The Colorado Avalanche faced more than their fair share of injuries during the regular season, a trend that continued in the second round.
A few years ago, then-Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy indulged in a bit of his customary theatrics when giving his post-practice presser. He came out the podium, made a big show of taking a long paper out of his pocket, and cataloged the team’s long list of injuries.
I haven’t noticed if Jared Bednar did something similar during the season, but he may have needed to. The injury bug didn’t just bite the Avalanche. It took a big old chomp out of their butts. At various times in the year, the following players missed significant amounts of time:
- Mikko Rantanen
- Gabriel Landeskog
- Philipp Grubauer
- Pavel Francouz
- Cale Makar
- Colin Wilson
- Joonas Donskoi
- Matt Calvert
- Nazem Kadri
- Andre Burakovsky
- Erik Johnson
At times, several of the above players were missing at the same time. Indeed, when the NHL season was put on pause, Rantanen, Grubauer, Wilson, and Kadri were on injured reserve. Nathan MacKinnon missed the last game and was expected to miss more if not for the pause.
When all of these injuries started befalling the team, some Avs fans were of the opinion that it was “good to get the injuries out of the way early.”
There’s no quota of injuries. You don’t get to the end of your allotted amount and, hey presto, suddenly everyone is healthy again.
In fact, you could make a case for the opposite to be true. Players try to play through injury, or they come back before they’re ready. Granted, with the NHL season’s having been on pause for four months, that shouldn’t have been the case this year. We all were delighted that we’d finally have a totally healthy team.
Were they, though? Were the players still attempting to play through injury or pain despite the long pause? Or were the Colorado Avalanche just extraordinarily unlucky with injuries in the second round?
Because the Avalanche seemed like the golden child in the first round. They had a lot of lucky bounces, and they escaped the entire five-game series unscathed.
The bad luck started before Game 1. Matt Calvert did his usual alley-oop jump into Ian Cole in warmups. But the time game time rolled around a few minutes later, he was deemed unfit to play. I’m not saying exactly that it was that jump, but what else could have happened between warmups and the start of the game? I guess it’s possible he tripped and injured himself.
Regardless, it doesn’t matter. The series went seven games, and he never returned.
The next to fall was alternate captain Erik Johnson. Dallas captain Jamie Benn was knee-hunting all series, and he got Johnson. The blueliner returned to the game, but only to sit on the bench in moral support of his teammates.
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Next up was goalie Philipp Grubauer. He made what looked like a routine save that seemed to do something terrible to his groin. He was unable to get up off the ice on his own and even lay prone for several minutes. Next, Pavel Francouz came in for him and started one game, then he was deemed unfit to play.
By the time Joonas Donskoi was mysteriously declared unfit, we were all beginning to realize the injury but had followed Colorado to the Edmonton bubble, and it still had a taste for blood. Indeed, it claimed rookie Conor Timmins in Game 6.
And that’s when the final calamity happened. Captain Gabriel Landeskog fell to friendly fire. Purely by accident, as Cale Makar fell, his skate blade sliced just above Landeskog’s knee pad. Landeskog dropped like he’d been shot. He made it off the ice, but that was it for our captain. That calamity happened in Game 6, too.
If I’ve forgotten someone, please forgive me. I don’t have a long list in my pocket à la Patrick Roy.
None of the above players was fit for Game 7. Look at all those names, important players for the team.
I’m not saying the injuries were an excuse for their play. During the regular season, the team took a “next man up” approach. So, as one player fell, the next guy on the roster would take his place.
That wasn’t going to fly in the playoffs. Intensity is ratched up to the nth degree. And these COVID playoffs have gotten to have played with their heads. It’s hard to maintain mental stamina when it looks like the stars are aligned against you.
I truly believe the Colorado Avalanche players who suited up for Game 7 gave their best efforts. But, like I said in a previous post, the entire series was rife with mental errors that ultimately cost them their chance at this year’s Cup.
And I believe the above injuries played a large part in those mental lapses.