When Avalanche grinder Matt Calvert, who’s made of 67 percent sandpaper and 33 percent battery acid, punched Dallas star Jamie Benn in his big, ugly mug, I saw the future of these two Central Division rivals, who seem destined to battle it out in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
There will be blood, not to mention the animosity certain to fester during a seven-game playoff series of knock-down, drag-out, desperately beautiful hockey.
When the two combatants from Dallas and Colorado dropped the gloves during the third period, Calvert won the fight. But the Stars won the game 3-2, on a goal by Esa Lindell in overtime.
“We’ve got to learn how to finish games. You can play the best game in the world. But if you lose, it’s still a loss. Right?” Avalanche defenseman Ian Cole said Tuesday. “We don’t really take moral victories around here. And two points is all that matters.”
Are these Avs ready for the rigors of a long playoff fight?
The honest answer is: No. Not yet.
At this point, Colorado is a team of undeniably Cup-worthy talent but unreliable championship habits.
Yes, this is Nathan MacKinnon’s team. On some nights, when MacK is flying, it seems as if the fate of the entire NHL universe turns on the blade on his skates.
Although nearly as dominant as any MVP candidate can be, MacKinnon cannot carry the Avalanche every minute during the long grind of the regular season. Colorado won’t win 16 playoff games and raise the Stanley Cup without major contributions from his teammates.
Through 46 games, what we’ve seen from the Avalanche is a group still trying to figure each other out and establish an identity sturdy enough to withstand the strain of adversity certain to be encountered during the playoffs. While young defenseman Cale Makar and captain Gabe Landeskog are big talents, a team must win all the little battles and button down every detail in order to win a championship.
That’s why goaltender Philipp Grubauer repeatedly emphasizes that paying strict attention to all the small things that form winning habits is every bit as important as earning the “W” at this time of year.
While the three stalwart members of the No. 1 scoring line have established deep enough roots in Denver to be be considered members of the family, please remember that five of the top nine forwards are new to the club, while Mikko Rantanen also sat out training camp as financial details of a new $55.5 million contract were hashed out. Chemistry cannot be microwaved; it requires the patience of a slow simmer.
So when coach Jared Bednar says he would like to hear the Avs talk more on the ice, should it be any surprise? Many of these guys wearing a Colorado sweater are still learning to mesh.
While Makar looks like the rookie of the year 90 percent of the time, the other 10 percent of the time reveals a 21-year-old defenseman still learning all the nuances required to …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports