The Colorado Avalanche has been preparing for the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs since the club advanced with a 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Friday, and the Avs now know what opponent they will face next.
Colorado learned late Tuesday night that it will meet the Sharks in Round 2 following San Jose's 5-4 overtime victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of their first-round matchup.
The Sharks were trailing 3-0 midway through the third frame but fought back to score four power-play goals in 4:01 to take the lead. Vegas tied the contest with 47 seconds remaining in regulation before San Jose's Barclay Goodrow tallied the game-winner in OT.
"I tried to watch the game yesterday as a fan, obviously we have the tape this morning that we can break down and look at coaching aspects of it, but I thought that game was super exciting," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said of the contest. "I was on the edge of my seat the whole night, and I didn't have a team that I was rooting for. I just thought it was two real good hockey teams that were evenly matched all season long in 82 games and then again in the seven-game series going at it. I think the guys played their hearts out, and it was a really fun hockey game to watch."
The victory guaranteed that Colorado will meet San Jose in the postseason for the fifth time. The Avalanche is 2-2 in the previous four series, winning 4-2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals in 1999 and 4-3 in the 2002 Western Conference Semifinals.
San Jose has advanced in the last two meetings, winning the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals and 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals in six games each. This season, the Sharks won all three contests between the clubs, two of those by a one-goal margin.
"They are a real good team, 100-point team," Bednar said of the Sharks. "Big, strong, fast, lots of shooters, mobile D-corps, they are getting the goaltending now, they are a tough team, no question. They have given us trouble all year.
"Playoffs is a different scenario, right? You start over from scratch, and its best of seven. There are adjustments to be made in the middle of the series. Our goal will be to go in there and have a real good start and pick up where we left off against Calgary."
The Avs advanced to the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2008 after defeating Calgary in five outings.
Colorado won its last four games of the series, outscoring the Flames 17-7 in that span. It marked the first time that the Avs have won four straight playoff contests since 2001 when they swept the Vancouver Canucks in the first round.
"I think not too many people would have us in this position at this point in the year, but I think in our room we believe," said Bednar. "I think one of the biggest things is if you want to win, you got to believe you can win. We have touched on that, based on last year's playoff performance and how we wanted to come into this year with a purpose. To me, it even has to go a step up now. Our guys should be confident based on the way we played down the stretch and then the playoffs.
"At the same time, we know that San Jose is a really good team, we are going to have to play our best. We are going to have to be even better than we were against Calgary in order to beat them. They understand that, but I think that we all believe it is possible if we play the way that we can. That to me is the starting point to this series."
Having last played on April 19, Colorado will have a full week without a game before the second-round set with the Sharks opens at SAP Center on Friday. The break has allowed the players to take some time to get healthy and let their bodies recover.
"We had some guys that were sick, we had some guys that were injured, there is a good chance or a possibility that we are going into this round healthy and rested," said Bednar. "That is always a good thing. It hasn't been too long of a layoff, we have given our guys a couple days off, we have had a couple good days of practice. Now the preparation, we have already been working on it, but now the preparation begins for San Jose. Now we have our focus."
Derick Brassard (illness) and Samuel Girard (upper body) missed the last three games of the series with Calgary and both could be options for Game 1. Brassard has participated in each of Colorado's two practices this week, and Girard has skated during the sessions in a red, non-contact jersey.
"There is a good chance that he will be healthy, I just don't know yet about that. That will be determined over the next couple of days," Bednar said of Girard.