The Colorado Avalanche has claimed the title as the NHL's best regular season team in 2020-21, but there is another significant trophy that the Avs have their eyes on.
The Avalanche closed the campaign on a five-game winning streak to finish with 82 points and the best overall record in the league, taking home the franchise's third Presidents' Trophy. The latest win came by way of a 5-1 performance against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday at Ball Arena.
The Presidents' Trophy secures Colorado home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, an objective the club has set for itself the past few seasons.
"The 56-game schedule, one of our goals was to get home ice in the playoffs. To have our guys accomplish that and dig in for it, work the way they worked, win eight out of nine at the end of the year, five in a row without some key players, I just thought it shows a lot of character," said head coach Jared Bednar. "It's a nice feather in their cap and they should enjoy it. Enjoy tomorrow and then by Saturday, Sunday, we are going to be preparing for a whole new challenge, but the home ice and the Presidents' Trophy is something to be proud of in my opinion. It's a long time to get here and the guys accomplished that, for some guys they have been working towards it for two or three years."
The Avalanche's 39-13-4 record (.732) is its best in franchise history in terms of points percentage. As the home team, Colorado went 22-4-2 (.821) to post its best home points percentage since the club arrived in Denver, eclipsing the one set by the 2000-01 Stanley Cup champion team (.768).
Video: Avs head coach Jared Bednar after the season finale
The Avs' 22 home wins are tied for the most in the league this year. Two of the other teams that have qualified for the postseason in the West Division, the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild, are also near the top of the NHL in the category as they are tied with two other squads for the next highest with 21 each.
"We've had a real good home-ice record for the last couple years. In order to get to where we want to go in the playoffs, you got to play real well, you need some luck, you definitely have to stay healthy and you want to give your team as many advantages as you can in the 16-team tournament," said Bednar. "One of those advantages is to get home ice, especially when you look at the home-ice records around the league, not just ours but all of the opponents that we are going to face. It can be an advantage that helps your guys even if its just the crowd interaction and the buzz around your team."
This year's playoff berth is the team's fourth in a row, the third-longest run in franchise history.
Colorado made the postseason in 2017-18 with a win in the final game of the season and fell in six games to that year's Presidents' Trophy winner, the Nashville Predators. The following campaign, the Avalanche was once again the second wild-card seed in the Western Conference and defeated the Calgary Flames in five outings before falling in a decisive seventh contest in Round 2 to the San Jose Sharks.
Last year, the squad fell again in Game 7 of its second-round matchup, this time in overtime against the Dallas Stars.
The Presidents' Trophy is not the Avalanche's ultimate goal but having it--and more importantly home-ice advantage--might be a tool that comes in handy.
Video: Mikko Rantanen after the season-finale win vs. LA
"Fourth year in the playoffs. I think we had a lot of same guys that we had the last two years, and everybody knows what happened the last two years, we went out in exact same spot: Game 7, second round," said Mikko Rantanen. "Our goal is to go past that and all the way to the end. We have the group right now, and now we just got to get to work. Obviously, the experience for sure helps a lot."
Opening the postseason on its home ice should give Colorado some confidence. The Avs went 16-0-1 in its last 17 contests at Ball Arena, the longest home point streak in the NHL this season that also ties the franchise record that was set in 2002-03.
"Our guys like playing here, we like playing at Ball, in front of our fans," said Bednar. "We get energy out of the crowd. Our crowd has been fantastic, and now we are starting a new journey here trying to make our city and fans proud of us in the postseason."
Now that the Avs have met their regular-season goal, they can set their sights on the trophy they want.
SEEING ST. LOUIS IN ROUND 1
With Thursday night's victory, the Avalanche also won the West Division, its 10th division title since moving to Denver (12th in franchise history). As the No. 1 seed in the West, Colorado will face the No. 4-seed St. Louis Blues in a best-of-seven series in the first round.
The Avalanche went 5-3-0 against the Blues in the eight-game, regular-season series.
"We know they are a good team; we have a good rival against them," Tyson Jost said of St. Louis. "We've had some great battles in the past, just looking back to that game where it was us and them to get in that last spot [for the] playoffs. It's been a battle these last three, four years. They are a good team and obviously they have had some success against us in their building, but it's been some good series against those guys, and we are excited. It's going to be a good matchup, and we know what to expect. That's a veteran team out there, and we are going to have to come hard and be prepared."
