COL eliminated

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Dallas Stars with a 2-1 double-overtime loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round on Friday.

The Avalanche (50-25-7) finished third in the Central Division, six points behind the Stars (52-21-9) who won the division and finished with the best record in the West.

Colorado won the Stanley Cup in 2022 and was eliminated in the first round last season by the Seattle Kraken.

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Andrew Cogliano, F; Jonathan Drouin, F; Brandon Duhaime, F; Joel Kiviranta, F; Zach Parise, F; Yakov Trenin, F; Jack Johnson, D; Caleb Jones, D; Sean Walker, D

Potential restricted free agents: Casey Mittelstadt, F

Potential 2024 Draft picks: 7

Here are five reasons the Avalanche were eliminated:

1. Struggles at home

This hit the Avalanche in the second round, when they didn’t win any of their three games at Ball Arena against the Stars.

Part of that is a credit to Dallas, which had the best regular-season road record in the NHL (26-10-5) and is now 5-1 on the road in the playoffs. But the Avalanche had the best home record in the regular season (31-9-1). It just didn’t translate to the playoffs.

“We were able to get a great win down (in Dallas) in Game 5. Wish we were able to get one of those first two home games, make a big difference,” forward Zach Parise said. “But unfortunately, it’s tough to come back from down 3-1.”

2. Playing from behind

This was a problem throughout the series. The Avalanche didn’t get their first lead in a game until forward Casey Mittelstadt’s goal put them up 3-2 at 1:12 of the third period of Game 5. Mikko Rantanen’s power-play goal at 5:48 of the second period of Game 6 marked the first time the Avalanche scored first.

Defenseman Cale Makar said heading into Game 5 that if the Avalanche didn’t get a lead, “it’s not the end of the world. We’ve come from behind before.” That’s true, but against the Stars, the Avalanche could only muster a comeback in Game 1, when they won 4-3 in overtime after trailing 3-0.

3. Not enough offense

The Avalanche averaged 5.50 goals per game in their five-game, first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. They were rolling, they were getting contributions from a lot of players. But against the Stars, they averaged 2.50 goals per game.

The Avalanche scored seven goals in their first two games against the Stars. They had eight over their final four games, but five of those game in their Game 5 win, meaning they scored just one goal in each of the other three games.

“We fought hard. The effort was there the whole series. It’s a tough team,” Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “We played two of the toughest teams in the League right off the bat. Just didn’t score enough. That’s what it came down to.”

4. Special teams

The Avalanche got their power play together in Games 5 and 6, when they went 3-for-3. But earlier in the series, special teams were an issue.

Colorado went a combined 0-for-8 on the power play in Games 2-4. They allowed a short-handed goal in Game 2 and another in Game 4. The Avalanche penalty kill allowed five power-play goals on 17 opportunities (70.6 percent). The feeling that special teams can make or break a team in the playoffs exists for a reason.

5. Loss of Nichushkin

Forward Valeri Nichushkin was placed in Stage 3 of the NHL/NHL Players’ Association Player Assistance Program on Monday, the announcement coming not long before Game 4.

As much as the Avalanche talked of turning the page later that night, it still had to affect them losing a teammate. Nichushkin had nine goals in eight playoff games, tied for the League lead with Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman.