4 Reasons Why the Avalanche Qualified for the 2023 NHL Playoffs (2023)

After several gruelling months and being overrun by numerous injuries to key players, the Colorado Avalanche have finally secured their spot in the 2023 NHL Playoffs.

It’s been a trying season for the defending Stanley Cup champions to be sure, but the team has somehow found a way to remain in contention for both the Central Division title and the Western Conference crown. The Avalanche’s playoff matchup isn’t formalized just yet, but they should be favoured in most, if not all of the plausible scenarios.

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The season hasn’t been without uncertainty, but positive results have been a near constant. Several key factors have contributed to their success in 2022-23, including elite goaltending from an offseason acquisition, typically strong offensive production from the team’s superstars, consistent scoring from less heralded depth players, and effective special teams play.

Without further ado, let’s dive in and delve further into each of the aforementioned factors, and how they’ve positioned the Avalanche for their highly-anticipated Stanley Cup defence come mid-April.

Georgiev Thrived as Avalanche’s New Starting Goaltender

Alexandar Georgiev has been a standout performer in the 2022-23 season as the starting goaltender for the Avalanche, arriving on the scene following a summer trade with the New York Rangers. His consistency and remarkable performances have earned him recognition as one of the best goalies in the league, perhaps enough to earn him Vezina Trophy votes.

Georgiev’s statistics speak for themselves. The 27-year-old boasts an impressive save percentage (SV%) and goals-against average (GAA) that are among the best in the league, and has saved over 18 goals above expected (GSAx). His quick reflexes, excellent positioning, and ability to read plays have made him an adequate replacement for Darcy Kuemper, who backstopped the Avalanche to their 2022 Stanley Cup win.

StatisticGeorgievNHL Rank
Games Played587th
High-Danger SV%.84715th

In addition to his technical ability, Georgiev has displayed exceptional mental toughness and resilience. He has remained composed and focused in high-pressure situations, making critical saves to swing the momentum in favor of the Avalanche. He has consistently made key saves in crucial moments, keeping his team in close games and giving them the opportunity to secure wins.

With 24 games of 30 or more saves (tied-fifth among all goalies), 13 games of 35 or more (tied-third), and five of 40 or more (tied-fourth), Georgiev has been no stranger to heavy-volume nights. For an Avalanche squad that often found itself shorthanded this season, those performances were a godsend.

Avalanche’s Superstars Produced Like Superstars

Beyond the crease, the Avalanche owe much of their success in qualifying for the playoffs to their group of star players. Led by their dynamic and talented forwards, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, they have managed to weather the season-long absence of captain Gabriel Landeskog and extended stints on the injured reserve from significant contributors.

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Leading the charge has been MacKinnon, putting forth what would be a Hart Trophy-calibre season if it weren’t for that guy in Edmonton. Despite missing 11 games to date, the superstar forward is tied for fifth in NHL scoring (104 points in 66 games) and actually owns the third-highest points-per-game pace (P/G) this season (1.58). Incredibly, MacKinnon is tied with Erik Karlsson for the league lead in even-strength points (73), beating out every other forward and wreaking havoc in all situations.

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Rantanen, on the other hand, has showcased his incredible scoring prowess, ranking among the top goalscorers in the league despite losing his main running mates at various points this season. The Finnish winger has potted 52 goals this season, his first 50-goal campaign in the NHL and the third-highest total in the league. Rantanen also feasted away from the power play, and currently paces the league with 41 even-strength goals. The Avalanche are obviously better when their stars are together, but each is an impact player in their own right.

It wasn’t just the offensive prowess of MacKinnon and Rantanen that helped the Avalanche qualify for the playoffs. The team also boasts the reigning Norris Trophy winner in defenseman Cale Makar, who paired his first Norris with the 2022 Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL’s playoff MVP as the Avalanche rampaged to their first Cup in over 20 years.

Though the 2022-23 season hasn’t gone as smoothly as last year, Makar is still among the scoring leaders at his position. His 17 goals rank fourth among all blueliners and he sits ninth with 66 points in 60 games, although his 1.1 P/G is second only to Karlsson.

