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Landeskog: Avalanche still have a long way to go

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog certainly didn't like the feeling he had as he skated off the ice at Pepsi Center on the final day of April.

The Avalanche had four one-goal leads in Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild but couldn't hold any of them. The game ended 5:02 into overtime on a goal by the Wild's Nino Niederreiter.

The end left a sour taste after what had been an outstanding regular season that saw the Avalanche tie a franchise record with 52 victories, win their first division title since 2003 and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs one season after finishing with the second-fewest points in the NHL.

Landeskog, the team's 21-year-old captain, played well in his first time in the postseason, scoring three goals in seven games, but he had one point in the final five games and was minus-2 in Game 7.

After a longer-than-hoped summer, Landeskog is able to put the loss in its proper perspective. While disappointed with how things ended, that the Avalanche were able to get into the playoffs at all was a pretty big accomplishment.

"I think we certainly skipped a few steps in the rebuilding process," Landeskog said. "People didn't expect us to have the success that we did so early, with a new coach [Patrick Roy]. So that was exciting, to do that and to show people that we could face any challenge. But I also think that we have a lot to learn still. I think that kind of came through in the playoffs. We kind of … our inexperience and immaturity got exposed. Yes, we had fun, we learned a lot. But we still have a long ways to go. It certainly was a good first step."

Among the things Landeskog said he learned was how much more intense the playoffs are than he realized. He had played in important games in the past, from the Ontario Hockey League playoffs as a junior player with the Kitchener Rangers to games at the 2014 Sochi Olympics for Sweden. But in his first time in the NHL postseason, he found that things were ramped up to a level he hadn't seen before.

"It was hard because the matchups get so much more intense," he said. "Every shift means so much more. Once it got down to it, it was exciting. I wouldn't want to say I was surprised, I wouldn't want to say it was more than I expected. … Those two weeks were almost like a drug. Once you got a taste of it you didn't want to let it go. You wanted to play playoff hockey all the time. Everything from the atmosphere to every faceoff to every scrum, all these things were part of history. It's a pretty special feeling."

The desire to recapture that special feeling drove Landeskog during his offseason training.

Gabriel Landeskog
Left Wing - COL
GOALS: 26 | ASST: 39 | PTS: 65
SOG: 222 | +/-: 21
"I think of that [playoffs] all the time," he said. "I think about those two weeks all the time, what you could have done differently. Certainly I think … now you know what it takes to get there. Now it's about preparing, what you're going to do next time you get there and how you're going to do it differently."

Landeskog, who was second on the Avalanche last season with 26 goals and 65 points, obviously will have a big role in Colorado's quest to take that next step. But he'll have more help this season with the additions of veterans Jarome Iginla, Daniel Briere and Brad Stuart. Those additions will support the core group of forwards Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon, defenseman Tyson Barrie and goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

"I don't think they felt they needed older, experienced guys," Landeskog said. "It was more of just leadership in general. I think. Partially because we lost Paul [Stastny], he was a big part of our leadership group, but also to take some load off me and to help me out. I'm excited to work with Brad Stuart and Daniel Briere and obviously Iggy [Iginla]. I'm looking forward to working with those guys. They have a lot of hockey in them. I think not only leadership part, but I think they're going to be good additions to our lineup."

Landeskog knows the Avalanche won't be overlooked. He'll take the experience he gained last season and attempt to lead the Avalanche a few steps further this season.

"Sometimes you have to lose before you can win," he said. "That's something that hits home with me and makes sense when you hear it."

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