jose Sharks is the definition of a must-win game. For the Avs, win and tie the series, sending it back to San Jose for Game Seven Monday. Lose and start a long off-season Sunday.
Thursday's Game Five was a departure from the series first four games. It was the first game to be decided by more than one goal and it was the first time since Game One that the game did not go to overtime. The Sharks dominated play and outshot the Avs as they have since Game One, but unlike the first four games, they were able to get the puck past Avs goalie Craig Anderson while not allowing equalizing goals.
No matter how Game Six, or the series turns out, the season has been a success for the Avalanche. Picked to finish last or next to last in the NHL, they ended up second in the Northwest Division and made the playoffs. And once they reached they playoffs they managed to keep even with the Western Conference's top-seeded team through at least the first four games of the series. The Avs first two losses came in overtime and if they had managed to keep the Sharks from scoring with 32 seconds remaining in Game Two, they would have taken a 3-0 series lead.
The Avs and their fans can be proud of the season they had. But if they lose the series to the Sharks, there will always be the feeling that they lost a series they could have won.