“Not just about hanging onto a playoff spot” for Avalanche


Before the Canadian excursion that generated the most dispiriting loss and most cathartic win of the season in back-to-back games, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar leaned back in his seat at the team’s Centennial practice facility and offered a reflection that was soon revealed to double as foresight.

The question: With so many scoring chances on a nightly basis but so many of them squandered, is it more frustrating or encouraging to watch, rewatch and critique?

“We’re not putting (pucks) in the back of the net easily, and it seems like when we give up those types of quality chances, (opponents) are scoring on them,” Bednar said. “So it’s frustrating. I try not to be — I try not to judge our team just on the result alone. Certainly when they start stacking up the losses, you have to look at it critically.”

Sure enough, a few nights later, the Avalanche dominated two periods in Edmonton but still trailed 2-0 at the intermission. (So which is it, frustrating or encouraging?

“Tough question,” Bednar had said, laughing. “I don’t know. It’s both.”

Then, for 20 minutes, the clouds parted and the signs of encouragement paid off. Nathan MacKinnon finally scored with an act of wizardry after being denied nine times. More goals followed. The Avs (20-15-3) snatched two points at their most desperate moment, facing a sixth consecutive loss.

Which brings up another broad point Bednar made before the trip: “You’re not going to play the whole game with the urgency or attack mentality that you go after the third (period) with when you’re down. But I think that we have to have a bigger sense of urgency on every play throughout the course of a game.”

Symmetrical results as dramatic as Colorado’s 2-0 comeback in Edmonton after a 2-0 collapse at Vancouver are reminders of the big picture. The time has come for Bednar to evaluate the first half of the 2022-23 season — far from a failure, but almost equally distant from the preseason blueprint of a team that just won a Stanley Cup.

The short version, Bednar’s words: “Lots of adversity, No. 1. Inconsistent. Some of it expected. Some of it probably should be better.”

The long version: adamant resistance to an adage that might be easy to slip into repeating.

Just get into the playoffs and everything will be OK, right? After all, this is the Avalanche. This is Denver’s proven winner, the team with the most recent championship pedigree.

“Big picture, you like to think we get guys back, everything comes together — that’s fine. It’s good to be confident,” Bednar said. I have a lot of confidence and trust in our team. … That confidence can’t come off just what we’ve done in the past. Because it’s not just about hanging onto a playoff spot and getting into the playoffs. Like, we’re past that.”


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