The Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to get underway on Monday, May 2, and the door is truly wide open for any team to make a run for the championship. The Colorado Avalanche figure to be one of the teams best positioned to make a deep postseason run this year, and they certainly have the talent to win it all. With that in mind, here’s why the Aves have what it takes to win the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup.
After finishing the regular season with 119 points, second-best in the league behind only the Florida Panthers, the Aves won the No. 1 seed in the Central Division, setting them up for a date with the Nashville Predators in the first round. The winner of the series will advance to take on either the St. Louis Blues or Minnesota Wild, who will face off in their own best-of-seven series in the first round.
The Aves have one of the most complete rosters in all of hockey. Goaltending was a worry for Colorado for much of the season, but the late rise of Darcy Kuemper as one of the league’s best goalies has put that issue to bed, at least for the time being. With defensive standouts like Cale Makar and Devon Toews holding down the backline, Colorado only conceded 234 goals this season. The likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, and Gabriel Landeskog helped the Aves rack up 312 goals on the year, and they’ll look to keep on firing right into the playoffs.
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With all that in mind, here are three reasons the Aves will win the Stanley Cup.
3 reasons the Avalanche will win the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup
3. Darcy Kuemper’s rise to stardom
The Avalanche appeared to have a real problem in between the sticks at the start of the season. Darcy Kuemper was struggling out the gate, recording just over a .900 save percentage through the first two months of the season. With Pavel Francouz not inspiring much confidence out of the backup spot, the Aves were reportedly mulling a trade for a goalie at the deadline.
That all changed in January, however. Kuemper started playing like a different goalie at the onset of the new calendar year, and has dominated since the start of 2022. Since January, Kuemper has a .928 save percentage. While his numbers slipped a bit again in April, you can tell he’s been locked in during the second half of the season, and that’s been huge for the Aves throughout their run to the No. 1 seed in the Central Division.
2. Injuries did not slow them down, and now they’re healthy
The Aves were dealt with some brutal injury luck this year, losing several key players for extended periods of time. Mainly, the Avalanche were forced to play without superstar center Nathan MacKinnon for 16 games, captain Gabriel Landeskog for 27 games, star defender Devon Toews for 14 games, elite forward Nazem Kadri for 11 games, young defenseman Bowen Byran for 51 games, and veteran defender Samuel Girard for 15 games. Despite all of those stars missing significant time this season, the Aves cruised to first place in the division and did not look much weaker without their star players available.
What’s more, with the playoffs set to get underway Monday, the Aves are rapidly approaching full strength. Recent reports indicate Landeskog, the last of the key players still sidelined, could make his return to the team in time for Game 1 against the Predators. Having their captain and one of their top goalscorers back in action for the entirety of the playoff run will be a huge boost for the Aves as they look to make quick work of Nashville in the first round.
1. Easy first-round matchup vs Nashville
The Nashville Predators have been atrocious of late, struggling to finish out the season, losing 8 of their final 12 games. The poor form could not have come at a worse time for the Preds, as they are now set up for a date with the Avalanche in the first round, something most teams were hoping to avoid. Nashville ended the season on a particularly low note, blowing a 4-0 lead to the lowly Arizona Coyotes and losing the game 5-4 in regulation. If that doesn’t sum up the Predators’ woes at the end of the year, we’re not sure what does.
With Nashville completely out of form, the Aves should have no problem finding the back of the net with their arsenal of goalscorers. Colorado had seven players this season with 20+ goals scored – Rantanen (36), MacKinnon (32), Landeskog (30), Kadri (28), Makar (28), Valeri Nichushkin (25), Andre Burakovsky (22) – and considering the Predators allowed 4+ goals in six of their last seven games, the Aves could put on a show in the first round, and cruise into their second-round matchup.