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Can the Avs repeat? A playoff primer with the team’s play-by-play announcer

With the official arrival of the postseason, we got on the horn with Avs play-by-play man Conor McGahey to answer the question: Can Colorado repeat as champs and raise Lord Stanley’s Cup once again?
Avalanche Predators Hockey
Posted at 3:27 PM, Apr 18, 2023

The Colorado Avalanche’s quest for a second consecutive Stanley Cup begins in earnest Tuesday night at Ball Arena.

The Seattle Kraken, an expansion team that reached the postseason in just its second season as a franchise, comes to town to open the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

With the official arrival of the postseason, we got on the horn with Avs play-by-play man Conor McGahey to answer the question: Can Colorado repeat as champs and raise Lord Stanley’s Cup once again?

McGahey isn’t in the business of making predictions, but he answered some key questions surrounding the Avs as the postseason gets underway:

Avs playoff primer with play-by-play man Conor McGahey

Can the Avs cruise by the Kraken?

Colorado won 16 of 20 games en route to the Cup in 2022, including sweeps in two of the four series. Can the Avs make another dominant postseason run?

McGahey says don’t count on it against the Kraken, which this year added 19 wins and 14 points over its total from its debut season.

“I think this is [in no way a] sweep over the Seattle Kraken,” he said. “This has at minimum five, probably six games written all over it. Colorado knows that. Seattle is a really good wildcard team.”

Not last year’s ‘wagon’

Avs coach Jared Bednar said this week that we shouldn’t compare this year’s team to the one that won it all a year ago, and McGahey said that’s for good reason.

Last year’s squad finished as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference – three games ahead of the field – despite losing six of its last seven games to close out the season.

The 2022-23 Avs, on the other hand, had seeding on the line in game No. 82.

“Last year had everything wrapped up right before the playoffs started,” McGahey said. “This year, they had to play for the division. So they had to get into playoff mode earlier. So I almost think that, at this point, they can handle any kind of scenario.”

Can the Avs cruise through the West again?

Don’t count on it.

In addition to the much-improved Kraken, McGahey noted that the Edmonton Oilers have improved their defense and goaltending – they hadn’t surrendered more than two goals in the month of April before postseason play – and have a maestro in Connor McDavid leading the way. The Oilers’ first-round opponent is a “stingy” Los Angeles Kings team that got better with a mid-season trade, McGahey said, and of course the Vegas Golden Knights – the overall No. 1 seed in the West – will once again be a tough opponent.

“The East is going to beat everybody up, but the West is going to have their own version of that,” McGahey said. “And as the saying goes, there are no bad teams in the National Hockey League, and there definitely are no bad teams when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

‘Health will make them feel better’

The Avs got off to a sluggish start in their Stanley Cup defense, starting the season 4-4 and sitting just three games over .500 in mid-January in a season riddled with injuries. Captain Gabe Landeskog has missed the entire season – and will miss the postseason – with a knee injury.

Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Valeri Nichushkin and others have all missed significant time, too.

According to NHLInjuryViz on Twitter, the Avalanche have the fourth-most total man-games missed in the league at 465. The Kraken had half of that in 2022-23.

With Makar set to be on the ice for Colorado to start the postseason, though, the injury report has been whittled down to Landeskog and three players listed as day-to-day.

“I think health will put them in a place where they feel better,” McGahey said. “Even though you don't have your captain, he's still going to be around [and] can provide tools and a little bit of a bump.

“There are a ton of great leaders in that room. It wasn't Landeskog who gave the speech before Game 6 [of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final], it was Andrew Cogliano who talked to the group who doesn't wear a letter on his sweater. And so, to me, that's important so they can go as far as they want to go again, barring health is the factor here. They were able to get everybody back at the right time.”