When the Colorado Avalanche passed the St. Louis Blues to finish first place in the Central Division in the final week of the regular season it was the best thing that could’ve happened to the young speedy squad based out of Denver.
With all due respect to the Minnesota Wild, had the Avalanche finished second in the Central they would’ve lined-up against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first round — a much tougher matchup.
Speaking of the Blackhawks, they’re locked in combat with the St. Louis Blues in a vicious first-round epic full of hitting, cheap shot artistry and overtimes.
The Avalanche and Wild are two games into their first-round series, having completed the opening home games at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The young Avs have taken advantage of both home ice opportunities with wins over the Wild. Specifically, the young Avs have led the way in retaining home ice advantage.
18-year-old offensive marvel, Nathan MacKinnon, has recorded a remarkable 7 points in two games, thus far. Avs baby captain, Gabriel Landeskog, who is only 21, has already tallied 3 goals through two games. Colorado has been able to secure a 2-0 series lead without the help of number one centre, speedster Matt Duchene, who is considered questionable to play a game in the first-round.
The series is not over. The Avalanche are a young team with minimal postseason experience, still susceptible to blowing a lead in games if they take the Wild lightly moving forward. Games 3 and 4 go down in Minny, where the Wild play their best hockey. The Wild were 26-10-5 on home ice throughout the 2013-14 regular season.
The Colorado Avalanche don’t need to win the Stanley Cup this year, and in fact, they probably don’t have the horses to go four rounds in a Western Conference that is downright elite at the high-end. This is a year for learning how to win the playoffs, and eventually, by losing, learning how not to lose in years-to-come.
What the Avalanche have working in their favour is that the big clubs in the West drew each other in the first-round, and they’re currently placing beatings on one another.
As mentioned earlier, the Blackhawks and Blues’ series is a showcase of Stanley Cup Finals intensity in the first-round. The winner of that series will be bumped, bruised and set up to be decimated by injuries by the second or third round.
In the Pacific bracket, the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings are one game down in a series that pits California’s most proven playoff clubs against one another for the second straight postseason. They met in the second-round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs — the Kings won in seven games. The Kings entered the 2013 third-round without third line centre Jared Stoll, and after Game 1 of the Conference Finals, they were without second line centre Mike Richards the rest of the way. Too much to overcome. Too many tough opponents.
The Avalanche have set themselves up to defeat the Wild if they can cash in on their 2-0 series lead. If the Avs advance beyond the first-round, their opponent will be a Blues team that possesses a 2-0 series lead over a Blackhawks’ team that will leave dents even if the series only lasts four games. Should the Blackhawks win the series against the Blues, it will take them six games at the least, most likely seven. And who knows how many survivors there will be when it’s done?
Are the Avalanche playoff ready? It looks like it. But, you have to think things would be different if they drew the Blackhawks or Blues in Round 1. Irrelevant, now.