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Scott Takes

Scott Takes: The Avalanche won by losing

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A famous Buddhist proverb goes a little something like this: “With each loss there is a gain, and with each ending comes a new beginning.” Look, I don’t expect you all to feel great about the way things ended for the Avalanche right now, or by tomorrow, or even by next week’s end. To quote another well-worn-out cliche: only time can heal a broken heart, after all.

But here’s the reality of the situation, and I don’t intend to be didactic, but allow me to posit a few season-closing thoughts for a moment….

The reality of this situation is, well, this sucks, right? The reality is the Avalanche are packing their bags and heading home after yet another disappointing Game 7 loss in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, despite having a decidedly much better, deeper roster than last year. But the reality is also they didn’t have that “decidedly better roster” for the most important time of the year.

The easy way out here is to blame the injuries. Sure enough, this is the route I’ll take. You can say all you want to about that being an excuse, but the simple fact of the matter is it’s damn-near impossible to win games — let alone 16 of them — when the injury report is basically just as long as the healthy roster. 

To lose both of your top two goaltenders, to then rely on a third-stringer, who prior to Game 5 had never started in a Stanley Cup playoff game, is crushing. You lose your most experienced and stable defenseman and one of the foremost locker-room leaders in Erik Johnson. You lose a key cog, the engine, in one of the best fourth lines in the NHL in Matt Calvert. You lose Joonas Donskoi, who was brought to Denver to not only provide depth scoring, but playoff leadership, too. And in Game 7, the biggest game of the year, you have to go without your war-torn leader and captain. But in loss there is gain

Look at the contributions of guys like Logan O’Connor or Conor Timmins and various other Colorado Eagles, who were able to step in at various times in the postseason and more than held their own when called upon. The Avs core is still more than intact after this season, and then add in those Eagles coming up the pipeline, plus names like Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook and Justus Annunen all just a short amount of development time away…well this Avalanche team can be, should be and will be dangerous for quite some time. 

The championship window is barely cracked open right now. Enough for the breeze to flow in, sure, but just wait till that gust of wind rushing down the pipeline blows the championship window wide open. 

To be one of the best teams in the regular season to just have all your momentum halted by a global pandemic and unforeseen circumstance never helped their situation. These guys then made the sacrifice to be away from their families, risking illness to live lonely, closed-off lives in a bubble in pursuit of bringing the franchise, the people of Colorado and all of their supporters — to bring you — a Stanley Cup. I promise you those guys feel much worse — much more deflated — than you probably do in this very moment. Take a pause to give props to those guys and to the NHL for bringing hockey back to us even amid one of the worst situations in human history. We got to watch this Avalanche team play again, and that’s something I didn’t think possible back in March. That’s pretty incredible, no? 

Of course, this obviously isn’t the way you or I or they wanted things to end, and my sappy, cliche-ridden musings probably do little to actually change how you’re feeling right about now. That’s OK, take as much time as you need to process this heartbreak. Losing sucks. But In loss there is gain, and I’ve chosen to put on the rose-tinted glasses. After all, the world is much prettier when you do so.

Take this opportunity to reflect on the experience. You and I, and the Avalanche, can learn something by losing. Think about how, despite losing so many crucial key pieces to the Stanley Cup formula to injury, this Avalanche team still battled back from down 3-1 in a series they looked so down and out in. Despite all that, they were one goal away from being one of the final four teams left in this thing. That deserves some praise. By losing, the Avalanche have the opportunity to reflect, to learn, to build, to add fuel to the fire in those eyes to come back stronger and hungrier than ever. Losing sucks, and coach Bednar always loves to say there are no moral victories…

But given the circumstances of 2020 and all that we — you and me, and the team — have been through this year, I’m willing to make an exception to the “no moral victories” rule. Maybe just this one time.

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A graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, Scott has so far spent the early parts of his young career covering Colorado hockey — from the Avalanche to the Colorado Eagles to the DU Pioneers. His work can be found across sites such as NHL.com, TheAHL.com and SB Nation, among others. Scott currently resides in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, where he can sometimes be found waiting tables when he’s not writing.

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Ricardo

Scott–great job and thanks for the read. Your glasses are still a little too rose-colored for me. The losses before games 5 and 6 in the Dallas series were just not up to professional standards.

dp10

Agreed. As admirable as the comeback against Dallas was, digging yourself a 1-3 hole against a lower-seeded team is a real problem. But you know what, these f‘n Stars did that twice to us before the 2001 Stanley Cup run. In 99, they were the better team but in 2000, we got robbed. That Avs team learned from those losses and crushed it in 2001.

Richard Trujillo

What could they possibly have learned this year that they didn’t learn last year? There are no silver linings here. This was a crushing defeat and a disappointing season. We are in a championship window and every single thing they do should be moving them closer to that Cup. If they once again fail to land one of the top free agents or go into next season without a number one goalie like they did this season we can expect the same ending. We will run into a bigger, more physical team that is just a “bad matchup”. They will… Read more »

troian

Well said. I think the biggest need is reconfiguring the roster (I don’t want to be a “fire the coach” type, but have offered an opinion on occasion here that this team reminds me of the Caps until they hired Barry Trotz) to become capable of being more physical and a better puck possession team, without sacrificing too much in the way of offensive explosiveness (ie big free agent and/or trade acquisition maybe needs to be an elite defenseman).

Richard Trujillo

I would say if they go the fire the coach route which I think they will they better have a big name in mind. I don’t want to see just another promote from within situation.

troian

When the Caps hired Trotz it was after years of falling short, usually due to inability to play tough, gritty defense/puck-possession hockey at the end of the season…Trotz got AO to buy in, they made some roster moves to improve D and keep trying different goalies…but I think it was the change in coaches…and no coincidence he’s taking his team into a game 7 of their own today, while the guy management ran him out of town for immediately after winning that Cup has already been fired for post-season failures (a bit reminiscent of what happened to the St. Louis… Read more »

colorado_gary

If the Avs win the Cup this year, it’s very hard to repeat, so if in one hockey year’s time, the Avs have a cup, I’m good. Either way it’s one Cup in 2 seasons. But the pressure is on!

mfnavs

more like 3 in 5 years!!!!!

TR

Scott, a great article and right on point. I think us fans forget that the variables in hockey are more apparent than any sport; a shot that hits the pipe, or a soft goal, or a hot goaltender, or bad referee calls…or extensive injuries can make the difference of winning a game, or winning or losing a series. The Avs are within the top three teams in the league along with Vega$ & Tampa and when healthy, we could have been Stanley Cup champs in 2020. In 2021, the Avs will be in the Cup finals and barring the aforementioned… Read more »

Ricardo

Great point-if they win the cup next year we can be there. Goodbye bubble.

Charlie

Sorry, but Avs choked in game 7. Ten seconds after scoring what should have been the winner, the Stars pull a 4 on 2 and score. The game winner had two defensemen standing at the side of the net watching the Dallas player sit behind it until someone got open. That player moved backwards three steps and the covering forward just stood there.

They played not to lose in the third, putting almost no pressure on Dallas in the offensive zone.

Karen Wilk

My question has to be “Why are we always the most injured team in the NHL?” It seems that since I’ve been watching hockey, The Avs have more injuries to players who miss extensive amounts of time than most other teams? Players like Grubauer are constantly injured over and over. Is there something about the strength and conditioning program that isn’t working? Are the players not stretching enough or keeping in top shape for what is required of being a professional hockey player? You can’t have an excellent season and go limping into the playoffs with a bunch or injured… Read more »

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