The Colorado Avalanche had several "must-win" games multiple times throughout the year in order to stay in the race to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the team will have its first must-win game of the postseason.
The Avs are facing a 3-2 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks in the second-round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will host Game 6 at Pepsi Center on Monday.
"We've been through some ups and downs this season, we've been counted out numerous times. For us, we're not going to pack it in just because we're facing elimination," said captain Gabriel Landeskog. "Everybody's going to step up, and we're going to need our best team effort tomorrow. That's the way we look at it. Super proud of the group that we have in that room, but our season isn't ready to be over yet."
Colorado was six points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference on the morning of St. Patrick's Day and had to jump three different team in order to obtain a playoff berth.
The squad responded with an 8-0-2 record in its next 10 contests, gaining 18 out of a possible 20 points in 19 days to clinch a position in the playoffs in its 81st game of the season.
The Avalanche needed one point in Game 81 to secure a postseason spot and had to rally from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime before eventually winning 3-2 against the Winnipeg Jets. In the opening round of the 2019 postseason, Colorado defeated the Calgary Flames in five games to advance to Round 2 for the first time since 2008.
"You know every situation is different, you are always hoping for a real positive result, there is no question, but our team has built a lot of trust with me. I am at ease with it a little bit more because we had to play so many must-win games down the stretch," said head coach Jared Bednar. "There were some big games in the Calgary series that we felt like we needed to win, and we really responded. I expect us to respond [in Game 6]. I think we should be really excited about our opportunity to come home, play in front of our fans and extend this thing to seven games.
"Cliché or not, it is one game at a time and tomorrow is a must-win for us. It is our real first must-win of the season since right at the very end of the year where we felt like the last couple games there that we needed to take one. We responded real well then, and I expect us to again. I think our guys should be jacked up and excited for it."
The Round 2 series between Colorado and San Jose has been a back-and-forth set with the clubs' swapping wins as they adjust with each new outing. The Sharks took Games 1, 3 and 5 while the Avalanche earned victories in Games 2 and 4.
"When we have reviewed games with our group, even in this series, and shown them some of the things we didn't like and where we needed to be better, our team has been really responsive," said Bednar. "They have implemented things we have shown them into games. If we challenge their competitiveness, it has gone up and I don't feel like it is going to be any different tomorrow to be honest with you."
Forward Gabriel Landeskog on the mindset going into Game 6: "I think whether you win or lose, it's about having a short memory. We talked about that all the time in the playoffs but, especially the further a series goes along and the more important the games are, your memories just got to be that much shorter. Win or lose, we're moving on today and we're just preparing for Game 6 tomorrow. We know what the situation is, we know what position we're in and we just got to go win a game. Then by the time you can get into Game 7, anything can happen."
Video: Gabriel Landeskog on Game 6 vs. Sharks
Head coach Jared Bednar on the approach going into Game 6: "For me, I think you go in there and you focus your attention to a shift at a time, five minutes at a time. You don't want to go into it thinking about the result, you want to go into it thinking about the process. We have been a process oriented team the whole year we try to keep our guys in the moment and that is the key for me. If you are playing to win and you are concentrating on doing the right things the result takes care of itself."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar on Game 6 vs. the Sharks