Avalanche not settling in final games
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and you certainly don’t want to face-off against the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round, in a Game 7, on the road.
Take a look at today’s NHL standings, over a week away from the start of the postseason, you’ll notice the Avalanche sit in second place in the Central Division. If you haven’t been keeping up with the standings chances are you’ll be overcome with shock, and your body will be unable to properly process your blood. Then, you’ll realize the Avalanche’s current rank in the division indicates two things. One, the team has had a remarkable regular season that was unforeseen by most and predicted by few. Two, an upcoming first round series that will test the inexperienced, speedy Avalanche against the experienced, speedy, Stanley Cup Champion defending Chicago Blackhawks is practically inevitable — that is if the remainder of the season finishes without a collapse from the first place St. Louis Blues.
Battle tested Blackhawks
With four games remaining for the Avalanche (107 points) and three for the Blackhawks (105 points), it goes without saying that it is in the Avs’ best interest to keep pace down the final stretch and secure home ice for the opening series. Despite the Avalanche having the best regular season road record in the Western Conference (24-10-3), the Blackhawks are a proven playoff team. They’ve won two of the last four Stanley Cups and clinched eight of ten playoff series in that four year span. Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both can cite the Conn Smythe Trophy on their resumes and the offensives leaders will be available to play after suffering injuries in late the regular season. Furthermore, the Hawks players have totaled 1121 games of playoff experience to the Avalanche’s 300. While the playoff experience is lopsided in favor of the Blackhawks, it should be noted that in 2011 and 2012 the Hawks were bounced from the playoffs in the first round. In both early exits the Hawks did not have home ice advantage.
So for the Avalanche, playing the first two games in front a home crowd that is craving a resurrection of playoff hockey glory at the Pepsi Center will undoubtably play into the their favor. More importantly, the Avs want the luxury of playing a potential Game 7 against the champs at their home arena fondly referred to by locals as The Can.
Roy: No time to rest
And no one knows the importance of playing a Game 7 at home in the Pepsi Center quite like head coach and former Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy. That’s why Roy doesn’t plan on cruising through the final few games or reward his players with rest in anticipation for the playoffs. “Right now, our top players are playing over 20 minutes pretty much every night, which is pretty good, and I think that will prepare them really well for playoffs,” Roy told The Fan Morning Show on 104.3 The Fan on April 3. “It’s a tough situation right now to rest people, because we’re in that race with Chicago. And maybe I’m a big believer but I don’t think its over with the Blues yet.”
Forget the Blackhawks, could the Avalanche potentially leapfrog the St. Louis Blues (111 points, four games remaining) for first place?
Granted, Roy made these comments before the Avalanche lost a point in a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But if the Avalanche can win out the rest of their games and the Blues lose at least two of their final four, the Avalanche have a shot to clinch the first seed. Not likely, but also not mathematically out of the question.
Colorado fans can sense playoff hockey is near and are ready to pop The Can when the first home game arrives. But Roy and company have some business to take care of first.
Most playoff series wins in the last four seasons*
[table id=578 /]
*Not including MLB Wild Card playoff