After the dust settled and the remaining regular-season games were eliminated, the Colorado Avalanche collected their third playoff berth in as many years. The last time the Avalanche went playoff streaking for three or more seasons in a row, Joe Sakic, Alex Tanguay and Peter Forsberg were patrolling the ice together in the early 2000s. For the Avalanche to have a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup like the trio before them, three tips must be taken. Without further ado, these are the three tips Colorado must capitalize on to win the Stanley Cup.
1. Come out of the gates swinging
This might seem too cliché, but this narrative holds true for the Avalanche. After all, they started the 2019-20 regular season with a 5-0-0 record and would eventually go 8-1-1 through their first ten games (Oct. 3 through Oct. 25, 2019). All 10 teams they faced would be 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoff teams (Calgary, Minnesota, Boston, Arizona, Washington, Pittsburgh, Florida, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Las Vegas). Colorado’s 4.20 goals per game during that stretch was tied for first in the NHL (Nashville). The offense was not a one-skater show either. Nine skaters on Colorado’s roster had at least three goals during the stretch.
Why was this hot start for Colorado so important? Simple. It would eventually set the tone for their games after the stretch. From Oct. 26, 2019 to Jan. 1, 2020, Colorado went 15-12-3 and averaged 3.40 goals per game (6th in the NHL). Setting the tone by scoring and winning early during the postseason should give Colorado solid seeding coming out of the round-robin tournament and get them back in a scoring groove reminiscent to their success in the earlier part of the season.
2. Unleash Playoff Grubauer
Philipp Grubauer, during the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was a postseason Grubauer never before seen as the then-27-year-old netted a 2.30 Goals Against Average (GAA) and .925 Save Percentage (Sv%) in 12 games started. Among all goaltenders with a minimum of 10 starts during the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoffs (seven), Grubauer’s GAA and Sv% was third and tied for third, respectively. Through 36 games started during the 2019-20 regular season, Grubauer compiled an 18-12-4 record with a 2.63 GAA and .916 Sv%.
30-year-old Pavel Francouz (21-7-4 with a 2.41 GAA and .923 Sv%) has started to cement himself as Colorado’s primary goaltender due to lower-body issues from Grubauer during the regular season. Francouz, however, is unproven in postseason play. He has never started a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If Grubauer can stay healthy (he has stated he is now healthy), he might be the goaltender Colorado leans on should Francouz not be the playoff answer.
3. Youth and health are your friends
This is pretty self-explanatory. If the young, homegrown talent stays healthy, the Avalanche will go far. Four of Colorado’s top five skaters in points during the regular season (Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen) were all drafted by the Avalanche and are all 27 or younger. Three of the four skaters, however (Makar, Landeskog and Rantanen) missed at least 12 games during the regular season due to injuries. If the quartet can stay healthy and collect ice time together during the playoffs, the sky is the limit for Colorado’s offense.