I know the first question on a lot of Avalanche fans’ minds right now: Do we really want the Presidents’ Trophy? Isn’t that kind of like, a curse or something? And the answer is: well, it has been for many teams that won the honor, for best regular-season record in the NHL.
But let’s take time out for a little history lesson here too. Was it a curse for the 2001 Avalanche? No, it wasn’t. But for the last seven teams that have won it? Yes, it was.
The last team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same season were the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. The team before that? Detroit, in 2008. So, um, yeah…it hasn’t worked out too well for most teams that have won the hardware. But, again…2001 Avs. Two Game 7 victories in the playoffs that year. That trophy was the gateway for the bigger one, the Stanley Cup.
Only four teams have won the Presidents’ Trophy and the Cup in the same season since 2001. But I’m of the opinion that this is a good year to win it. I would much rather have a seventh game at Ball Arena than that madhouse in Las Vegas. And besides, it’s not really the first two games of a playoff series where it matters so much in having home ice. It’s games 5 and 7 that always seem to matter most. Plus, keep this in mind: the Avs have never won a seventh game on the road in a playoff series, which is pretty hard to believe actually.
The Avs can clinch home ice for any round of the playoffs with a win Thursday night against the same L.A. Kings squad they obliterated tonight at Ball. Final score was 6-0, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. A hat trick from J.T. Compher led the way for the Avs, who scored thrice in the first two periods each.
The scenario is this: if the Avs win, in any fashion possible, they win best record in the NHL, and would face the St. Louis Blues in a best-of-seven first-round matchup. A loss – either in regulation or overtime/shootout, and the Vegas Golden Knights win the division and the No. 1 seed in the Honda West Division, and the Avs would play the Minnesota Wild in the first round, with home-ice advantage.
There was something of a shocking development after the game, however. Jared Bednar said he will start Jonas Johansson in goal, not Philipp Grubauer. I thought I misheard when another reporter asked if Grubauer would start and he said no. I asked Bednar if, in fact, I misheard, and he said I hadn’t. Bednar said he hasn’t started Grubauer in back-to-backs all season long, and he isn’t going to start now.
Not even with a Presidents’ Trophy and home ice throughout the playoffs on the line, after a game in which a pylon could have won the game in the net tonight?
No, said Bednar. Johansson has played well, he said, and he doesn’t want to risk an injury to Grubauer in the last game of the year before the first round.
Again, I’m kinda shocked by this. You’re going to sit the potential Vezina Trophy winner in a game like this, in favor of the backup who was booted out of Buffalo not too long ago? I don’t quite get that one at all, but he’s the coach.
So, do you want the Blues, who won the Cup two years ago, or do you want the Wild, who have beaten the Avs twice in previous playoff series – both times when the Avs were favored?
The fact is, the Avs want the Blues. Because, if they get the Blues, that means the team will have accomplished one of its preseason goals: getting home ice for any series.
“We know the playoffs are the playoffs, a completely new season and you have to prove yourself once again. We know how important matchups are in the playoffs and if we’re able to have Game 7s in our building and to start off series in our building that’s a big key for us. So we’re excited for tomorrow,” Gabe Landeskog said. ““(The Presidents’ Trophy) was our goal in training camp and here we are, one win away from doing that. Having said that, we know it’s just Step 1 and then a lot of work is going to start after that.”
This game was a rout from the jump. The Avs got the first 13 shots in the game and had a 3-0 lead, on goals by Joonas Donskoi, P.E. Bellemare and Compher, whose three goals gave him 10 on the season. He has four goals in the last two games, which has really helped, considering the Avs had to play without Nathan MacKinnon for the third time in four games.
Said Compher: “It’s pretty cool to get three. But all three goals were from great plays from teammates. They made it real easy for me.”
So, win just one more against a bad team, and the regular-season title is yours. But will this be a case of: be careful what you wished for?
I don’t think you can look at life like that. Win what you can, when you can, and don’t worry about the past.
NOTEBOOK: Bednar said Nathan MacKinnon will not play Thursday. He still indicated he’ll be ready to start the playoffs. I gotta be honest though: I’m worried. Two injuries in the final week of the regular season? Not good, Bob. Let’s hope I’m just fretting for nothing. … Avs are now 15-0-1 in the last 16 at Ball. … Landeskog reached the 20-goal mark for the eighth time in his 10-year career. Three more and he’ll tie the franchise record held by Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk. … Grubauer’s 1.95 goals-against average ranks second in franchise history to Patrick Roy’s 1.94 in 2001-02. … Cale Makar played in his 100th NHL game. He has 93 points. … Jayson Megna got an assist, his first career point as an Av and first in the NHL since 2017. … Free vaccinations were given out at the game tonight, and I assume that will be the case tomorrow too.