Video: Tyson Jost after scoring twice vs. Kings
The squads will open the series on Monday night at Ball Arena with puck drop set for 8 p.m. MT. The Avs also host the Blues on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. MT in Game 2 before the series shifts to St. Louis for Games 3-4, which are set for Friday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m. MT and Sunday, May 23 with a game time still to be determined.
"It's not like it's an opponent that we haven't seen before. It's a team we know real well, they know us real well," said Bednar. "It is a team that's really picked up their game in the second half of the season and they are looking like the Blues that won the Cup. Although there is a big spread in the points difference of our regular season, if you look at their second half and how they have come along--they are getting healthy--this is a real tough opponent, so we will dig into them (in video). See ways that we can possibly exploit them and what we got to be careful of on the other side of things and put together a game plan here. We got plenty of time to do that, we will relay the pertinent information to our players, and we will get ready to go for Game 1 here on Monday."
JOST NETS TWO
Down 1-0 after the first intermission, despite holding a 12-4 edge in shots on goal, Colorado's offense was sparked by Tyson Jost in the second period.
The forward netted two goals in less than two minutes, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky also tallied before the middle frame was over.
"We did have a great start; we were all over them. We were really heavy on pucks, stuff that we talked about before the game that we wanted to execute and we did," Jost said. "Obviously when you play a period like that (first period), and then they get one late it's frustrating going back in the dressing room, you are like 'holy smokes, what do we got to do to pot one here.' But our team stuck with it and once we got one the flood gates opened there, and we just kept pouring it on. Great job by our team to stick with it and not get down on ourselves and not get frustrated, that's a huge win for us."
Video: LAK@COL: Jost redirects Timmins' shot for second goal
Jost's multi-goal game was his first of the season and first since Feb. 28, 2020 versus the Carolina Hurricanes. He finished the year with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 54 games, with nine points (four goals, five assists) coming in his last 17 outings.
"It's been awesome, it feels good. Honestly, it feels better to get this first place (seed), that is something we've been going for the whole year and was a goal of ours starting in training camp," he said postgame. "Just an awesome group of guys. It was an awesome regular season, and there is much more ahead of us here. So it's exciting that I've been contributing and can't wait for playoffs."
SETTING AND TYING CAREER HIGHS
A few Avs finished the campaign by setting new career highs or matching their best numbers from previous seasons. Joonas Donskoi tallied to increase his total to 17 goals this year in 51 games played, surpassing his previous best of 16 markers that he set in 65 contests in 2019-20.
Video: LAK@COL: Donskoi smacks puck into the net to pad lead
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored in the outing to record his ninth goal of the season, equaling his career best that he also set in 2019-20.
Defenseman Devon Toews registered his 22nd assist of the season with a helper on Andre Burakovsky's goal to match his most in a campaign set last year with the New York Islanders.
Burakovsky also tied the longest point streak of his career, finishing the season on an eight-game point streak. He also had an eight-game run as a member of the Washington Capitals from Jan. 17-Feb. 9, 2016.
Video: LAK@COL: Burakovsky scores goal in 2nd period
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
Colorado's five goals in the second period matched its season best (also: March 31 vs. Arizona, 1st period). The Avs are the only team in the league with two five-goal periods in 2020-21.
The Avalanche finished 7-1-0 against Los Angeles this season, its most wins against a single opponent in 2020-21.
Head coach Jared Bednar's .732 win percentage this season is the best single-season winning percentage by a head coach in franchise history, passing Bob Hartley's .695 win percentage in 2000-01 (note: overtime losses were counted as losses for coaches prior to 2005).
Mikko Rantanen (two assists) finished the season with a team-high 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) and is the first player other than Nathan MacKinnon to lead the team in scoring since Matt Duchene in 2015-16.
Cale Makar notched an assist to finish the regular season with 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games, joining Steve Duchesne (82 points in 82 games with Quebec in 1992-93) as the only defensemen in franchise history to average a point per game. He's the only blueliner in the NHL to average a point per game this season.
The Avalanche outscored opponents 110-54 (plus-56) on home ice in 2020-21.