The Colorado Avalanche celebrate their 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues to earn a spot in the NHL playoffs at Pepsi April 07, 2018.
It’s been three years, but the Colorado Avalanche‘s playoff drought is officially over. The Avs earned the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference by beating St. Louis on Saturday to claim the second wild-card bid.
If you’re a bandwagon Avalanche fan, or just don’t know hockey that well, hopefully this guide will at least graduate you from idiot to relative dummy before Colorado faces off with the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
What’s the big deal? The Avalanche was, by far, the worst team in the NHL last season, and one of the worst teams in league history, acquiring 48 points across the 82-game season. (In regular-season hockey, standings are less about wins and losses and more about points. Teams get two points for a win and one point for a loss in overtime.) But now, a year later, the Avs mounted the fourth-largest season-to-season turnaround in NHL history, recording 95 points to earn the eighth and final playoff spot.
Who the Avs are playing: The Avalanche will meet the Nashville Predators, a team that made the Stanley Cup Final a season ago, where it lost to Pittsburgh. The Avs have lost 10 consecutive games to the Predators. Colorado’s last win over Nashville came March 28, 2016.
Who is the Avs’ mascot?: His name is Bernie, he’s a 6-foot-5 St. Bernard, he’s adorable and if you want him to come to your birthday party for an hour, it will cost you $300.
How much do tickets cost?: For games at the Pepsi Center, the cheapest ticket starts at $95 through the team’s official ticket partner. Prices start as low as $65 on other secondary ticket sites.
The Predators do what with a catfish?: In Kansas City, the national anthem at Arrowhead Stadium is capped by fans shouting “… and the home of the CHIEFS!” At Florida State, fans use the palm of their hands to simulate a tomahawk chop. In Nashville, fans throw a catfish onto the ice. Some sports traditions are stranger than others.
The tradition started back in 1999 — the Preds’ inaugural season — when a local business owner hid a nine-pound catfish wrapped in newspaper under his jersey and waited until Nashville scored in a game against the Red Wings. As soon as they did, he rushed down the aisle and tossed the fish, a staple of the South, onto the ice, similar to Detroit’s tradition of throwing an octopus into the rink. It’s now what hockey in Tennessee is known for.
If you want to read a more detailed account of how the catfish came to be, you can do so here.
Schedule (All times MT):
Thursday, April 12, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN: Colorado at Nashville Saturday, April 14, 1 p.m., NBC: Colorado at Nashville Monday, April 16, 8 p.m., NBCSN: Nashville at Colorado Wednesday, April 18, 8 p.m., NBCSN: Nashville at Colorado Friday, April 20, TBD: Colorado at Nashville* Sunday, April 22, TBD: Nashville at Colorado* Tuesday, April 24, TBD: Colorado at Nashville*
* — If necessary
Stanley Cup Playoffs at a glance:
They’re not called the NHL playoffs. They’re the “Stanley Cup Playoffs.” And while we’re at it, it’s called the “Stanley Cup Final,” not “Finals.”
Eight teams make the playoffs from each conference (Western and Eastern), meaning there are four rounds, each following a best-of-seven format. The first round is set up as 2-2-1-1-1, meaning each team is guaranteed two home games before traveling between cities for the remaining games (if necessary).
What teams are in the playoffs?
Colorado vs. Nashville Minnesota vs. Winnipeg Los Angeles vs. Vegas San Jose vs. Anaheim Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh Toronto vs. Boston Columbus vs. Washington New Jersey vs. Tampa Bay
Avs you should know
Jared Bednar, coach: He got the job Aug. 25, 2016, not even a month before the start of the 2016-17 season after former coach Patrick Roy resigned. What followed was a season worse than anyone could have predicted, but in Year 2, Bednar has changed the culture, preaching the importance of players having the backs of each other at all times while also focusing on endurance and constantly crashing the net. He had zero NHL experience before he was hired by the Avs, previously winning championships in the AHL and ECHL as a coach and being a journeyman minor-league player in the 1990s.
Nathan MacKinnon, center (No. 29): Former first overall pick by the Avs in the 2013 draft has blossomed into a bona fide superstar. He’s a candidate for the Hart Trophy (given to the NHL’s MVP) and leads Colorado in goals (39) and assists (58), and ranks fifth in the NHL in points per game (1.31). He’s one of hockey’s fastest north-south skaters and is a tremendous stick-handler. He’s also only 22 years old.
Gabe Landeskog, left wing (No. 92): Fearless attacking forward who doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s the Avs’ third-leading scorer with 25 goals and leads all forwards in average time on ice (20:09). He scored two of Colorado’s most dramatic goals of the season: A game-winner in a shootout against Vegas on March 24, and an empty-netter vs. St. Louis on Saturday that sealed the victory to send the Avs to the playoffs.
Mikko Rantanen, right wing (No. 96): Rounding out the Avs’ young top line with MacKinnon and Landeskog, 25, is Rantanen, a 21-year old former 10th overall pick (2015) from Finland. His 81 games played this season leads the team and he ranks second in goals (29) and assists (55).
Sam Girard, defenseman (No. 49): He’s only 19 years old and has had an impressive rookie season since being acquired from Nashville in part of the blockbuster trade that sent former alternate captain Matt Duchene to Ottawa. Girard is small for a defenseman — 5-foot-9 — especially one so young, but he makes up for it with incredible speed and a dangerous spin move that allows him to easily rotate in either direction.
Tyson Barrie, defenseman (No. 4): His primary role is to patrol the defensive zone, but Barrie is a dangerous goal-scorer, especially when the Avs have a power play. He has a deadly shot from the blue line — 14 total goals this season — and is third on the team in assists (43).
Jonathan Bernier, goalie (No. 45): He’s the Avs’ backup goalie, but with Semyon Varlamov sidelined for the season with a groin injury, it’s up to Bernier to protect the net throughout the playoffs. He has two shutouts this season and started nine games during Colorado’s 10-game winning streak in December and January.
Terms to know:
Forwards: Consist of three players: A center and two wings. They’re a team’s primary scoring threats and will play up front while in the offensive zone.
Defensemen: Two players who hang back to help the goalie protect the net. While their team has possession in the offensive zone, they’ll generally hang back along the blue line.
Offensive zone: Area between the blue line and the opponent’s goal.
Neutral zone: Area between the blue lines on either side of center ice.
Hat trick: When a single player scores three goals in a game.
Power play: When an opposing player is called for a penalty, he must go to the penalty box for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the severity). During that time, the offending team can only have four skaters on the ice, giving the opponent a one-man advantage.
Odd-man rush: When a team has more players rushing the opponent’s net on an attack than there are defenders to help the goalie.
High-sticking: When a player carries the stick above their shoulder and makes contact with an opponent’s face.
Tripping: When a player trips an opponent with his stick, leg or arm.
Slashing: A forceful chop of the stick toward an opponent’s body, stick or hands.
Hooking: When a player impedes the progress of an opponent by tugging on their body with the blade of the stick.