Nathan MacKinnon said he believes the Colorado Avalanche are more than capable of winning the Stanley Cup after losing in seven games in the Western Conference Second Round in each of the past two seasons.
“Our expectations are to win the Cup and not just claw and scrape our way into the playoffs,” MacKinnon said Monday after the Avalanche held their first on-ice workouts of training camp. “It’s what we’re here to do and it started today. I thought we had a great practice today getting off on the right foot.
“Every day we’re going to need to get a little bit better and to come together as a group. We feel good. I think everyone’s ready, everyone’s in great shape. Pressure is obviously a nice thing to have.”
MacKinnon, who scored 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games last season and was runner-up for the Hart Trophy voted as NHL most valuable player, said the Avalanche are “very motivated” after losing 5-4 in overtime to the Dallas Stars in Game 7, when they were without goalies Philipp Grubauer (groin) and Pavel Francouz (hip, knee), forward Gabriel Landeskog (leg), and defenseman Erik Johnson (ankle, knee).
“You don’t have many chances to win,” he said. “I thought last year there was a chance for us to win and this is another one. Two out of eight seasons for me there was a huge opportunity. We need to do everything in our power not to waste it, to take advantage of this special group we have. We need to get the job done eventually.”
The Avalanche are returning most of the roster that finished second in the Western Conference with a .657 points percentage (42-20-8). They made two significant moves in the offseason, acquiring forward Brandon Saad in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for defensemen Nikita Zadorov on Oct. 10, and defenseman Devon Toews from the New York Islanders for second-round picks in the 2021 and 2022 NHL Draft on Oct. 12.
Toews, who was paired with Cale Makar on Monday, helped the Islanders advance to the Eastern Conference Final last season before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
“I wasn’t here last year, but it’s clear to me that this team can do a lot of things that Tampa can do: defend hard and play good structurally and lead the offense as well,” Toews said. “I’m one of the new guys trying to fit in and find my place and be part of the solution here to move forward and eventually win a Cup. The chemistry’s there, we just kind of have to take the next step. I think this team has what it takes.”
Colorado coach Jared Bednar said that the spotlight being placed on his team isn’t something they should “shy away from.”
“I think last year we had those expectations, but it wasn’t (with) the outside pressure, outside expectations from around the League until we really got going as the year went on,” Bednar said. “Now I think it’s a good thing. We want the pressure, we want to be considered one of the favorites.”