Colorado Avalanche Roundtable: Factors to the Team Making the Playoffs

DENVER, CO - APRIL 07: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie
DENVER, CO - APRIL 07: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie /

The Colorado Avalanche are in the playoffs! Our roundtable post explores how this wondrous event occurred.

You can state why the Colorado Avalanche made the playoffs in one name: Nathan MacKinnon. However, hockey is a team sport. There was more than one player getting hot that led to Colorado getting into the playoffs.

As part of our 2018 NHL Playoffs coverage, Mile High Sticking contributors and I talked about some different topics related to this exciting time. The first topic is factors that led to the Avs making the playoffs — because that can help us win some playoff games.

Ross Kleppe acknowledges that MacKinnon is the “easy answer.” However, he mentions some other specific factors:

“MacKinnon took the lead as the number one center on this team and put up Hart Trophy numbers. Mikko Rantanen certainly has the talent to play with MacKinnon, but being on Mack’s wing certainly boosted his numbers. Landeskog as the power forward on that line made it one of the most dynamic in the league.

“Also, I think a big key was the special teams. Playing well 5 on 5 is important, but finishing top 10 on the powerplay and top 5 on the PK was huge.”

Our MacKRantseskog or MGM or whatever you want to call that line certainly was a dynamic one.

Kyle Peters thinks coach Jared Bednar helped rally the team together:

The whole team came together under Bednar. Lots of people will point to MacKinnon’s Hart-worthy season, but everyone played a part — from Landeskog and Rantanen providing stellar assistance on the top line, to Varlamov’s return to form, to Girard coming in and proving himself something to look out for in the next few years — all the problems with last year’s team were definitely fixed.

He’s not wrong. And Bednar definitely helped get all those factors lined up.

Tom Janz credits MacKinnon’s career-high numbers, but adds there are many reasons the Avalanche got in:

As with all 16 teams who qualified, there are so many reasons that the Avs are in the playoffs. The most obvious is Nathan MacKinnon. He had 39 goals and 58 assists in only 74 games. 38 of those goals happened in his last 64 games, after a slow start. Beyond that, the Avalanche have shown incredible resiliency. They overcame the loss of their best player, best defenseman, and best goalie, for long stretches of time. Every time that I have counted them out, they have bounced back admirably.”

I counted them out, too. They seem to thrive on people expecting little of them.

Anthony Noga offers a pragmatic view of what happened:

Well before getting into the main factors, it’s worth noting that the Avs
had some outside help.

The middle of the Western Conference just fell apart. Competition for the
last playoff spots wasn’t as stiff as expected. Edmonton, Calgary, Dallas,
St. Louis, even Chicago and Arizona were all supposed to be much better.
Instead, they fell out of the race early and often until only St. Louis
was any threat.”

We certainly got a little help near the end with Calgary, Dallas and St. Louis, well, crapping out.

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

Anthony also credits the Colorado Avalanche:

“That’s not to diminish what the Avalanche did. They needed an opening,
they got it, and through some all-world performances, they pulled
themselves into the playoffs. It wouldn’t have mattered how bad everyone else was if it wasn’t for their determination, skill and resilience.

“There were obviously a bunch of reasons the Avalanche made it. Barrie’s
career year, Landeskog’s leadership, Rantanen and especially MacKinnon
emerging as stars, the home record, special teams, the Duchene trade, team chemistry, a better fit between a more experienced coach and a way better, deeper, faster, more skilled roster than Colorado’s had in a long while.

“More than anything, I’d say the core got it done. Landeskog, Rantanen,
Barrie and MacKinnon – the league’s best and most valuable player –
carried the team all year, then came through again in game 82. They didn’t shy away from the big moments, but came up with clutch performances all season long. Those 4 had 19 game winning goals, led of course by MacKinnon and his 12 (3 in OT).”

Interestingly, Anthony is the only one to mention Tyson Barrie. I’m going to do something I don’t very regularly — give Barrie some love. He absolutely drives me crazy with his lackadaisical defense, but you can’t question his offense. And he had a career season, surpassing both his points (57) and goals (14) total.

Next: Bernier Critical to Avs' Success

There’s not a whole lot I can add to why the Colorado Avalanche made the playoffs. I will add that I saw a tenacity I haven’t seen in a while — certainly not last year. They didn’t collapse as often when things went against them.

The Avs also capitalized on chances and made things go for them. I think in fancy stats terms that’s called PDO. In old-time hockey, it’s called puck luck. But you create your own luck sometimes, and that’s what I saw the Avalanche doing this season.