There are signs plastered all over the Colorado Avalanche dressing room at Scotiabank Saddledome.
In bold capital letters, they read:
* “THIS IS FUN”
* “THIS IS WHY WE PLAY!”
* “MILE HIGH HOCKEY!”
* “IT’S AN AWESOME DAY FOR MILE HIGH HOCKEY!”
* “16 WINS!”
It’s a reminder of the little things about this first-round Stanley Cup playoff series which features their eighth-seeded group squaring off against the best team in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames.
And the subtle messages also remind them that, despite the David vs. Goliath set-up, they’re just as deserving to be where they’re at.
“It gives us some pride in taking care of our room, first and foremost, and making it feel like home,” said captain Gabe Landeskog. “But, also, it gives us some added motivation. I’m not saying we’re sitting here, reading all the signs before we go out and try to feed off them. But if we catch a glimpse, sometimes it can turn your mood around or really just push you in the right direction.
“Having said that, 16 is the most important one — that’s the goal.”
Sixteen wins over the next couple of months would be paramount in their quest for the Stanley Cup. Action continues Saturday as the visitors look to even the series after the Flames marched out to a 4-0 victory in Game 1 on Thursday.
Pundits are not predicting the Avalanche to come out alive.
But they don’t really care.
“We’re embracing this underdog role,” continued Landeskog, the seven-year captain of the speedy and prolific Avalanche squad. “That’s really what we’re doing. I mean, nobody’s got us to win. But I think if we believe and do what we do, we’re a hard team to beat.”
The Flames did, however, beat them all three times they squared off this year. However, the slate is wiped clean in the post-season.
It’s the place where upsets happen, the previous 82-games go out the window and everyone starts even.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar is realistic, knowing that his group is not heavily favoured. Yet they also have the experience of 2018 which saw them force their first-round series against the Nashville Predators to six games.
They were a surprise last year. But this year?
“It just feels different for our group,” Bednar said. “We’ve gained a lot of experience from (in 2018). Not only from the fight down the stretch run, like we had to do again this year, but going into the first round. I think our guys have earned the right to be confident here, because of the way we finished the season.”
His group finished with a 38-30-14 regular season record and were 7-1-2 down the stretch.
“We speak about being the underdog and embracing that and the things that come along with that,” Bednar added. “But it doesn’t squash our expectations of this series. I think our guys should want a little bit more than they did last year. And that means we have to go out and win the first round.
“It’s up to us to prove that we’re someone to be reckoned with and no better way to do it against the best team in the West.”
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