Now that the dust has settled on the regular season, the Colorado Avalanche can finally turn the page toward what everyone has been waiting for: playoffs and the chance to prove their dominance is worthy of a championship.
How important was winning the Presidents’ Trophy and guaranteed home ice?
Patrick: Reasonably important. I think it gave the squad a tougher round one matchup, but will benefit later against Vegas/Minnesota and beyond. Would you rather head to Tampa and a bunch of lunatic Floridian fans for game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, or watch a bunch of veterans suck wind in the Rocky Mountain atmosphere?
Alex D: There’s lots of talk about the curse of the Presidents’ Trophy and how teams who win it are often destined to falter when the going gets tough during a heated playoff battle. However, I think this serves as more of an old wives’ tale than anything else. Since the Trophy was first awarded to the Edmonton Oilers for the 1985-86 campaign, the winner has gone on to win the Stanley Cup eight times. Here are some other figures that hopefully paint a better picture:
In the 34-year history of the Presidents’ Trophy, the winners have:
Advanced past first round: 27 of 34 times (79%)
Advanced to Conference Finals: 18 of 34 times (53%)
Advanced to Cup Finals: 11 of 34 times (32%)
Won Stanley Cup: 8 of 34 times (24%)
Pundits and fans across the league want to make you believe that if you earn the right to home ice throughout the playoffs then it’s almost a certainty that your team’s postseason run will end prematurely. Much like emotions rule the day in the stock market, so do they rule the hearts and therefore the minds of sports fans. Having home ice throughout the balance of the playoffs, leveraging the energy brought by the (limited) crowd, and having the distinct advantage to dictate matchups on the ice will only serve to help the Avs in their quest to raise a third Stanley Cup.
Jackie: St. Louis was not my preferred opponent and somehow the television schedule against them is even worse than the Minnesota Wild path. Home ice only matters if you let a series get to game seven so that’s a bit overrated. It is nice that the Avalanche set a goal and accomplished it, carrying that momentum with them into the postseason, which is the most important part.
Luke: I think it’s very important. How different do the series against the Sharks or Dallas (assuming a normal year) change if game 7 is at home? I think this year, it will be huge for the Avalanche to start each series at home and if needed to have a home game 7.
Tom: Home ice advantage is hugely important in a series. Beyond the last change in Game 7, starting the series at home allows a team the advantage of jumping out to a early lead in the series. Two wins at home to start the series could help build momentum in a way that could be demoralizing to a team who sees themselves trying to climb out of a 0-2 hole. Beyond that, St. Louis is a vastly inferior team to the Wild so getting that matchup was a big bonus for the Avalanche.
Hardev: The Avs were the best team this season, full stop. The playoffs are wild, and any advantages are only marginal, but the fact that the team is healthy and were pushing through all the way to the end will help them keep push forward into the playoffs. Ditto for Vegas, unfortunately. The first round should be easy enough to handle, the biggest test will come in the second round since Colorado know Vegas and Minnesota really well. Once we get to the Final Four, anything can happen. Getting to play the lowest seed in the third round will definitely help.
Daniel W: It is hard to deny that securing the President’s Trophy is a great accomplishment for the Avs, especially considering the standings leading up to the last 5-6 game of the regular season. This team proved their belonging at the top of the league, and whoever is questioning that being a great thing for this team might need to re evaluate. Home ice is HUGE for this team. I was at the 6-0 win against LA, let me tell you.. It was LOUD. With more fans expected for playoffs, this is going to benefit this team in a major way.
Series prediction for the first round against the St. Louis Blues?
Patrick: Colorado in seven. I don’t like this matchup, St. Louis is a tough veteran team that the Avalanche have had some issues against. Comes down to game seven in Ball Arena and depth scoring. With how well both are playing, I see JT Compher and Tyson Jost making big contributions in the series and taking the Avalanche across the line in the first round.
Alex D: The Blues have championship grit and pedigree, no doubt. This St. Louis squad is only two years removed from a Stanley Cup victory and the core group of guys from that championship roster is still in-tact. I don’t expect the Blues to be an easy out, but I personally think the Avs should prefer this matchup over playing the Minnesota Wild as St. Louis has proved to be the far inferior team of the two squads. With that said, I’ll take the Avs in six games to win and advance.
Jackie: Avalanche in six. National pundits expect this one to be over quick but despite the mismatch on paper this series is going to be a serious grind. The more the Avalanche can play at 5v5 the better but if it turns into a special teams battle there could be problems. The Blues power play has been hot and the Avalanche need to stand up to their physicality while staying out of the penalty box.
Luke: I have always had this superstition, don’t predict the outcome before you’ve played the games, and Blues Captain, our old friend Ryan O’Reilly opened his mouth. While I think this series will be a closer than we would like, I think the Avalanche have the advantage. While Binnington will steal a game, maybe two, I believe the Avalanche are deeper, have the star power and the defense game to come out on top. In order to win, they must get up early and often, lead going into the third and DON’T TAKE PENALTIES! I think the Avalanche will move on to the 2nd round after taking care of business in 6 games.
Hardev: Avs in 5.
