Rocky Mountain High
With the win, the Avalanche clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. For a team that has won two Stanley Cups, and many Northwest Division titles, the last few seasons have been tough to handle in the Mile High City, making last night even more worth it for Avalanche fans.
This is a team that deserves to be in the playoffs for many reasons. It all starts because of the man behind the bench, Patrick Roy.
Roy came back to the Avalanche after playing for them from 1995 to 2003 and has helped turn back the clock in a good way for this franchise. Roy has the team working hard every night, battling for every puck, and doing all the little things to lead to a two-point effort.
Roy also has this young Avalanche hockey club playing like a bunch of veterans. For a team whose average age is 27.5 years old, Roy has them believing in themselves, believing that they can, and playing like a team that might be able to contend for hockey's Holy Grail in a few weeks.
One young player for the Avalanche that is playing like a poised veteran is Calder Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon. At just 18 years of age, not only does MacKinnon lead the league in points by a rookie (23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points), but he is second on his own hockey team.
The Avalanche are also a hockey club that knows how to put the puck in the net. The team is fifth in the league in averaging just over three goals per game and in looking at their roster, it is easy to see why the team has had so much success on offense this season.
The club has five players with at least 50 points (Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O' Reilly, MacKinnon, and Paul Stastny), five players have at least 20 goals, and three players have at least 200 shots on goal (Duchene, MacKinnon, and Landeskog). This shows that the Avalanche have offensive depth and come playoff time, that is going to be extremely important.
The team has also gotten terrific goaltending from starter Semyon Varlamov. At just 25 years of age, Varlamov has played like a veteran masked man for the Avalanche this season and it is his play that could make them extremely dangerous come April.
In 58 games this season, Varlamov has 37 wins (first in the league), a 2.49 goals against average, a .926 save percentage (fifth in the league) and one shutout. The man they call "Varly" also leads the league in saves this season with 1, 715.
In the end, everyone knows that what happens in the regular season usually does not end up meaning much when it comes to hockey's second season.
With that said, the Avalanche have the right coach, the right blend of players and one of the league's best goaltenders and when you put all three of those factors together, you have a hockey club that is capable of lifting the Cup come June.