Lately, I sense a vibe of foreboding at MHH. There seems to be an anticipation that the Avalanche will continue to falter. That they will end up on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin in two weeks. Frankly, I am not diggin' it. Sure, the Avs play of late warrants concern, but the doom and gloom has to be swept under the rug, perhaps with a broom (Channeling my inner Dr. Seuss).
I believe in Craig Anderson. This guy might as well be a rock star in Denver. I vividly remember attending the first two games of the season. Watching Andy stand on his head against San Jose, to deliver an opening night win on Joe Sakic night. The next game he shutout the Nucks. The Avs were off to a 2-0 start, which helped catapult them to become one of the surprise stories of the NHL. Chants of ANN-DEE echoed through the can. Our goalie had arrived! Anderson has been a horse for the Avs. Most games played, and most minutes played during a season, in the history of the franchise. I believe that the Park Ridge, Illinois native, originally drafted by the Flames, will come up big between the pipes. He will be the catalyst, just like he has been all season, and spark this team down the stretch, thereby burning the team that drafted him.
I believe in the teenagers. Seriously, two teenagers on this team. Matt Duchene. The Flying Dutchyman. We all know and love his speed and elusiveness, his youthful energy, and his charismatic personality. He is leading NHL rookies in scoring with 52 points. He has the razzle dazzle, the wow factor. You think this team means something to Matt Duchene? As a youthful Avs fan, he had a burgundy and blue memorabilia clad room. Yeah baby, pump that fist when Tampa doesn't call your name. You know you are coming to the Mile High City. I know that Duchene is giving everything he has to push his boyhood team into the playoffs. Ryan O'Reilly is the guy nobody saw coming. He came out of the gate like a scalded dog, posting 17 points in the season's first 24 games. Amidst Dutchy's slow start, many declared Radar as the best 18 year old on the team. O'Reilly has since cooled, but he remains a vital piece of the puzzle on the PK if this team wants to play on, and is an exciting part of the future.
I believe in the underdog role. Have you been watching March Madness?! The Avs were forecast to dwell in the basement of the West this season. Prior to the season's start, ESPN power rankings slotted the Avs as the caboose of the NHL, dead last. Scott Burnside at ESPN stated the Avs were "a once-great team in full decline." The Avs sure proved him wrong. As a matter of fact, they proved everybody wrong. One month in, they were the story of the NHL. However, people doubted they would keep it up. The hockey community seemed to be waiting for the Avs to fade. The consensus in the national, and even some local media, was that the Avs weren't going to be a playoff team. With this recent scuffle, the sharks are circling thicker than ever. The hockey world wants to say, now see, the Avs were just a bunch of overachieving kids that hit the skids in crunch time, because they weren't really that good. I believe that Avs will refuse to give those sharks any more bait. This team has been defined by their ability to bounce back, exceed expectation, and achieve the improbable.
I believe in the Young Guns. Chris Stewart is an absolute beast. His nicknames are laced with profanity. His game is laced with power. TJ Galiardi is the forgotten rookie. Peter Mueller. We weren't sure we wanted him on deadline day. How do you like me now Denver? All he has done is drop 17 points in 12 games on the scoresheet since donning the burgundy and blue. It took him 54 games in the desert this season to reach that same total. Ryan Wilson, look out! Can't get enough of his open ice bone crushers. Is Paul Stastny really only 24? He may be under the most pressure of any Av. His hefty contract signifies that he is the man on this team. He has seemed to be stepping up his game of late. I hope it continues.
I believe in Milan Hejduk. I absolutely love Milan Hejduk!
I believe in home ice advantage. The Avs have 5 out of their last 7 at home. My buddies and I already have tickets for Friday night's bout against Calgary. I believe the Pepsi Center will be caffeinated down the stretch, and the energy of playing at home will give this team a big time boost.
I believe in the Avs' mascot Bernie. That's a lie.
This has been one of the most exciting and rewarding Avs seasons I can remember. The youth and energy of this team is infectious. The success of the Avs is so refreshingly enjoyable, because it wasn't supposed to happen. Last season was like a dark cloud I would rather forget. It turns out that cloud was simply dumping snow in the Rocky Mountains. Coloradans love fresh powder. With all that powder in the peaks, the NHL better be ready for an Avalanche of a next decade.
I believe in this team. I believe this spring's playoffs include the Colorado Avalanche. Do you?