Colorado Rubber

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Avalanche to open defense of Stanley Cup championship with first-round matchup against Kraken


The Colorado Avalanche finished the 2022-23 NHL season first in the Central Division with a record of 51-24-7, good for 109 points.

Colorado’s mark was also seventh-best in the 32-team league over the course of the regular season.

Opening up the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Avalanche will start defense of their 2022 title playing the Seattle Kraken, a team that went 46-28-8 this season, their second in the NHL.

It was a long, grinding year, and the guys did a did a fantastic job, our players and coaches,” Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland said. “This is the fun time of year. It’s a great time of year for the NHL in general, but it should be some great series, and I think this one will definitely be one of them. Two good hockey teams.”

MacFarland also compared the 2022-23 team to the 2021-22 squad that hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.

“Last year’s team was obviously a very good team,” said MacFarland. “It was very deep, deep in all facets. Up front, back end and goaltending. We took some cap casualties in the offseason and had to deal with a ridiculous amount of injuries. We weren’t the only team in the league that had to fight through that. We were losing some key guys starting with obviously (Avalanche captain) Gabe (Landeskog), and those guys are really hard to replace. Full marks to our coaches and especially our players for grinding through a short offseason and coming back. They get full marks. I think this group has been resilient.

“Obviously, we have a lot of the same players, but you look at some of the players like Nathan MacKinnon (pictured) and Mikko Rantanen and Alexandar Georgiev and Cale (Makar) and Devon Toews, these guys, they had a big burden amongst others. Our second half was really strong, but it was more of a workmanlike approach. Consistency in the second half, grinding. Finding different ways to win. Very proud of them, and obviously the fun season begins.”

The injuries indeed took their toll during the regular season, but MacFarland is optimistic in the team’s fortunes changing in that respect.

“Well, we hope that we’ll get Cale and Josh Manson back,” said MacFarland. “I think we believe Andrew Cogliano and Denis Malgin will also be ready to go, and Darren Helm continues to grind. So, whether he’ll be ready for Games 1 and 2 at home remains to be determined, but we’re hopeful that we’ll see him as well at some point.

“Gabe, being the quality person that he is, didn’t want it to be something that Coach (Jared) Bednar had to be asked about every single day, and his teammates. As good of a hockey player as he is, he’s the emotional leader of our hockey team, and a great person. So I think it was driven by him. He obviously knows he has our full support with what he’s going through. We were going to be respectful and handle it however he wanted, but I think he was the key driver of the timing of that.”

Landeskog will be out for the 2023 playoffs after missing the 2022-23 regular season.

“We certainly wanted to give him every chance (to play this season),” MacFarland said. “It wasn’t like he was out in December and played until January. He missed the whole year, right? And our goal and his goal was to have him back, and he deserved that. He deserved that, that opportunity, whether it was going to be in mid-March or late March or whatever. And he did everything he absolutely, positively could. Obviously, he’s a massive part. So if he could do it, that’s what we wanted more than anything in the world.

“No. 1, we want to get Gabe right. I mean, that’s the most important thing, is his health. He’s a massive piece for us, obviously on the ice, and players like him don’t grow on trees. He’s a massive piece for our organization in so many ways. So No. 1 is we want to help him to get the situation right so that he can resume playing. Anything else in terms of like offseason stuff, we’ll deal with it as we move on, hopefully, you know the playoffs here and then obviously leading into the draft and free agency and that will certainly have to be part of our equation, is his situation. But goal No. 1 is to assist him in any way possible in terms of getting solutions to help him get everything right.”

With the Avs starting the playoffs Tuesday night at Ball Arena, MacFarland noted that “it’s hard to make the playoffs.”

“I think it’s such a challenging league and to get in to get one of those tickets gives you the chance to do that, and I think our group has done a fantastic job,” said MacFarland. “I think it’s six years now in a row they’ve made the playoffs to give us a chance and obviously in those first few years, we were building and learning and I think there’s challenges to both. I look at what Tampa has done, has been incredible the way they built their team and Julien (BriseBois) and his staff and coach Jon Cooper and the players and it’s hard. It’s a grueling time of year for these guys and what they play through and play with. So to say one is harder than the other. I don’t think I can answer that. I think they’re both really, really challenging to do and obviously, last year was last year and hopefully, you know, now we’re starting the grueling weeks.

“This week is going to be another test. One step at a time, but I think they’re both really hard to do.”

Game 1 (8 p.m. MST) is Tuesday and Game 2 on Thursday (7:30 p.m. MST) are in Colorado, followed by Game 3 Saturday in Seattle (8 p.m. MST) and Game 4 next Monday in Seattle (8 p.m. MST). If needed, Game 5 is April 26 at Ball Arena (time TBD), Game 6 is back in Seattle April 28 (time TBD) and Game 7 is in Colorado April 30 (time TBD).

Photo/Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

— Matt Mackinder

(April 17, 2023)

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