Going into their opening playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, the Colorado Avalanche have a distinct advantage over their opponents…..they have nothing to lose.
The pressure to perform is entirely on the shoulders of the Sharks, who time after time have come up short when it matters most.
Like a jilted prom queen, the Sharks seem to save their best for the regular season but are always left behind in the big dance.
Colorado on the other hand, are just happy to be invited and that in itself makes them very dangerous.
Now, let’s get onto the head-to-head match-ups
Offense: Advantage Sharks
Sharks: Boost the likes of Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Ryan Clowe and have far better depth than the Avalanche. Will all these players perform come playoff time? That is the million dollar question especially with Thornton who has a habit of disappearing during the playoffs.
X-factor: Devin Setoguchi- After a great sophomore season, Setoguchi failed to live up to expectations this season but the young forward is a budding talent that may use the playoffs as a way yo rebound after a poor season.
Avalanche: The Avs will have to rely on wily veteran Milan Hejduk, Chris Stewart along with super rookie Matt Duchene and Peter Stastny for most of the offensive burden and need to hope that the likes of Peter Mueller and T, J Galiardi.
X-factor: Darcy Tucker- Tucker needs to be at his petulant best if he hopes to frustrate some of San Jose’s forward. With the Avs being such a young team with many players having little to no experience, the playoff tested pest needs provide as much leadership up front as possible.
Defense: Advantage Sharks
Sharks: Dan Boyle and Rob Blake lead a squad that is nothing but solid with Boyle playing the role as the anchor. Boyle is coming off another great season and Doug Murray has also benefited from Boyle’s play. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Niclas Wallin and Kent Huskins fill out the unit
X-factor: Dan Boyle- The Sharks will live and die by the play of the mobile defenseman, if Boyle has a disastrous series, the Sharks may start packing their bags earlier then expected.
Avalanche: Veteran Adam Foote or Scott Hannan will likely have the task of containing the Sharks potent first line and their effectiveness in doing so will be a vital point in the series. John-Michael Liles and Kyle Quincey will be looking to provide offense from the blueline.
X-factor- Adam Foote- With such a young team, Foote will need to motivate the younger players taht they can indeed upset the Sharks. No Colorado player has as much experience as Foote and he will be heavily leaned on.
Goaltending: Advantage Sharks
Sharks: Much like Joe Thornton, Evgeni Nabokov has had his share of playoff issues and will need to prove his detractors wrong and come up with performances that prove he should be a goalie to be feared in the playoffs going forward. Thomas Greiss will serve as backup.
X-factor: Nabokov’s psyche- If Colorado is able to get to Nabokov early his confidence may rattle and result in a downward spiral.
Avalanche: Which Craig Anderson will we see? The superb goaltender who was literally stealing games for the Avs at the beginning of the season or the fatigued Anderson that was less than stellar down the stretch. Peter Budaj will serve as backup.
X-factor: Anderson experience- Anderson has never played in the playoffs before and will likely have some early jittery moments. If he is able to settle down and gain back his early season form he could steal a game or two for the Avs.
Intangibles: Advantage Avalanche
The Avalanche go into the series with no expectation and thus no pressure, the Sharks on the other hand must try to slay the demons of playoffs past and as the number one seed in the Western Conference have lofty expectations and all the pressure. Though the young players that the Avalanche boost may come out nervous out of the gate, the ability to play freely without expectation may allow them to play the game they see fit.
Prediction: Sharks in 6
The Sharks are deep at every position and the added scoring of Heatley for this playoff run makes them a powerful team to contend with. The Avs are just happy to be where they are and the upset is very unlikely unless Nabokov does indeed implode.
About the Author
Written by Igor Henriques
A sports enthusiast with a passion for hockey,soccer,basketball,football, and baseball