It stands to reason that with a full and healthy campaign, Makar could be looking at his second-consecutive Norris, especially given that he leads the league in average time-on-ice and features heavily in all situations. Even if the 2022-23 iteration is out of reach, he’s remained one of the most dynamic rearguards on a per-game basis this season. Fingers crossed he’s healthy for the playoffs.

4 Reasons Why the Avalanche Qualified for the 2023 NHL Playoffs (3)

Collectively, the Avalanche have received elite offensive contributions from the players expected to produce at such a level this season, when healthy of course. It’s a big reason why the team ranks third in points percentage (PTS%) since Feb. 1, and is hitting its stride at the most important time of year. The contributions of its supporting cast should not go overlooked, and it’s their play that kept the season from becoming a disaster when injuries hit.

Avalanche’s Depth Players Provided Outsized Impact

While the Avalanche’s star players garnered most of the spotlight, the contributions of the depth players cannot be overstated in the team’s journey to the playoffs. With a well-rounded and versatile roster, the Avalanche were able to roll four lines effectively, keeping the pressure on opponents and maintaining a high tempo throughout the season.

The depth forwards, including Evan Rodrigues (36 points in 64 games), Logan O’Connor (26 points in 77 games), and J.T. Compher (50 points in 77 games), provided secondary scoring as part of the team’s attack. They chipped in with timely goals, created scoring chances, and injected energy while often stepping into higher roles in the lineup due to injuries.

4 Reasons Why the Avalanche Qualified for the 2023 NHL Playoffs (4)

On the defensive end, Devon Toews (75 games played) and Samuel Girard (71 games played) kept the ship afloat and provided reliable play in their own zone. They played heavy crucial minutes in all situations when the likes of Makar and star-in-the-making Bowen Byram missed extended periods of time and steered the Avalanche to success with quick and direct puck movement.

Not to be overlooked, the Avalanche’s backup goaltender, Pavel Francouz, provided steady play between the pipes when called upon, allowing the team to rest Georgiev with confidence and maintain their competitive edge. Among goalies to have played in at least 10 games this season, Francouz is tied for fifth in SV% (.919) and saved over two goals above expected, providing above-average value in relief.

The Avalanche’s depth players played a pivotal role in helping the team qualify for the 2023 NHL Playoffs while the stars often found themselves nursing injuries. Their contributions in all areas of the game, from secondary scoring to reliable defense to dependable goaltending, were instrumental in the team’s success and are a big reason a division title remains within reach.

Avalanche’s Special Teams Found Success

The Avalanche’s elite power play and solid penalty kill unit have underlined the team’s success at even strength and buoyed an already dominant group. They boasted one of the most lethal powerplay units in the league, anchored by MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Makar. They’ve converted on 24.9 percent of their opportunities (fifth in the NHL) and scored at the sixth-highest per-60-minute rate with the man advantage.

4 Reasons Why the Avalanche Qualified for the 2023 NHL Playoffs (5)

While the Avalanche’s penalty kill unit may have been average in terms of league rankings at only 79.1 percent (16th), it’s been effective enough at preventing opponents from scoring with the man advantage on a regular basis. It’s not a clear weakness and hasn’t disrupted the Avalanche’s momentum in other facets of the game.

The combination of an elite power play and a reliable penalty kill unit provided the Avalanche with a special teams advantage over their opponents in the aggregate. That the team excelled in these key special teams situations is a strong sign for their playoff fortunes, when a game or even a series can be turned on its head by a single goal and especially when penalties are called more often than during the regular season.

Avalanche Ready to Defend Stanley Cup Championship

Unsurprisingly, the Avalanche have been relatively successful in all areas of the game, leading to a fairly uneventful clinching of a playoff spot. The team’s goaltending has been exceptional, with crucial saves made in key moments to keep games within reach. The offensive firepower from their star players has been a driving force, while the depth players have consistently contributed to the team’s scoring efforts when called upon.

The Avalanche’s special teams play has also been effective, regularly capitalizing on power play opportunities and trotting out a penalty kill capable of doing the job. The team’s well-rounded and balanced approach, with contributions from all areas of the roster, has been instrumental in their success and has positioned them as a formidable contender in the upcoming playoffs.

With these key elements, the Avalanche are poised for an exciting postseason run as they try to become the third franchise of the salary cap era to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Data courtesy of Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, and the NHL.


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