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Renck: Jets get tacos, Avs get Denver omelet on their face in most embarrassing defeat of season

Alexander Georgiev wore disheveled hair and a distant stare into nowhere. His helmetless head told a sobering story even before coach Jared Bednar opened his mouth Saturday afternoon.

The Avs are in trouble. Their goalie has blown more saves than the cast of “Baywatch,” and was benched during one of the worst first periods in recent memory. Or any memory.

The final score: Winnipeg 7, Avs 0. The Jets got tacos and the Avs settled for a Denver omelet on their face.

“We didn’t show up,” defenseman Devon Toews said in an eerily-silent locker room. “It was just really bad.”

The Avs framed their matchup with the Jets as a must-win with home ice in the playoffs dangling in the balance. What unfurled can only be described as an unmitigated disaster, a performance so mind-numbingly awful that it raises questions about the Avs’ postseason veracity.

Colorado is set to face the Jets — a lunch pail, hard hat team — in the postseason. The same Jets team who swept the Avs in three games this season, outscoring them 17-4.

It wasn’t too long ago — like Tuesday — that the Avs looked like they had regrouped and were dancing to the same beat. There was no Mack Trick during this matinee, only a sellout crowd, in between full-throated boos, wondering if it could wave a wand and make the goalie and defensive issues disappear.

“It seemed like with our structure that we didn’t know what we were doing at times,” forward Andrew Cogliano said. “It was mental errors.”

More like a comedy of missteps. Except exactly no one was laughing. Bednar explained that the Avs were beaten to the net, beat on the rush and beat to the boards. A lack of execution happens. Lack of effort is a sin.

“I felt like we got out-competed,” Bednar admitted.

There is also no easy way to say it: Georgiev is in a slump. The 4-0 first-quarter deficit cannot be laid solely on his crease, but his fingerprints were all over this mess. He made a stop with 14:35 remaining in the first period that drew cheers as Brandon Duhaime shoved the Jets’ Alex Iaffollo. It was a fleeting glimpse of intensity and swagger.

Then, as fans looked on in disbelief, it was like somebody took the Avs’ batteries out.

Instead of helping out Georgiev, who had been wobbly for weeks, the Avs offered less resistance than a water slide. With the type of pressure that makes palms sweat and heads ache, the Jets pounced. Sean Monahan delivered his 25th goal.

A hiccup? More like a pipe burst. With the Jets on a power play moments later, the Avs’ Josh Manson chased the puck high, leaving him out of position as Gabriel Vilardi clicked the puck into the net for a 2-0 advantage.

With the defense sloppy in front of him, Georgiev dissolved before our eyes, allowing two soft goals before Bednar sat him in favor of Justus Annunen. Four goals on 15 shots in 14 minutes. The Avs made the Jets look like an army of MacKinnons. Embarrassing is an apt description. Georgiev will start Sunday in Las Vegas. It is not a reward, more of a default, the evil of two lessers.

“He didn’t make the big save tonight. He’s grouped in with the rest of them,” Bedndar said. “I didn’t love either one of them. So, we will go back to our starter.”

Given the time, place and stakes, this was the Avs’ worst loss of the season. There’s no hiding from this. The Avs wanted home ice in the first round for a number of reasons, mainly because they have been the NHL’s best home team this season. Saturday mirrored the postseason, hockey at its most unforgiving.

It wasn’t just how the Avs lost, but to whom. The playoffs begin in just over a week. The Avs will face these Jets, and likely start on the road. Goodbye fingernails. Hello, Pepto.

Some will equate this to ski lifts closing on a powder day or Cherry Creek reservoir freezing in August.

Can you blame them? It’s not good.

This team is supposed to provide another deep Stanley Cup run, delivering mouth-agape moments and Blink-182 sing-alongs. Now, there’s concern the playoffs will be another Blink and see you in October. Upstart Seattle dispatched the Avs in the first round last season, a stunning result clouded by Valeri Nichushkin’s absence.

The Jets are better. They treat opponents with personal contempt, guarding their goal like a fang-bearing wolverine. They require patience and discipline to break.

“We got a taste of what it’s going to be like going against them in the playoffs,” Cogliano said. “From a lot of different angles it wasn’t good enough.”

It was so bad that the idea of the Avs showing the Denver Pioneers’ national championship game during the third period seemed reasonable. Desperate chants of “We want a goal!” reverberated throughout Ball Arena.

The Avs have time to figure it out. They boast the type of talent and resume that makes them suited for the task. But what will Saturday’s Goofy on Ice performance do to their psyche?

There is no shame in an awful defeat, even though this looked like a scheduled win with the Jets coming off a victory over Dallas and poised for a letdown at the end of a road trip.

But, Saturday shined a flashlight on growing concerns.

The goal is another Stanley Cup championship. Hard to see that happening with a leaky defense and goalie problem.

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