2022 Stanley Cup playoffs – Why the Colorado Avalanche is the NHL’s postseason juggernaut

The Colorado AvalancheParticipate in the second round 2022 Stanley Cup playoffsFavorite to win the Western Conference and finally hoist the cup for the first-time since 2001.

They are called dominant, a Juggernaut, or, in hockey parlance: a “wagon”. No matter what label they choose, the Avalanche are a dominant team with a stellar roster and a 119-point season. They also won the first round against the… Nashville Predators.

We all know they are a great team in Colorado. They have many high-end players,” he stated. St. Louis BluesCoach Craig Berube, whose company opens their series against the AvalancheTuesday night. “You will need to do a lot right, and you will need to be very disciplined.”

It's easier said than done. This is what we learned from opponents, scouts, analysts.

2022 Stanley Cup playoffs - Why the Colorado Avalanche is the NHL's postseason juggernaut

Nathan MacKinnon is well-known for being one of the NHL's most dominating players. He is third in the league (442) after Edmonton's dynamic pair of Connor McDavid(549) Leon Draisaitl(479) and Draisaitl tied for third in points-per-game-average (1.31). He is one of the league's top skaters and his ability to shoot in stride makes him an elite figure.

He is Nathan MacKinnon. He's quite good. He doesn't do it all.

The 2016-17 NHL season saw Mikko Rantanen play his first full NHL season. MacKinnon and Rantanen have played 377 regular-season NHL games and 4,501 minutes of 5-on-5 together. Their lines have outscored their opponents by 264-193 at even strength. Rantanen is 12th in NHL with 1.14 points per game. Their goal differential was a plus-20 this season.

“They feed off this line because you almost bank on it getting.” [a goal]Every night,” stated one NHL veteran.

Through the years, the best version of this line has been the one that features the physicality and winger. Gabriel Landeskog. Rantanen was MacKinnon's partner in this season's play. Valeri NichushkinThey were seated with a player named, who was also in the first round. Andre BurakovskyYou can also use the third component. Because of the dynamic nature and power of Rantanen and MacKinnon, the third component is susceptible to change.

“I think the top line of the NHL is dominant,” stated another NHL veteran. “I believe there are five lines in the league where two can be placed,” said another NHL veteran. Victor HedmanThey could be held accountable for their actions, but it wouldn't matter. They will still create offense. They will have chances. They just need to be willing to work hard and not take it easy.”

Makar set an NHL record by setting a new NHL record with only four games for the Avalanche to beat the Predators in their first round series. He was the first NHL defenseman ever to record at least 10 points during a playoff series of four games. Makar has a unique advantage: He doesn't require much space or time to make it happen.

“He is a gamebreaker. “He's unstoppable defenseman,” stated one NHL veteran. While there are other defensemen who can be productive, it's because they're smarter and more able to make plays. Makar is the player who can grab the puck and complete the task in one shift. Makar is that skilled.”

Makar is 25th among NHL players in points per game average (1.01) since 2019-20. In power-play point average (75), he cracks the top 10. He has already won the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie in 2019-20. He is likely to add the Norris Trophy after the season.

Makar's scariest attribute is that, for all the offense he generates defensively, he isn't a liability like his ilk. Stathletes reported that Makar's even strength expected goals differential per match was +0.38. This is third among all NHL players. Toronto Maple Leafsstar Auston Matthews Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron EkbladHe was a member of the NHL's top goal-scoring team from 1995-96.

“With high caliber offensive defensemen like Brent BurnsOder Morgan RiellyThey almost always “give up” something on defense in order to generate their offense. Makar is not like that,” stated one NHL analyst.

No room for error

The old adage about “limited time and space” is true. Literally invented by the Avalanche. They don't need to have much of either one to make an impression.

One Central Division player shared the following: “They are really opportunistic.” “There are many other teams that score more than us, but [Colorado]You don't need to have four or five. [a game]Score on command or any other thing [to be effective]. Timing is everything. [potentially]Make you pay for each and every mistake made, at a rate that is higher than anyone else this year.

