The Colorado Avalanche were the biggest surprise of the NHLs regular season. The Central Division champions now hope to carry their shocking success into the playoffs, as the Avalanche welcome the Minnesota Wild to Pepsi Center for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. Watch the game live on TSN and TSN GO at 9:30pm et/6:30pm pt. Colorado not only made the playoffs for the first time since 2010, the club also earned its first division title since 2002-03. Winning the Central was no small feat, as the Avs finished ahead of an excellent St. Louis Blues team and also the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Avs figured to be a team on the upswing after landing talented center Nathan MacKinnon with the top overall pick of the 2013 draft and hiring former goaltender great Patrick Roy as their head coach. But an outstanding season by netminder Semyon Varlamov expedited the process and his Vezina Trophy-worthy season -- as well as a late collapse by the Blues -- helped the Avs take the division, setting up this first-round matchup against the Wild, who claimed the first of the Wests two wild card spots. Varlamov led the NHL with 41 victories, breaking Roys single-season franchise mark set in 2000-01. He also surpassed his head coach for the most home victories by an Avalanche goaltender in a season with 24. All will be for naught though if Varlamovs postseason debut with Colorado goes sour. He has not played a playoff game since 2010 with the Washington Capitals and in 19 total games of postseason experience, the Russian is 10-9 with a 2.49 goals against average and .915 save percentage. There may be some additional pressure on Varlamov and the defense as forward Matt Duchene may miss the entire series with a bruised knee suffered on March 29. Duchene still led the Avs with 47 assists and 70 points, but Colorado did manage to go 5-1-2 down the stretch without him. The Avalanche snapped a three-year playoff drought by matching a franchise record with 52 victories and setting another mark with 26 road wins. Their 112 points were good for second-most in the clubs single-season history. Minnesota is in the playoffs for the second straight season, making the club 2-for-2 in postseason appearances since it broke the bank to sign both forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter in the summer of 2012. The Wild snapped a four-year postseason drought by earning the eighth seed a season ago, only to fall in five games to the Chicago Blackhawks. This season, Minnesota racked up impressive totals of 43 wins and 98 points -- a 17-point improvement from the full 2011-12 campaign. The usual suspects came through as Jason Pominville, Parise, Mikko Koivu and Suter were Minnesotas top four scorers. The Wild had four goaltenders make at least 10 starts this season, but Ilya Bryzgalov is the No. 1 option heading into the playoffs. Bryzgalov was acquired from Edmonton at the trade deadline and the Russian veteran went 7-1-3 with a 2.12 goals against average and .911 save percentage in 12 games with Minnesota. Bryzgalov has appeared in 38 postseason games, though his numbers arent great. He is 17-19 with a 2.81 GAA and .908 save percentage. The Avalanche got a point in all five of their meetings with the Wild this season, going 4-0-1. Varlamov was 3-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA in four games, while Bryzgalov did not face the Avalanche since joining the Wild. The Russian has, however, won all four of his previous playoff games against them, posting a 0.94 GAA and two shutouts while with the Anaheim Ducks back in 2006. This is the third all-time playoff meeting between the clubs. The Wild won a 2003 conference quarterfinals matchup in seven games, while the Avalanche knocked off Minnesota in six games during the same round in 2008. Colorado also will host Game 2 of this best-of-seven series on Saturday. The Avs were 26-11-4 on home ice in 2013-14, while Minnesota was just 17-17-7 on the road. Travis Swanson Jersey
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. - Free agent defensive end Will Smith has signed with the New England Patriots.MIAMI -- Miscommunication between Colorado Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and catcher Wilin Rosario had Miami Marlins fans booing in the fifth inning of Mondays season opener. Rockies manager Walt Weiss was unhappy, too. Weiss addressed the issue in a 15-minute meeting with his pitcher and catcher after the Rockies gave up 14 hits and lost 10-1. De La Rosa lasted only 4 1-3 innings and allowed five runs in his first opening-day start. He drew jeers during the Marlins five-run fifth when he stepped off the rubber several times, and he said he had trouble with Rosarios change in signals made with a runner at second base. "He called a lot of my games last year," De La Rosa said. "Today we probably were not on the same page. I still like him. Thats all I can say." Weiss said the postgame meeting helped. "There were some miscommunications," he said. "Weve got to get it straightened out." Jose Fernandez struck out nine and allowed one run in six innings, and Marlins newcomer Casey McGehee drove in four runs with two doubles. The sellout crowd of 37,116 was the largest for the attendance-challenged Marlins since their new ballpark opened two years ago. The 21-year-old Fernandez earned the victory while becoming the youngest NL opening-day starter since Dwight Gooden in 1986, according to STATS. And he picked up where he left off last season, when he went 12-6 and was voted NL Rookie of the Year. "I didnt know how I was going to react to opening day," he said. "But it came out great." Carlos Gonzalez homered for the Rockies in the sixth. "Hes going to have a monster year," Weiss said. But by the time Gonzalez connected, the Rockies trailed 6-0. Even he tipped his cap to Fernandez. "When a guy like that is pitching, you exppect that kind of game," Gonzalez said.dddddddddddd "Hes one of the best." The Rockies, who began their first season since 1996 without retired first baseman Todd Helton, could have used his pop. His replacement, Justin Morneau, went 1 for 4. Michael Cuddyer, who won the NL batting title in 2013, went 2 for 4. Fernandezs strikeout total matched Josh Becketts team record for an opener. Fernandez threw 73 strikes and only 21 balls to 23 batters. The crowd included Fernandezs grandmother Olga, who lives in Cuba. She saw him pitch for the first time since he left that country at age 15. Her grandson improved to 10-0 in 16 career starts at Marlins Park with an ERA of 1.21. "She told me, Good pitching. Youve got to throw a lot more strikes, though," Fernandez said. He threw plenty, given his improved run support. The Marlins, who finished last in the majors in most offensive categories last year, totalled 14 hits while scoring in double figures, something they did only four times in 2013. Marcell Ozuna homered, doubled, singled and scored twice. Giancarlo Stanton had an RBI infield single and a run-scoring double. Adeiny Hechavarria singled three times and drove in a run. NOTES: Marlins INF Rafael Furcal, who began the season on the DL with a strained left hamstring, said he expects to play five or six games on a rehabilitation assignment. He hopes to be activated around April 14. ... Weiss had two hits and two RBIs when he started at SS in the Marlins first game 21 years ago. ... The Marlins bid for back to back no-hitters ended with the second batter, when Cuddyer singled. Henderson Alvarez pitched a no-hitter for Miami on the final day of last season. ... Miamis Nathan Eovaldi is scheduled to start against Brett Anderson on Tuesday. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys
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