Tom: What Hardev said.
Daniel W: The Blues will be an interesting first round test for the Avs. I am wondering how much influence the Blues top players such as Ryan O’Reilly, Torey Krug, & Jordan Binnington will have in this series, yet it is hard to think they will have enough to overmatch the best team in the NHL. We may drop 1 or 2 games but the Avalanche will prevail. Avs in 6.
Who will be the Avalanche series MVP in round one?
Patrick: Samuel Girard. In a tight defensive series that I envision, Girard’s ability to get the puck from the opponent and move it to the offensive zone will be critical. Add in a couple goals and at least one assist in every game, the series ends with Girard having the greatest influence; a game winning goal in game seven.
Alex D: The obvious answer is Nathan “the Dogg” MacKinnon. Earlier in the week, coach Bednar said he’s hopeful MacKinnon is ready to go for game one and I think unless Nate’s on his deathbed, there’s a good chance he suits up. However, given how well Mikko Rantanen has played all season long, I think it’s tough to overlook him stepping into the role of MVP — his impact and value to this team’s success is vastly under-appreciated. I give the nod to the Finnish superstar to carry a large share of the load especially if MacKinnon isn’t at 100%.
Jackie: Those secondary heroes that show up seem to be what makes or breaks a team in the playoffs. I expect Andre Burakovsky’s phenomenal run (eight game point streak with 12 points and five goals) to continue and be a big factor in the first round. He is protecting the puck well and creating scoring chances in traffic, which will serve playing the Blues well.
Luke: Devon Toews & Samuel Girard. I have both because i think as a pair, they will be on the ice the most for the defense, and take the bulk of the tougher matchups and minutes. At their best together they were the best defensive pair in the league. Bednar will turn to them often in every situation and they will be the minute munchers for the team. Every cup winner has as that one pair that teams just can’t do anything against, this will be that pair for the Avalanche.
Hardev: Your stars drive your playoff success. It’s Nate.
Tom: Cale Douglas Makar. Since returning from an injury earlier in the season, Makar has been absolutely dominant nearly every night. He was the only NHL defender to finish with a point per game this season and a big reason for that is his production against the Blues. Makar finished with 10 points in eight games against St. Louis this season and I expect him to build on that during the playoffs.
Daniel W: With playoffs come a new precedent for players to shine the brightest. It is easy to see the stars running the show, but as you see in Tampa Bay, players like Braden Point come to life in a whole new way. I see the Avalanche having success from the top guys, but don't sleep on Tyson Jost. If he continues his recent playoff success and the streak he has had leading into this round, we may find ourself looking at our own playoff Braden Point.
Which other series are you most interested in?
Jackie: The Florida Panthers-Tampa Bay Lightning meeting in the Discover Central Division seems like a good early clash of foes who should be meeting much later in the postseason. Also the new look surging Panthers versus the defending champion Lightning is a good challenge for either team.
Patrick: There are a couple. Edmonton Oilers - Winnipeg Jets as well as the Panthers - Lightning tangle Jackie touched on are both intriguing. I want to see how well Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl deal with the different style of playoff hockey. I could easily see Connor Hellebuyck getting hot and nabbing the series for the Jets, combined with their center depth matching Edmonton’s top two lines.
Alex D: To me, it’s easy: Minnesota vs. Vegas — two powerhouse teams that have been on a collision course all season long. I think this series is going to be an absolute dogfight with the victor coming out on the other side battered and bruised. I have this matchup going the distance with Vegas barely squeaking out a victory in game seven to advance and face the Avalanche in round two.
Luke: Boston vs Washington. Both looking for that second ring to complete what have been a decade of greatness from each team. Boston got the jewel of the TDL in Hall, and have fit in just fine with them. Washington getting former Boston Captain Zdeno Chara in the offseason. Both teams have there flaws and star power. This should be a great, physical, high scoring affair, with one moving on, the other headed home.
Hardev: The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders always have a sh*tfight every time they see each other in the playoffs. I want to see what kind of chaos comes out of it. Massive blowouts, big comebacks, give me all the goals. Leafs vs. Habs or Oilers vs. Jets might have that too, depending on goaltending. The North was a very high-scoring division with two of the best forwards in the game.
Tom: The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have not met in the playoffs since 1979. The original six rivaly is one that can stoke interest from hockey fans everywhere. That said, there is a very good chance that it turns into a very lopsided series. That said, I think I’m most excited to watch the series between Nashville and Carolina. On paper, this is quite the mismatch but the way Juuse Saros has been playing, anything is possible. While it was the NHL’s short-puck-stopping-king that dragged the Preds into the playoffs, Nashville has a sneaky exciting team. Add that to the fact that the Canes play an Avalanche-style high-skill possession game and this series has the potential to be one of the most exiting of the first round.
Daniel: FLA vs. TB is a tantalizing first round matchup for sure, but considering we are in the West, it’s hard to overlook VGK vs. MIN. These teams matchup incredibly well, & will put everything on the line to get into the second round. Can’t wait to get into some playoff hockey & see how it all shakes out. TIME TO GET LORD STANLEY COLORADO! GO AVS!