When the franchise known as the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995, nobody could predict the immediate impact they would have. Quebec had qualified for the playoffs only twice in their previous eight seasons, losing in the first round both times. While they had a good young group of players, expectations weren’t necessarily high entering their first season as the Colorado Avalanche.
That all changed on December 6, 1995 when General Manager Pierre Lacroix made a five player trade that brought Patrick Roy to the Avalanche. With Roy in net and the team having a strong first season in Denver, they entered the 1996 playoffs as the number two seed in the Western Conference with 104 points.
The Avalanche met the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference quarterfinals, winning the series four games to two. Avalanche captain Joe Sakic had seven goals in the series.
Next up were the Chicago Blackhawks who entered the playoffs as the third seed in the West. Although Chicago boasted a powerful scoring attack led by Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte, Patrick Roy was able to hold them to only 14 goals in six games. Sakic added another six goals for Colorado who won the series four games to two.
In the Western Conference Finals, Colorado would play their first ever series against the Detroit Red Wings in what would become one of the best rivalries in all of sports. The Avalanche won game one of the series in overtime on a goal by Mike Keane. Patrick Roy had a 35 save shutout in game two. Detroit battled back to win game three, but couldn’t beat the Avs in game four. Detroit would win game five before finally losing the series in six games.
Reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, Colorado would face the fourth seed from the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers. The Avalanche would sweep the series and outscore Florida 15-5 in four games. Roy would stop 63 shots for a shutout in game four in a triple overtime win to bring Colorado their first Stanley Cup.
The Avalanche entered the 1997 playoffs with the best overall record in the NHL. In the first round they beat the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, outscoring them 28-14. Next would be their first ever post season meeting with the Edmonton Oilers who entered the playoffs as the seventh seed in the West. Colorado beat them handily, four games to one.
The Western Conference Finals would be a rematch with the Detroit Red Wings. The hard fought series went six games but the Avalanche would come out on the losing side this year. Detroit ended up winning The Cup over the Philadelphia Flyers.
After another stellar regular season, the Avalanche entered the 1998 playoffs as the second seed in the West. Unfortunately, they ran into a good Edmonton Oilers squad in the first round and were upset in seven games. Edmonton goaltender Curtis Joseph had a shutout in games six and seven, stopping all 62 shots he faced.
In 1999, the Colorado Avalanche would once again enter the post season as the number two seed, meeting the San Jose Sharks in the first round. Colorado won games one and two before losing in games three and four. The Avalanche would win games five and six with a three goal performance from Theo Fleury.
The second round would see the Avalanche meet the Red Wings yet again. Detroit would start the series strong, winning the first two games. Colorado would come back in a big way, winning the next four games in a row. Adam Deadmarsh and Peter Forsberg netted four goals apiece in the series.
The Western Conference Finals took place between the top two seeds as the Avalanche took on the number one seeded Dallas Stars. It was the first time that these two met in the playoffs and it turned into an absolute battle. The series was back and forth until former Avalanche player Mike Keane netter two goals in game seven, including the game winner. The Stars would go on the win the Stanley Cup against the Buffalo Sabres with a controversial goal from Brett Hull in overtime.
The year 2000 saw the Colorado Avalanche enter the playoffs in the lowest seed since moving from Quebec. The Northwest Division champions still came into their first round series against the Phoenix Coyotes as the number three team in the conference. The Coyotes just weren’t prepared to take on a team as deep as the Avalanche and lost the series four games to one.
In the second round, Colorado would once again meet the Detroit Red Wings. On the back of a four goal performance from Peter Forsberg, the Avalanche wound up winning the series in only five games.
Advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the fourth time in only five years, Colorado would once again run into the Dallas Stars. Just like the year before, the series went seven games with the Stars advancing to the Finals.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest hockey teams ever assembled, the 2001 Colorado Avalanche entered the post season as the undisputed favorite to win it all. They didn’t disappoint in the first round, sweeping the Vancouver Canucks.
The second round series against the Los Angeles Kings went a little less smoothly. After losing game one, Colorado went on to win the next three games but couldn’t close it out in games five and six. Playing a seventh game at home, they were finally able to finish the Kings off.
Their third round opponents were the St. Louis Blues. Colorado won the first three games of the series but couldn’t complete the sweep in game four. They did however secure the game five win in overtime with a goal from Joe Sakic, who had four goals throughout the series.
Back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1996, The Colorado Avalanche met the New Jersey Devils who were the first seed out of the Eastern Conference and the defending champions. Confidence was high after Patrick Roy got a shutout in game one to go along with a five goal outburst by the Avalanche. The Devils, however, were not willing to go down without a fight as they come back to win game two. The series continued to go back and forth until game seven at the Pepsi Center in Colorado. Alex Tanguay played his best game of the post season and his two goals helped the Avalanche win their second Stanley Cup. This year is also remembered for being the year that Colorado defenseman Ray Bourque finally won a Cup after a long career with the Boston Bruins.
In 2002, the Avalanche entered the post season as the second seed yet again. Their first round series against the Los Angeles Kings took seven games before Colorado emerged victorious. The Conference Semifinals against the San Jose Sharks also went the distance but the Avalanche were again able to come out on top.
The Detroit Red Wings would be waiting in the third round. After already playing back to back seven game series, the Avalanche were worn down when this round also went to a seventh game. Detroit won the series and eventually the Stanley Cup.
Colorado qualified for the 2003 playoffs as the number three seed before losing in the first round to the Minnesota Wild in a seven game series.
Falling to the fourth seed in the Western Conference in 2004, the Avalanche breezed through the Dallas Stars in the first round before losing to the San Jose Sharks in the second round four games to two.
After the 2004-05 season was cancelled due to the lockout, Colorado entered the 2006 playoffs as the seventh seed in the West, Colorado again met the Dallas Stars in the first round. In a repeat 2004, the Avalanche beat the Stars four games to one. Their success did not last long, as they were swept by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the second round.
After missing the playoffs in 2007 for the first time since becoming the Colorado Avalanche, the team entered the 2008 playoffs as the sixth seed. They upset the Minnesota Wild in the first round four to two, then were swept in the second round by the Red Wings.
2008 was the last season that the Colorado Avalanche won a playoff series. Although they would make the playoffs in 2010 and 2014, they lost in the first round both years. San Jose beat them four games to two in 2010 and the Minnesota Wild would beat them in seven games in 2014. After a successful season in 2017-18, the Avalanche hope to get back to their winning past and add on to an impressive playoff history.