Avalanche Eager to “See What We Can Do” in Stanley Cup Playoffs

“It’s time to play our best hockey at the most important time of the year.”

Colorado Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar’s message is plain and simple as he and his team officially start the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators.

This year marks Colorado’s fifth straight postseason finish, but what separates this run from previous ones is the insatiable drive this group has acquired as a result of heartbreak and three straight second-round failures. For the Avalanche core, which continued to strive for excellence and demanded more of themselves with each passing season, disappointing experiences in previous playoffs “made them better,” as noted by the Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog.

Video: MacKinnon and Landeskog on approach to playoffs

“We’ve grown a lot,” Landeskog said on Monday morning, the night before Game 1 against Nashville. “Another year has passed where that hunger was so much bigger and we learned so much more about ourselves in the regular season. We look forward to a deep run here.”

Landeskog hasn’t been in Colorado’s lineup since March 14 following knee surgery, but he’s expected to return for Game 1 and confirms he’s feeling “good.” In the captain’s absence – which began a week before the NHL trade deadline – various players made appearances and the team rallied around its depth as a group to minimize the gap.

It was reassuring for Landeskog to see that he wasn’t in the line-up. It was a testament not only to the strength of this year’s squad, but also to their unwavering commitment to one another, their trust in the process and their desire to achieve results.

“We kept finding ways to win as different guys got promoted at different times,” said Landeskog. “The depth and some of the pieces that we brought in, I really loved seeing that part of it. To see how reliable these guys like [Trade Deadline acquisitions of Nico] Storm, [Andrew] Cogliano and [Josh] Manson are.

“The depth of our team will have to be our strength,” Landeskog continued. “That has to be the best part of our team. Everyone accepts their roles, plays to their skills and just does their job. That will be the key. Obviously this will be as healthy as we do to be year round. It’s exciting, let’s see what we can do here.”

While the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup at the end of June serves as the ultimate motivator, this level-headed group has carefully learned from past experiences and this time is narrowly focused on the task at hand. It’s a reflection of their maturity and an aftermath of knowing that last year’s disappointment when they lost 4-2 in the second round to the Vegas Golden Knights was the result of their own lack of execution.

“It was the growth of our team,” said Bednar. “There we go. That’s where we went. Our team has done a really good job of getting better every year and making themselves relevant to be able to play our best hockey at key times. That’s what really stands out about last year’s playoffs. Some of the others were in difficult circumstances, but last year it was up to us. We have to make sure we can get over that hump.”

And the benefit of having a core group that has survived and bonded together for about 40 or so playoff games, plus the addition of longtime veterans Andrew Cogliano and Darren Helm — who have one Stanley Cup win and nearly 2,000 NHL regular-season games combined — the Avalanche understand that part of making the playoffs is experiencing the journey itself and embracing every challenge, frustration, triumph, and moment which is offered to them to accept.

Tweet from @Avalanche: 24 hours until everything starts. #FindAWay #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/6OrItMW90k

“Each playoff game is an experience in itself,” said Landeskog. “The further you get in a series, the smaller the error rate becomes. Every momentum swing, every bouncing puck, every board fight just counts so much more. That’s the difference between every season and the playoffs. This must be Begin with game 1, first period, starting tomorrow. This urgency must be increased. We know the building will rock and be on top. We are excited.

As much as this hyper-focused Colorado roster, who broke franchise records in the regular season and finished second in the league with 119 points, is excited to officially begin the journey they’ve waited nearly a full calendar year to return to has them motivated throughout the 82-game regular season, they’re using a micro approach starting with Game 1 on Tuesday against the Predators.

“We can’t win the cup tomorrow” Nathan MacKinnon said. “But we can take care of the first ten [minutes], the first period, the first game against Nashville. If we win, if not then it’s fine, we’ll regroup. You must get four [wins], it’s really hard to win a series. We look forward to getting started tomorrow.”

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