Avalanche that wants to end the 18-year-old series without a final appearance by the conference |

September 4, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche Center Nathan MacKinnon, 29, and Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn, 14, shake hands after extra time in the seventh game of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been 18 years since the Avalanche made it into the playoffs after the second round. Colorado is one of only six teams with no final conference appearance in the era of the salary cap. But with the list that General Manager Joe Sakic has made over the past three years, the 2021 version of the Avalanche seeks to break that streak.

The other five teams that have not made the third round since the 2004/05 lockout include the 2004 Stanley Cup champion, Calgary Flames, the 2003 Western Conference finalist, Minnesota Wild, the 2002 Eastern Conference finalist , Toronto Maple Leafs, the Florida Panthers, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The New York Islanders were also on that list until they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the 2020 playoffs.

Like the Maple Leafs, the Avalanche’s last appearance in the third round was in 2002. Colorado has only won five playoff series since losing to Detroit in Game 7. Once a powerhouse of the Western conference, the Avs played in six conference closing series from 1996 to 2002.

Colorado has gotten cramped in recent years. For the second straight season, the Avalanche suffered a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarter-finals. Colorado’s loss to eventual Stanley Cup finalists Dallas Stars in overtime of the seventh game was a disappointment for a team recovering from a 3-1 deficit without the top two netminders. The Avalanche also led by less than three minutes, but could not finish the game.

In 2019, the Avs followed the high-performing San Jose Sharks 3-2 after five games. Colorado recovered in Game 6, forcing a seventh game after an overtime win after a goal from Captain Gabe Landeskog. In the seventh game, the Avs fell one goal behind, lost 3-2 and suffered another defeat in game 7.

Since their last loss to Dallas, Colorado have made two notable additions to an already strong lineup. Sakic traded defender Nikita Zadorov for two-time Stanley Cup champion Brandon Saad. The 27-year-old gives the Avs a sixth weapon to use in the top 6 striker group. Sakic then replaced Zadorov’s place on the line-up with the takeover of Devon Toews, a 26-year-old Top 4 defender who spent the first two years of his NHL career with the Islanders.

As long as goalkeepers Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz are healthy enough to lead the Avs in goal, the Avalanche, along with the continued growth of all-star center Nathan MacKinnon and Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar, will be some of the best in the NHL 2021 regular season. However, the Avalanche’s success is measured by their ability to perform in the playoffs.

And for the 2021 avalanche, anything but a final appearance by the western conference is seen as a major disappointment.

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