There are different feelings surrounding a title contending team.
It is one thing for a team to sneak into the playoffs, grab a series victory as an underdog and have some momentum to generate buzz in a big second round matchup. It’s entirely different to have the target on your back.
To be the number one. To be the king.
The Colorado Avalanche will enter this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs with the regular season crown planted firmly upon their heads. That and the giant target that comes with it.
Heavy is the head...
Colorado hasn’t been in this position since the 2000-01 season; riding into the playoffs with the best record in the league and a lineup jammed full of talent. Sure, it’s way too soon to claim that even Nathan MacKinnon is a sure-fire Hall of Famer like you could with Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake and Ray Bourque. We have the glorious knowledge in hindsight that those legends would lift that 2001 Stanley Cup and cement their places as the elite in the game.
This could be the run that does the same for MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar and Philipp Grubauer. The run that takes a bunch of good players on a solid roster and turns them into legends. Colorado heroes.
Things are looking good for Colorado heading into the playoffs this season. The best they’ve looked in a long time.
The squad secured the number one seed and President’s Trophy by getting red-hot and tearing off five consecutive victories to end the season. The team is getting healthier; with MacKinnon, Brandon Saad, Conor Timmins and potentially Bowen Byram all returning to the lineup against St. Louis. Grubauer just had far and away the best season of his career in net. Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky and Makar all put up points at career best paces in the shortened season. Tyson Jost and JT Compher lit it up while MacKinnon was out and are on fire heading into round one.
Long story short, there are a whole lot of reasons to be excited that THIS is the year.
Sure, there are issues with the Avalanche (like any other team at this point in the season). The backup goaltending situation is sketchy at best. Injuries seem to strike the lineup with an alarming frequency. Nazem Kadri and Saad are two veterans heading into the playoffs ice-cold, but will be relied on to contribute big minutes.
However, today, put those thoughts out of your mind.
Focus on all of the positives.
Remember MacKinnon’s playoff run last year and imagine him doing the same, but with an NHL goaltender in net and the rest of the lines buzzing beside him.
Envision Rantanen continuing his regular season dominance, scoring goals in bunches.
Picture Makar and Sam Girard dancing through opponents like they were traffic cones.
Visualize a fully healthy and locked-in Grubauer pitching shutout after shutout in front of a stifling Avalanche defense corps.
Most of all - get excited! You could be witnessing something special, so enjoy it while you can. It’s been 20 seasons since the Avalanche lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup, it’s time to make some new memories of Avalanche players lifting the trophy.
Go Avs Go!