It’s been a crazy couple of days for the Colorado Avalanche. On Saturday night, the club clinched their first playoff birth in four years after a wild game against the San Jose Sharks. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov played his best game of the season, making 47 saves on 49 shots en route to a 3-2 victory for Colorado. The Avalanche also lost their leading scorer Matt Duchene in that game, as he left the ice following a collision with teammate Jamie McGinn during their first shift of the night. Duchene will be out for about four weeks, meaning he will miss the remaining 8 games of the season, as well as the majority of the first round.
The Avalanche are in the playoffs, but they still want to get home ice for the playoffs, and it won’t be easy considering they have key games against St. Louis, Vancouver, San Jose, and Anaheim, and they’ll have to win those games without Matt Duchene. It’s not hopeless though, as the Avs have plenty of players who can pick up the slack left behind by Duchene. Among those players is rookie Nathan Mackinnon, who is fourth on team scoring with 56 points in 74 games. Mackinnon was the 1st overall pick in 2013, and he is leading the race to the Calder Memorial Trophy awarded to the rookie of the year. Team captain Gabriel Landeskog is also more than capable of providing offense with 61 points in 73 games.
First year head coach Patrick Roy has completely turned this team around. After several seasons of mediocrity, the teams high draft picks are finally beginning to pay off, and Roy is the one who helped get them to where they are now. After a disappointing Olympics in his native Russia, starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov finally seems to be back at the top of his game, which gives the time in front of him all the confidence needed to win a playoff series. The Avalanche have their fate in their hands as they try to get a higher seeding in the final standings, and if they are able to draw a lesser opponent in the first round, then there’s no telling what they can do once they get Duchene back on the ice.