After the four-game sweep of the Nashville Predators, the Colorado Avalanche had over a week off to rest up and prepare for their second-round opponent. The break also served as time to reflect and appreciate their success thus far and look ahead to the next challenge in the St. Louis Blues and getting over the second round hurdle.
Who is your MVP of the first round?
Adrian: The easy answer (and probably correct) is the young phenom, Cale Makar. The Kid from Calgary has ten points in four games making him the leading point-getter in the NHL Playoffs thus far. He didn’t just score, he scored in the biggest and most crucial moments of the first round. My honorable mention is Gabe Landeskog. The guy came back from mid-season surgery and incredibly didn’t skip a beat.
Evan: Is there any other answer than Makar? I certainly don’t think so. When you become the first defenseman ever to score 10 points in four games in NHL playoff history, that’s undoubtedly going to make you the standout star he was. He’s only going to get better the longer he plays this season and from here on out in his young career if we weren’t aware of that already.
Jackie: Makar seems, rightfully, the unanimous choice. His performances in Games 2 and 4 especially were memorable and impactful. The overtime winner to go along with 22 shot attempts was mind-boggling and I’m not sure Colorado clinches the sweep without him taking over that game. A couple of honorable mentions: Nathan MacKinnon for scoring a goal in each game and Pavel Francouz stepping in for Darcy Kuemper and holding the fort down to secure two wins on the road. He didn’t have to play outstanding but got the job done under tough circumstances.
What was your favorite moment in the Nashville series?
Adrian: My favorite moment of the Nashville series came when Devon Toews evened the score midway through the third period of game 4. Colorado lead the Predators for damn near the entire series but fell behind early in the third period. It was the first time Colorado was asked to respond and fight back against momentum. Tying the game up and then securing the lead gave me peace of mind knowing things won’t be so easy as the playoffs wear on.
Evan: While I’m a little biased, Game 1 was a personal favorite of mine. It was a privilege to be in the stands for this one with 18,000 strong watching the Avs put on a clinic over the Preds. I was also certainly a little worried about how the Avs would come out of the gate after finishing the regular season on a down note. But those worries were put to rest quickly after just the first 10 minutes of the game.
Jackie: The aforementioned Makar and winning in overtime were great moments. Something that might stick in my mind is Andre Burakovsky shooting through the net to get on the board first in Game 4. Not only did he need that for his confidence and it was very important for the Avalanche to get a lead early in such a crucial game but it was hilarious how it happened and nobody stopped the game to check the video until a whistle over a minute later.
What do the Avalanche need to work on before the second round begins?
Adrian: The only thing that popped out to me were some of the break-out attempts that lead to turnovers and goals for Nashville. The good news is the guys will have plenty of time to practice and clean up those little things before the second round starts early next week. They say “rest is a weapon” but I’d argue that practice time will give the Avalanche a huge advantage over squads in the midst of a grueling series.
Evan: As crazy as it sounds, the Avs should challenge the opposing goalie in tougher spots. Thinking back to Games 2 and 4, the Avs made Connor Ingram look really good by consistently shooting to his glove side. If the Avs challenge a goalie’s weak spot more so than not, they will really make easy work of their opponents from here on out.
Jackie: It is difficult to find much fault after a series with four consecutive wins and 21 total goals scored in those games but the challenge will get more difficult and the Avalanche need to be ready to adapt and get creative if need be. I’d like to see Alex Newhook utilized in this upcoming series and more proactive adjustments especially if scoring becomes a challenge.
State your prediction for the second-round match with the Blues.
Adrian: My prediction firstly is that we will meet the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the playoffs. With that, I think the Avalanche match up well with either team as long as they are and stay healthy. Another reason why sweeping was so important. If it is indeed the Blues, I’d expect a more competitive series, but still don’t see the Avs losing at home and think they can steal one in St. Louis. I’ve got the Avalanche in 5.
Evan: There are plenty of challenges and positives for the Blues as Jacob Weindling outlined earlier last week. With it being determined it was St. Louis, it will be a great matchup. The Avs will be the better side out of the two, and I expect the Avs to come out on top in six games.
Jackie: This won’t be a sweep like last year’s postseason meeting but the Avalanche should take advantage of St. Louis’ questions on defense and in goal. Both teams can run four lines with scoring depth. For those reasons I also think this will go six games. The Avalanche will face some adversity but will ultimately slay the dragon.