Analysts everywhere (mostly outside of Denver) have referred to the Colorado Avalanche as the “One Line Team” since its dominant run in November and in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. If this is the case? Do not get me wrong, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog Go offensive, but what about JT “Justin Time”? Compher and his two coupling targets? What about? Matt Nietoare two minor beauties? Didn’t the Avalanche also win seven out of ten to end the regular season without Landeskog or Rantanen?
BIG TIME JIMOTHY TIMOTHY
The Ryan O’Reilly deal still breathes life into the Avalanche roster since JT Compher was as opportunistic as ever, scoring two big goals that resulted in round one wins for the Avs. He finds himself in the right place at the right time. Compher opened scoring for the Avs in game five and joined it late in game two. Coach Jared Bednar seems to like what he sees of Compher, who has an average of three minutes more on the ice per game than last year’s first-round streak with Nashville. Its speed has become a weapon that Calgary’s Bottom-6 just couldn’t compete with.
THE CALIFORNIAN CHILD
Scoring outnumbered seems to be Nieto’s forte as he’s usually able to take advantage of an active racket and breakout speed. The good mate has outnumbered three goals this season, and it was his goal in the middle of the second game that finally opened the goal for the Colorado Avalanche. It’s hard to imagine where the Avalanche would be without these big games.
MADE THE PUSH WITHOUT THE BIG DOGS
It seems like today’s hockey analysts are so desperate for a story that they keep telling the same story even if it’s not true. Do you remember March 7th, when the Avalanche won a whopping 4-0 on the chin and lost captain Gabe Landeskog for almost three weeks? He missed nine of the last fifteen games of the season and only returned for the last five. Added to this is the loss of Mikko Rantanen for the last eight regular season games and the Avalanche managed the playoff push without a “top line”.
The Avalanche won thanks to the active play of some revealed talents. Colin Wilson was an absolute globetrotter, skated with courage and spirit. Ian Cole, Patrik Nemeth, and Erik Johnson were excellent before Philipp Grubaur and in the breakout. Tyson Barrie confused the opponent by jumping into the game and pulling me from my seat countless times. Alexander Kerfoot entered the top flight with Landeskog and MacKinnon without skipping a stroke, and Compher scored goals in time. All of this was in place until the end of the regular season and continued into the playoffs.
Since the return of Rantanen and Landeskog, we’ve only seen the big three in power play. The big line was split throughout the playoff, so I’m not going to accept the one-line rhetoric.
SURPRISE BLUE LINE
The most pleasant surprise of 2018-2019 has to be the apparent depth acquired by the avalanche on the blue line. Cale Makar is the icing on the cake of the trains, the GM Joe Sakic did in the backend. Nemeth, Girard and Ian Cole have all become great pickups for Colorado. While Cole’s signing earlier this season looked like a bad one, the veteran Blueliner has proven the opposite to his critics as he made a big step forward in those playoffs.
Like compher, Nikita Zadorov is also in Burgundy as a result of the O’Reilly to Sabers trade in 2016 and has grown into the physical presence we all hoped for.
NOTE: The O’Reilly Trade’s third player, Mikhail Grigorenko, leads the KHL on points, leading CSKA to their very first Gagarin Cup this season. Not too shabby.
The only player who seems to be getting the recognition he deserves is Philipp Grubauer. Grubby was undoubtedly the catalyst for Avalanche’s success as he has only conceded more than two goals in two games since February 17. Yes you’ve read correctly. He finished the first round with a save percentage of 0.939 and only allowed 1.89 goals per game.
WE HAVE THE SAUCE
If the first round taught us anything, the playoffs are all about dynamism and mindset. Check out the Tampa Bay Lightning swept away by the evil Matt and his Columbus Blue Jackets. Getting into the tournament hot is more important than just driving in. Finishing the regular season strong is more important than resting players. Because of this, it cannot be overlooked that the Colorado Avalanche were the hottest team in the NHL last month.
The Stanley Cup is really up for grabs this year with the top seeds eliminated on both sides of the bracket. Enter the Colorado Avalanche. Is this the year the Avalanche steal a mug and the party starts a little earlier than planned? I think so. Now I know it’s only round two, but if the Avs stick to the script and use their intangibles and talent, they’ll have a real chance. IF you win the entire enchilada, it is because you are not just a “One Line Team”.