Colorado Avalanche: Keys for the Playoff Homestand

DENVER, CO - MARCH 16: Nathan MacKinnon
DENVER, CO - MARCH 16: Nathan MacKinnon /

The Colorado Avalanche have every chance to win the next two games at home — they just need to clean up a few mistakes.

The Colorado Avalanche are entering their two-game homestand for the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. They come into this homestand with a 0-2 deficit since the Nashville Predators won both their home games.

The Avalanche were dominant at home during the regular season. Their record was 28-11-2. Nashville also won 28 home games — in other words, Colorado was as good at home as the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

The Avs just have good mojo in the Pepsi Center. Whether it’s the altitude, the crowd, the actual home ice advantage, or some combination of factors — Colorado wins at home.

The Avalanche have been in must-win situations for about a month. This is it, though. They can drop one home game, but not both — dropping both equals elimination. And dropping even one makes any sort of victory a hard road.

So, let’s look at what the Colorado Avalanche must do to win these two home games.

How to Enjoy the Games

Game 3: April 16, 8:00 pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude (Avs feed), FS-TN (Preds feed), NBCSN, SN, TVAS (national feeds)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Game 4: April 18, 8:00 pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude (Avs feed), FS-TN (Preds feed), NBCSN, SN, TVAS (national feeds)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

MacKinnon Line Must Heat Up

Nathan MacKinnon is the reason the Colorado Avalanche are in the playoffs. He’s not the only reason, but he’s the main factor. So far, the MacKinnon line has combined for six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in the two playoff games.

During the regular season, they’d been known to put up those numbers in a single game.

Mikko Rantanen in particular needs to find his scoring touch. I don’t want to be too unfair because this is the first-ever NHL playoffs for the 21-year-old sophomore. But he has only one assist so far. He along with MacKinnon (1 goal, 2 assists) and captain Gabriel Landeskog (1 goal, 1 assist) have got to dominate.

Defense Must Tighten Up

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

During the regular season, the Colorado Avalanche blueline looked almost respectable at times. We had the captain of the blueline in Erik Johnson, our high-scoring rover in Tyson Barrie, and the whirling wonder, Samuel Girard. Around them a rotating cast of decent players kept the team afloat.

Well, a broken patella took Johnson out late in the season. Girard missed the last game with an unspecified “upper body injury.” And the Predators are doing their damnedest to kill Barrie.

At least we still have Nikita Zadorov, Big Z the Destroyer.

Fine. That’s what good systems are supposed to be there for. When you don’t have your best players, they fall back on the system.

What the remaining Avs have got to do is realize they can’t replace any missing players. Zadorov might come close to replacing Johnson, but he doesn’t have the experience to keep a cool head. It’s better if all the players just stick to the system, which will hopefully minimize the mistakes they make from trying to do too much.

Bernier Must Excel

Jonathan Bernier has been… all right. He’s a backup goalie, and he looks the part a lot recently. He has a 4.07 goals against average and .871 win percentage so far in the playoffs. To be fair, though, prior to this season the 29-year-old had only five playoff games to his name.

If the MacKinnon line is making some noise, and the defense is tightening up its play, Bernier will get the support he needs. Yes, we were all hoping we’d get the goalie who backstopped Colorado to nine straight wins as part of their 10-game win streak. However, Bernier isn’t Semyon Varlamov, who could steal games.

The saving grace has been that Predators goalie Pekka Rinne hasn’t been razor sharp either. He has a 3.00 goals against average and .895 save percentage. The Avs must find a way to exploit him.

Fans Must Take Back our Barn

It gets so frustrating going to games and seeing so many opponent fans. You can say what you want about the Colorado Avalanche putting out a better product so that doesn’t happen. However, for me, it triggers the anger of all these transplants coming to my state and failing to respect our traditions while they clog up our roads and drive up our rent prices.

It’s also super annoying to see all those opponent jerseys and hear them cheer so loudly when their team scores. I hate that roar with a passion.

Related Story: Avs Looking for Whiteout During Home Games

Anyway, these two playoff games are a chance for Avs fans to take back our home barn. Pepsi Center is not Bridgestone Arena West, it’s the home of Avs Nation. We need to scream and cheer and let our Avs know we’re behind them.

I just came across this promotional video for before game 82 to end the regular season. It’s such a fitting tribute to our regular season — even if the Duchene part was poignant. I just wish it was made after game 82 so it could include that electric win:

My personal favorite video is the one from the 2014 season. I watch it before every game I go to so it motivates me to cheer even louder:

I’m looking forward to more of the same.

I think the Colorado Avalanche can take these two games. They are the #17 team in the NHL, and they’re missing two of their best players — Johnson and Varlamov. And they’re giving the heavily-favored Predators fits.