Just like last year, to this point. A Western Conference title and a sweep of a division rival in the first round, followed by a nearly a week off. What will be different for the Avs this time will be its second-round opponent. It won’t be the Vegas LTIR Golden Knights. It’ll be either the Minnesota Wild or St. Louis Blues, with Game 1 either Saturday or Monday (well, it’s not official yet on either date, but that’s the high likelihood).
The Avs know they will be hounded with questions of “How are you going to get over that second-round hump this time?” “Are you worried about another second-round exit?” It might irritate the heck out of them and the fans, but that’s life in the big time. It comes with the territory.
I obviously think this is a much better team than last year – and that was a real good team. But this team is better because:
- Unlike last year, when Joe Sakic went back to retreads like Carl Soderberg and Patrik Nemeth at the trade deadline, he added three real good pieces in Arturri Lehkonen, Josh Manson and Nico Sturm, not to mention Andrew Cogliano. They have really added new dimensions to the team, while Soderberg and Nemeth were liabilities.
- Nazem Kadri is still active, playing a strong second-line center.
- The goaltending, with Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz, is better than last year.
- Guys such as Bo Byram have added more depth to the defense.
- Cale Makar is a cyborg.
- Valeri Nichushkin has turned into one of the best all-around forwards in the league.
Makar pretty much won that game for the Avs at the end tonight. Another laser of a goal, followed by another patented rush down the left wall and brilliant setup of Valeri Nichushkin for the game-winner, and that was that.
THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I really don’t know which team is the better matchup for the Avs in Round 2. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Wild worry me with their physicality and better defensive system. The Blues worry me because they still have a lot of guys who won a Stanley Cup just three years ago. But, yeah, I’d be more worried if I were a fan of the Blues or Wild in playing the Avs.
- Here are early results of a poll tonight
Who do you want in second round, Avs fans?
— Adrian Dater (@adater) May 10, 2022
The Avalanche swept its first-round series for the second consecutive season, the fourth sweep of a best-of- seven series in franchise history. In addition to the club’s first-round sweep of St. Louis in 2021, Colorado also swept the 2001 Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. Vancouver and the 1996 Stanley Cup Final vs. Florida.
- Colorado trailed for a total of 4:57 in the series and didn’t trail until the third period of tonight’s contest.
- Makar had 10 points in the four games. Is that good?
- Makar said someone threw Skittles at him in the final minute of the game.
- How is Darcy Kuemper? Good, I think. But he never skated today. Let’s assume he’ll be good to go for Game 1. But we do NOT know that yet.
- Here’s how Makar described when the Predators took their only lead of the series, in the third. “Definitely a kick in the ass. Excuse my language.”
- Makar on his assist to Nichushkin: “Just knowing their system, I knew there would be a guy open. It’s mainly man-to-man, so once I beat my guy (it) was gonna open up. Val pulled off the back.”
- Makar: “It’s game by game for us. We’re not going to think ahead. Hopefully we can keep it that way on the mental side of things.”
- I thought Pavel Francouz looked a little shaky at times tonight, but overall he did a nice job coming in for Kuemper like he did in this series.
- Nathan MacKinnon: “We gotta forget about this series. Brand new, next round against St. Louis or Minny. We’re excited for the challenge.”
- MacKinnon: “We have a lot deeper team this year. But we gotta go perform.”
- MacKinnon on what he’ll likely do with some down time the next couple days: “Probably play some video games, hang out, see my dogs.”
- Avs will stay overnight in Nashville, and fly back Tuesday.