Editors note: Just because the Stars season is over doesn't mean we're done watching hockey. If anything we'll be watching even more as the first round gets cranked up. But we need a team. So the four of us, in the days leading up to the first round, will present a different Western Conference team for your approval, and we'll vote on Wednesday before action begins. Here's Pat with the second entry...
Before you all completely disregard this post, let me explain my perspective on this.
I realize many Stars have an animosity towards the Avs. I understand the rivalry that stems from four intense playoff series (Two Western Conference Finals, two Western Conference Quarterfinals) in the past ten years.I get that.
But I don't share that hatred.
I've grown up as a Denver sports fan. My Dad and his family grew up in Denver, and he would go to great lengths to get me to watch every Broncos and Rockies game he could find on the television. Occasionally we'd watch an Avs game, but because hockey wasn't as big, and because these were pre-NHL Network times, I never really saw many.
And to be honest, I missed out on the Stars as well. I was focused entirely on baseball and football. When the Stars won the Cup in 1999, I was still busy celebrating the Broncos' Super Bowl win. Actually I was probably too busy being a 9-year old kid.
Anyways, I didn't get into hockey until my first game in 2008, which happened to be the 4 overtime Sharks playoff win. That's when I started absorbing everything hockey and became a huge Stars fan. And naturally, I drifted towards the Avs as well. I was a newbie. I didn't know any better.
Without question, the Stars are my number one team. But whenever the boys from Big D aren't playing, I'll find an online feed of an Avs game and cheer them on.
So I have no history, no real emotional connection to the Avs-Stars rivalry of old. So that's given me a clear perspective on this, and after thinking about it, I've come up with 3 reasons why you should root for the Avalanche in the playoffs.
Just....hear me out, okay?...
1. These aren't the same Avs you used to hate.
Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are retired. Peter Forsberg is in Sweden. Rob Blake is in San Jose. Chris Drury is in New York. Adam Foote and Milan Hedjuk are the only names left from the intense Stars-Avs playoff series earlier in the decade. The old guard is out, replaced with a much younger, faster group of players like Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny and Peter Mueller.
So if you still hold over some bitter feelings from the playoff defeats.....don't. Yeah, it's the same team. But the current Avs have barely any history against the Stars.
2. Matt Duchene
Even though I believe Jamie Benn is better and will have a better career, this Duchene kid is still ridiculous. Speedy, a hard shot, a killer on the power play...and the way he smootly skates down the ice reminds me a bit of a young Mike Modano. Only not as great, obviously. And he had quite the storybook moment, scoring the shootout goal that clinched the Avs a spot in the playoffs. If he can recover quickly from the minor injury he sustained a few games ago, Duchene could be dangerous in the postseason.
3. The 'underdog' factor.
If any of you are like me, the underdog status always sucks you in. I've always despised consistent success, probably because all of my teams rarely win. (Alas, poor Rockies and Rangers....) So whenever I get the chance, I root for the lesser of the two teams.
And in these playoffs, there is no greater underdog than the Avalanche. First off, they weren't even supposed to sniff the playoffs, much less stay in the race all season long. Then came the sudden late-season plummet in the standings, and the Avs had to scratch and claw their way back into the 8th seed. So instead of coming into the playoffs with the reputation of a consistently solid team, the Avs are now the team that 'showed their true colors' and 'don't deserve to play in the playoffs.'
Which sets up a perfect storm for playoff success, in my opinion. You've played brilliantly all season long, and now the playoff expectations are set incredibly low. The Avs now have nothing to lose. And teams with nothing to lose usually play with an extra fire come playoff time.