It can be attributed a variety of factors, but the most important is Colorado's remarkable depth. Seven skaters scored more than 20 goals during the regular season. In the sweep of Nashville, four skaters scored three or more goals. Nine other players were involved in lighting the lamp. Colorado is relentless in its attack.

This is not limited to what the Avalanche generates for themselves. Limiting negative opportunities against is part of their ability to create positive opportunities. It was remarkable to see Colorado give up odd-man rushes this season (averaging less that 2.5 per game), and their transition game is so strong that even the most mundane neutral-zone turnover, the Avalanche can transform it into a soul-crushing advantage.

“People laughed when Darryl appeared.” [Sutter]This was done ‘waste of eight days' jokeThe player added, ” “But he just spoke of how much he loved. [other guys]We were thinking the same. How can you beat that? [Colorado]Four times in a very short time? It's almost impossible not to want to know, but you want them to continue because the hockey is so great to watch.

The foundation of Colorado's opportunity is effort. While the Avalanche might be known for their talent, the team's greatest performances are defined by its work ethic. These good habits proved to be invaluable when Colorado reached the playoffs after a smooth run and only one win in seven games. These good habits were again on full display in Nashville's first round defeat, which was a subtle reminder of how dominant the Avalanche are.

It's a sneaky defense

It is easy to overlook a team's defensive skills when they average 3.76 goals per match during the regular season. The Avalanche, fourth in goals, was statistically dead heat for seventh team defense (2.83 goals per game).

One NHL analyst stated that “the one area I think is under-appreciated” was the defensive system players play and the commitment of offensive players to the defensive side.

Stathletes reports that the Avalanche gave up the second-lowest scoring chance per game at even strength (8.89), which was shared with the Stathletes. Calgary Flameshe was only followed by the Boston Bruins.

They are able to limit the time and space of opponents in the neutral area, which is one of their most important defensive assets. In fact, 2:47 per game was allowed by the Avalanche for opponent possession in the neutral zone, which is the second lowest in the NHL.

Their defensive game is flawed, and it could be in the penalty kill. At 79.7% efficiency, the Avalanche were mediocre at this point. This was also true in their series against Predators. They killed 10 out of 13 power plays. Their power play terrorizes any opposition PKs.

Power play: The power player

Colorado is a power play nightmare.

The Avalanche finished seventh in the regular season with a man advantage of 24% and soared to the top of the postseason. The Avalanche had 48.3% operating with an extra skater through the first round against Nashville. Seven goals in 16 chances. Talk about game-changing.

One NHL veteran said, “When they're playing Colorado you know they will be agile.” They will make a lot quick plays, especially on power plays. This is what makes it so dangerous. They will make you pay.”

It's easy to dismiss this as a temporary achievement that Colorado won't be able sustain. It might not. It's there. Every Avalanche team must now see Makar and MacKinnon's freewheeling around in the offensive zone, and wonder how they will react next to another penalty kill. Even if Colorado does not score, the fear of giving them the power play opportunity feels like a powerful weapon that can penetrate the mind. In a postseason that has seen the refs eager to give the whistle, this is a powerful tool you should have.

Not to be overlooked, the Avalanche also had an impressive power play in the postseason (41.4%). It's clear that MacKinnon is the heater he needs (scoring three power-play goals against Nashville, compared with only two in the 10 postseason tilts Colorado had to play in), and that the chemistry on that top unit has improved to the point where it can make a huge difference.

Purchase parts that fit

Craig Billington. Chris MacFarland. Brad Smith. Wade Klippenstein. Arik Parnass. Brian Willsie. You might recognize some of these names, while others may be unfamiliar. They are the assistant managers and front office directors for the Avalanche. Joe SakicThey have been instrumental in creating one of the most efficient and successful player personnel operations in the NHL.

It's more that they help find quality players to enhance the Avalanche. While that is admirable, it doesn't mean they can find affordable players for the Avalanche. It's not about finding affordable players for the Avalanche. This is what the front office does, and it has the Avs well placed to win the Stanley Cup.

