The Colorado Avalanche are considered by many to be the best team in the NHL this season but can Nathan MacKinnon lead the franchise beyond its second-round stumbles?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Which team do you think has the most pressure to win the Stanley Cup this year?
OMAR: I'd say Colorado does. Just because, again, Colorado has ironically been the Leafs of the second round. Where they just-- which is again, ironic because second round. But yeah, literally, they-- every year, or for the last little stretch-- Colorado has been a monster in the regular season. They have these star players. This year, the team got better. McKinnon's still around. Obviously Landeskog re-signed, which is great.
Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri was having a career year. Cale Makar's disgusting. They have one of the best defense scores, or probably the best defense score in the league. And Samuel talked a lot about that after the trade deadline. So it's like, you're looking at this team, and it's just like, how do you not win? Especially considering how weak the west is, in relation to the fact that the eastern conference, all eight teams that qualified have 100 points. In comparison to the West, there's no reason why Colorado can't or shouldn't be the ones to get out. So definitely, I think they have the most pressure to win.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Who wants to take that after Omar? Because we know Omar-- you made some really good points. Who's going to follow up? Justin, do you want to follow up?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, I mean, I think Colorado is the right answer. It's hard to argue against that. I will say Calgary probably should be feeling a little bit of pressure. Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau both need new contracts next season. And if one of them leaves, if both of them decide that they want to be elsewhere, I'm not sure how they rebuild under the current situation that they have. It would be really, really devastating to that organization if they lost those two players.
But if they win a Stanley Cup, I don't think it matters that much. So I think Calgary, Colorado. I think maybe Florida'd feel a little bit. But the answer certainly should be Colorado based on who they might lose and what decisions are going to have to make in the off season.
SAM CHANG: Yeah, I agree. I don't see how you can say Colorado isn't the team facing the most pressure. It's Kadri's last season. He's going to deserve a massive last contract. And they have no first or second round pick this coming year. This is-- I'm not saying, by any means, their window is closing. Because that team is so ridiculously deep, and they have a ton of prospects coming up as well.
But it's certainly, for this iteration of the team, I think, one of the last kicks at the can.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: And Nathan MacKinnon's sanity.
SAM CHANG: Yeah.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's it. Yeah. Because I don't think Nathan MacKinnon wants to go through another press conference where he has to field some question from Adrian Dater about how he hasn't won anything, or anything like that. Could you imagine that?
OMAR: The 12% buffer, yeah.
SAM CHANG: It's also, I think, one of the last times they can probably do this, with Joe Sakic's current model of-- and that's not to say Darcy Kuemper hasn't had a great season. He's been really good. But when you think top goaltenders in the league, you don't often think Darcy Kuemper, even though his stats have always been pretty good. I would say goaltending is their weakest position. Not that it's weak. It's just everything else is so strong.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Is Colorado's goaltending better than Florida's goaltending? Because I still don't think Darcy Kuemper's that bad, compared to relying on Sergei Bobrovsky for a whole series.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I would say more consistent. I think Sergei Bobrovsky at his best can be a 10 out of 10. But he can give you a 4 out of 10 the next night. And I think at least, if Kemper continues to give you seven, eight, eight and a half out of 10, every night. Under the conditions that the Colorado Avalanche do provide, I think you're in a much better spot.
It's run and gun, it's firefight with the Panthers every night, and they're going to play some really great teams. And if Sergei Bobrovsky just doesn't show up, then that could be the reason why they lose. I just don't think Kuemper will be the reason why Colorado loses. But I could be
OMAR: Yeah and I think, just to add on to that, I remember Nashville, when they would go on these runs, and Pekka Rinne looked incredible. And then just one day, he would wake up and say, "OK, I'm done", and then just let in everything. So when it comes to a team like Florida, that's-- the inconsistency there, I think, is scary. But to Justin's point, I don't think Colorado has that issue in Kuemper now.
Could there be a series where Kuemper is the second best goaltender? I could see that, right? But I don't think it's a huge problem.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I know that my answer for this one-- I know Colorado should be the de facto answer for this one, but I'm going to put pressure on Minnesota here. Because of the salary cap--
OMAR: Oh, yeah.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --with vacations, with the Suter and Parise contracts.
OMAR: I keep forgetting about that.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: It's kind of important for them to go pretty far this year. Who knows what they're going to do with the goaltending tandem that they have. They already paid Kirill Kaprizov. But what are they going to do with the team after those contracts start to rear their ugly heads? They're already in the rearview mirror.
They kind of have to win this year. They don't have the same amount of pressure as Colorado does, but I think Minnesota definitely deserves to be pressured. They could also be an answer for this next question, too-- which team are we sleeping on as a dark horse to win it all this year? Because Minnesota, they have goaltending.
They're a fun team to watch, as well. That first round series against St. Louis, that is a good battle test for them, as they head into the playoffs. They may end up being a little bit more dinged up when they end up against their opponent they end up facing in the second round, either them or St. Louis in that situation.
But I don't know. If Minnesota is able to get through that, and see if they get Colorado in the second round or something like that, and they upset them-- don't sleep on the Minnesota Wild.