AVALANCHE

How The West Was Won: Avs dominance sends them to Stanley Cup Final

Jun 6, 2022, 11:07 PM | Updated: 11:13 pm

There’s no one way that quite captures how dominant Colorado has been this postseason; rather an Avalanche of stats and moments prove their worth.

The Avs wrapped up a sweep of the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night, coming back from down two twice in the third period to win in overtime 6-5. Colorado became just the sixth team in the last 20 seasons to sweep a conference final series.

With their second sweep of the postseason, Colorado is now 12-2—tying the mark for the quickest run to play for the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup since the National Hockey League expanded the postseason to four rounds filled of best-of-seven series.

Seven of the Avs wins have come by two or more goals, and seven of the Avs wins have come on the road. In fact, Colorado is perfect on the road in these playoffs.

Seven road wins in the course of just 14 games is remarkable. In 2016-17 the Avalanche won just nine games on the road the entire season.

“I’d probably be lying if I told you I thought we’d be here one day in the 2016-17 season,” Gabriel Landeskog said of the Avs last-place finish of just 48 points only five years ago.

That sorry season was head coach Jared Bednar’s first at the helm. They’ve been to the playoffs in every season since, with this being their first trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals since 2001.

“It’s such a hard trophy to win. The attrition nobody gets it without suffering the up-and-downs and adversity. The teams who get through that the best are standing at the end. and they’re going to get a chance to play for it,” Bednar said. “This is year six, there’s been a lot of growth mentally and culturally; a lot of these guys have been here longer than I have, and I’m proud of them.”

A newbie notched the winner in Game 4. Artturi Lehkonen scored 1:19 into overtime, sending his team to the Cup Final via an extra-time winner for the second-straight season. Last June Lehkonen pushed Montreal into the Cup Final with a Game 6 goal at 01:39 of overtime.

Again this year, Canada will go without a Stanley Cup, clinched by the Oilers’ elimination. Montreal was the last Canadian-based club to hoist Lord Stanley in 1993, led by Patrick Roy. Roy’s captain in Colorado for the 2001 and 1996 Stanley Cups, Joe Sakic, acquired Lehkonen at the deadline for a second-round pick and Colorado’s top prospect Justin Barron.

“I’d trade 10 first-rounders for him right now,” Nathan MacKinnon said of Lehkonen.

Three of Sakic’s four trade deadline pickups have scored game-winning goals on the Avs run—Josh Manson and Andrew Cogliano.

But the real genius is in what Colorado already had, and nobody on the ice was better in the last four games than Cale Makar. On Monday, he notched five points, one of which was an early go-ahead goal. Makar’s last three points were an assist on MacKinnon’s tying goal with six minutes left, Mikko Rantanen’s go-ahead goal with five minutes left, and then on Lehkonen’s OT winner.

“We’re lucky because we’re watching greatness, “ Erik Johnson of Cale Makar.

The longest-tenured Denver athlete, Johnson, came to Colorado from St. Louis 12 years ago as a former first overall pick. Johnson’s career has spanned eras in Colorado, playing in Burgundy during Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg’s final season.

“You never know if this opportunity will come,” Johnson said through watering eyes. “Just trying to embrace the moment and have a lot of fun. You never know when this will come, 15 years 900 years, I’m excited to have a chance.”

This Colorado team doesn’t have just one way that defines their playstyle or only one recipe for a win. What the Avs have for the first time in 20 years is a team just as dominant as the one led by Sakic, Roy and Forsberg. They come at you like an Avalanche, and they’ve swallowed the west on their quest for the Cup.

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