One NHL analyst stated that “it's their ability find depth players who seem to fit into the system as well as it does.” “Colorado has done an excellent job of targeting skaters who are undervalued within the league.”

Players like Nichushkin, Burakovsky, Nico SturmAnd especially Devon Toews. They were preceded by players such as Joonas Donskoi.

The analyst stated that while this may not be an underappreciated, it does not seem like Colorado is being talked about in this light because one of their greatest strengths has been their ability to improve their team through efficient player signings and acquisitions.

It extends to the person playing in goal. They have not had any goalies from their draft in the four previous seasons. When Philipp GrubauerThey fled for Seattle. He was killed in an accident. Darcy KuemperFrom the Arizona Coyotes. After months of adjustment, he was one of the best goaltenders in league starting January.

One NHL veteran claimed he was a big fan of the Avalanche's performance at the trade deadline.

“It's hard to play against third-line guys like Artturi LehkonenHe said. “They get Josh MansonThey were looking for someone who complements what they already have. They went out to get the shiny new toy.

It helps that they were able to sniff around the shiny toy. only wanted to play for the Panthers, apparently.)

The process is worth trusting

Colorado is no overnight sensation.

The Avalanche are a team that has been good to great during regular season the last three seasons. However, they failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs.

The 2021-22 outcome was especially difficult. The Presidents' Trophy was awarded to Colorado for their 82-point season. They then defeated St. Louis in a four-game playoff series sweep. They lost 2-0 to Vegas in Game 2, and then were swept by Vegas in the second-round series was, to put this mildly, disappointing.

These battle scars can be deep.

Avalanche executive said that “when you think you are a good team and you think it is your time, and it does not work out, those feelings carry over into the next year.” “What I find most striking about Colorado is not the obvious chip on their shoulder, but the fact that they have a bit of a bite to the way they played in round one. They were all sharp, and when things got a little lax the whole team seemed back to their best and got the job done.

Also, the Avalanche's trade deadline additions only strengthened the team's determination that this year could be their year. Lehkonen, Colorado's mid-six forward, has been a great addition. He's a perfect blend of everything that makes Colorado great, including his ability to score big goals and be a good defensive player.

Every great team has its stars. Colorado knows, however, that being in the top tier is only a way to get you so far. There are more assets needed in each phase of a playoff run the deeper it is. This is what the Avalanche did before. All the pieces were in place to prevent it from happening again.

Can they be beat?

The Avalanche has its flaws, but it is possible to be too harsh on a team like the Colorado Avalanche. This was the opinion of one NHL analyst. They aren't perfect.

The Avalanche's faceoffs were a major problem. They were 28th in the regular-season (47.3%) overall, and 30th (46.2%) in defensive-zone draws. They could face off against a strong faceoff team in the playoffs. According to Stathletes, Colorado ranks 28th in winning puck battles (48.3%), which can lead to problems in defensive-zone.

One NHL veteran wondered whether their defense could be physically handled.

He suggested that it could be on their backs. “If you're able to physically and forecheck those guys, you can force some turnovers. You'll still have one of best defensemen anywhere to help you.

The problem for the rest is Colorado's inability to win. Really good.

One Scout had these words to say about Avalanche

“If Colorado doesn’t beat itself up, they can get all the way.”

That is an honest assessment.

We saw Colorado lose interest in the finer details of the game late in the regular season. Although there were many players in the lineup, and not much to play for, it was a good indication of how mentally sharp the Avalanche can be.

This is impossible for any game in the playoffs. The Conference champions always have the largest targets. Everybody wants to beat the top seeds. It's one thing to take on the eighth-seed Predators, who didn't even have their starting goaltender. Juuse Saros available. It's one thing to string those winning streaks together, as the stakes rise.

What team could possibly stop Colorado reaching the Stanley Cup Final? The Avalanche are not a one-dimensional, one-star, one dimensional success story. All the evidence points to the fact that Colorado is not perfect but that the Avalanche have depth in nearly every category. If they are healthy and remain true to their abilities, it will be tough for them to lose.

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