NHL

Stanley Cup: Colorado's MacKinnon and Johnson react to drought-breaking Avalanche championship

By Sports Desk June 27, 2022

Though it had been more than two decades since the Colorado Avalanche won a Stanley Cup, the past three years had been particularly difficult, but star Nathan MacKinnon said his side "never stopped believing".

Three consecutive exits in the Western Conference semi-finals saddled the Avalanche with one of the most dreaded of labels – a team that couldn’t translate regular-season success into postseason glory.

That myth has now been busted, and then some, following Colorado’s 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of this year’s Stanley Cup Final, a win which capped one of the more dominant playoff runs in recent memory.

Colorado finished this postseason with a 16-4 record, tied for the second-highest winning percentage of any team since the NHL adopted a best-of-seven format for all four rounds in 1986-87. Only the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers of 1986-87, who went 16-2, have produced a better mark.

"Some tough years mixed in there, but it’s all over now," MacKinnon said after registering a goal and an assist in Sunday’s clincher. "We never stopped believing."

That never-say-die attitude was evident in Game 6, in which Colorado erased an early 1-0 deficit against the two-time defending champion Lightning, and throughout this title run. Sunday’s win was the Avalanche’s 10th come-from-behind victory of these playoffs, tying the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins for the most in a single postseason.

"If you surround yourself with great people, you can accomplish great things," defenseman Erik Johnson said, the Avalanche’s longest-tenured player who hoisted the Cup for the first time in 14 NHL seasons – 12 of which have been spent in Denver.

The Avalanche seemed primed for greatness during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign, in which they produced 82 points in 56 games to win the Presidents’ Trophy. But a second-straight second-round flameout as a higher-seeded team left many wondering whether one of the league’s most talented teams could turn potential into production when it mattered most.

Last year’s playoff loss to the Vegas Golden Knights served as a constant motivating force for this season’s squad, which dominated the Western Conference with 119 regular-season points before this outstanding playoff surge.

"Our group, ever since last year, we knew coming into training camp that they were committed," Avalanche vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said.

"Nothing phased them this year – they were prepared every day to get better. The coaches had them prepared, and every player bought in.”

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