No matter the opponent in the next round, the Colorado Avalanche will have a much more difficult time from here on out.
The Colorado Avalanche will face the Dallas Stars. But the opponent never mattered — the playoff rounds always get successively harder.
You hear it all the time in sports. A win is a win is a win. It’s true. At the professional level whenever you can add one to the win column you never take it for granted. Even though most of the NHL world expected the Colorado Avalanche to win their series against the Arizona Coyotes, not many expected them to do it in such swift fashion. Outside of a Darcy Keumper performance that was one for the ages, the Colorado Avalanche were in control of this series at every turn. Now, the real test begins.
No disrespect intended to the Arizona Coyotes, but this first round for the Avs was somewhat of a tune up for them. They knew they were the better team, and they showed it. While the first three games were close, the Avs were head and shoulders above anything the Coyotes could bring. Even the game they lost they managed 50 plus SOG. Then the switch flipped. It was like the Avs used those first three games in the series to figure things out while at the still time being in total control culminating with Avs hanging consecutive 7-1 games on the Yotes to slam the door shut.
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Spirits are high and so is the confidence. Why shouldn’t it be? The Avs won a Stanley Cup playoff series that made some casual fans turn their heads ever so slightly and think ‘they have some team over there in Denver’. Now, strap yourself in because the real test is about to begin.
The Colorado Avalanche will face the Dallas Stars. However, any of the three teams that were possible — Dallas, St. Louis or Vancouver — pose their own challenge.
The Stars had the Avs number in the regular season, however the Avs swiped all of that talk away with their most impressive game within the Round Robin games with a 4-0 shutout. This was a game that most closely resembled what was to come with the Arizona series. Yet, the regular season is still the regular season even if it took place over four months ago. When the Avs face off against the Stars we will no doubt hear all about those regular season struggles the Avalanche had against them.
Vancouver is a team that is maybe more under the radar than the Avalanche. They are now what the Avs were two years ago. Ahead of schedule in competing for a long push in the playoffs. Not many people expected the Canucks to be in this position and they are on the verge of eliminating last year’s champs who we will get to momentarily.
Vancouver is a talented team that many feel will be in the upper echelon of the league for years to come, much like the Avalanche. No doubt we are looking at an escalating division rivalry between these two. Both are young, talented and already making waves in the playoffs. Not only will the teams see battles multiple times per year moving forwards, but the Cale Makar-Quinn Hughes link will be talked about for years to come. It’s an exciting future for both teams separately and when they square off.
With the loss to Vancouver Wednesday night, the Blues playoff life is hanging by a thread. One more loss and they follow Arizona out of the bubble.
Then there is St. Louis. The Blues are the defending champs. They hold that title until they are dethroned even if they don’t seem to be playing the same type of hockey they were last season. Having that title often lifts up a team and things just seem to bounce the way of a team defending the title. This also is a huge opportunity to the team facing a defending champion and the Avalanche would love nothing more than to be known as the team that took down the champs. It adds something to the resume and all those heads turning towards Denver I mentioned early are now squarely focused on the city, arms folded saying ‘what else you got?’.
All three teams pose a challenge to the Avs but the one that will make the most waves is taking down St. Louis. I believe the Avs have their sights set on the Blues for multiple reasons. Sure, they want to take down the champs, but they also had them in their sights during the regular season. The Avs wanted that outright #1 seed and in doing so told the defending champs that they would need to go through their house in Denver to get back to the finals. They never got that chance. So this is the next best option. Burst their bubble if Vancouver doesn’t do so first (pun completely intended).
The Colorado Avalanche were always going to face a challenge: The team that won every game against you in the regular season, the up and coming, overachieving youth team or the defending champs. All are formidable opponents and the Avalanche will have no walk in the park like they did against Arizona. This is a good thing. Winning a championship should not be easy. The Avs have answered every call so far in these playoffs and you can bet the next round there will be a couple more.
I don’t remember seeing a more confident Avalanche team since the Joe Sakic days. You like having confidence in your team but you also don’t want that to lead to a cocky team or any sort of let down thinking your skill will win the day. Despite this Avs team having all the confidence in the world right now, they haven’t won anything, and this will be the reason they keep their eyes on the prize. While I’m sitting here saying any of the teams we could have faced in the next round will be a challenge, imagine what those teams are saying about us.