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Why the Avalanche will win the Stanley Cup

by Corey Masisak

Patrick Roy’s incredible resume as a Hall of Fame hockey player includes twice leading an NHL team on an unexpected run to capture the Stanley Cup and twice helping the Colorado Avalanche to win the NHL's coveted championship trophy.

Roy is in his first season as a coach at the NHL level, but he's accumulated lots of playoff experience in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With the help of a talented collection of forwards and one of the best young goaltenders in the League, Roy is in position to lead the Avalanche to a third Cup victory in franchise history.

Like the Montreal Canadiens teams in 1986 and 1993, which featured Roy in net, the Avalanche will need their goaltender to lead the way. Semyon Varlamov was a potential star while playing for the Washington Capitals, but he had a breakout season in 2013-14 under the tutelage of Roy and goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

Varlamov has been great in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before. He helped the Capitals to within one win of defeating the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, and he was often spectacular against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh before a bad night in Game 7 of the second round. He's also had two strong performances in the world championships, posting a .951 save percentage in five games to help Russia win silver in 2010 and .939 in eight games to claim gold in 2012.

This season he is a potential Vezina Trophy finalist, and the biggest reason why the Avalanche have defied the predictions of impending doom from the analytics-friendly hockey community. He has covered up some deficiencies for six months and can do so for another two. It would be fitting if the goaltender takes the starring role to help Roy win another championship in Colorado, and Varlamov has the ability to do so.

Another reason for optimism in Denver is a collection of high-end forwards, both talented and deep. The Avalanche don't need to win low-scoring games to be successful. Matt Duchene was a Hart Trophy candidate earlier in the season, and he will be back from a knee injury at some point to help this team if it makes a deep run.

Nathan MacKinnon is more than likely going to win the Calder Trophy, and he could have a big impact on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, not unlike Roy's star turn as a rookie in 1986. Gabriel Landeskog is a young captain, but he's also an incredibly talented one and guys like Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews have proven a team with a young captain can capture the Cup.

Ryan O'Reilly is one of the top two-way forwards in the League, and he's become an offensive force in 2013-14. Paul Stastny has produced his best per-game output since scoring 79 points in 2009-10.

The defense corps has been led by a resurgent Erik Johnson and young Tyson Barrie, who could be another potential breakout star in the postseason.

Colorado has defied expectations all season with Roy in command and Varlamov in net. They will continue to do so, and bring the Stanley Cup back to Denver after a 13-year absence.

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